‘We will shoot with our tongues’
Eleven All Basotho Convention ( ABC) Members of Parliament (MPS) held a press conference in Maseru this week to voice their concerns at delays in opening the 9th national Assembly. The MPS insisted failure to open the legislature two months after the elections which ushered them into office denied the electorate their right to hold the Executive to account through their parliamentarians. Among the MPS was ’ Mamandla Musa of Teyateyaneng who later spoke exclusively to Lesotho Times ( LT) reporter lekhetho ntsukunyane about this issue and also reports that the ABC was facing a sensational split.
LT: Speculation is rife that a new party is about to be formed by some members of the ABC, who are said to be unhappy that there is no consensus about who should be the official leader of the opposition in parliament. The speculation pits you against ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu and the party’s Butha-buthe MP Motlohi Maliehe for this post, which as we all know, comes with numerous perks. How true is this?
Musa: I have also heard these allegations, but the fact of the matter is ABC leader, Dr Thomas Thabane, has not yet appointed anyone to that position. This therefore, means he remains the leader of the opposition by virtue of being the ABC leader. It will remain this way until such a time he retires and appoints someone else to the post. As things stand, and to the best of my knowledge, ntate Thabane is ready to go back to parliament as leader of the opposition himself, not anyone else.
LT: So you are basically saying there is basis to this split talk in the ABC because of the position I have mentioned? Musa: People will always say what they want, especially concerning a political party as big as the ABC. They will say many things most of which might not necessarily be true. People developed some interest in me when I appeared second after ntate Thabane on the ABC Proportional Representation (PR) MPS list. Unfortunately, they started making wrong calculations that automatically, he was going to appoint me leader of opposition so that he can continue enjoying the benefits which come with being a former prime minis- ter. Maybe that is their expectation but they are wrong and should not make such statements and assumptions; they should not use this wrong assumption to believe that this issue has created factions within the ABC because that is not the case at all.
LT: Your detractors say you don’t have any experience to qualify for the post of leader of the opposition even if Dr Thabane was to push for your appointment…
Musa: Indeed, I have never been an MP before; this is the first time I am going to be in parliament. They are right on that note—that I don’t have the experience. But the point is if you have the passion to do well in anything, experience does not really matter at all. You can learn and be successful in whatever you want to achieve. Anyone who gets an opportunity to be in parliament is there to learn on the job. There are some people who have been in parliament for so many years, but if you ask them something related to the House, you will be surprised they know almost nothing despite the experience. And a person could be in parliament for the first time, but because of passion you will find that he or she knows a lot better because he reads and understands parliamentary issues. We just need someone intelligent enough to lead us. They should not judge me on the basis that I do not have experience.
LT: But are there any divisions in the ABC; is the party having serious infighting over this issue or anything else?
Musa: There are no divisions at all in the ABC. This is just an unfounded and unfortunate rumour meant to destabilise the party. I can confidently assure the nation that the issue about who is eventually appointed leader of the opposition in parliament has not, up to this point, bothered the party at all. This weekend, the party will be holding a massive conference in Mafeteng where several issues are obviously going to be addressed. We expect this to be a fruitful meeting after which there won’t be any allegations of this kind anymore because the leader will eventually announce his stance about the issue. We are actually going to introspect as a party following the 28 February elections, which as we all know, saw the ABC leaving government before the end of its five-year term.
LT: As the main opposition MPS, you have raised a series of concerns which you want the government to address. How do you hope to force the new coalition government led by Dr Pakalitha Mosisili (Democratic Congress leader)
Once we get into parliament, we are going to speak with one big voice. We are going to challenge these ministers’ status in parliament in relation to the cases they face before the courts of law. We are not going to be silent about that. They have to account and convince us why we should continue working with them in parliament while there are serious cases pending in the courts against them. As ABC MPS, we undertake that whatever concerns the public, we are going to raise in parliament. If not, we are ready to take them through a nasty political route. They should remember we won most of the constituencies in Maseru and nearby towns and if we call for a stay-away, you can imagine how massive it will be. They should not make a mistake of pushing us too far because we will end up showing them an area where they have power to rule, and that is Qacha’s nek, not here. We were party to the previous coalition government where we seemed to have been quite lenient on many issues bothering this nation because we wanted peace to reign. But if you look back to when we were the opposition, prior to the 26 May 2012 elections, we had a few seats in parliament. now in this 9th Parliament, we come back as a massive opposition with a total of 46 seats. If you look carefully where these people in government were voted for, it is in the rural parts of the country. We have full control in Maseru and other areas.
LT: The ABC is signatory to agreements which were made prior to the 28 February snap elections, which called for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene in Lesotho’s political and security crises. Don’t you think that by opposing decisions made by the new coalition government of seven parties, which came to power through the SADC facilitation, you might fall foul of the regional body?
Musa: If you call someone into your house to mediate in a dispute, it does not mean that person now becomes your father. We are Basotho. We cannot be dictated to by outsiders on what we can and can’t do. This is a sovereign state which has its own constitution. SADC was here to mediate. The organization cannot dictate what we should do in contravention of our laws and undermine our authorities. We can no longer allow outsiders to divide us. We cannot sit back and just be helpless. Our leader, ntate Thabane, has not taught us to be lazy. He has taught us how to lobby stakeholders, and most importantly, he has taught us how to go back to the people who voted us into power and give them feedback and get a mandate from them. If you look carefully how the ABC has grown from scratch into winning 40 constituencies, you will realise that the party has mastered the art of lobbying Basotho and we will continue to do that. like I said, we have AK47S. We are going to shoot through our tongues. We are going to use our tongues to fight for Basotho because we are here to represent them. We promise that as we leave here, we are not going to rest. We will work hard to play our role as the country’s main opposition.
ABC MP for Teyateyaneng ’Mamandla Musa.