ABC elective conference to expel Thabane back on

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  • as battle for control of the ABC rages on

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

IN the latest instalment of the long-running battle for control of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), the party’s deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao, has said the special conference his faction had planned to hold is back on.

The special conference had initially been planned for 6 July 2019 and the main agenda was to discuss the expulsion of party leader and Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane from the party.

It was however, aborted at the last minute after Dr Thabane and deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi obtained an interim interdict from Acting Chief Justice ‘’Maseforo Mahase to block the conference.

Addressing his supporters in Teyateyaneng early this week, Prof Mahao, who is locked in a bitter struggle for control of the party with Dr Thabane, said that Mr Hlaele will announce new dates for the special conference before the end of this week.

Prof Mahao clinched the deputy leader’s post at the party’s February 2019 elective conference. His allies, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson) also clinched powerful posts in the party. But the five have not been able to discharge their new roles after Dr Thabane opposed their election. Dr Thabane subsequently “expelled” them from the party on 17 June 2019. The five have since resolved to launch a fresh application to challenge their “expulsion” after their initial application was dismissed last week by the High Court on the grounds that it was not properly filed.

The Mahao faction had initially set 6 July 2019 as the date for the special conference that would among other things, discuss the expulsion of Dr Thabane from the party.

But the conference had to be cancelled after Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi obtained an interim order from Justice Mahase to block the conference. The duo argued that Dr Thabane had expelled Prof Mahao and his allies from the party and therefore they had no legal standing to call a party conference.

But in a turn of events last week, Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi withdrew their court bid for a final order to bar the Mahao faction from holding the conference.  Mr Kabi would not say why the application was withdrawn. He however, told the Lesotho Times that the withdrawal of the application did not affect the status of Prof Mahao and his four allies who remained expelled from the ABC. He said they would only be re-admitted into the party as ordinary members at the branch level if they applied for readmission.

However, Prof Mahao and his allies are singing a different tune, saying the withdrawal of the application meant that they were the legitimate NEC of the ABC and they could proceed with the conference.

Addressing party supporters who gathered in Teyateyaneng to welcome former Mining minister, Lebohang Thotanyana, who recently joined the Mahao faction of the ABC from the LCD, Prof Mahao said by the end of the week Mr Hlaele would have issued a circular advising members about the new dates for the special conference to “decide on the direction the party should take”.

He also said the ABC’s new national executive committee (NEC) would start working from new offices this week.

This means that the party will have two rival NECs operating from different premises as some NEC members such as Mr Kabi remain loyal to Dr Thabane.

Prof Mahao said those opposed to his loyalists operating from their own offices were free to “seek the invention of the courts of law”.

He also took the opportunity to dispel rumours that they were intending to break away from the ABC, saying it was not for them as leaders but for the grassroots to decide on whether or not to form a new party.

“Whether or not to form a new party will be decided by you as party members. We will not make such decisions on your behalf. We are a (NEC) committee that understands that this party belongs to its members and not to individuals. It is those members who will decide at the special conference on the direction that they wish their party to take.

When the time is right, we will communicate if we have to leave (the ABC). But for now, it is the other faction that has to leave.”

Last week, Mr Kabi, a staunch Thabane loyalist, announced that Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro and others had been “appointed” to fill the NEC positions “left vacant” by the expulsion of Prof Mahao and his allies from the ABC.

Dr Majoro was appointed deputy leader in place of Prof Mahao. Others who were “appointed” are Kemiso Mosenene (as chairperson in place of Mr Rapapa), Sentle Rabale (spokesperson in place of Mr Masoetsa) and Joel Mohale as deputy spokesperson in place of Ms Doti. The four appointments are effective from 9 August 2019 while the post of secretary general made “vacant” by the “expulsion” of Mr Hlalele, will be filled in due course.

But on Sunday, Prof Mahao scoffed at the latest appointments, saying they had only served to create fresh divisions among the Thabane loyalists as the likes of Prince and Motlohi Maliehe were not happy that they had been overlooked in favour of Dr Majoro and his allies.

“Camp State House (Dr Thabane’s loyalists) is now at each other’s throats. Last week they claimed to be filling vacant positions in the committee. But the funny part is that all the posts were given to Team Majoro and leaving out Prince Maliehe and Motlohi Maliehe’s camps. It has dawned on them (Messrs Prince and Motlohi Maliehe) that they were riding a tiger all along.

“They were used to fight democracy in the party and now they are being sanctioned and not given any positions. Now there is calamity in the camps of the Maliehes because Majoro has been appointed by Mme to be deputy leader and Prince (Maliehe) is claiming the same post.”

Although he did not say the name of the “Mme”, Prof Mahao is on record saying First Lady Maesaiah Thabane has caused chaos and disunity in the party and government by instigating the appointment and removal of officials to senior positions.

Prof Mahao urged the Maliehes to emulate the examples of former LCD official, Lebohang Thotanyana, and former ABC deputy leader, Tlali Khasu, who recently joined the Mahao faction of the ABC.

“We have Thotanyana and Tlali Khasu in our mist. What then could stop us from welcoming Prince Maliehe? I am going to seek appointments with them (Prince and Motlohi Maliehe) to invite them to join the real ABC. We are a committee that does not shy away from challenges.”

Prof Mahao warned his supporters to guard against infiltration and accepting inducements to join Dr Thabane’s camp, saying this would only lead to the total collapse of the party.

“Our enemies are intent on infiltrating our camp. They want to cause confusion on social media and everywhere else so that you can leave the ABC. They are tapping into your frustrations because you have waited for seven months for your elected committee to assume office.  Infiltration is popular in politics but we should not let the infiltrators to control us. Put all your trust in us your leaders.”

He said he held a meeting with the Bobatsi constituency legislator, Sello Mooki, and warned the latter against joining the Thabane camp.

It appears the warning fell on deaf ears as Mr Mooki recently told the Lesotho Times that he had “nothing against Ntate Thabane” and he was “prepared to part ways with whoever disowns Thabane as leader of ABC”.

“I have always rallied behind Ntate Thabane as my leader and I have nothing against him at all. I would therefore part ways with whoever disowns Thabane as leader of ABC.

“However, I am against his decision of preventing the elected committee from assuming office,” Mr Mooki said.

Mr Mooki was among 21 ABC legislators who appended their signatures to a February 2019 petition calling on Dr Thabane to allow Prof Mahao and the rest of the NEC to be allowed into office.

The ABC’s legislators’ petition is widely seen as a clear demonstration of their support for Prof Mahao and it is believed that they will vote in favour of the no confidence motion against Dr Thabane that was filed in parliament two months ago by the party’s Koro-koro legislator, Motebang Koma.

While the majority of the legislators have said they remained resolutely behind Prof Mahao, Mr Mooki is now singing a different tune in support of Dr Thabane.

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