…ABC party chair accuses Ms Thabane of undue interference in party and govt affairs
THE chairperson of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), Motlohi Maliehe, has launched a blistering attack on First Lady Maesaiah Thabane accusing her of exerting undue interference in party and government affairs.
Mr Maliehe said Ms Thabane was fomenting chaos in the party and in the government through “constant meddling” in the work of ministers and officials. He demanded that the First Lady stops meddling in state affairs forthwith or risk derailing the government.
Mr Maliehe launched the unprecedented scathing attack against the First Lady while addressing a rally in his Butha-Buthe constituency at the weekend.
The ABC chairman accused the First Lady of derailing the government by seeking to control ministers and how they should perform their duties. He further accused Ms Thabane of violating the constitution and “abetting corruption” by instigating the removal of ministers who refused to comply with her demands.
Former Minister of Health Nyapane Kaya had been removed from the post after he refused to unlawfully award the ministry’s laundry and catering tenders to Ms Thabane’s preferred candidates, Mr Maliehe charged.
The fire spitting Mr Maliehe said he had decided to speak out regardless of the consequences to himself. He said he did not care if his utterances would land him in trouble. His interest was in safeguarding the founding values of the party he said he had helped form.
Mr Maliehe chronicled his role in the formation of the ABC but expressed sadness that the party had been infiltrated by people whom he said were trashing its founding principles of democracy and good governance. This appeared to be in stark reference to the First Lady.
He insisted that Mr Kaya had been sacked at the direct instigation of the First Lady after he refused to obey her “unlawful orders”.
“After the Prime Minister (Thabane) made an announcement that he would sack thieves, he proceeded to sack Kaya who was a hard worker and who was not corrupt…..Kaya was fired despite that he was performing better than any other minister…” charged Mr Maliehe who is also the minister of tourism.
“Hardly two weeks after he was appointed minister, Kaya was called by the First Lady and told that he was headed for a dead end as a member of cabinet as his days were numbered unless he played ball.
“Kaya was then sent packing because he did not smell of corruption. He was not a thief and he could not be controlled by Liabiloe (Ms Thabane). Instead he abided by the law.
“One wonders what business the First Lady has in politics. The other time she said she would reprimand any minister who wasn’t performing. What is she and who does she think she is? Where does she get the powers to reprimand any minister,” a fuming Mr Maliehe said.
Mr Kaya was appointed minister of health in the aftermath of the June 2017 elections which ushered in Lesotho’s third coalition comprising of the ABC, Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD), Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP), and Labour Minister Keke Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
Mr Kaya’s tenure was short-lived after Dr Thabane relieved him of his duties in a cabinet reshuffle in February. Prior to the reshuffle, Dr Thabane had twice threated to fire “corrupt ministers and principal secretaries”.
Mr Kaya was replaced by Mr Nkaku Kabi. However, Mr Maliehe insisted that Mr Kaya’s woes had nothing to do with him being corrupt but had actually started just two weeks after the cabinet was announced in July 2017. He said Ms Thabane had sought to control Mr Kaya from the beginning by directing whom certain contracts should be directed to but Mr Kaya had in turn refused.
Mr Maliehe also suggested that Dr Thabane was himself to blame for the problems in government. He accused the Prime Minister of running the cabinet opaquely through what he described as “secret caucuses”. Mr Maliehe said he was being excluded from these “secret caucuses” despite him being a top official of the ABC and a cabinet minister.
“These days the cabinet is run through caucuses held at the State House which I’m not part of and some decisions are made which end up causing all this noise that’s now in the media…..and I just don’t care,” Mr Maliehe said.
The earliest signs of internal strife in the ABC came immediately after the announcement of the cabinet in July last year with reports that legislators from the Berea district were not happy that only one of their number, Habofanoe Lehana, of the Khafung #23 constituency was given a ministerial position.
This was despite the fact that the district had given the ABC its second biggest area electoral win with nine seats out of the 11 contested in that district in the June 3 2017 snap elections. The ABC’s biggest win was in Maseru where it won 15 of the 18 contested seats in the district.
The reports of internal strife during that period were confirmed by Dr Thabane who subsequently told a rally in Hlotse that the ABC had been infiltrated by “enemies who have come to confuse us”.
He said the enemies were spreading malicious rumours about the office of the First Lady and its role in assisting vulnerable villagers.
He spoke at a time when social media was awash with complaints from people who claimed to be ABC supporters who accused his wife of “capturing the government”.
They complained that Dr Thabane had allowed Ms Thabane to run the government through what they termed a “bedroom coup”.
And on Sunday, Mr Maliehe also alleged that the ABC had been infiltrated.
He said he had anticipated the current scenario, adding that he was surprised that the “cracks” in the party were only coming to the fore now.
“(When the ABC was formed) we wanted a party which would not discriminate against people in any way; not religiously; not even academically and yet today the party has been infiltrated.
“Everything that is happening in the party now (in terms of internal ructions) was long overdue. I expected this to happen last year. These (events) have actually helped me and given me strength, to lead this party regardless of what anybody else thinks because I started this party.”
He also accused unnamed party officials of hiring hitmen to assassinate him.
“There are three people who were given millions (of maloti) to kill me but luckily they refused. I know that all in all, there are five people who have been tasked to eliminate me but I won’t name them.”
Yesterday, Mr Maliehe told this publication that he stood by his utterances. He however refused to provide further details, saying he was in Durban on government business. The Lesotho Times had wanted him to explain whether or not it was true that disgruntled party MPs were threatening to cross the floor unless the First Lady was reined in and if he would be the one to lead such a cross over. Mr Maliehe refused to supplement the remarks he had already made at the rally, insisting that he had already spoken.
One ABC MP who declined to be named had told the Lesotho Times; “Surely enough is enough. We have had enough of abuse from the First Lady. Either she stops interfering in government business or risk destroying the party in general or his husband in particular. Look what Grace Mugabe did to Robert Mugabe. Our patience is truly running out.”
Meanwhile, ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela has expressed disappointment over Mr Maliehe’s utterances saying the party chairman should have expressed his concerns using internal party channels instead of attacking the First Lady at a public forum.
Mr Mapesela accused Mr Maliehe of grandstanding to try and curry favour with some party members ahead of the party’s elective conference next year.
“I’m very disappointed with his utterances because he has all avenues to raise his issues within the National Executive Committee (NEC).
“The circular pertaining to the NEC elective conference has not yet been written and circulated yet he (Mr Maliehe) appears to be campaigning already. Our party constitution is also explicit that anyone who goes about canvassing to be elected is ill-disciplined.
“People are elected on the basis of their expertise and it is therefore disappointing that he said all these things at a rally,” Mr Mapesela said.
Our effort to reach Ms Thabane to comment on Mr Maliehe’s remarks failed as her phone rang unanswered.