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Lesotho’s Matekane promises renewal

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Graphic: Wade Geduldt / African News Agency (ANA) Lesotho Prime Minister Sam Matekane during his swearing-in ceremony by the country’s by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane on Friday October 28.

By Chad WilIiams

Inauguration marks the start to the Kingdom of Lesotho’s renewal into the great nation it once was.

The swearing-in of Kingdom of Lesotho’s seventh prime minister on Friday marks a possible road to recovery for the mineral-rich Kingdom which is desperate for change.

As thousands of people filled the Setsoto Stadium to capacity in the capital of Maseru hours before the ceremony, I think that it is safe to say that there was a sense of hope in the air.

Various spiritual leaders recited prayers at the start of the ceremony, not only for the country but for the Prime Minister as well. Christianity is the dominant religion in Lesotho.

Not too long after that, Prime Minister Sam Matekane was sworn in by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane.

Interestingly, as outgoing Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro congratulated new Prime Minister Matekane in his last speech as PM, sounds of ‘boos’ gathered momentum across the stadium.

The crowd at Setsoto Stadium sang songs and continued to boo and make hand gestures, which clearly irritated the PM as could be seen on the live stream.

Lesotho at a glance

Lesotho is in a state of despair at the moment. The Basotho people want a leader that is going to make the country prosper like it did in its heyday.

Citizens made it clear by going to the polls in early October, in one of the Continent’s more peaceful elections, to elect a new government that they hope will fix the country.

As the country continues to battle social ills including unemployment, crime, illegal mining, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and a plethora of other issues brought on by Covid-19 restrictions, not forgetting a growing climate change crisis, of which the Kingdom is seeing effects, the Prime Minister will need to put a team together that knows what they are doing.

Lesotho has a population of about 2.2 million, and a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $1,091 in 2021, according to the World Bank.

Despite its challenges, Lesotho’s economic recovery depends on the proper management of its abundance of natural resources.

According to the global financial institution, economic activity is expected to pick up in 2022 underpinned by the construction sector. GDP is expected to expand by 2.6 percent in 2022 and then slow down to 2.3 percent in 2023.

Matekane to the rescue

Multi-millionaire and diamond-magnet Prime Minister Sam Matekane knows that he has a huge task on his shoulders to restore the country to its former glory.

Taking to the podium at the national stadium after being sworn in as PM, Matekane said he will strive to make Lesotho great again, to the jubilant cheering of the thousands of Basotho people in attendance.

He made this statement not only amid the citizens of the country, but also in the midst of high-profile dignitaries representing the Southern Development Community (SADC), a presidential delegation from the United States, and the Commonwealth.

Attendees at the ceremony included Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Zambia’s President Hichilema Hakainde and Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland.

Matekane has said the government of Lesotho vowed that it will be open to foreign direct investment. Which is exactly what Lesotho requires to get back on its feet.

Matekane has said that his government will strive to:

  • Create jobs and open new markets and industries in accordance with the national objective of diversifying Lesotho’s industrial base.
  • Improve skills and productivity of the workforce and nurture local business suppliers and partners/
  • Support knowledge and technology transfer and diffusion, and improve the quality and accessibility of infrastructure.
  • He also touched on ‘potential investment sectors’ in Lesotho that he will tackle; renewable energy, agro-industry, manufacturing and infrastructure, construction and tourism.

SADC support

This week, the South African presidency said that President Ramaphosa’s attendance is an expression of South Africa’s continued support for the Basotho and of the firm bonds and friendship between the two countries.

Namibian President Hage Geingob, who is the chairperson of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security, said he looked forward to working closely with Matekane to strengthen bilateral co-operation, as well as advance a regional development agenda in order to uplift the living standards of people and countries.

Who is Sam Matekane, Lesotho’s wealthy businessman turned Prime Minister?

  • He is the owner of the Matekane Group of Companies, with business interests in aviation, construction, mining, and property sectors.
  • He owns Lesotho’s only privately owned airline Maluti Sky which started operating in 2017, according to AFP.
  • New to politics, Matekane is well regarded in business circles and made his money in the diamond, construction and transport industries.
  • He is a Board Member of Meso Diamond Pty Ltd
  • Meso Diamond Pty Ltd evaluates and develops diamond projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company holds a prospecting license in the Kingdom of Lesotho, according to a Bloomberg report.
  • He is one of the investors, co-founder and partner of a cannabis processing facility in Lesotho.

Chad Williams is a multimedia journalist at IOL News

This article was written exclusively for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.