King Letsie III has appointed a new prime minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho following the first sitting of the 11th parliament in Maseru on October 25 where members of parliament were sorn in, elected the speaker and deputy speaker.
Oct. 25, 2022
STAFF REPORTER AND ROMAN CHANSON, THE AFRICA REPORT
6 min read
King Letsie appoints 7th Prime Minister of Lesotho
Mr Tlohang Sekhamane, the new Speaker of the 11th Parliament of Lesotho
Metro Audio Articles
Catch our weekly audio news daily only on Metro Radio Podcast News.listen now
This comes after national election held on October 7 this year failed to produce the outright majority winner, forcing the party with more votes to foster a coalition with two minority parties.
The state has also announced that the new 7th prime minister, who will be a business tycoon Sam Ntsokoane Matekane, the leader of Revolution For Prosperity (RFP), will be sworn at his inauguration on October 28.
Mr Tlohang Sekhamane, 67, the former principal secretary, a government secretary, minister for finance, minister for foreign affairs and international relations, and a founding member of RFP, has been elected the new speaker of parliament.
The Council of State has advised the King to appoint Mr Matekane as a member of the 11th parliament – who, on its first sitting appeared to be the leader of the political party or coalition of political parties that command the support of a majority of the members of the national assembly.
Out of 65 registered political parties, only 14 managed to garner enough votes to be represented in parliament.
The leading party, RFP led by Sam Ntsokoane Matekane managed to win 56 constituencies out of 80 contested. It was followed a distant behind by Democratic Congress (DC) led by deputy prime minister Mathibeli Mokhothu with 18 seats. The DC has also benefited from the proportional representative model, meant to compensate the best losers, with 11 seats making the total of 29 seats in parliament.
Lesotho uses mixed member electoral model where 80 seats are based on first past the post (FPP)model while 40 seats are based on proportional representation (PR) to form a parliament of total 120 seats.
For a political party to be considered to have won enough majority for it to rule, the party must have at least 51% of the seats – 61 seats.
With only 56 seats, the RFP was running short of at least 5 seats to make it 61. It has formed a coalition with two other smaller political parties: Alliance of Democrats (AD) led by Dr Monyane Moleleki which has 5 seats, and Movement for Economic Change (MEC) led by former cabinet minister in the outgoing government Mr Selibe Mochoboroane with 4 seats. Together they make 65 seats.
And who is this new prime minister to lead the country up to 2027?
Six months after launching his party, Sam Matekane crushed the competition and won the general election. He is set to be called The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Lesotho come October 28th and continue to write the legend of a successful man.
This is the story of a boy from the eastern mountains of Lesotho who grew up in a family of 14 children. The seventh, Samuel Ntsokoane Matekane (aka Sam), gave up his life as a farmer and came down from the mountains to study at a secondary school in the capital, Maseru.
Although it would be an exaggeration to describe Maseru as the city of all possibilities, Matekane is just as emancipated as anyone else.
The budding entrepreneur started a small breezeblock factory in 1986. He then invested in road construction, became a subcontractor for a diamond mine (2004), tried his hand at aviation (2009), diversified into real estate and ventured into politics at the age of 64.
Matekane, who thinks he will run the future government like a company, sees this business like any other.
Money as a calling card
Sam Matekane the farmer
Enjoy our daily newsletter from today
Access exclusive newsletters, along with previews of new media releases.
Sam Matekane the business executive
His latest start-up is a party called RFP with a slogan ‘Moruo ke Bophelo’ (Economy is Livelihood). This political formation was created in March 22 2022 and brought Matekane to power six months later, during the October 7 general elections.
The ambitious man says he entered the arena because he was disgusted with the coalitions that have destabilised Lesotho since 2012.
No government formed over the last decade has lasted long. Matekane was dreaming of an absolute majority so that he could govern without concession.
Although the extent of his wealth is not known, he is a glittering success and young voters are drawn to his external signs of wealth.
With money as his calling card, he is making a name for himself in gold letters among the Basotho. He is ‘the richest man in the country’, ‘the man with the first helicopter’ and even ‘the man with the private jet’.
His empire’s prosperity also makes him a leader. “When he says, ‘I’m going to do it this way’, no one questions his word because he has succeeded. And that is new in Lesotho politics,” says Tlohang Letsie, a lecturer in political and administrative studies at the University of Lesotho.
“The country knows the respected businessman, not the politician,” says Montoeli Masoetsa, spokesperson for the All Basotho Convention (ABC), which only won eight seats. “He is a competent man, he can succeed if he surrounds himself with politically mature men,” he says.
Not very talkative, Matekane describes his entrepreneurial background using clichés. In interviews, he recites the story of a man who started from nothing, built himself up, believed in his dreams and learned from his failures. This speech - heard elsewhere - sounds less hollow in Lesotho, where success stories are not commonplace.
Spoiled by life, Matekane devotes part of his time and wealth to his community through his foundation. He demonstrates his philanthropy by developing his home village of Mantšonyane, where 64.6% of voters voted for him.
“The infrastructure there is better than in the capital,” says RFP spokesman David Mohapi. Elsewhere in the country, he is best remembered for his role in fighting against Covid-19.
In January 2021, Matekane launched Sesiu Sa Letšoele Le Beta Poho (Unity is Strength), an organisation designed to centralise donations from the private sector to buy vaccines and laboratory equipment.
He became the man of the hour while pointing out the government’s shortcomings. “Together [with the government], we said we had to try to save the nation,” Matekane reiterated in a television interview in August 2021.
He was elevated to hero status. The rest of his speech was less admirable. “If this nation dies from this pandemic, we won’t have any consumers tomorrow,” said the businessman.
Matekane may be tempted to favour the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) once in a position of authority.
“You will see that he will pay his companies with public funds. They will continue to work for the government. This is corruption at the highest level,” said Serialong Qoo, spokesperson for the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC).
This party, which came second in the elections, is expected to represent the opposition in the next term. But Matekane denies any conflict of interest and says he will step aside from his business. He will also be forced to delegate some of his power.
Fighting corruption - “the worst disease” - will be one of his priorities, he told the BBC. He also wants to better train and depoliticise the army, which has been known for coups (in 1986 and 1991) and attempted coups (2014).
Despite this, the tycoon showered the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) with donations last March before he launched his party.
Within the coalition, the three allies have agreed on an austerity programme. They promise to cut government spending by reducing ministerial positions from 37 to 15 and to not having official residences and cars. This is a small sacrifice for this lover of beautiful cars, as he will simply have to turn to his personal collection, which is made up of a Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin.