- claims life in danger and cannot move freely as before
- see initial disqualification as part of a big conspiracy by rivals
- but insists it’s time to move on and re-unite as a party
THE newly-elected deputy leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Professor Nqosa Mahao, says his initial disqualification from the party’s elections was part of a “big conspiracy” by his rivals who were hell bent on delivering a pre-emptive “technical knockout blow on a very competitive candidate”.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday, Prof Mahao said the attempts to elbow him out of the electoral contest was part of the “undemocratic culture within the ABC that we must banish”.
He also said that by throwing his hat into the contest he had endangered his own life and henceforth “I no longer have the liberties of the ordinary citizen to move around and enjoy my freedom”.
He, however said that he had put all the acrimony of the elections behind him to focus on the urgent task of reconciling with his rivals to work for the rejuvenation of the ABC ahead of the national elections due in 2022.
Prof Mahao garnered an unassailable 693 votes to beat his nearest challenger, Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro who garnered 546 votes.
Others who took part in the much-hyped contest were the former acting incumbent, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe who got 245 votes and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe, who brought up the rear with a meagre 97 votes. All in all, 1538 votes were cast and 14 of these were rejected in the high stakes winner-takes-all contest.
It was a sweet victory for Prof Mahao who had an 11th hour Court of Appeal order to thank for securing his place among the contestants.
Upon being nominated by the ABC’s Koro-koro Constituency Committee, Prof Mahao was disqualified by the then ABC’s national executive committee (NEC).
He was disqualified on the grounds that he had not “served at the party’s branch and constituency levels for at least 24 and 36 months” respectively as required by the ABC constitution.
The Koro-Koro committee, however challenged the ABC’s decision in the High Court and lost the case on 13 January 2019.
It subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal who referred the case back to the High Court. Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase threw out the Koro-Koro committee’s appeal last Thursday.
The Koro-Koro committee then appealed to the Court of Appeal again on Friday, the very day that the ABC’s elective conference got underway.
And on Friday at about 7pm, the apex court bench led by its president, Kananelo Mosito and Acting Justices of Appeal, Phillip Musonda and Moses Chinhengo upheld the Koro-Koro committee’s appeal.
This paved the way for Prof Mahao’s last minute inclusion in the contest which he eventually won.
Yesterday, Prof Mahao said his disqualification by the former NEC was part of an attempt to deliver a “technical knockout blow” on him because they had realised that he stood a good chance of winning.
He, however said his eventual victory was testimony to his resilience and capacity to prevail, “notwithstanding the boulders and mountains that had been placed in our way”.
“The whole contrived, artificial issue of my disqualification was part and parcel of an attempt to deliver a technical knockout on somebody who was seen to be very competitive.
“It was just contrived. If the people (in the former NEC) were not concerned about my competitiveness, would they have even bothered whether I qualified to stand in the elections or not?
“They would have simply said ‘let him (Prof Mahao) run and we will overrun him’. So, a big conspiracy was contrived where they said, ‘let us knock him out completely’ and that is not democratic. It is the kind of culture that we must banish. The minimum requirements (to contest the ABC elections) are laid out in the party constitution and everyone has to meet them. “Once the minimum requirements have been met, let people compete. It is the voters who will determine whether their (candidates) are worth voting for or not.”
Prof Mahao said he had risked his life by contesting in the ABC polls. He said his life was now in danger and he could no longer move freely as before. He said before plunging into the contest he had reflected deeply on the fate that befell his younger brother, the slain army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao who was assassinated in 2015 by fellow soldiers.
Despite the risk to his life, he said he still went ahead to contest because “we have to be courageous enough to embrace risks as they change the course of history and make society move forward”.
“If you walk on the straight and narrow path, you are likely to encounter far more challenges than those who are not firm on issues of principle. That young man (Lt-Gen Mahao) was a source of inspiration even for myself. I am 11 years older than him but whenever we exchanged ideas, I always admired the way he was very principled, ethical and charismatic.
“So, when the people approached me and said can you do this (standing in the ABC elections) for us, I did think of his (Lt-Gen Mahao’s) fate and even today I am very much aware that there is danger hovering. I no longer have the liberties of the ordinary citizen to move around and enjoy my freedom but on the other hand, this is a task that my people want me to fulfil. Should I flinch or should I embrace it and say yes there are risks and there are going to be threats? After applying my mind, I chose the latter (standing in the ABC elections).
“History is about making hard choices. Human history has developed because there were people who bore the risks and in the course of that, many of them perished. But their contributions made history to move from one level to the next. That is just how it works. Where risks are not undertaken, the nation is bogged to a standstill. So, we have to be courageous enough to embrace risks because they make society to move forward.”
He said he was grateful for the plots and scheming against his candidature because it enabled everyone to see how he and his team were “very resilient and had the capacity to remain afloat and sail whatever the turbulences are”.
He further said that Dr Majoro and Mr Motlohi Maliehe had both congratulated him in the aftermath of his victory. He had re-assured them of his willingness to bury the hatchet and work with them for the good of the ABC.
“I received a phone call from Dr Majoro on Monday morning congratulating me and I said to him we need to meet and determine how we forge forward together. I also received a short messaging service (SMS) from Mr Motlohi Maliehe and I assured him that they all have a role to play.
“All things being equal, we are going to open the spaces within the ABC and ensure that everyone is listened to so that this becomes truly a party of the people. Those people who have experience and talents have a huge contribution to make in the party as it forges ahead.”
Prior to the polls, Prof Mahao tore into Dr Majoro accusing him of working to ensure that he (Prof Mahao) was barred from contesting the elections.
But yesterday, Prof Mahao sang a different tune, saying he did not want to re-live the acrimony that characterised the run up to the elections.
He also said that it was not proper to “kick a man when he is on the ground, instead extend your hand, hold him up to find his feet”.
“As far as I am concerned, all of those things that transpired up until last Saturday when I was allowed to be on the ballot paper are now water under the bridge. I am not regretting what they (my rivals) did because what they exposed for everyone to see is that we are very resilient and we can still sail whatever the turbulences are. So instead of us lamenting what happened, we are grateful because what they did proved our worth.
“The long and short of it is that we have prevailed, notwithstanding the boulders and mountains that had been placed in our way. It is now time for us to reach out to every one of them to say ‘okay, you tested the waters and now that it has not worked, we reach out to you.
“The most important thing after a very bruising battle is that we have been challenged to reunify the party. We have to ensure that the unity and oneness of the party is forged but the one thing that one I am very grateful for is that the members of the party have determined their national executive committee in a way that has brought us together.
“You have people in there who are coming from all of the competing slates and that says that the party members desire and want a unified party. They are instructing us to operate as a unified and cohesive team.
“We cannot let them down. We just have to consolidate that unity and reposition the ABC as an effective machine ready to play its role. The good thing is that we still have three years before the general elections and so these elections came at the right time giving us plenty of time to sort our challenges and get ready for 2022.
“We need the outgoing committee to be on our side. Institutional memory is always very important when you forge ahead. They say you look backwards in order to move ahead. Short of doing that, you will not know whether or not you are on a firm ground,” Prof Mahao said.
Last night ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane told the Lesotho Times that the election of Prof Mahao and other NEC members reflected the will of the majority of the party members.
“I think that the outcome of the elections reflects what the party members wanted. The elections went on very smoothly there were no problems and the outcome reflects the will of the majority.
“That is my opinion because the normal frictions that happen in those kinds of situations were not reported to me. I just went there for the opening and left and so I think what has come out there is the will of the people who of course are the representatives of the various constituencies.
“The (national executive) committee is now there and we are making the necessary arrangements to have it confirmed and also to go ahead with the business of government,” Dr Thabane said.
Asked if Prof Mahao would be included in cabinet given his new position in the ABC, Dr Thabane said, “the formation of the new cabinet is something that is going to come, let’s leave that for a while but it is something that will be done”.