‘Forgive my prodigal son’

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…father slams deputy minister Tsatsanyane for choosing ‘Thabane faction’ in ABC war

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE raging war for the control of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party appears to have divided families with party stalwart Moeketsi Tsatsanyane publicly lambasting his son, the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Mokherane Tsatsanyane, for siding with the old national executive committee (NEC) faction believed to be backed by ABC leader Thomas Thabane.

Mr Tsatsanyane said the deputy minister had become a “prodigal son” after choosing the outgoing ABC national executive committee (NEC) faction over the new NEC which has National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao in its ranks as the deputy leader.

The senior Tsatsanyane, who is credited with persuading Prof Mahao to contest in the party’s hotly disputed 1 and 2 February NEC elections where he won the deputy leader’s post, said his son and all other party members had merely “gone with the wind” when they sided with the old ABC’s NEC. Mr Tsatsanyane senior said just like the biblical prodigal son, his son would eventually “return home” to the Mahao faction “once the storm had died down”.

He said this while addressing thousands of ABC supporters at a rally in the Berea 27 constituency. Held on the same day as the old NEC’s rally in Mafeteng which was graced Dr Thabane, the Berea rally was attended by Prof Mahao and other senior ABC officials who are said to be backing him to eventually succeed Dr Thabane. The Berea rally attracted former ministers Nyapane Kaya (Health), ‘Matebatso Doti (Social Development), Lebohang Hlaele (Law and Constitutional Affairs), Sentje Lebona (Defence and National Security), and ABC legislators Samuel Rapapa and Sello Maphalla.

A power struggle has rocked the ABC in the run up to and aftermath of the party’s 1 and 2 February NEC elections. The old NEC which is believed to enjoy Dr Thabane’s backing has dug in and refused to hand over power to the new NEC.

The old NEC alleges that the elections which ushered in Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC were marred by vote rigging and other serious irregularities.

The new NEC have not been able to assume office after their election was challenged by three ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe) on the grounds of the alleged serious irregularities.

A fortnight ago, the Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase gave the two ABC factions until 19 March 2019 to resolve their differences which threaten to split the party and even bring down the current coalition government.

Justice Mahase issued the order after the two ABC factions consented to talks aimed at reaching an out of court settlement.

The talks have however, failed to materialise and the issue will now be resolved in court beginning this week as per Justice Mahase’s court order. A verdict will then be delivered on 29 March 2019.

Instead of talking to each other the two ABC factions have been taking their war to the different constituencies and holding simultaneous competing rallies as was the case on Sunday in Berea and Mafeteng.

The rallies have also exposed how the factionalism has crept into households and divided some families. An example of this is in the Tsatsanyane family where the elder Tsatsanyane and his son who was recently appointed deputy minister last December have opted to back different sides.

Addressing the Mahao supporters in Berea, Mr Tsatsanyane senior attacked his son and other ABC supporters who backed the old NEC, saying they had “followed the wind and they would eventually come home when the storm in the party subsided”.

He appealed to the Mahao faction to forgive his son and said when he finally saw reason, the Mahao camp should welcome him into their fold with open arms.

He further said the party members made their choice when they voted in the new NEC and it was only right to allow them to assume office because anything other course of action would be “lunatic and undemocratic behaviour”.

“The people have chosen who they want to lead the ABC,” the outspoken senior Tsatsanyane said.

“Now we have this group of lunatics (who do not want to vacate the NEC office) but they will come around.

“I am one of those who are praying for order in the ABC, more so because my son, Mokherane, is part of those who are immersed in the storm of confusion. I have faith that he will soon see the light.

“I appeal to you Makobo-Tata (ABC members) that when he finally comes back with his head bowed down and he confesses to be the prodigal son, you will welcome him back,” Mr Tsatsanyane senior said.

A party stalwart since the launch of the ABC in 2006, Mr Tsatsanyane senior has been credited by none other Prof Mahao himself for persuading the latter to contest in the ABC’s NEC elections.

Prof Mahao told a recent rally in the Koro-koro constituency that he was at his home reading newspapers in 2016 when Mr Tsatsanyane senior approached him to consider standing for the deputy leader’s post in the ABC.

“I am not used talking about people when they are not around but it was in 2016 on a Sunday and I was sitting in my house reading newspapers when I received a phone call from someone asking if they can visit me.

“I invited him to come and when he came, he introduced himself as Moeketsi Tsatsanyane. He said ‘Ntate Mahao I have come to propose that you become a candidate for the deputy leader position’.

“So, when a certain member of parliament (Mr Tsatsanyane junior) claims that he does not know Nqosa Mahao, I will simply say that at least his father knows me and I am where I am today because his parent is one of the people that encouraged me to contest the elections. It is against this background that I thank you Ntate Chaltin and many other people that encouraged me to contest the elections. I also thank all the constituencies that voted this new committee into power,” Prof Mahao told the Koro-koro rally that was also attended by Mr Tsatsanyane senior.

And on Sunday in Berea, the senior Tsatsanyane said that it was disheartening that the old NEC was resistant to change and clinging onto power even when the party members had chosen those that they wanted to lead the party.

He added that the unrest in the party was preventing it from implementing socio-development programmes that the nation hoped for from an ABC government.

“The ABC was formed at a time when people wanted change. We have failed to implement change because our leaders want to impose themselves and cut off those that the people have chosen. The people have spoken and this is the right time to give them the change that they want. Come the 29th of March (when the High Court rules on the ABC’s NEC dispute), the democratically elected NEC shall be in the office where they belong,” Mr Tsatsanyane senior said.

He said that it was high time that Basotho resisted the “bad habit” where leaders imposed themselves without any regard for the choices of the electorate.

“Political leaders in Lesotho have a bad history of not honouring democratic choices of the electorate. It is time we stood against that habit and perpetuate democracy.  Your presence here proves that you care about democracy. In a democratic dispensation, the majority rules. The majority has spoken and they want Prof Mahao and company in the NEC.

“Prof Mahao was scouted into running for the deputy leadership. He did not impose himself on the ABC. He is the kind of leader we want for this party and for the country,” Mr Tsatsanyane senior said.

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