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Thabane backtracks on govt collapse claims

  • dismisses talk of imminent snap elections, says his regime is “very stable”

Bereng Mpaki

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has backtracked on his recent statements that the government faces collapse unless the warring factions in his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party urgently resolve their differences.

The premier made the remarks almost four weeks ago at a rally in the Hololo constituency in Butha-Buthe where he told party supporters that he was enduring sleepless nights because the ABC had “embarked on the path of self-destruction” with its two national executive committee (NEC) factions holding separate, competing rallies in different constituencies every week.

Dr Thabane told party supporters that there were “clear signs” that the government was headed for collapse if the ABC factions did not urgently resolve their differences and unite. The ABC is the main party in a governing coalition that also includes Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD), Communications minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP) and Labour minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

Dr Thabane said the intra-ABC power struggle presented the opposition with an unexpected window of opportunity which they could exploit to return to power after their ouster in 2017.

“God has blessed us and we are back in power. But we are hardly two years into power and yet the signs of our (impending) demise are clear. The opposition is happy because they see their opportunity to get back into power,” Dr Thabane said in the Hololo constituency.

But this week, the ABC sang a different tune in Qhoali, Mohale’s Hoek where he told ABC supporters that the governing coalition was very much stable and all talk of impending collapse and subsequent snap national elections was wishful thinking.

“I do not usually like to entertain baseless talk, but I have been greatly surprised by current talk that general elections are around the corner.

“I wonder what these people peddling this type of talk have noticed that we as the ABC have not yet seen. Sometimes you may think you have figured out something only to find that you got it completely wrong. I will therefore not trouble myself with something that is not there,” Dr Thabane said.

Dr Thabane spoke at the Qhoali rally which was organised by members of the old ABC’s NEC which has steadfastly refused to hand over power to a new NEC elected at the party’s 1-2 February 2019 conference in Maseru.

All party posts except that of Dr Thabane were up for grabs at the February conference. The biggest winner was the outgoing National University of Lesotho (NUL) vice chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao who was elected deputy leader. He clinched the coveted post ahead of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe. As deputy leader, assuming he is eventually allowed to assume his latest position, Prof Mahao becomes the obvious frontrunner to succeed Dr Thabane in both party and government when the veteran leader eventually calls it a day.

Others who were elected into the new NEC are Dr Thabane’s son-in-law, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), 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 power due to fierce resistance from the old NEC as well as the 11 February 2019 court challenge by three ABC legislators, Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).

The trio want the court to nullify the outcome of the February elections and order fresh polls within three months of their application. Mr Lehana contested and lost the polls for the deputy secretary general’s post which won by Health minister Nkaku Kabi. Mr Sello contested and lost the election for the treasurer’s post which won by Tlali Mohapi.

For several weeks after the party conference, Dr Thabane steered clear of taking sides in the ensuing power struggle threatening to split the ABC and collapse the government. However, his successive appearances at the old NEC’s rallies suggest that the premier is firmly on the side of the outgoing NEC.

And as Dr Thabane addressed the Qhoali rally, Prof Mahao and his allies addressed their own rally across town in Mokhotlong- an indication that despite the ongoing talks between the two to resolve the infighting in the ABC, there is still a long way before a deal is reached.

Dr Thabane however, told party supporters that the ongoing infighting in the ABC “would not be allowed to shake the foundations of the government”. He also said that it was important for a deal to be struck soon in the intra-party talks so that the factions could close ranks and hold celebratory event at the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru.

“I assure you that this government is very stable and it is comfortably sitting on it backside. We will only go for the national elections when they are due in 2022.

“It is my fervent wish that we should soon hold one big gathering to be held at Setsoto Stadium. I therefore appeal to those that we are engaging in talks to resolve the party challenges to ensure that all ABC supporters will reunite so that this conflict becomes yesterday’s news.

“We need to channel the energy we are using to fight each other towards to the more important task of serving this impoverished nation,” Dr Thabane’ said.

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