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FORMER All Basotho Convention (ABC) stalwarts Tlali Khasu and Pitso Maisa recently formed a new party dubbed Truth and Reconciliation Unity (TRU).
Mr Khasu, who was previously the ABC’s deputy leader, left the main opposition party after losing a protracted court bid to overturn his suspension for castigating party leader Thomas Thabane.
In announcing his departure from the ABC, Mr Khasu said he would not leave alone but be joined by “many others” being “persecuted” in the party such as Mr Maisa, who is also Motimposo constituency legislator.
However, last week Dr Thabane chided the duo for being “ungrateful” in leaving the party despite all he had done for them. The former premier said he appointed Mr Maisa minister in the prime minister’s office when even though he had no educational qualifications.
In this interview, Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, speaks with Mr Maisa, who is now the TRU deputy leader, on these and other issues.
LT: You decided to form a new party after falling out with Dr Thabane and the ABC. Briefly explain where it went wrong?
Maisa: To be honest I don’t think Ntate Thabane failed me. The main problem in the ABC is poor administration by some National Executive Committee (NEC) members. Of late, they have developed a tendency of approaching Ntate Thabane to talk about us behind our back. Unfortunately, it then appeared to Ntate Thabane as if we had snubbed the meeting, whereas we were not told about such meetings. Ntate Thabane was made to believe that we were undermining him. Yet, I used to approach him to discuss some issues I was concerned about and also to inquire about his health and well-being.
LT: So what exactly happened?
Maisa: What I came to realise was that some of the NEC members were really at war with us. At first, I thought it was not a big deal but later realised they were plotting against us. Ahead of the 2015 election, there was a fierce argument over who should represent the ABC in the Motimposo constituency. I think the war started around the time when some NEC members launched a clandestine campaign to oust me as the ABC candidate for Motimposo. I was not afraid of the competition, and I will never be afraid as long as I remain a politician. But the way some ABC-NEC members handled that issue in 2015 was a sign of war. I would have understood if I was at war with other parties competing for the Motimposo constituency. But strangely it was with people who were in the same party as me. They held clandestine meetings within my constituency during the night without my knowledge, let alone my authorisation. As our leaders, the NEC members were supposed to lead by example. But what can you expect when such people are biased and have vested interests in the constituencies we represent?
LT: Did you attempt to address these issues?
Maisa: We tried to address this issue many times even before Ntate Thabane. We have often told the NEC members that the ABC was not their personal briefcase. The party was supposed to be for all members; it does not belong to their families, therefore they cannot run it in the same way as their families. The tension escalated when the NEC started writing letters about issues that concerned the Motimposo constituency yet such letters were not addressed to the constituency committee. They were addressed to the branch committees within the constituency. As the NEC, how do you address constituency issues without involving the constituency committee? That is bad administration. Later, they launched another propaganda campaign claiming that I was leaving the ABC. That was long before I even thought of leaving the party. In all honestly, there was no truth in that. But I have realised that if people really want to push you out of a party, they can do anything and you will eventually leave because you will be left with no other option. All the ABC legislators would attend a meeting in Ficksburg without me and Ntate Khasu knowing about such a meeting. They intentionally left us out.
LT: We know that Mr Khasu was suspended from the NEC and lost court battles to overturn that decision leading him to resign from the party. What prompted you to jump ship?
Maisa: We knew for a long time that Ntate Khasu faced dismissal from the party. That was before he was suspended. I knew that I was the next target. Their intention was to pounce on me when an election was close. They wanted to ensure that I would not only lose my ABC candidacy in Motimposo, but also not have the time and chance to secure an alternative political home. Luckily, I was smart enough to see through their plan so I quit and now have a new political home.
LT: Did you approach Dr Thabane specifically over those issues?
Maisa: I did so several times. But I was not satisfied by his responses. I even advised Ntate Thabane about three people in the NEC whom I am convinced are destroying the party. I won’t mention their names but the trio was there when I told Ntate Thabane about this. I did not go behind their back the way they did with me. I am a frank person. I call a spade a spade. I don’t mince words when I confront you. I gave up when I realised from Ntate Thabane’s response that he was not taking my word seriously. I had even advised Ntate Thabane to provisionally suspend the NEC while he is still in exile and communicate issues directly with legislators in their respective constituencies. This is because as long as he relies on the NEC, the ABC would be in danger. A lot of ABC legislators are likely to suffer from the actions of the NEC even after my departure and that of Ntate Khasu. The NEC members want to replace the MPs with their own people. Like I said, competition is good. But when the NEC is biased and wants certain people to replace the party MPs that is an unfair war against the legislators who worked so hard to garner the electorate’s votes.
LT: It has been alleged that some people in the ABC were jealous when Dr Thabane appointed you minister in his previous regime. The argument was that you were “unqualified.” What do you say to that?
Maisa: I cannot be sure whether that was jealousy or not. I can only tell you that while they were fighting me I stood up for what I believed was right for the party. The only person who seemed to understand my position in the NEC was Ntate Khasu. But you will realise that although Ntate Khasu was deputy leader and ideally supposed to assume Ntate Thabane’s powers since the leader is in exile, he was stripped off such powers by the NEC. He was being treated like a minor in the party. For instance, the NEC members would snub meetings convened by Ntate Khasu. Ntate Khasu was even unfairly denied the position of leader of the opposition in parliament even though Ntate Thabane was in exile.
LT: You sound like you still like the ABC and Dr Thabane. Do you think you might change your mind as the tension subsides with time and go back to the party?
Maisa: I will never go back to the ABC under any circumstances. However, I shall forever cherish Ntate Thabane. I regard him as my father because of the trust he once bestowed on me and gave me an opportunity to spread my wings and realise my potential. I don’t mind the fact that recently he called me names. I was concerned though about a statement he recently made during an ABC rally in Motimposo that I claimed to be educated when I was not. I cannot brag about something I don’t have. I am not that kind of a person. I know quite well that I have not reached certain levels of education and therefore cannot claim to be literate. At the same time, I cannot go to my parents’ graves and insult them for not enrolling me at a university. I come from a very poor background. I have never been asked about my credentials by anyone and claimed to have educational qualifications. Even Ntate Thabane himself never asked about my credentials when he appointed me minister. We cannot all be educated and hold high qualifications in this world; that is a given. It is a pity that I will now have to face Ntate Thabane in the political battlefield because I am in a new party. Though I regard him as my father, I am not going to nurse him in the political battlefield. TRU is a new party open to every Mosotho to join. One thing I can promise is that I am going to win the Motimposo constituency under the TRU banner. The ABC will definitely lose this constituency.
LT: There are already a lot of political parties in the country. Was it necessary to form a new party rather than to join an existing one?
Maisa: I left the ABC with a heavy heart. I was angry and my heart was broken. If I joined another party, I would fail with distinction because of the anger in me. I had dedicated myself to serve the ABC and no other party and that is why I was so hurt when things went out of control. I could not imagine serving any other party. That’s why we felt it was best to establish our own party.