ABC talks collapse again as NEC factions dig in


’Marafaele Mohloboli

NEGOTIATIONS between the warring old and new national executive committees (NECs) of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) collapsed again this week. The spokesperson of the new NEC, Montoeli Masoetsa, attributed the collapse of the talks to the two factions’ failure to agree on an agenda for the negotiations that are aimed at resolving the infighting which threatens to split the Thomas Thabane-led party and collapse the almost two year-old government.

Mr Masoetsa accused the old NEC faction of pitching up for the talks without a concrete agenda on the key issues that have caused the infighting. Instead, he said the old NEC faction negotiating team comprising of Messrs Samonyane Ntsekele, Motlohi Maliehe, Futho Hoohlo, Kemiso Mosenene and Makhetha Motšoari were only keen to negotiate with the new NEC to stop addressing parallel constituency rallies which competed with the old NEC’s rallies which were addressed by Dr Thabane.

Another sticking point was the refusal by the old NEC to drop a court challenge seeking the nullification of the results of the ABC’s 1-2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered in a new NEC which has the outgoing National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao as its deputy leader.

Mr Masoetsa said the old NEC insisted that the court challenge “was not relevant to the talks” and they were not willing to withdraw it to give the talks a chance to succeed.

In the aftermath of the February elections, the old NEC, which reportedly enjoys Dr Thabane’s support, refused to make way for the new NEC. Three ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung constituency), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe) subsequently filed a High Court application seeking the nullification of the February party polls on the grounds that they were marred by vote rigging.

Initial attempts at talks to end the impasse suffered a stillbirth in March after both factions refused to compromise on their hard-line stances.

The old NEC had demanded that Prof Mahao and the incoming secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, should step down from their posts as a condition for the rest of the new NEC to be allowed into office.

However, Prof Mahao and Mr Hlaele dug in and insisted they will not step down from their posts.

Prof Mahao even told ABC supporters at a rally in Ha Makhalanyane in the Koro-Koro constituency that the negotiations between the old and new ABC NECs should only lead to one outcome; the old NEC handing over power to the new NEC, failing which they go as far as the Court of Appeal if the High Court does not rule in their favour.

The fire-spitting professor further said they were only negotiating to “understand what sort of sickness had afflicted their colleagues” and if necessary, they would even “force democracy down the throats” of the old NEC to get them to accept that they should relinquish power.

Despite the failure of the March talks, it had been hoped that the infighting would finally be resolved after it was announced at the beginning of last month that Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao would begin negotiations. The two have been meeting on their own while the old and the new NECs have also been holding preliminary discussions. However, the talks appear to be doomed once again after Mr Masoetsa this week told the Lesotho Times that the two factions failed to agree on any of the sticking points on Monday.

The new NEC was represented at the talks by Prof Mahao, Mr Masoetsa, Mr Hlaele, incoming chairperson, Samuel Rapapa and deputy spokesperson, ’Matebatso Doti.

“Both factions were represented at the talks held at the government complex, but unfortunately the other team (old NEC) comprising of Samonyane Ntsekele, Motlohi Maliehe, Futho Hoohlo, Kemiso Mosenene and Makhetha Motšoari did not have an agenda,” Mr Masoetsa said.

“They told us they had just called us because the leader (Dr Thabane) had directed to do so but they didn’t have an agenda for the talks. However, they seemed to be keen to only talk about the competing rallies that were being held by the leader and his deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao. They want the new NEC to stop holding competing rallies. We derive our mandate from the masses and we can’t just agree to stop our rallies and hold a joint rally without the voters’ consent.”

Mr Masoetsa further said the trio of Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane also participated in this week’s failed talks as the new NEC sought to persuade them to withdraw their court challenge.

“We (new NEC) had asked that the applicants (in the ABC court case) be present at the talks because the talks were centred on that matter but the trio said they did not understand the relevance of their case in the talks. They made it very clear that they are not willing to withdraw their court challenge and reach an amicable solution.

“Once they made it clear that they were not ready to have positive talks we recused them. We tabled our issue which has always been that we want acceptance and access to the ABC office. The other side regarded this as a far-fetched wish hence the talks collapsed. It is now left for the leader (Dr Thabane) to intervene and re-ignite the talks.

“The leader had said that should the talks have hiccups he would be readily available to intervene and it is exactly what we are banking on because he was not there yesterday. We are hopeful that next week on Tuesday he will intervene and show us the way forward,” added Mr Masoetsa.

Meanwhile, Prof Mahao said he could not discuss the details regarding the meeting because Dr Thabane had ordered him not to talk to the media.

Mr Ntsekele echoed Prof Mahao’s sentiments, saying the details of the meeting could not be discussed with the media. “I can only confirm that the meeting was held as planned but I can’t divulge anything about what was discussed as the leader directed that we should not talk to the media. The talks are ongoing and that is all I can say,” Mr Ntsekele said.

The two factions will continue holding parallel rallies with Dr Thabane expected to address party supporters in Taung (Mohale’s Hoek) while Prof Mahao will be in Pela-Tšoeu (Leribe). Both rallies are scheduled to be held on Sunday.

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