Fed up ABC demands Thabane steps down now

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  • as premier’s plot to ease way for Moleleki to succeed him infuriates ruling party

’Marafaele Mohloboli

OUTGOING Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party says it is fed up with the premier’s “scheming and delaying tactics”.

The party is thus giving him until today to step down failing which they will go ahead and name their preferred successor without further ado.

The party’s ultimatum comes as it emerged the police have charged the beleaguered Prime Minister with the murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo, and are now due to take him to court for his first appearance in the case in which his current wife, First Lady ’Maesaiah, has already been bailed.

ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said they would resist Dr Thabane and his close allies’ “scheming to hijack the succession from the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC)” and replace him with Alliance of Democrats (AD) leader and Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki.

Mr Masoetsa said they had been reliably informed that Dr Thabane, Mr Moleleki and the premier’s close ally, Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, had on Monday met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s representatives to brief him on their plans to have Mr Moleleki succeed Dr Thabane.

He said Thabane loyalists, like Mr Ntsekele, were pushing for Mr Moleleki because the deputy prime minister was allegedly amenable to a blanket amnesty for the withdrawal of charges against the murder-accused First Lady and other high-profile criminal suspects like former army commander, Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Tlali Kamoli. Dr Thabane would also benefit from the amnesty if the police proceed to charge him as expected.

Mr Masoetsa however said the ABC would resist any moves to appoint Mr Moleleki and to legislate a general amnesty for everyone implicated in serious crimes and human rights violations. He said the party was giving Dr Thabane until today to step down. The ABC would also seek to announce its preferred choice of successor soonest.  Even though Dr Thabane has long announced his decision to step down, he has not indicated when he will actually go, with his allies said to be pushing for him to stay in power for as long as six months or even recant his retirement plans altogether. However, the tide now seems to be firmly against the premier with his departure all but certain.

“It has been confirmed that Ntate Thabane had a meeting with President Ramaphosa’s representative, Jeff Radebe. He (Dr Thabane) was accompanied to that meeting by his right-hand man, Samonyane Ntsekele and Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki,” Mr Masoetsa told this publication.

“Last week we heard rumours that there would be such a meeting whose agenda would be a general amnesty (for the Thabanes and other high-profile criminal suspects like Lt-Gen Kamoli) and for Moleleki to take over. This is despite an exercise by the (ABC) party to come up with its preferred candidate to take over from Ntate Thabane.

“We are not going to entertain their proposals for a general amnesty because this is motivated by a desire to avoid prosecution. All three of them (Thabane, Moleleki and Ntsekele) are supposed to be included in the amnesty but that is out of the question because SADC made it very clear that there should be thorough investigations of those who committed crimes followed by prosecution in the courts of law. The freeing of suspects should not be a decision of politicians but courts of law.

“The opposition attempted to free its members who are suspected of serious crimes citing clause 10 (of the inter-party agreement of 2018 which paved the way for the commencement of the processes towards the implementation of the multi-sector reforms) but this was successfully challenged in the courts.

“In the same vein, SADC helped recruit some judges to preside over these cases including that of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who remains in custody. It should therefore be clear to everyone that South Africa and its president cannot do anything in contravention of the SADC decisions

“The fact that Ntate Thabane didn’t raise the issue of his planned meeting with Mr Ramaphosa’s representatives with us as a party means that he is out there representing his own interests and not those of the party and government.

“We are giving him until today to step down. Even if he doesn’t, the NEC will go ahead and announce the preferred candidate to succeed him,” Mr Masoetsa said.

However, ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele said a high-powered ABC delegation comprising of deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao, deputy spokesperson ‘Matebatso Doti and women’s league chairperson ‘Malelaka Lehohla had been tasked to meet Dr Thabane today to find out his position regarding his departure now that parliament was about to open tomorrow. He said the party’s NEC would meet later today for a decision after receiving a report from the trio regarding Dr Thabane’s retirement plans.

“He (Dr Thabane) has to communicate his position with the party because we don’t want any surprises when parliament opens on Friday. We also hope that meeting Dr Thabane will speak on the rumours that we have heard of his meeting the South African president’s representatives.

“The NEC will meet later in the day and it will discuss the outcome of the ABC delegation’s meeting with the leader. We met on Monday but we did not finalise anything regarding the succession and hopefully we will be able to do so in tomorrow’s (today’s) NEC meeting,” Mr Hlaele said in an interview yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mr Masoetsa took a swipe at Mr Moleleki for meeting Mr Ramaphosa’s representatives “behind the ABC’s back” even though the DPM was “fully aware” of the party’s meetings and consultations over Dr Thabane’s successor.

“The whole episode also raises questions on the reliability and the genuineness of the deputy prime minister in this coalition partnership.

“He (Mr Moleleki) knew about their meeting (with Mr Ramaphosa’s representatives) but did not even raise this issue with us as the ABC’s NEC. He did not even inform the other coalition partners (Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho). Now the million-dollar question is what other things is he (Mr Moleleki) doing behind our backs? This means that he is also taking advantage of our leader’s vulnerability.”

Mr Masoetsa said the ABC’s NEC had resolved that they would not allow Dr Thabane, his allies and Mr Moleleki to hijack the succession. Hence the NEC wanted the premier to quit now. He said the NEC would also announce the name of its preferred candidate and inform the Speaker of the National Assembly, Sephiri Motanyane, of their choice when parliament opens tomorrow.

As soon as Mr Motanyane is informed of the ABC and their coalition allies’ preferred successor, he is duty bound to inform the Council of State which in turn advises the King to appoint the preferred candidate the next prime minister.

Given the emerging tensions within both the ABC and against the AD, it remains to be seen whether any preferred ABC candidate will garner the necessary support to become the next premier. Indications are that the process is unlikely to be smooth.

With its 53 seats, the ABC lacks the majority and needs the support of its coalition partners to achieve the 61-seat threshold required to form government or provide a successor to Dr Thabane. The Thesele Maseribane-led Basotho BNP has five seats while the Keketso Rantšo-led RCL has only one.  With these two coalition partners, the ABC can only muster 59 seats and this therefore means that it still needs the AD’s 11 seats to surpass the 61-seat threshold.

Given this background, Mr Masoetsa and his NEC colleagues would have to make peace with the AD and secure its cooperation in the succession plans.

While admitting that Mr Moleleki and Dr Thabane travelled to South Africa to meet some government officials in that country, AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo said Mr Masoetsa accusations were “unfair on our leader”.

“My leader (Mr Moleleki) is not answerable to any of the coalition partners except his own party, the AD. He has no obligation to report anything to ABC, the RCL and the BNP.

“He did his part and reported to his party and that’s enough. Expecting him to report to all these other parties is quite unfair. I think they (ABC) are being disrespectful of our leader and we won’t tolerate that.

“I recently mentioned (to this publication) that both the prime minister and his deputy (Mr Moleleki) would soon go on a trip to South Africa but my leader cannot report on the outcome of that trip to the ABC nor would the prime minister report to the AD. Ntate Moleleki is the leader of AD alone and expecting him to report to all these other parties would be burdening him.

Ntate Moleleki looks up to Ntate Thabane as his prime minister and coalition partner but it is really unfair and disrespectful for the ABC to blame my leader for Ntate Thabane’s failure to communicate with his own party,” said Mr Litjobo.

 

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