- ’ABC on path of self-destruction,” warns the premier
IN an ominous warning, Prime Minister and leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Thomas Thabane, says there are now “clear signs” that his coalition government is headed for collapse unless his party’s warring factions urgently resolve their differences.
Dr Thabane spoke this week amid revelations that the head of the National Security Service, Pheello Ralenkoane, had also warned him that the rifts in the ABC were likely to collapse the government unless the elected new national executive committee was allowed to assume the reigns (see story on below).
Dr Thabane said he was enduring sleepless nights because the ABC had “embarked on the path of self-destruction” with its two national executive committee (NEC) factions holding separate, competing rallies in different constituencies every week.
He said this while addressing a weekend rally in the Hololo constituency in Butha-Buthe. The rally was organised by members of the old NEC, which has steadfastly refused to hand over power to a new NEC elected at the party’s 1-2 February 2019 conference in Maseru.
All party posts except that of Dr Thabane were up for grabs at the party conference. The biggest winner was National University of Lesotho (NUL) vice chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao who was elected deputy leader. He clinched the coveted post ahead of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe. As deputy leader, assuming he is eventually allowed to assume his latest position, Prof Mahao becomes the obvious frontrunner to succeed Dr Thabane in both party and government when the veteran leader eventually calls it a day.
Others who were elected into the new NEC are Dr Thabane’s son-in-law, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).
However, Prof Mahao and his colleagues have not been able to assume power due to fierce resistance from the old NEC as well as the 11 February 2019 court challenge by three ABC legislators, Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).
The trio want the court to nullify the outcome of the February elections and order fresh polls within three months of their application. Mr Lehana contested and lost the polls for the deputy secretary general’s post which won by Health minister Nkaku Kabi. Mr Sello contested and lost the election for the treasurer’s post which won by Tlali Mohapi.
For several weeks after the party conference, Dr Thabane steered clear of taking sides in the ensuing power struggle threatening to split the ABC and collapse the government. However, his successive appearances at the old NEC’s rallies in Likhoele, Mafeteng and this week in Hololo, Butha-Buthe suggest that the premier is firmly on the side of the outgoing NEC.
And as Dr Thabane addressed the Hololo rally, Prof Mahao and his allies addressed their own rally across town in the Mosalemane constituency in Berea- a development that did not go down well with the premier.
Dr Thabane told party supporters that there were “clear signs” that the government was headed for collapse if the ABC factions did not urgently resolve their differences and unite. The ABC is the main party in a governing coalition that also includes 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).
Dr Thabane said the intra-ABC power struggle presented the opposition with an unexpected window of opportunity which they could exploit to return to power after their ouster in 2017.
“The ABC is the biggest party in this administration and as such, our instability destabilises the whole government,” Dr Thabane said.
“Our strengths have made us a threat to the opposition and so they always devise ways to destabilise us so that we cannot run the government. We all witnessed that a few years ago (2015) when they kicked us out of government.
“God has blessed us and we are back in power. But we are hardly two years into power and yet the signs of our (impending) demise are clear. The opposition is happy because they see their opportunity to get back into power.”
Dr Thabane said the raging war within the ABC was the product of intolerance and arrogance which would ultimately destroy the party.
“We meet here in Hololo today with sore hearts. There is no peace among us and no happiness on our faces because our party is on a path to self-destruction. Lately ABC members are holding two rallies. On the one side we have the leader’s rally and on the other there are those who present themselves as the leader (of the party).
“All these affairs are breaking my heart, they give me sleepless nights. There is no leader in their right senses who would like to see his followers at war. I am not here because I love some ABC members more than others. In fact, I love all ABC members and the nation because the ABC is for everyone.
“The life and death of this party is in your hands dear ABC members and it all starts with an individual (to ensure the survival of the party). I call on you to spread the message of peace, reconciliation and the truth. If you spread any other message, then you must know that I, Motsoahae Thabane, am not with you. The word of God tells us that arrogance supersedes self-destruction.”
He said the infighting had caused the ABC to stray from implementing its electoral promises of ending hunger and poverty and that had consequently made people lose faith in the party.
“The ABC is the only party that Basotho trusted to end hunger and poverty. But here we are betraying that trust because of the intolerance amongst us. If we do not deviate from this path that we are taking, then we are headed straight to our downfall.
“If we continue with the arrogance and intolerance and fool ourselves into thinking that the public will play along with us, we ought to think again.”
Without mentioning names, Dr Thabane warned that if the government were to collapse the ABC leaders would be forced to flee the country “if one particular person came to power”.
Dr Thabane, other senior ABC officials as well as their BNP and RCL colleagues went into exile in 2014 and 2015 after being informed of alleged plots to assassinate them. He warned that if his coalition government collapsed and they went into exile, then they would never be able to return home this time round.
“You must have forgotten the thorny journey into exile that you took in 2014. I swear to you, if one particular person takes charge of government you will hit the Mohokare (River) with your chest and go into exile for good,” he warned.
Dr Thabane’s stern remarks were his first ever public admission, already raised by various analysts and political observers, that the rifts in his party would inevitably lead to a collapse of the current coalition, particularly if all the 21 ABC MPs, supporting Prof Mahao stick to their guns and refuse to budge to the old NEC’s bid to nullify his victory.
Similar warnings have also been issued to Dr Thabane by the head of the NSS, Pheello Ralenkoane (see the other story on this page).
If the ABC factions fail to resolve their differences and fresh elections become inevitable in lieu of collapse of the government, these would be the country’s fourth snap polls in about seven years, a burden the country’s bankrupt fiscus is seen hardly affording.