THE Prime Minister and leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Thomas Thabane, has lashed out at Professor Nqosa Mahao for defying his call to halt his competing countrywide party rallies that have exacerbated the discord within the fractious ruling party.
He said Prof Mahao’s rallies were tantamount to a declaration of war against his leadership of both the ABC and the government. The ABC is the biggest party in the almost two year-old governing coalition which also features Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats, Communications minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party and Labour minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
Dr Thabane said by his defiance, Prof Mahao and his allies had effectively created an internal opposition movement within the ABC which was working in tandem with the opposition parties to tarnish the image of the party and the government.
Dr Thabane said this while addressing ABC supporters at a weekend rally in Taung Mohale’s Hoek.
The ABC has been riven by discord and infighting ever since its 1 and 2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered in a new national executive committee (NEC) which has Prof Mahao as the deputy leader.
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 old NEC, which is said to enjoy Dr Thabane’s backing, has declared it is only prepared to compromise and allow the new NEC into office if Prof Mahao steps down as deputy leader. It says that Prof Mahao, who joined the ABC in 2015, is a “relative newcomer” who should not be allowed to succeed Dr Thabane ahead of more seasoned ABC politicians who formed the party almost 13 years ago in 2006.
While all eyes were trained on the much-postponed Sello, Lehana and Mohapinyane case, the Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase last Wednesday stunned the Mahao faction and indeed the nation with a default judgement that nullified the February 2019 elective conference which ushered in Prof Mahao and others.
Justice Mahase delivered the default judgement in an ex parte (one sided) application filed in the High Court last week by Advocate Thulo Hoeane on behalf of his clients, Motseki Lefera, ’Matumisang Ntiisa and Martha Makhohlisa.
Unlike Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane who argued that the February 2019 elective conference results should be nullified on the grounds that its outcome was marred by “vote rigging”, the trio of Lefera, Ntiisa and Makhohlisa argued that the entire elective conference should not have been held at all because the ABC constitution does not provide for it. They asked the court to nullify the new NEC’s election and allow the old NEC to remain in charge on an interim basis for a year while superintending over processes that should culminate in the amendments to the ABC constitution to provide for NEC elections.
Although Justice Mahase’s Wednesday judgement nullified the election of Prof Mahao and his colleagues, this did not stop them from holding their own competing rallies in which they continue to refer to themselves as the authentic NEC. On Sunday they held their own rally in Lepereng in the Maseru district– a development which irked Dr Thabane.
Addressing hundreds of ABC supporters in Taung, Dr Thabane railed against Prof Mahao and his faction for disregarding his appeal to them to desist from holding the parallel rallies which he said had become a platform to degrade other party members and attack the government.
“I am gravely concerned about the way ABC cadres are handling their issues,” Dr Thabane said.
“I have asked you to make constructive utterances and I have barred you from holding constituency rallies but this has worsened as some of you are even opting to hold branch rallies.
“My heart bleeds seeing that our own people are hell-bent on disregarding the party administration
“I am aware that these (pro-Mahao) rallies are being used as a platform to denigrate other party members and attack the very government which is led by ABC. If these are indeed constituency rallies why then are they being used to help the opposition in its campaign to tarnish the government’s reputation?
“I can tell that those doing these acts have turned themselves into the opposition within the ruling party. It is evident that these are war rallies and they are not for those who believe that they are still ABC members.”
Dr Thabane also implored party members to follow internal conflict resolution mechanisms and desist from taking their disputes to the courts of law.
He said the courts could not effectively solve what were essentially political disputes and their intervention could only destabilise and eventually destroy the ABC.
“I have seen some ABC members turning to the courts of law and wondered what could have happened as our constitution is clear on how to deal with internal issues.
“Since the elective conference there have been conflicts which have led to lawsuits in defiance of our agreement to deal with our issues internally. We have previously received court orders and have respected them. Even now we will respect the latest one that says we should amend our party constitution.
“However, the courts cannot solve our political problems. Some political parties were destroyed on account of the courts’ involvement and today they are in fragments.
“It is all because of the court judgements that such parties are in this state and if you want the same to happen to our party, you can continue running to the courts as well. When it (the ABC) is also destroyed, I will certainly laugh at you because I already have my pension.
“I plead with you to stop testing each other’s strengths through the courts of law.
“The name-calling within the party and hurtful utterances happened in the heat of politics and I ask that we forgive each other and forget. Let us now deliberate on how best we can take our party forward,” Dr Thabane said.