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Thomas Thabane, who’s likely to be Lesotho’s next prime minister, is a humble man.
He lives in a converted milking shed in his constituency of Abia in the capital, Maseru. Some would classify it as a shack, or worse.
He converted the shed into a tiny house after his main home was burnt down in 1993; he never bothered to rebuild it.
The gate at the end of the dusty road to his house is falling apart. Near it is a pit latrine. The yard is unpaved.
Thabane’s humble existence – he rarely wears a suit – is the very antithesis of the flamboyance of many of his political counterparts, some of whom are said to own big mansions in SA, despite the desperate poverty of their country.
Thabane is also the exact opposite of incumbent Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who wears designer suits and is hardly accessible.
“People always (tell) me I should build a bigger home; I ask them why should I. I am comfortable here,” Thabane told a local journalist this week. For a man who has been in the government since the 1970s, first as a senior civil servant before assuming various ministerial positions in the various parties that have ruled Lesotho since then, until he split to form his All Basotho Congress (ABC) in 2007, Thabane is the essence of modesty.
Lesotho’s parliament will convene on Wednesday to elect a new Speaker and settle the question of who becomes prime minister after Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party failed to garner a sufficient majority to retain power in last weekend’s elections.
If he does assume the premiership, Thabane will have his country’s peculiar mixed member proportional system to thank. He lost badly in the 2007 elections, winning only 17 of the 80 directly elected constituency seats. But his ABC did better this time, winning 26 seats, still 15 less than the 41 won by Mosisili’s DC.
But Thabane might, and probably will, become prime minister, thanks to the MMP system and his coalition with Mosisili’s former ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy.
The question bothering observers is how Thabane can lead a “government by default”, as his adversaries call his likely new administration, despite having lagged the DC.
It’s all to do with Lesotho’s complicated system which, like the American electoral college, means that a party winning the most votes does not necessarily form the government.
Under the Lesotho system, Sofonea Shale explained, the total national votes cast was divided by 120, to establish a quota on which the proportional representation allocation was done.
Shale, a former senator who was involved in the formulation of the system, said he could not think of any better system to avoid dominance by one party.