CONTRARY to popular perceptions, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane says he has not chosen sides in the power struggle currently ravaging his party. He has also urged Prof Nqosa Mahao’s faction to stop holding “parallel” rallies to those of the old NEC to avoid confusing ABC supporters.
Dr Thabane has been widely seen as siding with the old national executive committee (NEC) which has locked out the new one elected at the party’s February 2019 leadership conference. He has attended rallies convened by the old NEC, a move seen as the clearest indicator of his support. But the ABC leader says he is only doing so because the old NEC remains legally in office pending the finalization of a court application to annul the new NEC’s election.
Moving to dispel any perceptions that he was siding with the old NEC, Dr Thabane was more conciliatory at a weekend rally in Mosalemane, Berea. He urged the two NECs to urgently hold talks to resolve the impasse that threatens to split the party and collapse the government.
Dr Thabane also pleaded with Professor Nqosa Mahao and his allies to refrain from holding separate rallies and attend those organised by the old NEC as it remained in office until the finalization of a court case challenging the validity of the elections that ushered in the new NEC.
Mosalemane constituency legislator, Samuel Rapapa, was elected the chairman in the new NEC in which Prof Mahao won the coveted post of deputy leader. Mr Rapapa, who attended the Sunday Rally, is among 21 ABC legislators who have petitioned Dr Thabane to urgently intervene and resolve the power struggle in favour of the new NEC. Prior to the Sunday rally in his constituency, Mr Rapapa had largely been attending the new NEC’s rallies headlined by Prof Mahao.
For several weeks after the party conference, Dr Thabane had steered clear of taking sides in his party’s vicious power struggle. However, his successive appearances at the old NEC’s rallies in Likhoele in Mafeteng, in Hololo in Butha-Buthe and this week in Mosalemane appeared to suggest that the premier is firmly on the side of the outgoing NEC. He had also launched a vitriolic attack on Prof Mahao prior to the elective conference.
As has been the case when Dr Thabane has been addressing a rally, Prof Mahao and his allies this week addressed their own rally across town in the Qalabane constituency in Mafeteng. This did not go down well with the premier who told the Mosalemane rally that it was time the feuding factions negotiated a deal to end the infighting which was giving him sleepless nights.
About 3000 people drawn from various districts attended the rally but Dr Thabane was not satisfied, saying more could have attended had it not been for the infighting which resulted in the new NEC faction holding its own rally in Mafeteng.
“We can all attest to the fact that we are not all here,” Dr Thabane said. “We are not one complete family. This is not the true picture of an ABC rally because ABC rallies attract more people than this.
“Some of our brothers and sisters are not with us here today because the national executive committee elections have brought misery and today, we are fighting against each other and God’s nation is caught in the crossfire.”
Dr Thabane said his only reason for attending the old NEC’s rallies was that they remained the legal NEC of the party until the courts had ruled on the legal challenge against the new NEC’s election. He said he had agreed to grace the old NEC’s rallies with the sole aim to “build not to destroy, to unify not separate or fuel the infighting in the ABC”.
“Some people might think that I am happy with this huge gathering but the truth of the matter is that no sensible leader can be find it easy to have internal peace when the people he is leading have factions.
“If there was a time I had bad intentions, that time has passed. My age dictates otherwise, I have run out of tricks and I am not pleased with this instability in the party,” Dr Thabane said.
The premier pleaded with the warring factions to stop exchanging harsh words and warm up to the idea of “meeting soon enough” to resolve their problems “like children of the same family”.
“Beware of what you say to each other and against each other; spoken words can be very dangerous. I appeal to the ABC members who are fighting against each other over the elective conference results to put the party ahead of your personal interests. I plead with you to understand that this party is bigger than us all and no one can claim to have a bigger ownership of ABC than the other. The membership of this party is open to every Mosotho with good intentions and willing to be governed by the rules and regulations of this party.”
Dr Thabane said the ABC still had time to resolve its internal dispute, adding the two sides had to swallow their pride to make that happen.
“I ask the ABC members to go behind closed doors and deal with our issues. We need to work hard to resolve our problems and stop being the laughing stock of other political parties.
“We would have wronged Basotho in the most unforgivable way if we let this window of opportunity pass us without resolving our problems. We would have also denied ourselves the opportunity to demonstrate the leadership skills that we have.
“I have made it clear in the past that as the leader of this party, I have not picked sides. None of the two factions is mine and I love all the ABC supporters in the same way. The only reason I have agreed to address rallies (organised by the old NEC) is simply because of the fact that the High Court has ordered the outgoing committee to continue in the office until the court case over the election results has been finalised. We must remember that the leader’s position is not affected by the ongoing court battle.”
He said that the ABC administrative guidelines did not allow any constituency to hold rallies parallel to those that were addressed by the leader because that would confuse ABC followers. He called on the new NEC to immediately stop holding their parallel rallies.
He also called on the party officials to honour their electoral promises by channeling their “energies to governance issues and ensure that we deliver services efficiently instead of fighting over things that could be easily resolved”.
“I remind all ABC followers that we are the biggest political party in the country and the senior partner in the coalition government. You should lead by example with your words, actions and the manner in which you approach issues. The instability in the party has serious implications on the stability of this country and its economic growth,” Dr Thabane said.