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ABC holds crisis indaba

by Lesotho Times
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  • Thabane to meet party MPs over intensifying infighting
  • MPs want new national executive committee to immediately take charge of the party

Moorosi Tsiane

PRIME Minister and leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Thomas Thabane, will tomorrow hold a crisis meeting with ABC legislators to try and diffuse the serious infighting threatening to split his party.

This comes in the wake of this week’s petition by 21 ABC legislators asking Dr Thabane to urgently begin processes to enable the party’s newly elected national executive committee (NEC) to take full charge of party affairs.

The ABC parliamentary caucus chairperson, Fako Moshoeshoe, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that Dr Thabane would meet the party’s caucus tomorrow to discuss the conflicts within the ABC.

“We are going to meet with Dr Thabane after we engaged him and he agreed that we have a meeting,” Mr Moshoeshoe said.

A power struggle that ensured in the ABC in the aftermath of the party’s 1 and 2 February 2019 NEC elections has so far prevented the new NEC from assuming office.

The old NEC which includes former Samonyane Ntsekele has so far refused to hand over power and two cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry) and Keketso Sello (Mining) joined with the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane, to launch an urgent High Court application to nullify the outcome of the elective conference. Messrs Lehana and Sello contested and lost the party polls for the posts of deputy secretary general and treasurer respectively.

In the deputy leadership contest, the Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho, Professor Nqosa Mahao, prevailed over Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.

Others who were elected into the new NEC are 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 office due to resistance from the old NEC as well as the court challenge Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.

Immediately after the elections, the old NEC refused to hand over the office keys to the new NEC while the trio launched their court action.  Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane have since been granted an interim order barring the new NEC from taking over until after the finalisation of their main application for the nullification of the 1-2 February poll results.

The trio argues that the elections were marred by gross irregularities and as a consequence, they could not have produced a “credible outcome”.

The infighting subsequently intensified with some legislators sympathetic to the new NEC vowing to mobilise the ABC’s coalition partners to vote against the budget speech to be presented to parliament by Dr Majoro when parliament reconvenes this week.

If successful, the rejection of the budget speech would cripple the government as it would not be able to withdraw money for operations from the consolidated revenue fund without parliamentary approval.

The infighting was also reflected in the recent attempt by the old NEC to suspend Mr Hlaele for allegedly fraudulently approving the hiring of K.J. Nthontho Attorneys to represent the ABC in the court application that was filed by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.

Mr Hlaele received a letter from Mr Ntsekele asking him to ‘show cause’ why he should not be suspended from the party overt the alleged offence.

But even after writing the letter, Mr Ntsekele spoke about the need for the old and new NECs to negotiate and resolve their differences.

“It is clear that there is a challenge in the party that needs to be addressed. Currently there are court cases involving us and we will accord the courts the respect they deserve and let them deal with these issues.

“But there is a need for us all to sit down and start talking to each other. Leaving this matter entirely to the courts is not wise because the courts might solve only some of the issues. ABC members need to warm up to the idea of sitting down together to decide on the future of the ABC. We cannot leave things hanging, the future of the party is very important,” Mr Ntsekele this week told the Lesotho Times, adding that all party members must put aside their egos and come together to devise strategies to grow the party.

It was against this background that the 21 ABC legislators had written to Dr Thabane requesting him to convene an ABC parliamentary caucus to discuss the infighting and come up with solutions that would avert a paralysing split.

Party insiders told the Lesotho Times that the petition was handed over to Dr Thabane on Tuesday. It was written and signed by the 21 senior party officials that included the ABC parliamentary caucus chairman, Moshoeshoe (Mabote legislator), incoming chairperson Mr Rapapa and the new secretary general Mr Hlaele.

Former Minister of Social Development, ‘Matebatso Doti, former Defence and National Security minister, Sentje Lebona and former Minister of Health, Nyapane Kaya also appended their signatures to the petition.

Other signatories  are: Koro-Koro legislator Motebang Koma, Mphosi Nkhasi (Pela-Tšoeu constituency), Selemo Mangobe (Taung), Nto Moakhi (Maliba Matso), Tello Kibane (Peka), Mooki Sello (Bobatsi), Phamotse Molefi (Likhoele), Libe Motsoane (Mphosong), Thabo Sophonea (Thaba-Bosiu), Motlatsi Maqelepo (Berea), Mamoipone Senauoane (Thaba Tseka), Lefu Hlomelang (Makhoroana), Sotlehang Sekhamane (Maputsoe), Mankoe Maime (Maama) and Tlhobohela Mokoma (Mantsonyane).

The legislators pleaded with Dr Thabane to use his powers as the party leader to facilitate a smooth transition of power from the outgoing NEC to the one that was elected early this month.

The petitioners say they were forced to turn to Dr Thabane after numerous failed attempts to hold an ABC parliamentary caucus to discuss the power struggle in the party.

“We as the undersigned members of the parliament and a senator (Mr Hlaele) are asking you to lead the processes of bringing stability to our party which is also the senior party in the coalition government.

“We are asking you to see to it that a new committee elected by ABC members assumes its duties under your leadership. We appeal that the decision by that conference be accepted by everyone,” part of the petition reads.

While acknowledging the interim court order barring the new NEC from taking over the administration of the party until the finalisation of the main application, the petitioners state that they believe that as party leader, Dr Thabane can mediate between the two warring factions.

The legislators further state that they are loathe to pay their monthly subscriptions fees under the prevailing circumstances wherein the outgoing committee continues to be in charge of party funds despite being booted out in the  polls.

“We are afraid to continue paying our monthly ABC subscription fees because that money will not be under the control of the new committee elected by ABC members. Our main concern is that the administration of the party will be negatively affected if we leave the matter where the newly elected committee is unable to resume power, unattended for long. This will also affect the performance our party in the coalition government especially as this (infighting) is happening at the time the coalition government is faced with serious problems of resolving numerous problems facing the nation.

“The decision to write to you has been influenced by a growing concern that despite numerous efforts by the (ABC parliamentary caucus) chairperson (Fako Moshoeshoe), we have failed to hold a caucus meeting intended to come up with a solution to our problems. Please allow us to hold an urgent caucus meeting,” the legislators state in their petition.

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