ABC must deal decisively with its challenges: Analysts

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THE threats of cataclysmic violence and bloodshed within the All Basotho Convention (ABC) by some senior members who lost in the party’s recent national executive committee (NEC) elections are worrisome for the nation, analysts have said.

The analysts said Basotho have every reason to be afraid especially as the nation has fresh scars and memories of the impunity and excesses that took place under the watch of the previous government that lost power in June 2017.

Two cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry) and Keketso Sello (Mining) and the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane, this week warned of “chaos and bloodshed” if the outcome of the 1 to 2 February polls is not reversed.

They made the claims in their Monday High Court application seeking the nullification of the election of Professor Nqosa Mahao and others to the party’s NEC. They also want the court to order fresh elections within three months of the finalisation of their court application.

Some may dismiss this as mere sour grapes on the part of Messrs Lehana and Sello who contested and lost the polls for the posts of deputy secretary general and treasurer respectively but analysts say the nation should be very afraid and not take such threats lightly especially as they have been made by senior party and government officials.

The analysts further say that the ABC leadership should take decisive steps to deal with the fallout from its elections as well as deal with individuals bent on instigating violence and throwing the country back to the era of mindless violence which has been a perennial source of instability.

“The elections came and went and those who are aggrieved should seek recourse through the proper channels that include the party structures and the courts of law as the ministers and the legislator have done,” said one university lecturer and analyst who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity.

“However, it is unacceptable for losing candidates to talk of violence if they don’t get their way. The ABC must deal decisively with rabble rousers and show the world that it is capable of managing its internal contradictions. The party must do this to instill confidence that it is a democratic party that is capable of handling national affairs in accordance with the dictates of democracy.  Only when it handles well its internal issues will the nation and the international community feel encouraged that it will handle national affairs well,” the analyst said.

Another analyst who also spoke on condition of anonymity also said it was highly irresponsible for senior members of the ABC and government to bring up the issue of violence when elections did not go their way.

“While everyone has a right to appeal outcomes, they are not happy with, threatening violence and bloodshed is highly irresponsible on the part of the ministers and the legislator. These are senior political figures who should more restrained in their talk particularly in view of the country’s recent history where violence and human rights violations were commonplace under the previous regime.

“The ABC was elected on the back of its promises to ensure lasting peace and stability in the country and there is no way it can do that when its members threaten to tear at each other like rabid dogs at the lightest sign of disagreement over internal party processes. The party must censure the ministers and the legislator,” the analyst said.

National University of Lesotho lecturer Mahao Mahao said the ABC had to urgently get its house in order because more pressing national issues were being held in abeyance as the ABC factions continue to slug it out for control of the party.

Mr Mahao said it was “embarrassing” that the ABC failed in the test of internal democracy when compared to the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) whose elective conference passed without incident and yielded outcomes that were accepted by all the candidates. The DC held its conference a few days earlier than the ABC from 25 to 27 January in the Berea District.

Mokhothu Mathibeli’s victory was accepted by everyone in the party including his bitter rival for the post of party leader, Tlohang Sekhamane.

The ABC election however, has produced a disputed outcome despite statements by party leader Thomas Thabane that the polls went on smoothly and the results reflected the will of the majority of the ABC members.

Mr Mahao said the ensuing disputes lent credence to widespread beliefs that the premier was probably no longer as powerful as he used to be within the party and that there could other powerful forces which sought to control and determine the composition of the ABC’s NEC for their own ends.

“There are other forces that are at play within the party and they want to influence the election outcome. With the DC, you don’t see forces outside the party’s NEC seeking to exercise power but in the ABC it would seem that things are controlled from elsewhere. Some forces that exist outside the ABC’s NEC are probably far more influential than we think and maybe the prime minister is not as powerful as we think.

“What is happening is really embarrassing because one would expect that the ABC would be the first to ensure internal democracy because if the party is not able to respect the will of its members then how will it be expected to respect the will of the electorate when it comes to national elections,” Mr Mahao asked rhetorically.

A political analyst and Development Studies expert, Julius Retšepile Autata, echoed Mr Mahao’s sentiments, saying the chaos in the ABC is “symptomatic of the political intolerance within the party and points to the refusal to embrace democratic outcomes which is endemic in the African body politic”.

“This chaos provokes us to question whether or not the ABC is really a democratic party. More than that, this saga suggests a threat to national democratic governance because if this is happening within the ruling party this might also happen in the national parliament.

“If some senior ABC members cannot accept internal election results then they can also reject the results of national elections come 2022,” Mr Autata said.

Mr Mahao said as long as the ABC crisis remained unresolved, the party would remain in perpetual election mode and thus lose sight of the bigger national picture where it is supposed to be play a significant role in re-igniting the multi-sector reforms process.

Lesotho was given until May 2019 by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to have fully implemented constitutional and security sector reforms.

The ABC-led government had committed to kickstarting the reforms process in January this year but so far nothing has come of that. Mr Mahao said it was unlikely that the government would attend to the reform agenda as long as its main party, the ABC was afflicted by infighting.

He said while it was important to urgently address the ABC’s challenges, he did not think the party could resolve such challenges on its own hence the need for mediators such as the European Union or other development partners to step in and bring the new NEC and the old NEC to the negotiating table.

“We now need a mediator to come between the warring parties and these could be any one of our development partners. For example, we have the Americans, we have the European Union who are interested in the reforms and seeing Lesotho move forward. This is necessary because at the moment the ABC is not focusing on the bigger national picture but on personal interests,” Mr Mahao said.

He added that the ABC should learn from history where the failure by some parties to resolve their internal contradictions had ended in splits.

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