ABC cracks widen

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ABC Deputy Leader Tlali Khasu
ABC Deputy Leader Tlali Khasu

…as party probes why deputy leader Tlali Khasu failed to attend crucial meeting

Billy Ntaote and Keiso Mohloboli

CRACKS in the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) widened this week with deputy leader, Tlali Khasu, failing to attend a crucial party meeting convened at exiled ABC leader Tom Thabane’s Ficksburg hideout.

Motimposo constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Pitso Maisa was also absent from the meeting held on Tuesday. Mr Maisa has since condemned his exclusion at the meeting as a deliberate attempt by senior ABC officials to sideline him and Mr Khasu from party affairs.

Messrs Khasu and Maisa were the only ABC legislators in parliament on Tuesday while the rest were in Ficksburg to explore strategies of how best to pressurise the government into speedily implementing the SADC inquiry’s  recommendations into Lesotho’s instability as well as  finalising the selection of two candidates to represent the opposition in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association this year. Insiders told the Lesotho Times that the meeting also discussed problems in the party, among them the failure of ABC MPs to agree on common positions to adopt on various issues in parliament.

The ABC has 46 MPs in the 120-member National Assembly. They all attended Tuesday’s meeting with the exception of Messrs Khasu, Maisa and five others.

However, the five; Motlohi Maliehe, Samuel Rapapa, ‘Mamahele Radebe, Sebokoto Molise and ‘Mabatšoeneng Sibolla had officially excused themselves from the meeting as they had urgent business to attend elsewhere.

It was Mr Khasu’s failure to attend that particularly raised eyebrows as the ABC deputy leader is known to have developed frosty relations with his boss Dr Thabane. Mr Khasu has since been linked with a move to the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) because of the alleged fallout with Dr Thabane. Mr Khasu has nonetheless denied any dalliance with the LCD though sources in the know insist in interviews with the Lesotho Times that it is no longer a matter of if, but when the deputy ABC leader would defect to the LCD.

On why he did not attend the Ficksburg meeting, Mr Khasu told the Lesotho Times that he was not aware of the caucus meeting despite being the party’s deputy leader.

“It appears I was sent an SMS, but didn’t see the message as I’m not that conversant with these text messages,” said Mr Khasu on Tuesday evening.

Mr Khasu said he was not the only one who did not attend the caucus meeting.

“I don’t know other people’s reasons but I was not the only one who failed to attend the caucus. In any case, I know what the meeting is about and I will wait to hear its decisions,” said Mr Khasu, who is also the Peka constituency MP and former Mining minister.

But while Mr Khasu tried to downplay his failure to attend the crucial Ficksburg meeting, Mr Maisa was scathing of some of his ABC colleagues whom he accused of trying to push him and Mr Khasu out of the party.

“We were shocked and embarrassed at the same time to find out that our colleagues were not in the National Assembly today. We were not informed about the meeting in Ficksburg; it appears to be something being done purposely and on a regular basis. Maybe it is intended to tarnish our image and make us appear as though we are not sympathetic and supportive of the leader who has been living in exile since May last year.

“What is worth mentioning, though, is that there is something going on in the party; there are people trying to taint Khasu’s image as well as mine so that we leave the ABC.

“Khasu is faced with problems similar to those I encountered during our party’s primary elections in Motimposo ahead of the 2015 elections when some people did not want me to contest. Khasu is facing a similar problem in his Peka constituency where some party supporters want him out of the ABC, hence this deliberate move not to inform us about the meeting in Ficksburg for us to appear as if we are not loyal to the party.”

Asked why he believed there were machinations to frustrate him and Mr Khasu out of the ABC, Mr Maisa said it seemed that his criticism of how certain issues were being handled by the party had not gone down well with some party heavyweights.

“The ABC seems to have people who believe they cannot be criticised and if you do criticise them, they start campaigning for your dismissal from the party.

“Critical members of the party being sidelined on important issues is something that has been going on in the ABC for a long time and became even stronger when the party formed a coalition government with the BNP and LCD in 2012.

“I never get messages when there are party caucuses and only get to know them through  Khasu. About today’s meeting, I only got to know about it from ordinary members of the party, which is very embarrassing. On Friday last week, we had a party meeting (in Maseru) and resolved to meet on 28 April, so I didn’t know about today’s meeting hence I went to parliament as usual,” said Mr Maisa.

Meanwhile, the ABC Parliamentary Caucus chairperson, Majoro Mohapi, said the caucus was never informed why Mr Khasu failed to attend the Ficksburg meeting.

Mr Mohapi further said the party’s secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele, had since been assigned to inquire why Mr Khasu could not attend such a crucial meeting.

“When I spoke to him (Khasu), I picked from our conversation that he knew about the caucus in Ficksburg,” he said.

“As for Mr Maisa, I realised that the SMS I sent him had not been delivered so he genuinely did not know about the meeting.”

Asked if failure by Mr Khasu to attend the meeting meant there could be problems in the ABC, Mr Mohapi said: “We have procedures and platforms that can be used by people who feel disgruntled within the party.

“If an individual has a problem that needs to be resolved by the party, the National Executive Committee calls a special conference to attend to the issue.”

On Mr Maisa’s allegations, Mr Mohapi said he did not know what the Motimposo legislator was saying.

“He left our meeting on Friday last week before it could end which is why he did not hear about the Ficksburg caucus. So this issue of being sidelined, I don’t know where it is coming from.”

However, Mr Mohapi said the ABC was working on unifying all its MPs so they could speak with one voice in parliament.

“We are trying to instil a sense of cooperation among us, support for one another and sympathy for each other during times of need.”

For his part, Dr Thabane said the party agreed to meet with him on a monthly basis at his Ficksburg home since he cannot be in parliament, hence Tuesday’s meeting. The former prime minister fled Lesotho in May last year claiming his life was in danger from some members of the Lesotho Defence Force whom he accused of plotting to kill him.

“The caucus was one of those meetings we are now having on a monthly basis with MPs and NEC members to update me about parliamentary issues and the day-to-day running of the ABC in my absence.

“I won’t really give you the details of our meeting but I can only tell you that we usually share ideas on how we can grow the party and also how best the MPs can work together to effectively represent the opposition in the National Assembly,” Dr Thabane said.

On the other hand, Mr Ntsekele said Tuesday’s meeting had been fruitful and would not dwell on the absence of Mr Khasu.

“The reason why the MPs failed to attend the caucus is an internal issue that must be treated with confidentiality within the party,” Mr Ntsekele said.

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