This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Majoro leaves behind a legacy of failure

CARETAKER Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro will hand over the reins of government to Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane, as soon as the latter is inaugurated. This follows Mr Matekane’s resounding victory in the 7 October general elections. Mr Matekane, whose RFP garnered 56 out of 120 seats, will come in at the head of a three-party coalition which includes the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Selibe Mochoboroane-led Movement for Economic Change (MEC).

Dr Majoro came to power on 20 May 2020. He succeeded Thomas Thabane who was forced to step down by his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party in the wake of damaging allegations by the police pointing to his involvement in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane. The ABC also wanted him out because he had allegedly ceded control of both party and government to his wife, ‘Maesaiah Thabane.

Dr Majoro took over after the ABC forged a new coalition with its main rival, Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) party. He came to power with a professed agenda of restoring good governance and the rule of law, fighting crime, containing Covid-19, ending poverty as well as reviving the comatose economy.

As the Majoro-led administration prepares to hand over to Mr Matekane, the Lesotho Times analysed his two years in power to determine whether or not he was a success.

In this analysis, it is argued that Dr Majoro leaves behind a legacy of failure. His government failed dismally in its stated objectives of fighting corruption, spearheading economic growth, job creation, fighting rampant crime and ensuring peace and stability.

Achieving political stability

Dr Majoro came to at the head of a coalition anchored by his own ABC party and Deputy Prime Mathibeli Mokhothu’s DC.

The two parties initially had 78 parliamentary seats. Eight smaller parties also threw their weight behind the ABC-DC coalition with 19 seats. The smaller parties were Movement for Economic Change (MEC-six seats), Basotho National Party (BNP-five seats), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD-three seats) and one seat each from Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), National Independent Party (NIP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL).

Given that the new administration had, at its inception, the overwhelming support of 97 legislators in a 120-member parliament, it appeared to have a solid support base to enable it to concentrate on implementing its development agenda without having to worry about stability issues which had dogged previous coalitions.

But this stability and numbers did not last long. Barely a week after Dr Majoro’s inauguration, the cracks began to show.

The initial source of instability came from within the premier’s own ABC party. Some ABC MPs who still professed allegiance to the ousted premier Thomas Thabane complained about their exclusion from lucrative cabinet posts.

They complained that members of the junior coalition parties were given ministerial posts at their expense. This was in reference to the likes of RCL’s Keketso Rantšo who was appointed Labour and Employment Minister and his then BNP counterpart Thesele ‘Maseribane who was appointed Communications, Science and Technology minister.

The calls for the duo’s dismissal and their replacement by ABC members reverberated throughout 2020. And on 3 February 2021, Dr Majoro seemingly succumbed to pressure by firing Ms Rantšo and shunting Chief ‘Maseribane to the Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing portfolio. This ministry was deemed less powerful by the ABC honchos who are said to have wanted one of their own to control the Communications portfolio whose significance derives from its control of the communications sector under which money-spinning entities like mobile phone services giants Vodacom Lesotho and Econet Telecom Lesotho as well as the regulator, Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA), fall.

Two of the ABC MPs, Sello Mooki (Bobatsi constituency) and Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area), even defected to the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD). Mr Tsatsanyane has since joined the DC.

Dr Majoro initially appeared to have reconciled with Mr Thabane and in April 2021, they alleged ganged up against then ABC deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao. The latter was forced to dump the ABC and form his own Basotho Action Party (BAP) in April 2021. In a development that weakened the governing coalition, Prof Mahao jumped ship with 10 ABC MPs including then cabinet ministers like Motlatsi Maqelepo.

But Dr Majoro and Mr Thabane’s alliance did not last. On 2 December 2021, the largely pro-Thabane ABC’s national executive committee (NEC) voted to recall Dr Majoro and replace him with then cabinet minister, Nkaku Kabi.

However, Dr Majoro refused to resign and make way for Mr Kabi, saying prime ministers are only removed through a no confidence vote in parliament and not by political parties. He even fired Mr Kabi from his post as Agriculture, Food Security and Marketing minister.

The two subsequently squared off at the 28-29 January 2022 leadership contest to choose a replacement for Mr Thabane who stepped down on 31 December 2021.

In March this year, Mr Kabi and his allies failed in their bid to oust Dr Majoro who comfortably survived a parliamentary no confidence motion sponsored by former ABC member and current Basotho Patriotic Party leader, Tefo Mapesela.

Although Dr Majoro managed to outmanoeuvre Mr Kabi and his allies, the infighting in the ABC took its toll on his government and prevented it from focusing in its core business of service delivery.

That the Majoro-led government did not prematurely collapse owed more to the DC’s refusal to back the Kabi faction of the ABC from toppling Dr Majoro. He also survived because of the support of the likes of Prof Mahao’s BAP and other parties who refused to support any of the ABC factions to gain an advantage over the other.

It has to be said that while Dr Majoro succeeded in retaining power for himself, this has been achieved at the cost of service delivery. There is no political stability to speak of particularly when the government’s survival is not down to Dr Majoro but to various political parties within and outside government who have their own reasons for keeping him in power.

Under his watch, legislators fiddled and focused on trivialities instead of passing the reforms bill to pave the way for the implementation of the multi-sector reforms which were recommended in 2016 by SADC as a panacea to Lesotho’s chronic instability. By the time the 10th parliament was dissolved at midnight on 13 July this year, the reforms had not been passed. Under pressure from the international community, Dr Majoro then advised King Letsie III to declare a state of emergency to pave the way for the recall of parliament to pass the reforms bill in August. The emergency and the subsequent amendments passed by the recalled parliament were nullified by the Constitutional Court which ruled that there had been no national emergency to justify the recall of parliament in the first place. This means that the Majoro administration failed to pass the reforms during its time in charge.

Verdict: Dr Majoro failed to achieve political stability.

Restoring good governance and the rule of law

On assuming office, Dr Majoro was immediately confronted with the challenge of addressing potential instability due to the infighting in the police pitting the Commissioner Holomo Molibeli against his subordinates in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA).

LEPOSA members accuse Commissioner Molibeli of incompetence, cronyism and the failure to stamp out police brutality against ordinary citizens. The police boss in turn accuses his juniors of insubordination.

It is a fight which began when Mr Thabane was still in power and the Molibeli-LEPOSA fight has the potential to destabilise the country in the same manner that previous fights within and among the security agencies have done.

Dr Majoro had appeared on course to tackle the police challenge in August 2020 by appointing an inter-ministerial committee headed by Prof Mahao, the then Justice and Law Minister to probe the infighting in the police and other security agencies.

The committee summoned Commissioner Molibeli, other senior police officers and LEPOSA before presenting its findings which were made public in December 2020. The committee appeared to exonerate Commissioner Molibeli with Dr Majoro saying he had found no basis to fire him as demanded by LEPOSA.

The police union then accused the government of shielding Commissioner Molibeli despite that it had presented “overwhelming evidence” of his alleged incompetence and his failure to deal decisively with the issue of police brutality.

The results of Dr Majoro’s failure to deal firmly with the police command are evident to see: there have been widespread reports of police brutality against citizens. The police are facing numerous lawsuits running into several millions by various people including prominent human rights lawyer, Napo Mafaesa, who was tortured by police in January this year.

Last year, Lesotho earned the dubious distinction of being Africa’s murder capital and the sixth moist homicidal nation on the globe due to the police’s failure to deal with rampant killings countrywide.

The extent of the police incompetence was painfully brought home by the theft of guns at the Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek police stations in November 2021 and April 2022 respectively.

The guns are said to have sold to rampaging Famo gangsters who have been blamed for the rampant killings countrywide.

Another failing of the government in terms of maintaining the rule of law- relates to the paltry budget allocation to the judiciary.  Prof Mahao, who served as Justice and Law minister until he was fired in April 2021, bemoaned the government’s failure to allocate adequate resources to the judiciary.

His comments came against the background of revelations by the Judicial Service Commission that the government had only allocated a measly M937 366 to be shared by all the country’s courts including the High Court and Court of Appeal in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year.

To put the matter into perspective, the M937 366 budget for all the courts was much less than the M1, 3 million electricity debt owed by the Maseru Magistrates’ Court alone.

As if the magistrates’ court debacle was not enough, operations at the High Court and its Commercial Division in Maseru were in March this year paralysed after the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) abruptly cut power supplies due to the judiciary’s failure to pay a M1, 4 million power bill.

All this due to the Majoro administration to allocate enough funds to the judiciary.

To his credit though, Dr Majoro’s government has appointed nine High Court judges over the past year as part of efforts to reduce a crippling backlog of cases said to be over 4000.

Many long-standing criminal cases have finally been heard. However, the major blemish has been the tendency of the courts to free high profile suspects like murder-accused businessman, Tšeliso Nthane, without even putting them to their defence. Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane and other judges have attributed this to the shoddy work by the police and prosecution which has resulted in the latter’s failure to present solid cases against suspects before the courts of law.

In all the analyses done by this newspaper, the public and analysts have voiced their concerns at what they consider to be the incubation of two parallel justice systems- one favouring the rich and another biased against the poor.

For all his incompetence, it is a mystery that Commissioner Molibeli is still in the job.

Last month, the Constitutional Court threw out his application to stop outgoing Prime Minister Majoro from advising King Letsie III to sack him for incompetence. The dismissal of his application cleared the way for his dismissal but Dr Majoro, who had sought to fire him in June this year, still has not acted.

Verdict: Dr Majoro failed to restore good governance and the rule of law.

Fighting Covid-19

Covid-19 was first reported in China in December 2019 and thereafter it spread rapidly to other countries around the world. For a while, Lesotho was spared and it officially became the last country in Africa to record an infection on 13 May 2020, exactly one week before Dr Majoro was sworn in.

To his credit, Dr Majoro disbanded the wasteful and clueless inter-ministerial committee known as the National Emergency Command Centre (NECC) which had been set up in March 2020 by then Prime Minister Thabane to spearhead the government’s fight against Covid-19.

The NECC had already gobbled M161 million out of the M698 million budget set aside by the government to fight Covid-19 by the time it was disbanded by Dr Majoro in June 2020.

A huge chunk of that money was not spent on core activities aimed at fighting the pandemic but on luxuries like food and other items bought at highly inflated prices.

The extravagant NECC spent more than M10 782 618 on food for its staffers drawn from different ministries at a time health staff were going with no personal protective equipment (PPE).

The NECC was then replaced by the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) which reported directly to Dr Majoro.

Dr Majoro appointed Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) Commissioner General Thabo Khasipe as the CEO of NACOSEC. Mr Khasipe’s appointment would have breathed new life into the fight against Covid-19 had it not been hampered by an acute lack of government support. On several occasions in 2020 and 2021, the country endured crippling strikes by health professionals over risk allowances and demands for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other equipment for hospitals.

In December 2020, the government showed its ineptitude in handling the Covid-19 crisis by allowing thousands of Basotho who live and work in South Africa into the country without testing or presenting valid Covid-19 test certificates.

This contributed to a huge spike in infections and deaths which only recently slowed down after the imposition of a hard lockdown by the government.

To its credit, the government woke up from its slumber and began a mass vaccination programme last year.

The Covid-19 initiatives were a major success as the pandemic has been largely contained. Normal business operations have resumed.

Verdict: fair performance. Dr Majoro’s success in fighting Covid-19 was been blighted by the scandals pertaining to the use of Covid-19 funds by NACOSEC officials. 

Reviving the economy

Even before the impact of Covid-19, Lesotho’s economy was already in the doldrums. Nonetheless, there were things that the Majoro administration could have handled differently.

The government failed to provide any meaningful relief assistance to private companies that were hit hard by the Covid-19 induced lockdowns between 2020 and 2022.

The government also folded its arms as textile factories retrenched over 11 500 workers between 2020 and 2022. In other words, 25 percent of the entire workforce have lost their jobs during Dr Majoro’s tenure.

By the premier’s own admission earlier this year, more than 300 000 youths are unemployed and his government failed to attract investors to Lesotho due to the political instability.

Despite protestations from players in the industry, his government was hell-bent on imposing the Tobacco and Alcohol Levy which would likely cripple businesses and fuel the black-market trade in tobacco and alcohol.

Dr Majoro’s government failed to account for more than M6, 2 billion in the 2020/21 financial year according to a latest report by the Auditor General Monica Besetsa. It failed to pay service providers despite receiving multi-million maloti windfall from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this year.

On the positive side, Dr Majoro’s government scored a major success with the signing of the long-awaited agreement for the United States (US)’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to provide a US$300 million (about M4, 8 billion) grant to Lesotho.

The Compact II is set to create 90 000 jobs. The signing of Compact II is huge achievement considering that the previous Pakalitha Mosisili and Thabane administrations had both failed to reach an agreement with the US for over a decade.

Verdict: failure. While the Compact II signing is a major achievement, Dr Majoro has done nothing else to attract investment and stem the tide of job losses. The economy is still struggling and most people are food insecure. Only food assistance from international donors have prevented outright famine in many parts of the country.