- gives factions seven days to submit names for committee to resolve power struggle
ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has given the party’s warring national executive committee (NEC) factions seven days in which to give him names of people who will form a committee to resolve the power struggle within the ruling party.
Dr Thabane is said to have issued the seven-day ultimatum while addressing an ABC parliamentary caucus meeting at the National Assembly building in Maseru on Tuesday. The premier called for the caucus meeting as part of efforts to find solutions to the infighting which threatens to tear apart the ABC and collapse the governing coalition in which it is the major partner.
The party has not known peace and stability in the aftermath of its 1 – 2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered in a new NEC with the outgoing National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao as the deputy leader. But the new NEC has not been able to assume office due to fierce resistance from the old NEC who say Prof Mahao is a newcomer who should not be in the driving seat to succeed Dr Thabane when the latter eventually leaves office. Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC’s election has also been challenged in the High Court by ABC cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana, Keketso Sello and ABC legislator Mohapi Mohapinyane on the grounds that there was vote rigging at the party leadership contest.
In addition to the court battles, the two factions have also taken their war to party supporters, holding competing rallies on a weekly basis to argue their respective cases.
Dr Thabane has been under increasing pressure to resolve the power struggle. About 21 ABC legislators recently appended their signatures to a petition calling on him to urgently step in and resolve the impasse in the ABC or risk the collapse of the government. Even the director general of the National Security Service (NSS), Pheello Ralenkoane, is said to have written a series of comprehensive reports advising Dr Thabane to resolve the crisis in his party. The spy boss is said to have advised the premier that it would be in his “best interests and that of the stability of the nation for him to accept and accommodate the new NEC”.
And on Tuesday, Dr Thabane eventually moved to deal with the ABC crisis by chairing a party caucus where he demanded that the two factions give him names of people who would join him in a committee to come up with solutions to the power struggle.
ABC parliamentary caucus secretary, Lekhetho Mosito, who is also the member of parliament for the Likhetlane constituency, confirmed the caucus meeting held on Tuesday. He however, refused to confirm that the meeting resolved to establish a committee to mediate between the two NEC factions.
“It is true that we had a caucus meeting but I cannot tell you what we discussed in that meeting. I have never and will never discuss the decisions of the caucus with the media or the public,” Mr Mosito said.
However, ABC sources told the Lesotho Times that the caucus had resolved that Dr Thabane would chair the envisaged committee because of his “neutrality” in the power struggle. The sources further said that none of the members of the old and new NECs would sit in the committee but they would nominate their representatives. The factions would have equal representation in the committee.
“We held the caucus meeting on Tuesday and the leader (Dr Thabane) gave us seven days to give him names of the people that will form a committee,” an ABC legislator told this publication.
“The two NECs will each submit the names of its nominees to the committee to mediate between the two factions and assist the party in resolving its internal squabbles. None of the two NECs members will sit in the committee,” the legislator added.
Another source said that each NEC would nominate three individuals to work closely with Dr Thabane to come up with solutions to the power struggle.
“Ntate Thabane will chair the proposed committee because he is the leader of the party and is neutral in all of this. Ntate Thabane continues to be neutral because his position was not contested at the recent elections nor is it being challenged in the courts,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the ABC parliamentary caucus chairperson and Mabote legislator, Fako Moshoeshoe, said he was not in a position to discuss the matter until he has met with Dr Thabane.
“I will meet my leader later today (yesterday) and before that happens, I am not able to discuss these issues with anyone,” Mr Moshoeshoe said yesterday.
Efforts to obtain comment from outgoing ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela and the outgoing secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele were fruitless as Mr Mapesela’s mobile phone rang unanswered while Mr Ntsekele was not reachable.
The decision to establish the committee comes just two days after Dr Thabane defended himself against widespread perceptions that his attendance of rallies organised by the old NEC were a clear indication that he sided with them in their power struggle with the new NEC.
On Sunday Dr Thabane told ABC supporters at a rally in the Mosalemane constituency in Berea that the only reason why has been attending the old NEC’s rallies is that they remain legally in office pending the finalisation of a court application to annul the new NEC’s election.
At the same rally, he also urged the two NECs to urgently hold talks to resolve the impasse that threatens to split the party and collapse the government.