ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao, has “taken over” from “suspended” ABC leader Thomas Thabane.
Prof Mahao will hold fort until next year when the fractious ruling party elects a new leader to replace Dr Thabane.
Dr Thabane was “suspended” at the party’s weekend special conference for six years for alleged “uncomely behaviour” and sowing divisions within the fractious ruling party. The premier’s suspension along with deputy secretary general, Nkaku Kabi, is the latest incident in the long-running battle for control of the ruling party between Prof Mahao and Dr Thabane.
The special conference also “nullified” the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of Prof Mahao and his four NEC allies, namely, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and his deputy, Matebatso Doti.
The “expulsions” case is currently in the High Court and will be heard on 30 September 2019. An interim interdict against the “expulsions” is currently in play.
Seventy four of the ABC’s 80 constituencies attended the special conference along with the party’s external provinces of Gauteng, North West and Free State.
The Bobatsi, Semena, Khafung, Mokhotlong, Malimong and Qacha’s Nek constituencies did not attend. Only Bobatsi explained its absence, saying, it would continue snubbing such events until there was peace and unity in the ABC.
Speaking on Mahao’s elevation this week, ABC spokesperson Mr Masoetsa said the former had assumed the reins and he would hold fort until the party elected a new leader in 2020.
“In the absence of the party leader, the deputy leader automatically takes over and exercises all the powers of the leader,” Mr Masoetsa said.
“In the same manner, Ms Doti takes over as a public relations officer in my absence and (deputy chairperson) Ntate (Chalane) Phori takes over in the absence of Ntate (Samuel) Rapapa. In short, he (Mahao) has taken over as acting leader. Ntate Mahao takes over in the absence of Ntate Thabane.”
On his part, Prof Mahao said that it was common practice for deputies to step in and fill positions left vacant by their leaders.
“I do not like responding to questions on issues that are about me as it sounds immodest. But it is provided for in the party constitution and it is common law practice that the deputy takes over when the substantive position holder is not available. This is a common law practice and it is also the practice within the party,” Prof Mahao said.
He nonetheless said Dr Thabane’s suspension did not affect his status as premier, adding only legislators could oust a prime minister through a no confidence vote in parliament. The pro-Mahao ABC legislators have already filed a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane and they will vote on the motion once parliament is re-opened.
“He (Dr Thabane) remains prime minister regardless of whether or not he is a member of the party. That (the removal of a prime minister) is the domain of members of parliament. We are the party but members of the parliament are the ones who make and unmake prime ministers and we leave that to them to decide,” Prof Mahao said.
Asked if his faction would instigate the removal of its rivals from ministerial and other government positions, Prof Mahao hinted that they would flex their muscles at a later date.
“The appointment of ministers, principal secretaries and ambassadors is the prerogative of the prime minister. We will concentrate on stabilising the party because we were elected into office to concentrate on the life and growth of the party.
“If at some point the need arises for us to deal with governance issues, we will cross that bridge when we get there. Regardless of the soured relations between us and our comrades, we are still hopeful that we will one day mend and there will be good chemistry between us all,” Prof Mahao said.
The suspensions of Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi are a product of the long-running battle between the ABC leader and his deputy for control of the fractious ruling party.
Dr Thabane’s refusal to accept Prof Mahao’s victory set the stage for a bruising power struggle that has seen endless litigation between the warring factions.
But litigation and talks between the two factions have so far failed to end the infighting.
Prof Mahao said the factions were no longer on talking terms after the failure of the last round of talks in July 2019.
“There are no talks at the moment but I cannot say the status quo will remain this way. The (special) conference was a significant intervention in this paralysis that has affected the party. It (special conference) was about consolidation and charting the way forward. As we said at the conference, we are no longer going to engage in a verbal tag of war with those that have been making every effort to stand in the way of democracy within the party and violating the party constitution.
“As far as we are concerned, we are on the move and we will no longer bother about them (party rivals). But we will try to reach out to individual members of the party who are keen on realising the unity and oneness of the party. We will continue to reach out to individuals but I don’t think we are going to be bothering ourselves about the kingpins in the party. At this stage we have no cause to do that.
“We could have taken action much earlier but we waited for certain legal issues to be settled so that when we take action, it would be from a proper legal standpoint. We hope that administrative issues to operationalise conference resolutions) will be resolved in the next two weeks and as soon as those (administrative issues) are cleared, we will act to stabilise the party,” Prof Mahao said.