Second ABC MP Tsatsanyane defects to AD

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  • cites ABC’s “ill-treatment” of former premier Thabane as reason for leaving
  • also unhappy with ABC forming governing coalition with DC
  • more expected to follow suit but ABC vows to stand with new govt

’Marafaele Mohloboli

YET another All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislator has dumped the ruling party to join the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD).

Mokherane Tsatsanyane, who represents the Stadium Area constituency, crossed the floor to the opposition benches in parliament on Monday. He became the second ABC legislator to join the AD after the Bobatsi constituency legislator, Sello Mooki, who crossed over to the AD on Friday 12 June 2020.

Like Mr Mooki last week, Mr Tsatsanyane was given a rapturous reception by senior AD officials including party spokesperson Thuso Litjobo, during his defection process in the National Assembly.

“This is just the beginning of great things to come and we couldn’t have been happier to witness our party growing from strength to strength on a daily basis,” an elated Mr Litjobo said of the defection of Mr Tsatsanyane.

Authoritative ABC sources say Messrs Tsatsanyane and Mooki’s departures are harbingers for more defections that will hit the ABC as anger continues to swell over Dr Majoro’s decision to appoint members of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL) to cabinet ahead of ABC MPs.

The sources say at least nine others are also planning to ditch the ruling party for the AD. Mr Mooki insists the numbers of MPs planning to leave could be as high as 24. But despite all this ABC spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, says there is no going back on the appointment of BNP and RCL leaders to cabinet.

“The decision to include the BNP and RCL leaders in cabinet was made by the ABC’s NEC and the majority of the ABC MPs and it stands whether the disgruntled MPs are happy or not,” Mr Masoetsa told the Lesotho Times this week.

“Let them go as individuals and let the ABC be. Even though a political party depends on numbers for its strength, we would rather lose a few disgruntled members and focus on growing the party with people who respect its values.

“We’d rather lose people who are disgruntled because they were not appointed as ministers. They were elected to be members of parliament and not ministers. There is no way that every MP can be a minister.

“The electorate shall punish them in the 2022 elections,” he said in reference to Messrs Mooki and Tsatsanyane who defected partly out of anger over the appointment of BNP and RCL leaders to cabinet.

The BNP and RCL are traditional allies of the ABC after having been part of the first Thomas Thabane government from 2012 to 2015.  The leaders of the two parties went into exile with Mr Thabane when he fled Lesotho after his ouster in the February 2015 elections fearing assassination by rogue soldiers then under the command of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

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They subsequently all returned and joined the second Thabane coalition after the ABC won the June 2017 polls. After the ABC ousted Thabane last month and replaced him with Dr Majoro, the RCL and BNP leaders retained their positions in the third ABC led coalition.

BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane retained his post as Communications, Science and Technology minister while his party deputy, Machesetsa Mofomobe, was moved from his previous post of deputy Home Affairs minister to deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations.

RCL leader Keketso Rantšo retained her Labour and Employment portfolio. There was also space in Dr Majoro’s cabinet for some members of other smaller parties backing the new coalition anchored by the ABC and the Democratic Congress (DC).

But some ABC MPs are unhappy about being left out. The legislators say they find it hard to accept that despite working for former premier Thomas Thabane’s ouster and despite winning constituency seats in the last elections, there was no place for them in Dr Majoro’s cabinet. They say they cannot stomach the fact that leaders of the BNP and the RCL who failed to win a single constituency seat in June 2017 had been appointed into cabinet.

Apart from Messrs Mooki and Tsatsanyane other MPs said to be planning to jump ship are Litšoane Litšoane (Bela-Bela constituency), Tšoeu Molise (Tšoana-Makhulo), Thabang Mafojane (Motimposo), Fako Moshoeshoe (Khubetsoana), Chalane Phori (Qoaling), Leshoboro Mohlajoa (Malimong), Samonyane Ntsekele (Tsikoane) and Temeki Tšolo (Mafeteng).

Prior to his defection on Monday, Mr Tsatsanyane addressed some of his constituents in Maseru, saying he was loyal to Mr Thabane and now that the former premier was hounded out of his post, he no longer had any reason to remain in the ABC. Without elaborating, he also accused the ABC of persecuting Mr Thabane. Mr Thabane and his wife ‘Maesaiah face charges of murdering the premier’s former wife, Lipolelo, in June 2017.

ABC MPs like Mr Tsatsanyane want Dr Majoro and the party to save them from prosecution. This however, cannot be achieved without threatening the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary — a fact which appears clearly lost on those pushing for the new prime minister’s intervention.

“I shall forever respect Ntate Thabane as he has entrusted me with the responsibility of being a cabinet minister above the responsibility that you had given me of just being an MP,” Mr Tsatsanyane, who was Deputy Minister of Public Works, told his constituents on Sunday.

“My allegiance is with Ntate Thabane and he was chased out by his own people. Even after he had said he would be leaving on 31 July 2020 they still booted him out therefore I cannot be part of the people who persecuted him. I even consulted my constituency and suggested that I resign so that there is a by-election but they refused and instead gave me their blessing to join the AD,” Mr Tsatsanyane said.

Mr Tsatsanyane said although he had nothing against Dr Majoro, he could not stomach the fact that the ABC had agreed a coalition deal with the DC which had been rejected outright by voters in his constituency in the 2017 elections.

“I am one of those who voted Dr Majoro to take over as prime minister after the retirement of Ntate Thabane which should have been at the end of July 2020.

“But I don’t support this joint government with the Democratic Congress DC because this constituency gave me 5996 votes while the combined votes of the DC and Lesotho Congress for Democracy were much less. Therefore, I can’t sit at table with them (DC) because the people made it very clear that they do not want them in government.”

For now, the departures of Messrs Tsatsanyane and Mooki will not shake the strong foundations of the ABC-DC coalition as it still has overwhelming support of both parties’ MPs as well as those of other smaller parties.

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