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Out with Thabane, in with Majoro: Lesotho officially has a new PM

Lesotho's now former Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro had his appointment sealed by King Letsie III on Wednesday morning.

Outgoing Prime Minister Tom Thabane (L) symbolically handed over to incoming Moeketsi Majoro. Picture: Nthakoana Ngatane/EWN.

MASERU - Lesotho officially has a new prime minister. It's now former Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro was sworn-in on Wednesday morning to seal his appointment by King Letsie III.

Dignitaries and diplomats attended the ceremony in Maseru. Outgoing Prime Minister Tom Thabane symbolically handed over to the incoming Majoro.

Thabane resigned officially on Tuesday after battles with rival factions in his own party, as well as growing discontent around his leadership from other political parties and the public.

Majoro was flanked by his wife and two daughters who were wearing matching outfits – as well as his mother.

He said he owed his political career to Thabane who recruited him in 2013 as development minister.

The 59-year-old economist said he would hit the ground running, tackling COVID-19, food security, youth unemployment and independence of state institutions.

He is now expected to appoint his Cabinet from at least the two parties in the new coalition government.

MAJORO'S FIRST PRIORITIES

The 59-year-old Majoro is an economist who was once a director of the IMF.

He was nominated as prime minister after Thabane's four-party coalition collapsed, relegating Thabane to the position of caretaker prime minister.

In an interview with Eyewitness News last week, Majoro said he had no choice but to make the COVID-19 response his first priority when he took over, saying COVID-19 and food security would be his main priorities.

Majoro is well aware of the health service challenges facing Lesotho.

He has always maintained he doesn’t believe that the country does not have any COVID-19 cases but the first one is now confirmed.

“We have to double our efforts to know how much infection is in our community. We moved in with lockdown too early and the impact on the economy was immense, but we have a little bit more capacity.”

Majoro said to achieve this, he wanted politicians who also have technical knowledge in his Cabinet.

“You cannot provide a solution unless you understand in-depth what the problem is. You cannot provide a superficial solution, you cannot brainstorm a solution. It’s not enough to sit down as Cabinet ministers and speak with passion, solutions are not created like that. We need to bring in knowledge but it’s a political process. It’s a game of balancing interests.”

THABANE AND TURMOIL

Thabane himself is no stranger to political turbulence.

He first came to power in 2012 as head of the country's first coalition government, formed after inconclusive polls.

But the alliance was marred by political bickering, which culminated in a coup attempt in August 2014 when soldiers attacked police posts and surrounded his official residence.

The failed putsch prompted him to flee to South Africa.

He returned home in February 2017, saying he still feared for his life, although he went on to win snap elections just four months later.

His victory stirred hopes of stability to the hilly country, which has a long history of political turmoil.

An old hand in Lesotho politics, Thabane founded the All Basotho Convention in 2006 after years of manoeuvering between political parties.

Before becoming prime minister, he served in various Cabinet posts such as foreign affairs and home affairs.

In an exclusive interview with AFP last week, Thabane said he was looking forward to retirement and all he wanted was to be "left alone".

He has not yet been charged for the ex-wife's murder but when he briefly appeared in court in March, his lawyer sought to have him granted immunity. The case has not been heard yet.

Thabane said he would retire to his personal house in his constituency on the outskirts of Maseru.

He said he planned writing a book about his life, returning to the plays of Shakespeare, which he studied at university, and serving as a lay minister in his evangelical church.

Additional reporting by AFP.