Caswell Tlali MASERU — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has his priorities cut out for him when he starts running the government tomorrow.
Thabane will be running a coalition government of All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP).
People who spoke to the Sunday Express during his swearing-in ceremony on Friday said they are expecting Thabane’s coalition government to consult widely before it implements major policies.
They said former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government had become arrogant and used to railroad policies without consulting the people.
If Thabane goes the same route he will alienate the people and they will vote him out of power, they warned.
The people said as soon as Thabane enters office he must start creating jobs and rooting out the rampant corruption in government.
Lesotho’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly at 45 percent in recent years and there is a perception that corruption had increased during Mosisili’s rule.
Mosisili himself admitted there was massive corruption in the government when he conceded defeat at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
He said he regretted that his government had failed, despite serious efforts, to curb corruption.
Motseoa Makale, a BNP youth studying economics at the University of Natal in South Africa, was one of the people who braved the chilly weather to witness Thabane’s swearing-in at a packed Setsoto Stadium.
She said she wouldn’t have missed the ceremony for anything. Makale said Thabane should overhaul the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and improve the quality of police training.
“It is an open secret that many people in Maseru are living beyond their means. That shows that there is a lot of thieving going on here,” Makale said.
“One needs not scratch their head too long to find that there is a lot of money laundering going on in Maseru,” she said, adding: “It’s a pity that many people do not understand how stealing from government and money laundering affects our economy.” “If we go on like this, every effort to create jobs will not work and some people will continue to have a lot of money without having worked for it while the rest of the nation will continue to live below the poverty line.” More than 60 percent of Basotho live in abject poverty.
Although the poverty levels are considered worse in the rural areas, recent reports by aid organisations have shown that even the people in the urban areas are struggling to make ends meet.
It is estimated that more than 400 000 people in Lesotho will require food aid this year.
Rising food prices, a slump in agriculture production, the economic recession and the Aids pandemic have combined to make the situation worse.
The poor rains have not made the situation better. Makale said to deal with these problems Thabane must engage the people to find out what his government can do to help them.
Cobbling up policies in government offices before passing them on to the people will not work, she added.
’Mankuebe Moshoeshoe, an ABC member who travelled 80 kilometres from Maputsoe in rainy and cold weather to witness the swearing-in, said she is expecting Thabane to ensure that all government ministries are closer to the people. Moshoeshoe said unless Thabane decentralises services and opens communication channels between the people and government. corruption will continue to wreack havoc.
“The new prime minister should ensure that every person understands how the government operates and it should be the responsibility of each government department to teach the people its operations in detail,” Moshoeshoe said.
“When the people understand the procedures in every government department it will be easier for them to resist when civil servants demand bribery from them.”
“People normally end up paying bribes to the civil servants because they do not have adequate information on procedures they should follow to get certain services in government.”
Serialong Petsoa, a maid in Maseru who got an off day to attend the ceremony, said Thabane should surround himself with “smart people” to advise him on issues of governance and conflict management.
Petsoa said she is expecting serious conflicts in the coalition government because the parties forming it have different policies on the economy and many other issues.
“The man on top, Thabane, should always be open to criticism and listen to different opinions from all the people before making any decision,” said Petsoa who is an LCD member.
“If he imposes his decisions on other people there will be discontent from the parties partnering with him and the coalition government will fall apart.”
“This means that the government will have failed to govern, to deliver services to the people and to grow the economy.”
Petsoa said she has good matric grades but has been struggling to find a decent job.
She said she became a maid to raise money to go to college. Petsoa said she is hopeful that Thabane’s government will help her and other young people find jobs.
But she said she is aware that for that to happen there must be harmony among the coalition partners in government.
She said if Thabane wants to succeed “he must listen to the people he is leading”. “We have seen Thabane failing to listen to members of his own ABC and he almost wrecked the party. I think that has given him enough experience to see that failure to listen to the people is always destructive.” Sam Tiheli, a civil society activist, said there will be no difference between the past government and the new one if Thabane does not establish a national planning board as required by Lesotho’s constitution.
Tiheli, a political activist who comments regularly on various radio phone-in programmes on issues of governance, said if Thabane does not establish a national planning board “he risks repeating mistakes of the previous government”. “Without the national planning board, there will be no brains to direct the economic growth of this country during and beyond the current government,” Tiheli said.
“The national planning board is meant to be our future planner and without it we have no planned future. We will be like passengers in a car speeding down a slope but without a driver.”