HEALTH minister Nkaku Kabi, who is also the All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s legislator for the Qeme constituency, has dispelled widespread rumours that he held a rally in his constituency on Sunday to rival that of fellow ABC legislators in Lithabaneng on the same day allegedly because they belong to different feuding ABC factions.
Mr Kabi said his was a constituency rally aimed at addressing constituency issues and it was not in any way connected to the vicious power struggle that has erupted between the newly elected ABC national executive committee (NEC) and the outgoing NEC.
The Health minister was elected deputy secretary general of the ABC at the party’s 1 and 2 February elective conference in Maseru.
Others who were elected to the ABC’s NEC are National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao (deputy leader), Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).
However, Prof Mahao and his colleagues have not been able to assume office due to resistance from the old NEC. The old NEC has so far refused to hand over power and two cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry) and Keketso Sello (Mining) joined with the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane, to launch an urgent High Court application to nullify the outcome of the elective conference. Messrs Lehana and Sello contested and lost the party polls for the posts of deputy secretary general and treasurer respectively.
Although he is part of the new NEC, Mr Kabi is said to be aligned to what has been dubbed the State House faction which allegedly includes members of the old NEC who are fervently opposed to Prof Mahao coming in as deputy leader.
Prof Mahao and several others in the new NEC are said to belong to the other faction which has been dubbed Team Likatana (rag). This is in reference to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s jibe in January where described Prof Mahao as useless rag that should never be elected to succeed him at the helm of the ABC. Dr Thabane subsequently apologised for his acerbic remarks but the name Likatana has stuck ever since with some using it to describe those who back Prof Mahao.
And so, when it was announced that Mr Kabi would hold a rally in his constituency on the same day that Prof Mahao’s loyalists would be holding theirs in Ms Doti’s Lithabaneng constituency, many ABC supporters said this was out of Mr Kabi’s attempts to provide a counter-attraction to the other faction.
If the rallies are to be used as a barometer of the levels of support, then the Prof Mahao camp appears to enjoy more support because it drew at least 12 members of parliament, Senator Hlaele, several councilors including the one from the Qeme constituency as well thousands of party supporters.
Besides Prof Mahao and Ms Doti, the Lithabaneng rally was also attended by the newly elected ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa (Mosalemane), ABC parliamentary caucus chairperson Fako Moshoeshoe (Mabote), former Minister of Defence and National Security Sentje Lebona (Mohale’s Hoek), Motebang Koma (Koro-Koro), Selemo Mangobe (Taung), Lefu Hlomelang (Makhoarane), Sello Mooki (Bobatsi), Phamotse Molefi (Likhoele), Motlatsi Maqelepo (Berea), Thabo Sophonea (Thaba-Bosiu), Tšoeu Molise (Tšoana-Makhulo) and Lawrence Kibane (Peka).
Newly elected ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa, outspoken ABC activist ‘Mamandla Musa and Chaltin Tsatsanyane, the father of the ABC’s Stadium Area legislator, Mokherane Tsatsanyane, also attended. Even ABC councilors from Rothe, Hlotse, Qeme and Lithoteng also graced the rally.
In contrast, only a sparse crowd attended Mr Kabi’s rally. Mr Kabi began by telling his audience that his rally was only meant to address constituency issues and there was no ill-feeling between him and fellow members of the new NEC.
He also said there was nothing amiss about two constituencies holding rallies simultaneously.
“It is said there is a new ABC committee which I am part of and its members are at a rally at Lithabaneng but I want to make it clear that this is not a leader’s rally but just a Qeme constituency rally,” Mr Kabi said.
“We even spoke about it with the Lithabaneng legislator (Ms Doti) that there were rumours intended to cause trouble and we should not them disturb us.
“Let me tell you that I am whole heartedly grateful for the Qeme nomination and winning the post of deputy secretary general. Those who were at the NEC elections will remember that there was a court order which was received when we were about to start which said one of the party members, who had been expelled, (Prof Mahao) should be allowed to contest.
“Ntate (Thomas) Thabane read out the court order, and said that he could not defy court orders. After the elections there were concerns raised about the elections as votes seemed to be more than the number of people who voted, therefore some challenged the matter in court. I also respect court proceedings therefore I will wait for the next instructions to follow,” Mr Kabi said.
Mr Kabi did not dwell much on the infighting and focused his address on the challenges of water and electricity shortages in the constituency.
“We first need to understand that we cannot address all these issues at the same time due to financial constraints. We have started with the Ha Thaabe and Ha Jimisi villages in terms of addressing the issue of electricity. Water is a major problem and since it takes time for a water utility company to get a contractor to install facilities, we opted to get large tanks to store water in them.
“Qeme also has a problem of roads and neds a bridge at Ha Jimisi. I notified the relevant ministry and I have not stopped knocking on their door regarding the matter.
“In the next financial year, there would be a huge project at Ha Teko which is part of the government’s efforts to extend Maseru town to these parts,” Mr Kabi said.
Although Mr Kabi chose to focus on constituency issues, a snap survey by the Lesotho Times at the rally revealed that the infighting within the ABC was a burning issue among his constituents.
Many of them attributed the poor attendance to perceptions that Mr Kabi had aligned himself with the old NEC and other party officials who were resisting the new NEC which had been voted into office at the 1-2 February elective conference.
“This Qeme rally is for Team State House and the one in Lithabaneng is for Team Likatana. Ntate Kabi could lose support because he was supporting the wrong faction of ABC.
“We love Ntate Nkaku so much because he continues to support us just as he promised during the 2017 elections campaign. He has given people jobs at his farm and he is also assisting the football team with balls.
“But the problem is that he is part of the Team State House and that faction is the cause of the problems in the ABC,” one ABC supporter said.
Another supporter concurred, saying, “we supported Ntate Nkaku and whenever he held a rally, people would come from all the villages”.
“People would start flocking in large numbers to his rallies from early in the morning but now there is this poor attendance because people do not like the side Ntate Nkaku has chosen.”
Another ABC supporter said that many in the constituency believed that Prof Mahao possessed leadership skills that the ABC needed to implement developmental programmes hence they opted to attend the Lithabaneng rally where Prof Mahao addressed party supporters along with at least 12 ABC legislators.
“Truly speaking, the death of Prof Mahao’s brother (Maaparankoe Mahao) was part of the reason we (ABC) are in power now. We used his death to win over people’s sympathy through votes. Prof Mahao has a right to be in the leadership of this party.
“Apart from that, he has shown true leadership skills through the way he transformed NUL. The ABC is sinking and we need Prof Mahao to steer the ship back into the right direction. We still love Ntate Thabane but he needs people like Prof Mahao close to him to make sound decisions unlike the ones he is making now,” the ABC supporter said.