- says “bedroom coup” potentially more disastrous than that of Grace Mugabe
ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao has savaged ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for allegedly falling into the ‘Robert Mugabe trap’ of surrendering power to his wife, ’Maesaiah Thabane.
Prof Mahao said Ms Thabane had singularly become the most powerful individual in Lesotho, hiring and firing ministers and top civil servants.
He warned that the ‘bedroom coup’ by the unelected Ms Thabane risked collapsing the government, adding that the ABC would be defeated in any resultant snap national elections unless the First Lady was reined in.
Prof Mahao made the allegations in an interview with a South African news channel early this week.
With his remarks, he joined the ever-growing list of ruling and opposition politicians, including former ABC ministers Motlohi Maliehe and Nyapane Kaya, who have attacked the First Lady for allegedly bringing the government into disrepute by usurping the powers of the prime minister.
In November 2017, Zimbabwe’s then long-serving leader Mr Mugabe was toppled by his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa with the assistance of the military. Mr Mugabe’s ouster was preceded by widespread claims that the nonagenarian had ceded power to his then 51 year-old wife Grace Mugabe.
From 2014 until Mr Mugabe’s ouster in November 2017, Ms Mugabe traversed all of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces and addressed rallies where she attacked the then president’s long-serving trusted allies like then Vice President Joice Mujuru and her successor Emmerson Mnangagwa. The vituperative attacks served as a precursor for the expulsions of Mr Mugabe’s erstwhile colleagues from both party and government. The purges only stopped when the Zimbabwean army staged a coup, forcing Mr Mugabe to resign.
Dr Thabane, who turned 80 on 28 May, has been similarly accused by senior ABC members of allowing his 42 year-old wife of usurping power and making crucial decisions on the hiring and firing of senior government officials and civil servants. And on Sunday Prof Mahao repeated the accusations, adding that the consequences of Lesotho’s ‘bedroom coup’ would be far worse than those that were experienced in Zimbabwe.
He made the comments against the background of failed efforts to end his bickering with Dr Thabane which is likely to split the ABC and possibly collapse the government. The two have been at loggerheads ever since Prof Mahao contested and won the deputy leader’s post at the ABC’s February 2019 elective conference. A 12 June 2019 High Court ruling , in favour of the Mahao faction, has not been able to settle the power struggle which has seen Dr Thabane reject and ‘expel’ Prof Mahao and three other senior ABC executive members; secretary general Lebohang Hlaele, chairperson Samuel Rapapa and deputy spokesperson ’Matebatso Doti. Spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa was also expelled from the party last week.
The Mahao camp has countered by ‘suspending’ Dr Thabane and ABC ministers Samonyane Ntsekele (water) and Nkaku Kabi (health). The power struggle is currently before the courts.
Before their ‘expulsions’, the Mahao camp teamed up with the opposition to file a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane in parliament on 5 June. However, the motion has not be tabled or voted on after parliament was abruptly adjourned for an indefinite period on 10 June 2019.
In an interview with a South African television channel this week, Prof Mahao joined the growing chorus of the First Lady’s critics, saying all efforts to mend bridges with Dr Thabane had so far failed dismally because Ms Thabane and not Dr Thabane exercised power in both the ABC and government.
He said there was an urgent need to redefine the constitution to deal with such unconstitutional seizures of power by the wife of a sitting prime minister. He however, did not elaborate on what the amendments would entail.
“The leader of the party (Dr Thabane), the de jure (lawful) leader of the party is not necessarily the de facto (practical) holder of power in the party and in government,” Prof Mahao said.
“His (Dr Thabane’s) spouse happens to be (the leader) and we have a slightly worse situation than what we had north of the Limpopo River (Zimbabwe), the Grace Mugabe scenario. So it doesn’t matter what the leader may want, if his wife says it shouldn’t happen, it will surely not happen.
“She is singularly the most powerful person in the country, allegedly she appoints ministers and fires them, appoints top civil servants and interferes in virtually everything.
“You know our political efforts and my personal efforts have been to try to build bridges. I have found my way into State House and I have sat with the leader and said ‘Ntate let’s sort this out for the sake of the unity of the party’.
“So what the ABC membership believes is that the antipathy towards our committee is not necessarily that of the leader but of his wife. And so we have an unusual constitutional challenge…because this person (first lady) is not part of the institutional authority within the party and within the government. ..But for goodness sake she is in charge.”
Prof Mahao warned that the ‘bedroom coup’ by the “unelected” Ms Thabane risked collapsing the government and thereafter the ABC, which won the last elections with a slim 40 percent margin, would lose any ensuing snap national polls.
“So these shenanigans of refusing to accept democracy within the party will lead to a situation where this party of choice for 40 percent of the voters will lose power. If that is not bad enough in itself, there is this reality that government may collapse anytime.
“In fact, the government ran away from an imminent no confidence vote by indefinitely shutting down parliament. That motion is still waiting for parliament to reopen so anything can happen and Basotho are fatigued of going for elections every two years.
“The people’s expectations were so high (when the ABC came to power) in 2017 but the despondency and demoralisation that has happened because of this artificial crisis within the ABC is such that we suspect (that) elections are around the corner,” Prof Mahao said.