ABC, DC agree to form new coalition
- Majoro to become PM while Mokhothu deputises him
The All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s national executive committee and the Democratic Congress (DC) are on the verge of concluding a new coalition deal.
Under the new proposed coalition Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro will become Prime Minister with DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu as his deputy.
At least 35 members of parliament (MPs) from the ABC’s total tally of 52 have already signed a pledge supporting the new proposed coalition, authoritative sources said. The 35 together with the 26 from the DC guarantee the 61-majority required to form government. It is likely other ABC MPs will come on board, giving the proposed coalition an unassailable advantage. The Basotho National Party (BNP), the Front for Popular Democracy (FPD), and other smaller parties will be roped in to stabilise the proposed coalition.
News of the ABC/DC deal comes in the wake of intricate political horse-trading which has seen Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fall out with one of his main allies, the BNP, and try to form a new coalition with Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC).
The planned ABC/DC coalition will effectively jeopardize the premier’s plans.
Even though he is ABC leader, Dr Thabane has no control over his party’s NEC which is largely loyal to a faction led by his deputy Nqosa Mahao. The NEC last week took its own leader to court over his decision to prorogue parliament.
The NEC had originally thrown its weight behind party chairman Samuel Rapapa to succeed Dr Thabane as prime minister. It is nevertheless comfortable with Dr Majoro and recently endorsed his election by the party’s MPs to take over as premier from Dr Thabane.
DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa confirmed his party was in talks with the ABC to forge a new coalition. Although the main players were the ABC and the DC, he said the BNP and other smaller parties would be engaged to ensure broad support for the proposed coalition.
ABC officials were a bit coy when approached for comment, with party secretary general Lebohang Hlaele preferring to only say “in Lesotho, nothing is impossible…”
But authoritative sources said the ABC/DC pact was now almost a done deal. Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance for Democrats (AD), the second biggest member of the current governing coalition, will be excluded from the deal altogether with Mr Metsing’s LCD and Mr Mochoboroane’s MEC. The DC and AD don’t see eye to eye because the former accuse the DPM of betrayal after he quit that party to join forces with Dr Thabane causing its fall from power in June 2017.
The DC has repeatedly said it was ready to work with the ABC in a new coalition as long as it excluded Dr Thabane, who is in court over allegations of murdering his ex-wife Lipolelo.
“The ABC-DC talks have reached an advanced stage and a deal is imminent,” said one top source.
“An agreement could have been signed by now had it not been for the national lockdown.
“Ntate Majoro will come in as prime minister with Ntate Mokhothu as his deputy. At least 35 of the ABC’s 52 legislators have endorsed the deal. Them and the DC’s 26 are enough to form government though other smaller parties will be brought in to guarantee stability.
“Ntate Moleleki and his AD party will not be part of the new coalition along with the LCD and MEC who have been in parallel talks with Ntate Thabane to establish a coalition. Their coalition will not succeed because it lacks the numbers. Most ABC legislators are in favour of the proposed deal with the DC.”
Another source said the ABC/DC pact was now a done deal.
“We have the numbers because 35 ABC legislators have signed commitment forms stating their support and commitment to the new coalition….,” said the source, adding that “rabid Thabane loyalists” like current cabinet ministers Samonyane Ntsekele and Chalane Phori will be booted out of government.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said it was premature to talk about the proposed coalition.
Mr Hlaele, the secretary-general, said; “There is no smoke without fire. We will have to wait and see what happens as days go by.”
DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa was more direct and forthcoming.
“We are having talks (with the ABC NEC) which are now at an advanced stage. Were it not for this national lockdown things would have been finalised. An announcement of the new coalition would have probably been made by now…,” he said.
He said they were also talking to the BNP though the main partnership would be between the ABC and DC.
“Whatever agreement we reach, the main partnership remains between the two (ABC and DC) but either party is free to bring its friends on board. Either party which brings on board its friends will be expected to allocate them some government portfolios from their share,” Mr Letsosa said.
ABC cabinet minister Tefo Mapesela confirmed in an audio recording leaked recently that the ABC was on the verge of agreeing to a new coalition deal with the DC. He said the AD would be left out in the cold because its leader, Mr Moleleki, was “untrustworthy”.
BNP spokesperson Masetota Leshota said they were yet to be formally approached about joining the proposed coalition. Last week the BNP joined the ABC’s NEC in a Constitutional Court application to have Dr Thabane declared unfit to continue in office. This after Dr Thabane unilaterally prorogued parliament from 20 March to June 2020 without King Letsie III’s approval. The BNP and ABC want the prorogation declared unconstitutional. The case will be heard tomorrow.
The ABC has been in turmoil since Dr Thabane and his supporters rejected Professor Nqosa Mahao’s election as the party’s deputy leader at its February 2019 elective conference.
The anti-Thabane ABC faction had teamed up with the DC to file a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane last June. The motion appeared to have been rendered moot by public rapprochements between the two factions earlier this year and after Dr Thabane announced he would step down in July or earlier if his successor is chosen. But the premier has since made remarks that suggest he will not relinquish power.
His war of attrition with his NEC resumed last week after he was taken to court over the prorogation. The ABC NEC sees the prorogation as an attempt by the PM to buy time to forge a new coalition to ensure his survival in power.
The NEC has since rubbished his new coalition plans with the LCD and MEC, saying the premier cannot singularly commit the party to any such deal. It remains to be seen if the premier will still persist with that dalliance.
LCD spokesperson Apesi Ratšele said his party was aware of the ABC-DC coalition talks and suggested it was looking elsewhere for its own coalition initiatives.
“I am not going to deny that there are ABC-DC talks…. Now that our own ally (the DC) has turned against us, it means we also have to find somewhere to turn to.
“We have heard that they are also planning to have BNP on board despite their different ideologies which do not mix like water and oil. We know that the BNP hates us and they could never work with us. So, we have made peace with it all and accepted things for what they are,” Mr Ratšele said. The DC and LCD were in the coalition that lost the June 3 2017 elections.
MEC spokesperson Napo Moshoeshoe said his party was not in the clear regarding latest developments since the lockdown was announced.
“We shall accept whatever comes our way in the name of saving our nation,” he said, adding his party would be willing to join any coalition in which it was recognised for its worth and not treated as a charity case.
AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo said they had only heard rumours of the proposed coalition. The AD was willing to be part of any coalition “meant to bring peace and stability in the country”.
Both the AD and MEC are nevertheless excluded from the envisaged ABC/DC coalition matrix.