THE leader of the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothetjoa Metsing, has warned of bloodshed in the country if the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane and his rival, Professor Nqosa Mahao fail to amicably resolve the infighting in the ABC.
Speaking at a weekend rally in Mt Moorosi constituency in Quthing, Mr Metsing said the tension in the ABC could no longer be treated as a laughing matter where the warring national executive committee (NEC) factions could be given derisive labels like Likatana (loosely translated to mean ‘dirty rags’). The term was used by Dr Thabane to describe Prof Mahao when the latter announced his candidature for the ABC’s deputy leadership in January.
Mr Metsing said the ABC crisis had assumed the proportions of a national security threat that could even scare away potential investors and the time had come for Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao to sit at the table and peacefully resolve their differences.
Tensions escalated in the ABC in the run-up to its 1 and 2 February elective conference when Prof Mahao announced his intention to run for the deputy leader’s post. Dr Thabane even went as far as publicly attacking Prof Mahao, describing him as a “useless rag” which should never be allowed to succeed him at the helm of the ABC.
Dr Thabane subsequently apologised for his remarks but the tension within the party did not subside and it only took an 11th hour Court of Appeal verdict to overturn the former ABC’s NEC’s disqualification of Prof Mahao and allow him to contest the polls.
The ABC infighting escalated after Prof Mahao clinched the deputy leader’s post and last week the Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase nullified the February 2019 elective conference which ushered in Prof Mahao and others into the ABC’s NEC. This week, the war of words continued with Dr Thabane branding Prof Mahao and his colleagues “an internal opposition movement” which was effectively advancing the opposition parties’ agenda of destabilising his government. Prof Mahao and his colleagues also vowed to challenge Justice Mahase’s ruling that nullifies their February election to the ABC’s NEC. Talks between the Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao to end the impasse also collapsed last week with Dr Thabane telling the Lesotho Times that there was no reason for him to engage Prof Mahao as he did not “want anything from that guy”.
And on Sunday, Mr Metsing warned of bloodshed if the ABC leaders did not amicably resolve their differences.
“We can all see the tension in the ruling party (ABC). Every Mosotho is going to be in trouble if they (Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao) do not find an amicable solution to their differences.
“The tension has reached a point where it can no longer be made fun of with the use of labels such as Likatana and others. It is now a national matter and we call on Ntate Thabane and Ntate Mahao to work out their issues for the sake of peace.
“We don’t want bloodshed for any Mosotho regardless of political affiliation. The tension affects us all and we all have to find a solution. It scares the international community, the investors and compromises the country’ security. The courts of law are being used to fight the ABC battles and there are already allegations that the courts have been compromised by politicians. We also appeal to non-governmental organisations to intervene,” Mr Metsing said.
He also attacked the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and the police service for allegedly allowing themselves to be manipulated by politicians who were out to destroy their rivals.
“In 2014 when there were clashes between the police and soldiers, there were rumours that I sent the army to confiscate my docket (which contained corruption charges). Why would I send soldiers to do that when I knew then as you all now know that I had not committed any crime? The police were used to spread false rumours to disturb the peace.
“Another institution that shows clear signs of being misused is the LRA. They shut down people’s businesses just because they are in the opposition. We were also accused of owing taxes.
“They (LRA) drew up a list of ‘debtors’ that included Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and I. We heard that the list would be used against us during the 2017 elections to humiliate us and tarnish our images. That (LRA) is one of the institutions that are misused to advance political agendas and this is one of the great challenges that needs to be addressed now. We need something like the South African State Capture Commission to investigate cases of corruption and to investigate how government institutions have contributed to the political instability in this country.”
Mr Metsing also called for the urgent implementation of the multi-sector reforms that were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016. He said the reforms were urgently needed to stabilise the country and ensure socio-economic development.
“The world is watching us to see our enthusiasm in the implementation of the reforms. The international community says something has to be done to restore calm. We desperately need to implement the reforms to rebuild as a country.
“We are known for being a country of beggars that always asks for relief from other nations. We are known to be a very unstable country. We need to clean up our image and we can only do that if we energetically implement the reforms.
“Our politics have become so filthy because people are power hungry. They easily defect to other parties when their own parties fail to make into government. They are easily lured into joining the ruling parties because they are power hungry. We need clean politics.”
He also congratulated South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for his African National Congress (ANC) party’s victory in that country’s recent general elections.
“President (Ramaphosa) also played a pivotal role in making sure that I will still be here today when some people wanted me to be arrested for crimes I had not committed. We owe him and so we congratulate him on his success.”
Mr Metsing fled the country in August 2017, citing a government plot to assassinate him. However, the government dismissed his claims and suggested that he had fled to escape prosecution for alleged corruption.
The government even applied for his extradition from South Africa. He only returned to the country in December 2018 after a SADC-brokered deal to enable him and other opposition leaders to participate in the multi-sector reforms process.