FORMER All Basotho Convention (ABC) women’s league boss, Mookho Mathibeli, last week became the latest high profile opposition official to dump the embattled party.
Mathibeli, who was controversially suspended from her post last year for alleged insubordination, rejoined the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
She became the sixth senior ABC official to quit the opposition party over the past eight months.
Mathibeli joins a growing club of the likes of Lehlohonolo Tsehlana, Eliabe Mokhanoi and Nkhetse Monyalotsa who walked away from the ABC over the past few months.
Tsehlana and Mokhanoi formed Senkatana party while Monyalotsa traced his roots back to the LCD.
The defections are the clearest signal yet that the opposition forces in Lesotho are in complete turmoil.
The ABC is the biggest opposition party in Lesotho which at its peak in 2007 won 17 seats in parliament. The party has a massive following in urban areas.
The defections have the potential of slowly weakening the party’s support base and spell doom for the party’s prospects at the next polls in 2012.
The high profile defections that we have witnessed over the past eight months raise critical questions that demand answers.
Do these defections spell the end of the road for Tom Thabane and the ABC?
If the ABC crumbles, as we genuinely fear it will, what would be the implications for democracy in Lesotho?
Could it be that the LCD is using underhand tactics to lure these disgruntled elements away from the ABC?
Is Thabane himself pressing the self-destruct button?
We have unfortunately watched the ABC lurch from one major crisis to another since the party’s formation three years ago.
Metaphorically speaking the party appears pinned to the ropes enduring blow after blow from an “invisible” enemy.
The party’s leadership appears completely dazed.
The ruling party is circling in for the kill – ready to deliver the final blow that will knock the opposition party to the floor.
From the first resignation that we saw last October the ABC appeared completely unprepared judging from its response to the crisis.
What we saw was a leadership that refused to accept that it was facing a crisis.
Thabane defiantly responded that he was simply not bothered by the resignations. That kind of reaction did not help matters.
In our opinion Thabane was wrong, is still wrong and the least that he can do is to acknowledge that he has a crisis on his hands.
The party that he built with his own sweat is staring collapse in the face. The party has reached cross-roads and needs level heads to deal with the current challenges.
Surely all these people who are quitting his party cannot all be wrong and him alone being right.
The message that should be clear to Thabane is that without a complete make-over his party is ruined. The writing is on the wall.
At 70, Thabane is no longer a young man. He will be 73 at the next elections in 2012.
Could this not be the time to hand over the baton to a younger cadre with fresh ideas to regenerate the fledgling opposition party?
Political parties that have created a cult of the leader and refused to renew themselves at the leadership level have not survived anywhere in the world.
There are numerous examples to back up this statement. For instance, the late Malawian dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda was closely connected to his ruling Malawi Congress Party.
With Banda’s death in November 1997, the Malawi Congress Party is now a shadow of its former self.
Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP) in Zambia also suffered the same fate. When Kaunda was kicked out of power in 1991 the party virtually died with him.
We would certainly not want the ABC to die leaving the LCD as a monolithic political entity across the country.
Such a scenario is not healthy for democracy. We need a vibrant opposition party that can keep the ruling party in check.