“ACTING leader” of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Professor Nqosa Mahao has warned his party faces embarrassing defeat in the next general elections due to its failure to fulfil its 2017 election campaign promises.
Prof Mahao also warned that ABC supporters and the entire nation would turn against the party if “suspended” ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane went ahead and agree to a deal with former Deputy Prime Minister, Mothejoa Metsing, for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He condemned the TRC as an opportunistic idea to ensure that those who had committed crimes get away scot free.
Prof Mahao delivered the warnings while addressing a rally early this week in Maletsunyane, Maseru.
Elections are due in 2022. The ABC achieved a narrow victory in the 3 June 2017 polls and subsequently cobbled a four party coalition with Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD), Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP) and Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
Although the polls are due in 2022, the general sentiment is that they could be held earlier due to the serious infighting in the ABC which threatens to collapse the current coalition. A no confidence motion is pending against Dr Thabane in parliament and the Mahao-led faction has warned that it will push for the motion to be tabled and voted on when parliament reconvenes on 18 October 2019.
In the event of elections, Prof Mahao does not fancy the ABC’s chances. He told the Maletsunyane rally that the party would be “spectacularly embarrassed” due to its failure to fulfil its 2017 election campaign promises.
Prof Mahao also warned that ABC supporters and the entire nation would turn against the party if Dr Thabane went ahead and agree to a deal with Mr Metsing for the establishment of a TRC.
“We are living in a difficult time because our party is at a crossroads,” Prof Mahao said.
“Two weeks ago I and fellow comrades visited various places in the country. I can report that it would be foolish of us as ABC members to continue to think that the masses are still eating out of the palms of our hands.
“I am telling you if elections were to be called right now, we would be spectacularly embarrassed. I have no doubt about that. If we don’t do something, they (electorate) will desert the ABC for other parties…”
Prof Mahao said the party’s new national executive committee (NEC) had a responsibility to clean up the mess within the ABC and ensure that the party lives up to the 2017 campaign promises to improve service delivery, the economy and general welfare of Basotho.
Mr Metsing has consistently called for a TRC to investigate atrocities that were committed by Lesotho’s post-independence regimes and the security agencies.
The LCD recently said that Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing agreed on the establishment of a TRC in talks held last month. The duo are also said to have agreed on the return of all exiled politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies. In the wake of this “agreement”, two senior members of the security agencies, Assistant Superintendent Ramahetlane Percy Bereng of the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) and police procurement officer Senior Superintendent Lebohang Setsomi returned home last week.
Asst Supt Bereng fled to South Africa in August 2018 after being called for questioning by the police over the leaking of a government gazette. SS Setsomi skipped the country in July 2017 claiming that he had been tipped-off of his imminent arrest over charges of inflating costs of some procurement quotations.
But Prof Mahao said it was peculiar that there were already talks about establishing a TRC and of people “calling and forgiving each other”.
“They are now cleansing people. They are saying that we should complete the process of (establishing) the TRC in November. They are in such a hurry. We have no problem with Basotho coming home but if they have to face the wrath of the law they should. But we are surprised that the minister (of Police and Public Safety, Prince Maliehe) said they have cleansed them (Asst Supt Bereng and SSP Setsomi.
“Is the TRC a platform where people are going to cleanse each other in this manner? Are we ever going to know the truth? Will there ever be reconciliation and where are the victims of the well-known crimes when they are doing all of this? Were the victims ever asked to have a say in this? Who are the people forgiving each other? Is it Ntate Thabane and Ntate Metsing? Who has done what to whom? Who is the victim between the two of them? What are we saying about the families of the victims and the army personnel who were tortured, chained and detained?
“I would like to tell you that if we are going to follow that route (of establishing a TRC), this nation will desert this party. I know for sure that those people making deals such as this one will be deserted by the nation.”
He also bemoaned the plight of wool and mohair farmers, saying they had been impoverished by the government’s controversial wool and mohair regulations forbidding them from selling their produce outside Lesotho.
He said impoverished farmers had been forced to seek employment and engage in dangerous practices such as illegal mining in South Africa where some of them ended up being killed.
“Herd boys whose wages were paid from wool and mohair profits are now leaving to seek employment elsewhere…On behalf of the ABC, I would like to apologise to the farmers,” he said, adding they would ask ABC legislators to come to the aid of farmers by repealing the regulations.
He also criticised the government for its failure to resolve the long-standing grievances of teachers for salary increments and improved working conditions.
“We are embarrassed that the government has been dealing with this issue without any success for far too long. Three ministers led by a professor (Education and Training Minister, Professor Ntoi Rapapa) have taken over a year trying to solve teachers’ grievances.
“This could be solved in one weekend if ministers stopped boarding planes regularly. I have said it before that it is very easy to solve teachers’ problems by cutting down the size of the cabinet,” he said.
Last week, the government resolved to punish about 4 000 teachers who went on strike last month by deducting amounts ranging from M2300 to M2500 from their salaries in line with the ‘no work, no pay’ policy.
Entry level gross salaries for teachers are pegged at M7 500 per month while senior teachers earn M9 000 per month. Consequently the teachers, who are already complaining that they cannot make ends meet, will suffer even more and it is possible that some will take home next to nothing after the deductions.
The restive teachers downed tools on 12 August 2019.
They want the government to award them an eight percent salary increment for the 2019/20 financial year.
They also want the government to weed out ghost workers from the payroll.
However, the government said it could not afford the eight percent increment and the two parties subsequently agreed that the increment would be implemented in the next financial year.