Disgruntled ABC legislators push for BNP, RCL ouster from govt
vow to bring down govt if their demands are not met
NEWLY appointed Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro faces a revolt from ABC legislators who are unhappy over the inclusion of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leaders in the new cabinet.
The ABC legislators, who include former Local Government and Chieftainship minister Mahala Molapo and former ABC parliamentary caucus chairperson Fako Moshoeshoe, are said to be aggrieved with the inclusion of BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, his deputy Machesetsa Mofomobe and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo.
They vowed to start a new political war to bring down the Majoro coalition if their grievances are not addressed soon.
One of the aggrieved MPs, Tšoana-Makhulo legislator Tšoeu Molise, claimed this week the disgruntled MPs numbered 26, a very significant figure if it is accurate.
Dr Majoro replaced ABC leader Thomas Thabane as prime minister on 20 May 2020. A day later he reappointed Chief ‘Maseribane and Ms Rantšo to their old posts of Communications, Science and Technology as well as Labour and Employment ministers respectively. Mr Mofomobe was moved from deputy minister of Home Affairs to that of deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations.
Dr Majoro included the trio in his government in recognition of their role as traditional allies of the ABC but this has not gone down well with at least half of the ABC’s 53 legislators. They feel that the new government would still be stable even without the BNP and RCL, according to Mr Molise.
The ABC and DC jointly have 78 seats in parliament and this, Mr Molise says, means the BNP and RCL are not needed and therefore should not be given any cabinet posts ahead of ABC MPs.
The BNP, RCL, Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) are all among smaller parties whose leaders have been rewarded with cabinet portfolios for their support for the ABC-DC coalition.
Initially the ABC’s NEC’s 3 April 2020 agreement with the DC to form a new government was only supported by 34 ABC legislators. The DC has 26 legislators and therefore the ABC’s NEC had to negotiate with other parties including the BNP (five seats) and RCL (one seat) to give them the numbers to meet the 61-seat threshold required to form a new government.
Other parties including the MEC (six seats), PFD (three seats), all expressed their support for the ABC-DC coalition. Cornered and left without a choice, Mr Thabane and his ABC allies eventually endorsed the ABC-DC deal on 11 May 2020. If Mr Thabane’s retreat to support the new coalition had been backed by all ABC MPs, the new ABC-DC coalition would have been easily formed by the two parties without the support of other smaller parties. But that was by no means clear as some of the ABC MPs pledged their support for the new coalition only on condition that it was led by Mr Thabane.
Dr Majoro proceeded to appoint a cabinet which included leaders and key members of other parties that had endorsed his candidature. But while no objections have been raised against the appointments of PDF and MEC leaders, who are perceived to be allies of the DC, the ABC legislators are not happy with the inclusion of BNP and RCL leaders yet these are the party’s traditional allies.
When the Lesotho Times initially broke the story of the story of the ABC legislators’ disgruntlement, the exact number was not clear and it only appeared Messrs Fako and Mohale’s Hoek, legislator, Selemo Mangobe, were the notable figures in the campaign to cut ties with the BNP and RCL.
But fresh information suggests the number is actually increasing, with Mr Molise claiming as many as 26 ABC legislators are aggrieved. That is a significant number to cause problems for Dr Majoro if they all act with a common purpose.
Mr Molise said he and his colleagues were of the view that the ABC and DC did not need the BNP and RCL as they had “more than enough seats” to form a government on their own.
The ministerial posts given to the BNP and RCL should thus be reclaimed and given to ABC loyalists “who could be trusted to ensure efficient service delivery”.
“It is true that I am one of the 26 ABC MPs who want the BNP and RCL out of this government,” Mr Molise said.
“There is no way ‘M’e Keke (Rantšo) can be a minister in an ABC-DC government when the Taung constituency rejected her in favour of the ABC’s Ntate Mangobe (in the 2017 elections). She cannot be minister when the Taung MP (Mangobe) is not one.
He grumbled that the ABC’s NEC appeared unmoved by their complaints and warned that as more disgruntled ABC legislators continued to join them, they would master a huge enough majority to oust Dr Majoro.
“It is easy to destabilise the government. Remember that the Mahao faction which was initially made up of 17 MPs, managed to topple the government. How difficult can it be for us then when we have more MPs?
“Some of the ABC MPs were not supporting our cause before all the ministers were announced. Some like Ntate Prince Maliehe attended our meetings but he has stopped after he was miraculously appointed a minister (Defence and National Security). Those who were not attending hoping they would be appointed ministers (but were not) are now attending our meetings.
“Once we are done with the processes of approving the budget, the gloves will be off,” Mr Molise promised.
Bobatsi constituency MP, Sello Mooki, who is among the dejected ABC legislators, said the 26 ABC had raised their grievances at a meeting with the NEC on Monday 25 May 2020.
“Ntate Mahala (Molapo) was the one who spoke on our behalf at the caucus meeting. We seconded him and made it clear that the BNP and RCL should be kicked out of government.
“Some of the legislators who are former ministers joined in and supported us. The new ministers remained quiet throughout but as the numbers of disgruntled MPs increased, it was eventually agreed (that the BNP and RCL should be kicked out).
“The secretary general (Mr Hlaele) replied by saying the NEC had heard our concerns and asked for time to communicate our decision to the BNP and RCL,” Mr Mooki said.
He said they were later angered to hear ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa saying the NEC would not bow down to the demands to kick out the BNP and RCL.
“He (Mr Masoetsa) told those who were unhappy with the presence of the BNP and RCL in this government to leave the party. He said the ABC could do without them,” Mr Mooki said, adding the disgruntled MPs would meet again this week to chart a way forward.
“I cannot go into details but we want the BNP and RCL out. Refusing to let go of the two parties is declaring war on us and we are not afraid to start a new political war. We expect to win this fight. A political game is based on numbers and we have numbers,” Mr Mooki said.
Contacted for comment, Mr Hlaele this week said it was not true that the caucus meeting resolved to kick the BNP and RCL out of the government.
“It is untrue that we made a decision to kick the two parties out. They are our allies and we cannot just kick them out.
“There will always be issues of concern. We will deal with them as they come but you must know that unifying the party is not an overnight process. It is a slow process,” Mr Hlaele said.
The situation is reminiscent of the one that faced former Prime Minister Thabane when he came to power in June 2017.
Back then, legislators from the Berea district expressed their anger with Mr Thabane over the fact that only one of their number, Habofanoe Lehana of the Khafung constituency, had been given a ministerial position.
This was despite that the district had given the ABC its second biggest area electoral wins with nine seats out of the 11 contested in that district. The ABC’s biggest win was in the Maseru district where it won 15 of the 18 contested seats.
Meanwhile, Ms Rantšo yesterday said she was unable to comment on the matter due to time constraints.
Repeated efforts to obtain comment from the BNP leaders were unsuccessful.