ABC MP challenges Thabane

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…be democratic and accept the Mahao-led NEC, MP Phamotse says

Limpho Sello

THERE were fireworks at the ABC rally in the Likhoele constituency in Mafeteng where the party’s legislator Molefi Phamotse was heckled and attacked in front of party leader Thomas Thabane for siding with the faction that is backing National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao in his bid for the powerful post of deputy leader.

The defiant Mr Phamotse however, gave as good as he got, telling the Lesotho Times that as one who believed in democracy, he would unashamedly and unapologetically continue backing Prof Mahao because the latter was democratically elected at the party’s 1 and 2 February 2019 national executive committee (NEC) conference.

Mr Phamotse also challenged Dr Thabane to be the democratic leader that we know him to be by allowing the Prof Mahao-led NEC to assume power.

Across town in the Berea 27 constituency, Prof Mahao and some of his colleagues in the new NEC were also holding a rally at the same time that their estranged ABC colleagues were holding theirs in Mafeteng. And though he threw his lot with the Mahao camp, Mr Phamotse chose to attend the rally that was organised by the old NEC in his Mafeteng constituency because he had rightly anticipated that he would be attacked by those who backed the old NEC which has so far dug in and refused to hand over power to the new NEC.

Speaking at the rally the Likhoele constituency chairperson, Moeketsi Makhoane, accused Mr Phamotse of involving himself in the intra-party dispute on the side of the Mahao faction while neglecting his responsibilities of ensuring efficient service delivery and bringing socio-economic development to his constituency.

Mr Makhoane said as a party they were happy when the constituency which was for many years a stronghold of the congress parties was finally won by the ABC in the 3 June 2017 snap national elections. He said that joy had since turned into despair upon realising that Mr Phamotse made empty promises of bringing development while enmeshing himself in the fight for the control of the party.

“This area should by now be connected to the electricity grid. The poles have been planted in the ground for more than a year but there has not been any progress although we have a MP who is an ABC member,” Mr Makhoane said of Mr Phamotse.

“Households in areas like Bochabela have not been connected to electricity. Surprisingly we have an MP who is an ABC member but we haven’t heard him pushing for progress to ensure those households are connected. What we hear is the outcry and frustration from the people who were promised electricity a long time ago.

“We expected wonders in this constituency in terms of service delivery due to the promises that the MP sold to us during his election campaign.”

Mr Makhoane further accused Mr Phamotse of reneging on his pledge to oversee the construction of factories in Thota-Khama which would create jobs for locals. He said instead of focusing on his electoral promises, Mr Phamotse surprised them by unilaterally appending his signature to a recent petition by 20 ABC legislators calling on Dr Thabane to urgently resolve the power struggle in favour of the Mahao-led new NEC.

“We were very surprised because it was only during that period (of signing the petition) that we realised that he (Mr Phamotse) still knows how to be vocal.

“What I want to declare today is that the Likhoele constituency committee never discussed or sent the Likhoele Legislator to sign the petition,” Mr Makhoane told the crowd.

He further accused Mr Phamotse of actively working to dissuade ABC members in the constituency from attending the Sunday rally and directing them to attend the Mahao rally in Berea instead.

“What was again surprising was to see Mr Phamotse’s secretary going door to door this morning (on Sunday) asking people to attend the other rally but the people refused to go and chose to come to this rally instead.”

When his turn came to address, Mr Phamotse was heckled by the crowd and he eventually gave up after just 10 minutes when he realised that his voice would not be heard above the din.

Dr Thabane who sat in the tent at the high table alongside his wife, Maesaiah Thabane and Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro among others, sat stone-faced throughout Mr Makhoane’s address and the heckling that accompanied Mr Phamotse’s subsequent attempts to defend himself.

When he did eventually speak, Dr Thabane made no reference to the allegations against Mr Phamotse and the heckling. Instead the premier underscored the need for unity in the ABC.

Mr Phamotse subsequently gave an interview to the Lesotho Times where he rubbished the allegations against him as mere propaganda to tarnish him because he aligned himself with Prof Mahao and joined other MPs to petition Dr Thabane to stop the infighting in the ABC.

Mr Phamotse said he expected the name-calling and accusations because that is what usually happened to anyone who stood for the truth and what was right.

“I need to clarify today that I believe in democracy and everything aligned with it. I support the newly elected executive committee because that is the right thing to do in a democratic country.

“I will not stand and allow people who think they have the power to dictate so that things are done the way they want and not the right way.

“I wholeheartedly support the Mahao camp. The ABC is a big party that formed government from which we expected fruitful outcomes and not these games they are playing. But because I love this party so much, I have to support people (the Mahao camp) who want to see it survive and grow.

He said through their vote in the NEC elections, the ABC members pointed the direction they want the party to take but those who lost were refusing to accept defeat and give the new NEC the chance to lead.

“The elections were organised by the outgoing NEC which also prepared all the names of the voters and mandated the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) to oversee the election process which the latter did well. The LCN did not prepare the voters’ roll and this was something that was solely handled by the outgoing NEC. So even after all this, they still do not want to accept their fate.”

Mr Molefi also said they had no plans to topple Dr Thabane.

“Dr Thabane is our leader and he will remain our leader, so there is no way we can fight someone we respect and who we still want to show us direction.

“Our expectation is for him to lead us and see the truth for what it is. We want him to act as the democratic leader we know him to be,” Mr Phamotse said.

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