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It’s the right thing to do

One of the major criticisms against Prime Minister Tom Thabane is that he is trying too hard to balance the interests of his partners in the coalition government.

This balancing act, critics say, means that Thabane has to avoid decisions that might anger his partners.

This criticism is not without substance and does not apply to Lesotho’s coalition government only.

Coalitions by their nature survive largely on consensus.

Almost every decision has to be negotiated.

But therein lies the danger with coalition governments.

In most cases the need to conserve the coalition forces leaders to avoid making drastic decisions. Progressive and hard decisions are avoided to preserve peace within the coalition.

But this comes at a huge cost.

In the end they create a stable but ineffectual government that will be punished out by voters at the ballot.

This is precisely because governments are judged by what they have done for the people and not how long they have stayed in power.

But there comes a time when difficult decisions have to be made.

Thabane did just that last week when he took control of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) from Water Affairs Minister Timothy Thahane.

It is too early to say how the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) will take the decision but we doubt they will be pleased.

Some have said the decision might shake the foundation of the coalition government. That is a possibility but we believe those fears are overdone.

We suspect that even the LCD itself could see that the project was in danger.

Perhaps the only difference among the coalition partners has been on who should take over the project.

Unfortunately the options are limited.

Some might say it should have been put under the control of Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.

That is reasonable but the problem is that the deputy prime minister’s hands are already full with the local government ministry, which is probably the biggest portfolio in the government.

Putting the project under the prime minister was therefore the right decision.

It was pragmatic too.

And it’s not as if this decision is coming from nowhere: the World Bank, which was heavily involved in the first phase of the project, recommended that it should be placed under the prime minister of the Council of Ministers.

It is obvious that Thabane’s decision is not going to go down well with some in the government.

That is to be expected.

Still the prime minister must stick to his guns.

He might be in a coalition government but he remains the prime minister of this country.

He has to intervene when things are not going well.

The buck has to stop somewhere.

It is an open secret that the water project was not going well.

With progress painfully slow, the project was an accident waiting to happen.

Thabane as the driver of this government had an obligation to avoid that accident.

So when his coalition partners take issue with his decision he must ask them what else he should have done.

Thabane must avoid being stampeded into pulling away from that decision.

The LCD must look at the broader picture.

It must realise that this is a national project that requires special attention.

Its success is their success too as a party.

To ring-fence it as their project would be short-sighted.

Having made this bold decision, Thabane must now vigorously defend it.

If his decision is going to be the true test of this government then so be it.

Of what use is a stable government that does not get things done?

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