ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane used his first public address since last month’s disputed ABC national executive committee (NEC) elections to remind party supporters that he remained the undisputed leader of the fractious party.
Dr Thabane also appealed for calm and implored the ABC members to desist from attacking each other in the media and wait for the courts to decide on the validity of the polls outcome which has split the party into two warring factions.
Yesterday the High Court began hearing an application by three ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe) seeking the nullification of the results of the party’s February elective conference.
Dr Thabane said if unchecked, the mudslinging among ABC officials could end up splitting the party which has recorded exponential growth since its formation in 2006.
One faction is composed of members of the outgoing NEC and it has refused to hand over power to the newly elected officials citing serious irregularities in the conduct of the 1 and 2 February 2019 party polls.
The other faction consists of the new NEC which is led by National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao who won the powerful post of deputy leader which puts him in good stead to succeed Dr Thabane when he eventually decides to leave office.
Although Dr Thabane’s position was not up for grabs at the elective conference some senior ABC members including the outgoing ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela have accused Prof Mahao of behaving as though he was the leader of the ABC. Mr Mapesela recently told the Lesotho Times’ sister Sunday Express publication that Prof Mahao was “behaving like a leader of the party and his speeches at his rallies resemble those of a party leader, not a deputy leader”.
Speaking on Sunday at a rally in Likhoele, Mafeteng on the same day that Prof Mahao and his followers addressed their own rally in Mafeteng, the outgoing ABC chairperson Motlohi Maliehe also accused Prof Mahao of being a “rebel” who was bent on undermining Dr Thabane and destabilising the ABC.
Mr Maliehe said Prof Mahao had demonstrated his rebellious streak by holding a rally on the same day that Dr Thabane was addressing another one in Mafeteng.
Addressing the same Likhoele rally on Sunday, Dr Thabane told ABC supporters that he remained the undisputed leader of the ABC member until the “right time” for him to step down.
“I hear that people are talking about leadership. I am the only leader of the ABC until my time comes to step down. When the time comes, I will step down and go to my place in Makhoakhoaeng, Ha Abia. But when I do so people will come and beg me to come back,” Dr Thabane said without elaborating.
He also appealed to “fellow ABC members to leave the court case (challenging the NEC elections) in the capable hands of the courts and desist from attacking each other on radio and social media platforms.
“Attacking each other on radio stations will not benefit this party. Instead it will lead to a split. When the party grows the challenges also grow. Everywhere where there are people there will also be different opinions. So, we need to find ways that will allow us to work amicably and we can pass this phase (of the current infighting) by avoiding hate speeches and mudslinging.
“When I officiated at the NEC elective conference on 1 February, I made it clear that the elections did not mean war but they were a way of enabling party members to express their views on a certain issue.
“Since the establishment of the ABC in 2006, it is a known fact that the party has remained united even when we go for elections but if we don’t remain united, we will not achieve our ultimate goal of winning with greater numbers (in national elections). The party’s performance will deteriorate.”
Dr Thabane said Basotho voted the ABC into government because they wanted to be rescued from the huge challenges they were faced with. He said they could not afford to continue fighting among themselves and look the other way when the nation was confronted by the serious challenges of poverty and hunger.
“We cannot blindfold ourselves so that we fail to see that the nation is in a crisis. When we live here today and go our separate ways, let us begin a new chapter which will build our party so that it will be able to serve its main purpose of fighting the scourges of poverty and hunger among Basotho.
“To the ABC members of parliament, Basotho voted for you because of the trust they have in you. So, let us all work hard to serve Basotho. You have been entrusted to look after the lives of poor people. I therefore take this opportunity to ask those in ministerial positions to work together to find long-term solutions to the problems faced by Basotho,” Dr Thabane said.
The rally was graced by 26 ABC members of parliament most of them, cabinet ministers and it attracted thousands of ABC supporters from different districts. Many of the supporters took advantage of the free transport in the form of 30 buses, 10 mini-buses and numerous private vehicles to attend the rally.