..as the ABC bigwigs seek to close ranks
WHEN all else fails, human beings have been known to seek divine intervention, either through traditional healers or via clergymen.
This is a well-travelled road by many and it is one that Prime Minister Moeketsi and his All Basotho Convention (ABC) have now taken in their desperate bid to resolve their bitter power struggle which threatens their party’s chances of retaining power in the upcoming elections due any time from October this year.
After months of bitter infighting and an unsuccessful bid by Mr Kabi to wrest power from Dr Majoro, the two have escalated their bid to reconcile to the church.
Last Thursday, Mr Kabi and Dr Majoro met at the premier’s official State House residence in Maseru under the mediation of Bishop David Thakadu Ramela of St Paul African Apostolic Church.
This publication has seen a leaked picture of Dr Majoro and Mr Kabi sitting next to each other and holding a stick under the watchful eye of Bishop Ramela. According to sources close to both politicians, they were made to hold the stick by the Bishop and recite a pledge to work together to iron out their differences.
Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme’s mobile phone rang unanswered yesterday when this publication called him for comment on the matter.
Mr Kabi confirmed the meeting with Dr Majoro in the presence of Bishop Ramela. He however, refused to give away much, only saying, “we are only four months away from the elections, so let’s give Basotho a chance to vote for the person they would like to have as their leader”.
The ABC leader referred the Lesotho Times to Bishop Ramela for further comment.
On his part, Bishop Ramela said he had mediated between the allies-turned-foes at State House last Thursday.
“It’s true that I mediated between the two leaders last week on Thursday. We met at State House and the atmosphere was cordial as both parties were very welcoming and open for frank discussions. I begged them to swallow their pride, forget about their egos and move forward together for the sake of Basotho.
“I offered to meet them because they both confide in me. I therefore felt there was need for me to do something about it because my role as a Bishop is to be an instrument of peace. It was not a difficult task because I am always there for them, giving advice whenever they face difficulties.
“I had been talking to them separately and asking that they meet but for some weird reason, it seemed they were avoiding each other. Hence I took it upon myself to make sure they meet,” said Bishop Ramela.
He said his mediation should not be construed to mean that he was an ABC member. He was only mediating because as a “Man of God”, he had a responsibility of reconciling warring parties, he said.
“Both Ntate Majoro and Ntate Kabi honoured me by agreeing to meet. They agreed to cast aside their differences and work towards the reunification of their party. All I can say is that they both have the interests of the party at heart but they have allowed the enemy to infiltrate them.
“I am hopeful that they are both going to do what’s best for the party and Basotho in general because they are mandated to serve the nation,” Bishop Ramela said.
Dr Majoro and Mr Kabi’s face to face meeting came against the background of earlier meetings between their representatives late last month.
ABC sources close to the talks said the two politicians had been forced to try and close ranks in order to save the party from being completely obliterated in the upcoming general elections.
The ABC was already on the back foot due to incessant infighting, which began three years ago when former leader Thomas Thabane rejected the February 2019 election of his former deputy Nqosa Mahao. The subsequent infighting allowed the Democratic Congress (DC), which had only recovered from its own debilitating internal squabbles, to gain ground on its main partner in the current coalition government.
As if the DC recovery under Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu (who took the mantle from founding leader Pakalitha Mosisili in February 2019) was not enough, prominent businessman Sam Matekane then formed his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party in March this year.
In just two months, the fledgling RFP has managed to attract prominent politicians like former cabinet ministers Mahali Phamotse, Tlohelang Aumane, Leketekete Khetso and former deputy minister ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli. All these joined from the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD). Their arrival added to the RFP’s already stellar cast of personalities including former Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane; former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and prominent Moshoeshoe Walk organiser, Thabo Maretlane. Former Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) head of investment promotion, Mokhethi Shelile, prominent businessman Lephema Lebona and former Accountant General, Sam Mphaka, former DC stalwart, Tlohang Sekhamane, had joined the RFP at its inception.
Faced with this existential threat, the warring ABC sides had then agreed to talk peace and try and unite ahead of the elections.
Mr Kabi and Dr Majoro had gone to war after the prime minister refused to relinquish his position after losing the party’s leadership contest to Mr Kabi in January. The ABC leader subsequently supported a parliamentary vote of no confidence against Dr Majoro but the prime minister prevailed. He even vowed to remain in power until the elections though he quit the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC).
Faced with the prospect of losing the elections Mr Kabi had then engaged Dr Majoro through intermediaries.
The Kabi faction to the talks which got underway last month is led by Thaba-Phatšoa legislator, Mahala Molapo, and former secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele.
The Majoro faction had appointed Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation Minister, Motlohi Maliehe, and the party’s Likhetlane constituency legislator, Lekhetho Mosito, to represent it.
Messrs Maliehe, Mosito, Ntsekele subsequently confirmed that there were ongoing talks between the two factions but refused to divulge more details. They also refused to give any hint about whether any progress had been recorded.
Yesterday, Messrs Molapo and Mosito said although the talks were moving at a snail’s pace, they were hopeful that they would bear fruit.
“The talks are ongoing but not at a pace one would have liked. We intend to hold a joint caucus early next week where each side will present its case as part of efforts to reach a consensus. It is worth noting that there is hope that all things will work out for the common good in the end,” said Mr Mosito.
On his part, Mr Molapo said “we are still in talks and both parties agree that they must work together. The mood is great but we still need to iron out some issues, including the fact that we now have two ABC factions in parliament. That said, we remain hopeful that everything will work out just fine,” Mr Molapo said.
Some sources privy to the matter attributed the delays in reaching a reunification deal to hardliners on both sides.
“The two sides have met more than twice but they haven’t not come up with anything concrete as they are surrounded by supporters who are totally against the talks and don’t want anything to do with peace. Both Majoro and Kabi know what they want but they are torn between their supporters and they feel obliged to appease them.
“The two men are good friends but they have allowed their supporters to derail them. Given the pressure that they are both faced with, it is difficult to reach an agreement without facing resistance from some diehards on both sides,” said the source.
As if to confirm the presence of hardliners, ABC spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, yesterday said he was unaware of any talks between the two factions.
“I don’t know about the talks you are referring to. As far as I know, there have never been any peace talks and I’m surprised about it,” Mr Masoetsa said.
Last month, the ABC spokesperson also rubbished the idea of talks, saying, “Those who have gone their own way have gone and we have nothing left to discuss with them”. This was in reference to Dr Majoro and his faction after the premier had defied NEC calls for him to hand over power to Mr Kabi.
Mr Masoetsa and Dr Majoro have their own feud. This after the ABC spokesperson was briefly detained last year after he announced that Dr Majoro was no longer prime minister in the wake of the NEC decision on 2 December 2021 to recall him and replace him with Mr Kabi.
Mr Masoetsa blamed Dr Majoro for his arrest but the premier denied any involvement.
After Mr Kabi subsequently won the ABC leadership contest, Mr Masoetsa was among the NEC members who called on Dr Majoro to relinquish the premiership to the new leader. Dr Majoro rejected the calls and survived the vote of no confidence subsequently pushed against him.
Given the presence of hardliners, it remains to be seen if Dr Majoro and Mr Kabi will eventually resolve their differences to enable the ABC to stand any chance of winning the high stakes elections.