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Boo boys heckle Majoro at Matekane inauguration

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Bongiwe Zihlangu/ ‘Marafaele Mohloboli

FORMER premier, Moeketsi Majoro, was on Friday heckled by thousands who thronged the Setsoto Stadium for Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s inauguration.

Thousands of people, mostly clad in Mr Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party’s white, purple and green colours, disrupted Dr Majoro as soon as he began his farewell speech which preceded the handover of power to the new premier. They chanted and sang songs denouncing him. Some sarcastically pointed to imaginary watches on their wrists to signal that Dr Majoro’s time was up.

The crowd, which had cheered Mr Matekane’s every action, showed no interest in what Dr Majoro had to say and repeatedly jeered him. The outgoing prime minister’s voice quivered as he sought to maintain his composure in the face of the hostility which was directed at him in the presence of regional leaders, diplomats and international development partners. He even apologised for “stepping on Basotho’s toes” during his two-year reign.

“No person is without fault,” Dr Majoro said.

“I will not pretend, my fellow Basotho, that I did not step on your toes in the execution of my duties. As such, I sincerely apologise for where I might have wronged you. My intention was always to do right by you.”

He defended his tenure, saying when he took over from former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in May 2020, Lesotho was already burdened with economic challenges, high unemployment and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At this juncture, please allow me to state that when I assumed the premiership, Lesotho was beset with a myriad of challenges that included high unemployment as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, which adversely affected the global economy,” he said.

The virus shook the foundations of governance by claiming lives, compelling his government to enforce stringent measures that included lockdowns, he said.

He said his administration had to redirect funds earmarked for development budgets towards fighting the pandemic. This led to job losses and worsened the plight of people, he said.

“As if that was not enough, we faced challenges emanating from bad weather, which resulted in torrential floods that destroyed public property, roads and bridges. That led to poor harvests that translated into hunger for many a Basotho family.

“And, while still reeling from that disaster, we were then affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leading to global fuel price hikes. Regrettably, the government had no control over these challenges,” Dr Majoro said.

However, his government saved many lives by initiating a mass vaccination against Covid-19, he said.

His administration tried to save jobs, especially those in the textile industry, but this failed.

To ease the burden caused by the pandemic and resultant job losses effects on the economy, it also introduced a M200 million fuel subsidy.

“We also launched campaigns to fight crime as well as committing to the reforms programme to ensure lasting peace and stability for Lesotho. However, as you well know, we could not conclude the reforms,” Dr Majoro said.

By the time the 10th parliament was dissolved on 13 July 2022 to pave way for the 7 October polls, it had not passed the reforms bill due to bickering between members of the National Assembly and Senate over certain clauses.

The Council of State had then advised King Letsie III to declare a state of emergency to facilitate the recall of the 10th parliament to enable it to approve the bill. However, its recall and the constitutional amendments which it subsequently passed last month were nullified by the Constitutional Court.

The court bench comprising of Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane and Justices Tšeliso Monapathi and ‘Mafelile Ralebese ruled that the King had been “ill-advised” by the Council of State to recall parliament to approve the constitutional amendments.

The court ruled that there was no threat to lives to justify the state of emergency which was declared on 16 August 2022 and used as a basis for recalling parliament to approve the amendments.

This means that the task of reviving and implementing the reforms now falls on Mr Matekane’s government and the newly inaugurated 11th parliament.