/ 30 October 2006

New political party launched in Lesotho

Thousands of people attended the launch of a new political party in the tiny African kingdom of Lesotho on Sunday, with its leader pledging to spearhead a war on poverty.

Tom Thabane, a former foreign minister who quit Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government earlier this month, told supporters of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) that it was a time for a change.

”That is what motivates us as the ABC — to fight those enemies, hunger and poverty,” Thabane told a crowd of around 10 000 people in downtown Maseru.

”We do not believe the current government is doing that, so it is time for a change of government in Lesotho.”

Thabane has already managed to persuade 17 former lawmakers from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to join him, making his new faction the third largest party in Parliament.

More defections are expected, opening up the possibility that the opposition will try and force a vote of no confidence in Mosisili’s government.

Thabane said that by shifting the focus onto fighting poverty, the ABC aims to simultaneously tackle issues such as agriculture, business and health in Lesotho where around 30% of adults are estimated to be living with HIV/Aids.

”The health system in Lesotho has virtually collapsed. The ABC will build up a proper health support system for our people. Health is a basic right and we cannot allow the neglect to continue,” he added.

The 61-year-old Mosisili, who has been prime minister since 1998, had been expected to stand down before the next general election but he later decided to stand for re-election as LCD chief, winning comfortably in January.

The general election is expected to take place in around six months’ time in Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, although no date has yet been set. – Sapa-AFP