Lockdown extended amid political crisis
With the expiration of an initial three-week nationwide lockdown, Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has extended the coronavirus prevention measure by another by two weeks.
The lockdown expired on Tuesday (April 21) but will now run till 5 May. Lesotho remains one of two African countries yet to record infections, the other being Comoros.
PM Thabane said the extension will allow the government to prepare more and acquire specialised and protective equipment, according to AFP news agency.
Meanwhile a political crisis that has bedeviled the country continues to rage as of April 22. The Senate (Upper House of Parliament) is expected to hear a constitutional amendment passed by the national assembly to regulate powers of the embattled PM.
The amendment seeks to strip Prime Minister of powers to unilaterally dissolve parliament and call for elections when he loses a no confidence vote and also provides for an early retirement for Thabane.
The amendment brought by Popular Front for Democracy Leader Adv Lekhetho Rakuoane says: if the PM loses no confidence vote, he must resign. If that happens, the National Assembly elects a new PM failure for which the King appoints incumbent DPM as caretaker PM but up to 60 days.
Thabane’s headaches have been linked to the murder of his former wife back in 2017. Police insist that there is evidence that the current First Lady was responsible for the murder and that the PM was complicit.
A special envoy of the South African president deployed to mediate in the crisis announced this week that a dignified exit had been negotiated for the PM.
#Lesotho elections in 2012, 2015 and 2017 were triggered when Prime Ministers Pakalitha Mosisili and Tom Thabane either feared they would lose (2012) or lost (2015, 2015) no confidence votes
— Nthakoana Ngatane (@nthakoana) April 22, 2020
April 13: PM Thabane rolls out socio-economic interventions
Lesotho has yet to record a case of COVID-19 as of April 13, one of two countries to escape the virus since it reached the continent. The other being the island nation of Comoros.
But the government in Maseru led by Prime Minister Tom Thabane has rolled out a series of economic intervention measures to cushion the country from the impact of the pandemic.
In an address on Monday, April 13; Thabane disclosed that a budget had been allocated for a Disaster Relief Fund with another Relief Fund for the private sector.
Like other African countries have announced in recent times, Lesotho has formally opened talks with the World Bank and the European Union for assistance in this regard.
The measures touch on the public and private sectors and also addresses Basotho students within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and those outside the region. Banks have also been directed to revise some regulations whiles telecom companies are to lower interest rates.
Major announcements include:
- Disaster Relief Fund – M698 million
- Relief Fund for private sector= M500 million
- Agriculture support = M100 million
- 3-month grants for aged below qualifying age of 70, orphans, informal traders
- Informal traders will not pay licence fees during lockdown and 2 months after
- Tax compliant businesses to get payment deadline extension till end of September – deadline to be communicated later
- Simplified business taxation for non essential services including transport will not be payable
- Banks directed to extend 3-month payment holiday for all affected individuals and companies
- Lending and mobile money interest rates to be lowered
- 45,000 factory workersto be paid three-month subsidy of M 800 per month.
Announcements affecting international students:
- International students (within, outside SADC) to receive additional payments of 3 months
- International (outside SADC) students to be paid additional $300 dollars for 3 months = $900. They are advised to remain at their bases.
- Students within the region will continue to receive allowances – will be assisted to return home if need be.
On the health front, Minister Nkaku Kabi confirmed that government was engaging the South African Health department to arrange distribution of Anti-retrovirals, ARV’s and other medication for Basotho who are stranded due to lockdown next door.
Citizens in South Africa, the continents most impacted country, are advised to remain as best practice to limit spread of the virus. The government urged those who want to return to liaise with high commission and consulates.