…says new national executive committee is being punished because of him
PROFESSOR Nqosa Mahao has attributed the ongoing power struggle between the newly elected national executive committee (NEC) of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the outgoing NEC to his election to the party’s post of deputy leader.
He said his election was being resisted by senior ABC officials who fear that he could destabilise the party and the government by using his new powerful portfolio to plot his revenge for the June 2015 assassination of his younger brother, the slain army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.
Prof Mahao, who is currently the Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho, was recently elected to the powerful post of deputy leader against the expressed wishes of ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
A power struggle that ensured in the ABC in the aftermath of the party’s 1 and 2 February 2019 NEC elections has so far prevented Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC from assuming office.
The old NEC which includes former secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele has so far refused to hand over power and two cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry) and Keketso Sello (Mining) joined with the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane, to launch an urgent High Court application to nullify the outcome of the elective conference. Messrs Lehana and Sello contested and lost the party polls for the posts of deputy secretary general and treasurer respectively.
In the deputy leadership contest, Prof Mahao beat a strong field of more seasoned ABC politicians that included the likes of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.
Others who were elected into the new NEC are 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 office due to resistance from the old NEC as well as the court challenge by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.
Immediately after the elections, the old NEC refused to hand over the office keys to the new NEC while the trio launched their court action. Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane have since been granted an interim order barring the new NEC from taking over until after the finalisation of their main application for the nullification of the 1-2 February poll results.
The trio argues that the elections were marred by gross irregularities and as a consequence, they could not have produced a “credible outcome”.
The infighting intensified with some legislators sympathetic to the new NEC vowing to mobilise the ABC’s coalition partners to vote against the budget speech to be presented to parliament by Dr Majoro in parliament next Tuesday.
If successful, the rejection of the budget speech could cripple the government as it would not be able to withdraw money for operations from the consolidated revenue fund without parliamentary approval.
The infighting was also reflected in the recent attempt by the old NEC to suspend Mr Hlaele for allegedly fraudulently approving the hiring of K.J. Nthontho Attorneys to represent the ABC in the court application that was filed by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.
Mr Hlaele and his former cabinet colleague, ‘Matebatso Doti were recently booted out of their ministerial positions in what many see as Dr Thabane’s revenge against the duo for their staunch support for Prof Mahao.
Over the weekend, Prof Mahao and his colleagues took their fight against the old NEC to the districts where they addressed a well-attended rally in Ms Doti’s Lithabaneng constituency.
Addressing thousands of ABC supporters, Prof Mahao, who arrived at the conference under heavy guard, slammed the old NEC for digging in and refusing to hand over power to the new NEC. He said their actions were borne out of the misplaced belief that he would use his position to avenge his brother’s death.
In a subsequent interview with the Lesotho Times, Prof Mahao said he was aware of the speculation that his advent to the powerful ABC post was also being resisted by those party officials who felt he would go after them and the First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, for their alleged wrongdoings. He however, said he did not understand why there was that speculation because he was not aware that the First Lady needed to protected from anything.
At the Lithabaneng rally, Prof Mahao accused some unnamed senior ABC officials of spreading the falsehood that he would use his new-found political power to avenge Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder and therefore he must be stopped at all costs from assuming his post as the ABC’s second in charge.
Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his erstwhile Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The LDF claimed that Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny against the command of the now retired Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli who had been appointed by the former seven parties’ government to replace him when he was killed. That claim was later dismissed as false by a Southern African Development Community (SADC) inquiry into his death.
Lt-Gen Mahao’s family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.
And on Sunday, Prof Mahao said while the ABC gained political mileage from his brother’s death and used it as the springboard to launch their successful campaign for election during the June 2017 national elections, it had since come to his attention that he and the new ABC NEC were being locked out of office out of fear that he would avenge Lt-Gen Mahao’s death.
“(The outgoing ABC secretary general Samonyane) Ntsekele did not have a court order during the last day of the (ABC’s 1 and 2 February) elections but he went on to lock the office with padlocks and I know all these things are being done because of me,” Prof Mahao told the thousands of ABC supporters.
“On 25 June 2015, my brother was killed but I will not go into much detail because Basotho know what happened and they came in their thousands to support us.
“But that very same death was used as a turnaround strategy for the ABC during the 2017 elections, enabling the ABC to amass more votes. But today I am being punished because of my brother’s death and the ABC’s NEC is being locked outside the office because of me.
“They say I am going to avenge the death of my brother if I am allowed into office and that they must do everything possible to lock me out. I am not the first one to lose a brother, two senior politicians have lost their loved ones but they have never avenged their deaths. Who am I to avenge the death of my brother?”
He said he had written to the government last year requesting that they engage foreign judges to try high profile cases including that of Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder and it was enough for him and his family that their request was granted.
“Is that revenge (to ask for foreign judges)? Nqosa Mahao has no interest in revenge. The courts of law will deal with that matter and that is all that matters. People should stop hiding behind non-issues, messing up with serious national issues and allow this new committee into office to discharge its mandate.
“I will tell you what revenge is. One man (Mr Ntsekele) competes with Lebohang Hlaele for the secretary general’s position. Hlaele wins the post and he gets a ‘show cause’ letter. We have also heard that a letter to expel him from the party was written last Saturday. Hlaele has been locked out of office by his opponent during the elective conference, he has already received a show cause letter and there are plans to expel him and now that is what we call revenge. Accusing Nqosa Mahao of wanting to avenge his brother’s death is a non-starter,” Prof Mahao said.
He said it was absurd that the outgoing NEC and its sympathisers were questioning the results of the elective conference, alleging irregularities in the voters’ roll when the old NEC were the ones who prepared the voters’ roll.
“Anyone who was at Lehakoe Recreational Centre (the venue of the ABC’s elective conference) knows very well that no one was allowed to enter without a tag. Elections are not magical performance. Only magicians can pull numbers out of a hat and the organisers (old NEC) of the elective conference pulled out the 1537 number and gave them to Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisation (LCN).”
This was in reference to Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane’s court argument that the total number of votes received for each of the NEC posts was higher than the total number of delegates that were registered to vote.
The trio allege that 1537 delegates were registered to vote and yet in the case of the deputy leader’s post that was won by Prof Mahao, 1607 people voted.
However, Prof Mahao accused the outgoing NEC of purposely providing the wrong number of voters to the LCN which they were now using in their attempts to discredit the results of the elective conference.
“Where did those magical numbers come from because people voted as per the voters’ roll which was provided to LCN by the old committee? The ABC must respect democratic principles and allow this new NEC to assume power. We are told that the NEC can only assume power once the elective conference is officially closed so ours must be the longest conference in the world and it should go into the Guinness Book of Records,” Prof Mahao said.
He said there was an urgent need to allow the new NEC to assume power so that it would get on with addressing the serious challenges bedeviling the ABC which was the main partner in the governing coalition. The governing coalition also comprises of the Basotho National Party, Alliance of Democrats and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
He said there was an urgent need to unite the ABC and ensure that it grows in leaps and bounds ahead of the 2022 general elections. He said for this to happen, even those in the old ABC NEC were needed and should not leave the party.
“Don’t allow those persecuting us to leave the ABC because we are all ABC members under our leader Thomas Thabane. We pray that the Lord gives him (Thabane) enough strength to unite this party. No amount of pain should push us to a position where we can insult the leader of this party.
“Ntate Thabane is a brand. The ABC is a brand and when the brand losses its shine, the party perishes. Let’s us respectfully fight for the survival, unity and growth of this party instead of insulting our leader. If I was in Ntate Thabane’s circle, I would have whispered in his ear but I have already requested someone to mediate between Ntate Thabane and I. And when I get to have an audience with him, I swear that I will only give him my honest advice,” Prof Mahao said.
In a subsequent interview with the Lesotho Times, Prof Mahao said while he was well aware of the reports that senior ABC officials were opposed to him assuming the deputy leader’s post, he could not understand why they felt that way about him.
He further described as baseless, reports that some ABC officials feared that if allowed to become a strong political force and ultimately succeed Dr Thabane, he would go after the ABC officials as well as Ms Thabane who has previously been accused of unduly interfering with party and government affairs.
“I wish I could interview them (ABC officials). They are saying that ‘that person (Prof Mahao) is not fit for the job and he is going to avenge his brother’s death’.
“You should understand that I do not have the liberty of asking them questions but there was an audio clip recorded during an ABC meeting in Qacha’s Nek and in that audio clip they are saying that ‘he is going to avenge his brother’s death and that will lead to strife in the country.”
Prof Mahao said he did not whether or not the ABC was under any pressure from any of its coalition partners to block him from assuming office in the ABC and ultimately in government.
“Well how would I know (if there is any pressure)? When people attend secret meetings and start saying these things, there is nobody asking them where they get the information or why this worries them.
“How would I know if she (Ms Thabane) was involved in anything? I know nothing about these issues and I don’t know where they are coming from because I don’t know what she has done and it is all pure speculation. I know nothing about that and just remember that mine is a party and not a government position,” Prof Mahao told the Lesotho Times.
Meanwhile, Mr Ntsekele yesterday hit back at Prof Mahao’s claims that he (Mr Ntsekele) locked up the ABC offices to prevent the new NEC from occupying it.
“It is not true that I locked the office with chains and padlocks unless they are referring to their imaginary Facebook padlocks. The office was never locked and in fact, it was open. These people have not been confirmed as the NEC because there are people who have complained about the outcome of the elective conference.
“He (Mahao) pretends that he is not aware that there were already complaints pouring in during the vote counting. Those people filed their complaints during the elective conference and those complaints were being dealt with by the outgoing committee,” Mr Ntsekele said, adding that Prof Mahao was well aware that the old NEC had a mandate to deal to deal with complaints regarding the elections.
He said that the new NEC was wrong to call a press conference soon after the elections when they had not been officially endorsed due to complaints about the electoral process. He said they found it necessary to lock the new NEC out of the party offices to prevent any commotion that would have ensured from their attempts to enter the office without a proper handover ceremony.
“Who are they to announce the press conference? That was pure madness and they know it. To protect the credibility of the party, the administrative officers stationed at the office closed the offices during their press briefing.
“Some people don’t even know that it is not right to drag the party into unnecessary commotion and the very same people are doing things as they please, only interested in their self-serving mandates.”
Mr Ntsekele said it was strange that the incoming NEC and its supporters have never attempted to address the issues of the “serious irregularities” that were raised by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane in their court application.
“They are only talking about the elective conference results which are yet to be proven by the courts of law.
“Those people (who alleged serious electoral irregularities) have evidence that the number of voters was 1586 but only 1537 delegates were eligible to cast their votes but these people (the new NEC) are not speaking of these serious irregularities. These people (new NEC) are not talking to the real issue of rigging elections, they are not disputing that there were people at the elective conference who did not have identity documents.
“They (new NEC) are not disputing that some of the people who voted as councilors were not councilors. They must tell me why these results should not be disputed when people who are not members of the party voted.”
He alleged that instead of using the list of actual delegates who had been cleared to vote the LCN used an initial list of delegates that was prepared by the ABC’s Credentials Committee.
He alleged that the LCN was told to use that the actual list of the people who were eligible to vote that had only 1537 delegates “but that did not happen”.
“They (the new NEC) are not addressing these issues and I expect all of us to come together to address these irregularities. We have to work together and come up with a solution that will unite the party. We need a way forward,” Mr Ntsekele said.