Billy faces axe

Powerful ABC clique wants No 3 man out

 

MASERU — A powerful clique within the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party is mulling a plan to topple secretary-general Macaefa Billy from his post when the party holds its annual general conference next month.

Informed sources within the party said there were covert manoeuvres by an influential clique linked to party leader Thomas Thabane to topple Billy from his position.

Sources within the ABC said the move was a culmination of a fallout between Billy and Thabane.

If the secret plan succeeds Billy will be replaced by current ABC secretary for information and publicity Thabo Thakalekoala when the conference convenes in August.

Lerotholi Pheko — a member of Thabane’s inner circle — is also believed to be eyeing Billy’s post.

The group pushing for Billy’s ouster accuses him of failing to improve the fortunes of the opposition party since his election to the powerful post in 2008.

A senior ABC official, who spoke to the Lesotho Times on condition of anonymity, confirmed there was a plot to kick out Billy.

“I can tell you that the ABC is going to hold a special annual general conference and that the main item on the agenda will be the removal of party secretary-general Macaefa Billy from his post,” the official said.

Sources in the ABC said since his election Billy had made a series of decisions which had proved unpopular with Thabane.

“In his attempt to straighten out what he called outstanding administrative irregularities, he ended up stepping on Thabane’s toes,” a source said.

Billy — who was elected secretary-general to strengthen an alliance between the ABC and the Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) — is accused of failing to make the alliance work to the advantage of the opposition party.

The clique, made up of some ABC bigwigs and members of Thabane’s inner circle, also accuses LWP national executive members of disrespecting Thabane.

“The LWP executive committee has also on numerous occasions belittled Thabane and the leader has for a while been working out a strategy to get rid of Billy,” a source said.

 

Billy is the president of the LWP and he represents the party in the shaky alliance.

A member of the group lobbying for Billy’s ouster attributed the ABC’s dismal performance in the May 22 parliamentary by-elections to Billy’s “incompetence and failure to develop strong party structures at constituency and branch levels”.

“He is clueless about what is expected of him,” the senior ABC official said.

“He has failed to organise even a mere annual general conference for the ABC. He has not provided an explanation to date.”

The ABC failed to hold its annual general meeting which was due in January.

Billy – who is known to wield a lot of influence in the ABC youth league – is also suspected of masterminding a rebellion against Thabane in February this year by party youths at a rally in Likhoele in Mafeteng district.

The youths disrupted Thabane’s speech at the rally in a bid to force the ABC leader to fire his personal secretary, ‘Malehloka Ralitapole, who, sources said, does not see eye to eye with Billy.

The rally was abandoned after the party youths threatened violence.

The following day the angry youths marched to the party’s headquarters in Maseru where they blocked entrance to the party offices to pressure Thabane to comply with their demands.

Ralitapole – who was not in the ABC structures but was heavily involved in the party’s administration – was subsequently removed from ABC offices but retained as Thabane’s personal secretary.

That incident, sources said, further widened the rift between Billy and Thabane.

Speculation is rife that the ABC-LWP alliance has been unstable as the workers’ party has persistently complained of being treated like a junior partner in the coalition.

LWP secretary-general Rosa Lenea recently wrote to Thabane requesting a meeting between the leadership of the two political parties to discuss the wobbly coalition.

In a letter dated June 18 and copied to the ABC national executive, women and youth league committees, Lenea accused the ABC leadership of ignoring calls by the LWP for a meeting to evaluate the alliance.

“. . . we have written a series of letters requesting meetings between the two parties’ committees . . . but to date there has been no clear mode of operation,” part of the letter reads.

In the letter the LWP claims that previous meetings between the two alliance partners have failed to agree on the way forward.

“This has been due to the fact that on the more than three occasions that we had meetings we were unable to forge the way forward,” the letter says.

However, sources said the plan to oust Billy could hit a brick-wall as the ABC constitution does not provide for a no-confidence vote.

“It might prove tricky for the plan to go smoothly because the ABC constitution does not provide for a no-confidence vote,” a source said.

The sources said the committee tasked with organising the ABC conference had also been asked to explore ways of removing Billy from his post.

When contacted for comment on Tuesday, Thabane confirmed that the ABC was planning to hold an annual general conference.

However, he vehemently denied that there was a plot to oust Billy.

“I do not know anything about that,” Thabane said.

“Why would recalling people feature prominently on our agenda when we have so many pressing issues at hand?”

But the ABC founder said it would not surprise him if anyone was recalled by the party.

“People have been recalled before, but there was no noise made about that,” he said.

“If people are recalled this time, it would not be a miracle if it happens.”

Billy professed ignorance of any plan by a group within the ABC to topple him.

“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Billy said.

“This is the first time I am hearing about it. I am not aware there are people planning to topple me.”

Asked what he would do if such a motion was moved at next month’s annual conference the former trade unionist said he would obey the wishes of the majority.

“If the majority suggests that I step down from that position, I think I will do so gracefully,” he said.

Billy was elected secretary-general at the party’s first elective conference in December 2008 with the support of Thabane who considered him a strategic ally at the time.

The ABC had until then been led by an interim committee elected at the party’s formation in October 2006.

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