Why I am con­test­ing poll: Tha­hane

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

FOR­MER En­ergy, Me­te­o­rol­ogy and Wa­ter Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Ti­mothy Tha­hane — who re­cently fell-out with the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) lead­er­ship, prompt­ing him to con­test the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date — says he still has a lot to of­fer the na­tion.

Dr Tha­hane (74), who was ap­pointed Fi­nance and Devel­op­ment Plan­ning Min­is­ter in 2002 be­fore mov­ing to the En­ergy, Me­te­o­rol­ogy and Wa­ter Af­fairs port­fo­lio in 2012, in­sists his de­ci­sion to run for the Likhet­lane con­stituency was not driven by any­thing but the de­sire to serve Ba­sotho. Af­ter hold­ing top po­si­tions at the World Bank and South African Re­serve Bank, among other renowned fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, Dr Tha­hane – who was fired as En­ergy, Me­te­o­rol­ogy and Wa­ter Af­fairs Min­is­ter in Novem­ber 2013 af­ter be­ing charged with cor­rup­tion — tells Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, why he de­cided to con­test the snap elec­tion in­stead of call­ing it a day in the wake of his court cases and dis­pute with the LCD lead­er­ship.

LT: Who is Ti­mothy Tha­hane from a po­lit­i­cal point of view?

Tha­hane: I joined the BCP (Ba­sotho Congress Party) dur­ing my school­days and con­tin­ued be­ing a mem­ber un­til the for­ma­tion of the LCD. How­ever, when the LCD was formed (in 1997), I was not in the coun­try. But I did join the LCD be­cause I be­lieved in the party’s phi­los­o­phy, which was putting Ba­sotho and their in­de­pen­dence first. That was the cen­tral mes­sage. We had a con­sti­tu­tion that gov­erned us and pro­cesses for se­lect­ing can­di­dates to go to par­lia­ment.

But the cur­rent lead­er­ship does not seem to fol­low th­ese pro­ce­dures for nom­i­nat­ing par­lia­men­tary can­di­dates from the vil­lages all the way up. And that was the point of de­par­ture. That was the point of dif­fer­ence. And when things like that hap­pen, you do not go back and say it is the party that is wrong. No. It is the lead­er­ship that you have which is im­ple­ment­ing your phi­los­o­phy, your ac­tions and what we in­tend to do for the peo­ple. So for me, the crit­i­cal ques­tion was what do I do when the party does not fol­low its own pro­cesses, rules and pro­ce­dures?

And I said no, I will not be part of it. I ap­pealed to them (lead­er­ship) to in­ter­vene; they did not in­ter­vene be­cause they were al­ready hav­ing their own agenda.

And be­cause I am now old, and have achieved the things I wanted to achieve in life, I told my peo­ple that although I would love to see Likhet­lane pros­per in other ways, I wanted to rest. They said no, we want you in par­lia­ment; they said we want you to work with us and see how we can im­prove our liveli­hoods be­cause the lead­er­ship seems to be con­cerned about other things.

LT: By why didn’t you join other po­lit­i­cal par­ties just like the rest of the dis­grun­tled LCD mem­bers?

Tha­hane: I was ap­proached by cer­tain par­ties but de­clined to join them sim­ply be­cause I dis­agree with the lead­er­ship on one or two things.

It is a se­ri­ous de­ci­sion to join a party as far as I am con­cerned. As a Mosotho, my in­ter­est is not in join­ing other par­ties but to see Le­sotho as a re­spected sovereign state ruled by the law based on the con­sti­tu­tion. If I am elected by the peo­ple of Likhet­lane and I get into par­lia­ment, I will co­op­er­ate and work to­gether with any gov­ern­ment that emerges from th­ese elec­tions. How­ever, that gov­ern­ment would have to do cer­tain things; first, it should put the in­ter­ests of Ba­sotho ahead of their own. Sec­ond, it should be a gov­ern­ment that will lead and pro­tect Le­sotho as a demo­cratic state that has a con­sti­tu­tion sti­tu­tion and re­spects the rule of law.w. I will share my ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge with such a gov­ern­ment with­out any reser­va­tions. Le­sotho has made me what I am. Ba­sotho o paid for me to be what I am. I could not have been vice-pres­i­dent of the World Bank; I could not have ave been the Deputy Gover­nor of thehe South African Re­serve Bank hadd I not been given the op­por­tu­nity and nd sup­port by Le­sotho and throughgh the taxes of or­di­nary Ba­sotho. It is that recog­ni­tion and re­spect for Ba­sotho which brought me back ck home. I didn’t come here re be­cause I wanted a job. The pen­sionn I have from the World Bank and the Re­serve Bank is more e than enoughh for me to live on. But I feel I owe it all to my coun­try. And prob­a­bly more im­por­tantly, to that vil­lage where I come from, where I grew up. Those old peo­ple who sac­ri­ficed to make me what I am, those are the ones I owe my life to. And that is what en­cour­aged me that in the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, when we worked with Ntate (Pakalitha) Mo­sisili (for­mer prime min­is­ter) and I found that he shared that view about the el­derly, I did the best I could to in­tro­duce old peo­ple’s pen­sions. So in par­lia­ment, the in­ter­ests, de­sires, re­quire­ments, short­ages, lack of jobs, lack of roads and what­ever needs of the peo­ple of Likhet­lane are up­per­most in my mind. And a gov­ern­ment which wants me to work with them should be sen­si­tive to that and if it is not, then I won’t bother about it.

LT: So what ex­actly is your mes­sage to the peo­ple of Likhet­lane?

Tha­hane: I say to them look me in the eye, be­cause that’s when we can say the truth to each other. In Se­sotho, we say litaba li mahlong. As a peo­ple, let’s say the truth al­ways be­cause that way, it will be eas­ier to work things out if we are hav­ing any dif­fer­ences. If we do that, all this chi­canery and schem­ing will go away. We need to cre­ate jobs for our­selves and be­come self-re­liant.

I am go­ing to work with the peo­ple of Likhet­lane to see how we can gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment. Gov­ern­ment has limited re­sources to cre­ate jobs that can cater for Ba­sotho youths through­out the coun­try. The peo­ple have to learn how to cre­ate jobs for them­selves. That is my com­mit­ment with them. Take agri­cul­ture for in­stance — no coun­try can go on and on with­out be­ing able to feed it­self. If you look at Le­sotho, why are we hav­ing so many fields ly­ing fal­low? Why do we have 43 per­cent of our fields ly­ing idle?

LT: So in a nut­shell, your in­ter­ests in this elec­tion are the peo­ple of your con­stituency and not per­sonal gain?

Tha­hane: My in­ter­est is two-fold; one is to see Le­sotho re­spected on the global stage. Sec­ond, I want to see young peo­ple excel in cre­at­ing jobs and mak­ing a bet­ter life for them­selves, which means the ed­u­ca­tion must not sim­ply be aca­demic but also vo­ca­tional. Young peo­ple should stop fight­ing for jobs in gov­ern­ment be­cause there will al­ways be few op­por­tu­ni­ties in the public sec­tor. Young peo­ple should be am­bi­tious and say we want to be the best in the world. I was in­vited by for­mer South African Pres­i­dent, Dr Nel­son Man­dela, to be­come the first black Deputy Gover­nor of the South African Re­serve Bank. He did not care that I was a Mosotho. The Par­lia­ment of South Africa amended the coun­try’s laws to make it pos­si­ble for me to take that job which was re­served for cit­i­zens but then changed to res­i­dents. Young peo­ple can also achieve more in their lives.

LT: You were a min­is­ter for quite some time, and also held pres­ti­gious po­si­tions out­side the coun­try, like you men­tioned. What makes you be­lieve that you can bring change to your con­stituency now when you ARE no longer In TH­ESE In­flu­en­tial po­si­tions?

Tha­hane: You may be up there but you need foot-sol­diers who share your vi­sion and be­lief. It’s only if you are a dic­ta­tor that you can say this and then it’s done. Pol­i­tics is the art of the pos­si­ble. It de­pends how in­flu­en­tial you are that you can be able to di­rect change. At the World Bank, my man­date was the world. Le­sotho was one of the 180 coun­tries that I served. And I served them well. When I came to the Re­serve Bank, my man­date was limited to what a South African rand was and to pro­tect it. And when I be­came Min­is­ter of Fi­nance (in 2002), my man­date was Le­sotho as a whole; to make sure that I pro­tect 50 000 jobs in the tex­tile in­dus­try dur­ing that time of eco­nomic cri­sis. And I was suc­cess­ful. The IMF (In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund) con­grat­u­lated Le­sotho on man­ag­ing that cri­sis very well. I had to make sure that the new hos­pi­tal (Tše­pong) was built (and opened in 2011). I rene­go­ti­ated Le­sotho’s po­si­tion bet­ter when I was En­ergy Min­is­ter. I went to Cape Town and rene­go­ti­ated that en­ergy must be part and par­cel of the wa­ter trans­fer from here to South Africa. When I left gov­ern­ment, my man­date be­came Likhet­lane and how I could help cre­ate jobs. And that’s why I went into the pri­vate sec­tor. I think now I am able to fo­cus on Likhet­lane. So it was a bless­ing in dis­guise when I was dis­missed from gov­ern­ment.

When the LCD de­cided to side­step me, the peo­ple of Likhet­lane said they wanted me to con­tinue work­ing and I wanted to re­tire. But you don’t get sat­is­fac­tion when your neigh­bour goes to bed hun­gry, when you see a young per­son who wants to work and has skills but can­not work. That doesn’t sit well with me, and that is why I de­cided to ac­cept the re­quest from my con­stituency to stand in the


LT: You were once ac­cused by the very youths you are con­cerned about, of mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing M50 mil­lion set aside for them to

start busi­nesses…

Tha­hane: I will say to young peo­ple that in­stead of quickly crit­i­cis­ing some­body, look at that per­son and say what can I learn from him or her and take what he has and use it for the bet­ter­ment of us all and of this coun­try. It was very painful for me that af­ter I had put aside M50 mil­lion to help young peo­ple start busi­nesses, I found my­self un­der se­vere crit­i­cism. It was said in news­pa­pers and on ra­dios that I had stolen that money. How can I steal M50 mil­lion with­out it be­ing traced? And when I was in the Min­istry of En­ergy, some young peo­ple from var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties said I didn’t know what I was do­ing, and so I should step down. How many of them know how to raise M3 bil­lion?

So my mes­sage is don’t be quick to crit­i­cise. At one point, the bud­get I con­trolled at the World Bank was for more than that of Le­sotho. My ad­vice is you don’t learn by crit­i­cis­ing; you learn by ob­ser­va­tion and ask­ing rel­e­vant ques­tions. Let us not cas­ti­gate each other. If some­body makes a gen­uine mis­take, let us look at it and say cor­rect it and move on. But if it is a de­lib­er­ate un­der­cut­ting of the law, it is a dif­fer­ent case.

LT: With­out dwelling much on the cor­rup­tion charges you face be­fore the courts, tell us how they af­fect your cam­paign for the elec­tions?

Tha­hane: They are not be­cause the peo­ple said un­til the cases are heard and you are con­victed, we do not con­sider you a crim­i­nal. And that is what the law says; in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. Not the other way round. My peo­ple are sup­port­ing me. But even if I lose the elec­tion, there is life ahead of me. And un­til my last day on this earth, I will con­tinue to do the same and that is to serve my peo­ple. One must be­lieve in some­thing and know clearly how his life af­fects oth­ers. That’s my prin­ci­ple. If you ask what I am anx­ious about in the re­main­ing days of my life, I will tell you that first, I want to serve God. With­out Him I would not be who I am. Sec­ond, is to serve His cre­ation, the peo­ple.

LT: Is there any chance that you could re­turn to the LCD?

Tha­hane: Af­ter the elec­tions, we will talk with the LCD and even other par­ties about whether their com­mit­ments are the same as mine. I did not re­sign from the LCD; nei­ther did I say the LCD, as a party, is wrong, but sim­ply that I don’t agree with the lead­er­ship on cer­tain is­sues. The best way to go about this is to dis­cuss it with my peo­ple which is what I am do­ing at

the mo­ment.

LT: Con­sid­er­ing the se­cu­rity chal­lenges that Le­sotho cur­rently faces, do you think elec­tions are the so­lu­tion?

Tha­hane: We don’t have an al­ter­na­tive. Elec­tions are the only so­lu­tion we have for the peo­ple to de­cide the way for­ward. We def­i­nitely have to go back to the peo­ple to get a new man­date. As lead­ers, we have failed to gov­ern. We are fight­ing for some­thing, whether it is power or some­thing else. But the fact is we are fight­ing and peo­ple are suf­fer­ing.

LT: On a rather dif­fer­ent note, we hear you now have an in­ter­est in the tex­tile in­dus­try. Could you tell us more about this?

Tha­hane: The first Chi­nese firm in Le­sotho was CGM (China Gar­ments Man­u­fac­turer) in 1987. It came here be­cause there was a cer­tain trade pref­er­en­tial ac­cess to the US (United States of Amer­ica) that the own­ers wanted to take ad­van­tage of. So they came and set-up shop here and started ex­port­ing their prod­ucts. No­body knew were the ma­te­ri­als were com­ing from.

No­body knew where the fin­ished prod­uct went. Since 1987, no Mosotho has ever had own­er­ship in that in­dus­try. So when I left cabi­net (in Novem­ber 2013) I ap­plied my mind to that. I learnt all the pro­cesses that go with it. As we speak, if the own­ers of a tex­tile com­pany de­cide to leave Le­sotho for some rea­son, they sim­ply take the ma­chin­ery to other coun­tries and leave us with noth­ing. I went to CGM and told them I wanted to get into that kind of busi­ness. I ne­go­ti­ated a part­ner­ship or co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment. And through their as­sis­tance and part­ner­ship with other peo­ple, we now have our own firm which al­ready em­ploys 150 peo­ple. I am ba­si­cally now the owner of that tex­tile man­u­fac­tur­ing cor­po­ra­tion that goes by the name of IGM –– Industrial Gar­ments Man­u­fac­tur­ers Le­sotho –– spe­cial­is­ing in work­place wear. CGM’S role in the agree­ment was to give us some tech­ni­cal train­ing, ma­te­rial that we put to­gether and sell the fin­ished prod­uct to them. So as we mas­ter this phase, we learn where the ma­te­rial is com­ing from. We also learn how to ne­go­ti­ate with buy­ers along the way. The tex­tile and ap­parel in­dus­try is one of the old­est in the world. It pro­vides the largest em­ploy­ment base even though the in­comes are not that huge, but still, it does pro­vide in­come.

To­day, em­ploy­ment in the tex­tile in­dus­try in Le­sotho is far larger than that of the gov­ern­ment. The sec­tor em­ploys 45 000 to 50 000 peo­ple. The gov­ern­ment is sec­ond. But be­cause there is no own­er­ship by Ba­sotho in that in­dus­try at all, there is no money that flows into the coun­try by way of div­i­dends. What only flows here are wages and util­i­ties. So I de­cided we were go­ing to get in it and pro­mote Ba­sotho own­er­ship but do it through part­ner­ship with a large ex­ist­ing com­pany that knows the way. The sec­ond thing that is very im­por­tant is that you have the Le­sotho Tex­tile Ex­porters As­so­ci­a­tion, which is an or­gan­i­sa­tion of Asian busi­ness­peo­ple lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ments of Le­sotho, the US and ev­ery­thing for Asian com­pa­nies. One of my in­ter­ests is to cre­ate the Le­sotho Tex­tile As­so­ci­a­tion for lo­cal peo­ple to get in. I am just one of the few Ba­sotho who have come in into this project. There are other Ba­sotho we are al­ready work­ing with. We have in­vited the LNDC (Le­sotho Na­tional Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion) to join us, as well as CGM and the gov­ern­ment and take the model we have through­out the coun­try. It is im­por­tant that as we go for­ward as Ba­sotho, we recog­nise that we can­not de­pend on hand­outs from the rest of the world. We must do things our­selves.

Likhet­lane con­stituency in­de­pen­dent can­di­date ti­mothy tha­hane.

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