This is my last term – Tom Thabane

2015-02-22 18:53

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Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane has announced his retirement – after his next five-year term.

Speaking today at the final elections rally of his party, the All Basotho Convention, Thabane told a massive crowd of people gathered on a large open piece of ground in Maseru that serves as the city’s main sports stadium.

“This is my last term. After these five years I am quitting,” he said to an audible gasp from the crowd, who were almost all dressed in the party’s yellow T-shirts with a red sun on them.

“I am old enough to go on pension, I am no longer going to stand,” he said.

Thabane told those attending the rally they should not “make the mistake of not going to vote”.

Thabane, who started his speech with a quote from the Bible, also urged them to stay at their voting stations to wait for the election results.

He gave his supporters the reassurance that the police would be securing the elections, and he also said SADC countries like South Africa and Namibia had sent police officials to help with the safety of voters.

“SADC has assigned a huge police force to make sure everything goes well with the elections,” he said.

News that the police force would help secure the elections, and that soldiers were instructed to remain in their barracks for the duration of the elections was greeted with the loudest cheers from the crowds.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been mediating in Lesotho’s problems, was credited for brokering this deal.

Thabane commended South Africa for the help it has given Lesotho, adding that relations between the two countries were strong. He also said the Lesotho Highlands water project was on track.

South Africa had sent the largest number of police officers. At the rally, South African and Lesotho police in their respective blue and blue-and-khaki camouflage uniforms were guarding Thabane with large assault rifles.

Thabane also lashed out at those who took King Letsie III and himself to court, saying they were “academics” and they didn’t have the interest of the Basotho at heart.

He said they would be defeated and “exposed”.

On Friday the court case by the attorney general – supported by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing – against Thabane and the king’s appointment of Kanalelo Mosito as president of the Court of Appeal was postponed for judgment, while people came out in the streets to protest.

Thabane reserved the bigger part of his speech for the party’s representatives in parliament, who he said should remember to go back to their constituencies and serve them there, instead of just staying in Maseru and working in parliament.

“I believe all the representatives will be the best they can be in government,” he said.

He introduced all the constituency representatives before the rally.

Thabane said only if people got services and if poverty was alleviated would the country’s troubles stop. He was referring to the squabbles between factions in the police and the army, which led to the attempted coup in August last year, resulting in elections being brought forward by two years and happening next Saturday.

Supporters who attended the rally were confident that Thabane would win outright, which would make unnecessary the uneasy coalitions with other parties – notably the Basotho National Party and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.

A woman, who lives just outside Maseru but who did not want to be named, said she believed the ABC would win outright and that this would mean the end of Lesotho’s difficulties. “If we win I will be happy, if we don’t, there will be trouble,” she said.

Another woman, who wore an ANC T-shirt that she got because of the shweshwe fabric business she does in Bathurst in the Eastern Cape, became animated when asked why she supported the ABC.

“I support Tata Thabane, we will see what he can do,” she said.

She said the previous prime minister was in power for 15 years but did not do anything for business people like herself.

Another party supporter said the Lesotho Congress for Democracy was corrupt, and the party tried to use the army to oust Thabane when he acted against corruption.

Basotho National Party members attended their party’s rally at Setsoto Stadium - about 15km outside of Maseru, and good-natured bantering between party members was visible.

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy yesterday had its final elections rally at HaFoso, about 10km outside Maseru.

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