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Why Lesotho's Chief Theko is calling for an end to Thabane's tenure

Chief Khoabane Theko says Tom Thabane was in breach of the Constitution by allowing his wife to exercise the powers given only to a prime minister.

FILE: Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae 'Tom' Thabane. Picture: Facebook.

The Chief Whip of Lesotho’s Upper House of Parliament - the Senate, who is also a senior and influential member of the College of Chiefs and the royal family - Chief Khoabane Theko, says the prime minister must be recalled for allowing his wife to usurp power unconstitutionally.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s wife Maesiah has been accused of causing a split in the governing All Basotho Convention (ABC) and interfering in Cabinet.

Following his interview reported by Lesotho Times newspaper, Chief Theko told Eyewitness News that Thabane was in breach of the Constitution by allowing an un-elected individual - in his wife - to exercise the powers given only to a prime minister by that Constitution.

Lesotho is a constitutional monarch whose head of state is the king, who exercises his powers only through the binding advice of the prime minister. The prime minister is the head of government and commander in chief of the army who must have simple majority support of the 120-seat National Assembly and is elected by it.

The prime minister has the singular power to advise the king to appoint and fire heads of the arms of government such as the chief justice, the president of the court of appeal, the commander of the army and ministers. However, it is an open secret that ministers are appointed and fired at the behest of the first lady.

Thabane became prime minister in 2017 after his party ABC, the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho formed a coalition that now has 69 seats and support from 1 opposition Member of Parliament who announced she was joining ABC and was expected to cross the floor.

He has said in public what many including constitutional law experts have said in private for months.

"Prime minister, step down... Or the opposition must propose a motion of no confidence, we as the Senate that is advisory have no role to play in his removal. But the people who put him there - the National Assembly - can do this job, he's been elected by the people, the country is least developed and he plays with power and cedes it to his wife"

Thabane's ABC has been at loggerheads since it went to executive committee elections in February. While he retained his position as leader, the conference elected a deputy leader he didn't want in National University of Lesotho vice-chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao.

The old NEC had attempted to block Mahao from contesting on grounds that he was too new and didn't qualify, but his supporters took the party to court, and the NEC retaliated by attempting to expel him but failed.

Thabane called Mahao profanities at a party rally calling on supporters going to the conference not elect him, but they defied him.

Since the conference, the two NEC's have been fighting over control of the party and its offices, and several court cases have failed to unite the ABC. Instead, the two factions have been crisscrossing the country trying to get ordinary members on their side.

The first lady is accused of being behind this division which has also seen Thabane fallout with his son-in-law who supports Mahao and has been elected secretary general - Lebohang Hlaele. Immediately following the conference, Hlaele and another minister - Matebatso Doti were fired from their posts as ministers.

While the king doesn't have the power to remove the prime minister, Theko's voice could set in motion events that could bring an end to Thabane's tenure.

In February, 20 ABC MP’s expressed their displeasure in a memorandum that was supporting Mahao and should they support a motion of no confidence in Thabane, it would mean the coalition will be short of the 61 votes required to keep him in power.

Being part of a coalition of four parties means Thabane must consult the other three parties in making decisions, but he is allegedly neither consulting the coalition or his own party.

Chief Khoabane said Thabane has already ousted himself.

"Thabane does not go to office in government or the office of the party, everything is done from the state house with what we call a kitchen Cabinet"

But he is mindful that his detractors may say being the chief, he is ostracising the first lady for being a woman.

"I am a great advocate of rights of women, I have come out to say a girl can succeed as a chief, but that lady she has been on the TV pointing fingers and poking people, saying they are not performing. Who is she? And the prime minister was right behind her; she should stop interfering with the day-to-day running of the government"

Thabane’s spokesperson told Lesotho Times that the chief is the one overstepping his mark by telling politicians how to do their job.

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