Knives out for Rapapa
- as another power struggle breaks out in the ABC,
- ABC chair accuses Thabane, Hlaele, Phori and Masoetsa of plotting his ouster.
ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) chairperson Samuel Rapapa has sensationally accused party leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane of plotting with party secretary general Lebohang Hlaele, deputy chairperson Chalane Phori and spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa to thwart his leadership ambitions.
Mr Rapapa, who has never made a secret of his ambitions to succeed Mr Thabane, said the former premier and his alleged co-conspirators, were intimidated by him because they were well aware that he stood a good chance of ascending to the top party job once Mr Thabane calls it a day.
The 82-year-old Thabane still has three more years as party leader. This after his re-election for a fresh mandate at the ABC’s February 2019 elective conference. The same conference re-elected Messrs Rapapa, Hlaele, Phori, Masoetsa and others to their current national executive committee (NEC) posts.
They were elected alongside Nqosa Mahao, who was deputy leader until he dumped the ABC this April to form the Basotho Action Party (BAP). Prof Mahao, who was subsequently fired from his post as Justice and Law minister, said he had decided to jump ship after learning of a plot involving Messrs Thabane, Hlaele and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to oust him from the ABC. He left with nine ABC MPs including former ministers Motlatsi Maqelepo (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation), ‘Mamoipone Senauoane (Police and Public Safety) and Deputy Minister of Health Nto Moakhi.
Incidentally, Mr Rapapa is now being accused of being a Mahao loyalist who is working to destroy the ABC from within. Authoritative ABC sources this week told the Lesotho Times that he was even using his cabinet post to campaign for Prof Mahao’s BAP. The sources said that Mr Rapapa would eventually defect to take up a leadership post in the BAP.
Mr Rapapa has however, rubbished the allegations. He said there was no way he could leave the well-established ABC for the fledgling BAP. After all he was third in command and still harboured ambitions of taking over as ABC leader, he said.
The Mosalemane legislator said he was fully focused on his “war” with Dr Majoro and Mr Hlaele for the top ABC post to even thinking about jumping ship.
But the ABC sources say Mr Rapapa is only bidding his time before dumping the party. They accuse him of using a private radio station, Tšenolo FM, to campaign for the BAP. The station’s owner, Mohau Kobile, is doing Mr Rapapa’s bidding as he is beholden to the latter for renewing his contract in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy, the sources claim.
His contract as a commissioner was renewed by Mr Rapapa during the latter’s time as local government minister last year. Mr Rapapa served in the local government portfolio from May 2020 until his June 2021 redeployment to the Communications, Science and Technology ministry.
Mr Kobile was initially engaged in 2017 by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties coalition. When his contract ended last year, Mr Rapapa renewed it on the grounds that this would enable the ABC to have control over his radio station.
However, the move was not well received by ABC members who accuse Mr Rapapa of dishing out posts to members of the congress parties. Current local government minister, Lehlohonolo Moramotse, is now locked in a court battle with Mr Kobile who is challenging his dismissal last month.
“Rapapa remains a Mahao loyalist and he is even using government resources to campaign for the BAP,” an ABC source said.
“He even renewed Kobile’s contract and the latter has been using his radio station to attack the ABC and give the BAP positive publicity under Rapapa’s instructions.”
However, Mr Rapapa rubbished the allegations in an interview with this publication.
He said he was preoccupied with his own war within the ABC to even think of anything else. He said those accusing him were basing their arguments on the good relationship he enjoyed with Prof Mahao before the latter dumped the ABC.
“I cannot deny that Mahao and I fought so many fights from the same corner but this time he is fighting his own war and I am fighting mine,” Mr Rapapa said.
“I cannot leave a big party like Kobotata which was formed in 2006 to follow a politician who formed a party just 16 months before the elections.
“I am fighting my own war within the ABC. Right now, I am fighting Hlaele and his camp which includes the likes of Thabane, Phori and Masoetsa who are always plotting against me. They complain that Rapapa is in Thaba-Tseka and Mokhotlong and as soon as he is done with government business, he engages in politics and he must be stopped.
“So, I have to fight such things because I want to become the leader of this party (ABC). I also want to retain my constituency seat.
“But they (Thabane, Hlaele, Masoetsa and Phori) are saying I must not win the elections in Mosalemane. Some Kobotata members say Majoro must become the leader and others want Hlaele. Therefore, you can’t tell me there is no war there when we all want to lead this party. I have never hidden my ambitions. From day one, I said that I want to lead this party,” Mr Rapapa said.
In an unwitting exposition of the jobs-for-the boys’ scourge which has afflicted recruitment to civil service jobs, Mr Rapapa said he only renewed Mr Kobile’s contract to enable the ABC to enjoy the support of his radio station.
He said Mr Kobile is a former ABC member who previously campaigned hard for the party in Bloemfontein alongside the late Harvest FM manager, Reverend Adam Lekhoaba. He said after Mr Kobile left the party, he started promoting Mr Mosisili on his radio station.
“Today, they say he (Kobile) moves in the same circles with the likes of (Alliance of Democrats leader Monyane) Moleleki. When I analysed issues, I conclude that the ABC no longer had the support of Harvest FM because its owner (United for Change leader ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba) formed her own party.
“We no longer have any radio station that supports us because 357 FM is used by the congress parties to attack us. When you listen to Moafrika FM, it is always attacking Kobotata and when you listen to ACL FM, it is defending the congress movement. PC FM does not support us, it is a lukewarm station. So, I thought we should have power over him (Kobile) and tell him he is out of order and he will be fired (if Tšenolo FM attacks the ABC).
“I extended his contract and in return he would give Kobotata members inside information about the congress parties because he was appointed by (former Local Government Minister) Pontšo Sekatle who was then in the congress movement,” Mr Rapapa said.
He said he remained a loyal ABC member and he would not abandon it for the BAP.
He said he was initially bitter with Mr Thabane for pushing for Dr Majoro to succeed him as party leader.
“I joined Kobotata (ABC) in 2006 and Mahao joined in 2017. It was along the journey that Thabane said Majoro must become the leader. I was very bitter because we formed this party with Ntate Thabane and we worked hard to get it where it is today only for him to bring in a person from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to be the leader.” This was in reference to Dr Majoro who once worked for the IMF before joining the ABC.
Mr Rapapa said he later changed his mind after learning that many party members backed Mr Thabane’s suggestion that Dr Majoro must lead the ABC.
He said he did not even vote for Prof Mahao who contested the deputy leader’s position and defeated Dr Majoro in 2019.
“These are the people I voted for at the (ABC’s 2019) elections: Thabane for party leader, Majoro (deputy leader), myself (chairperson), Senoamali Phakisi (deputy chairperson), Sello Maphalla (secretary general), Mohoalohoalo Jane (spokesperson), ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson), Pinki Manamolela (treasurer) and ‘Matšepo Ramakoae (deputy secretary).
“Even during the elections, Ntate Hlaele said he knew I hadn’t voted for him and I said it was true. I said I did not vote for him and Mahao because I had my own team. Ntate Mahao and I later worked together. I protected Mahao and we stopped the likes of Hlaele’s attempts to topple him (during the infighting which followed the ABC’s 2019 elections). When he left to form his party, I came out clearly and told people that I was not going with him…
“In short, I am not a Mahao loyalist. His loyalists are the likes of Maqelepo and Senauoane. I am no one’s loyalist, the only factual thing is that I am in the race to become Kobotata leader.
“I cannot be a very senior man in the party, third in the party structures only to be a Mahao loyalist when he has left the party? No, those people are lying. Mme Pascalinah, would I leave a party with 35 MPs for one with only nine MPs? These people disrespect me,” Mr Rapapa said.
Messrs Thabane and Hlaele’s mobile phones rang unanswered when this publication called them for comment this week.
However, Mr Masoetsa denied plotting against Mr Rapapa.
“I am not part of any scheme to stop him (Rapapa) from becoming ABC leader. The leader will be elected by ABC members, not Masoetsa. They will elect him if they think he is a qualified and capable leader. If he is campaigning for the post and realising that people don’t want him, he must not blame us for his rejection.
“He is part of the national executive committee which has not announced any vacancy for the leader’s post. Yet he has chosen to secretly campaign for that post. Now that he is facing challenges, he is trying to blame others,” Mr Masoetsa said.
On his part, Mr Phori said, “my comment is simple, I am not on mental health medication, I am sober”. He refused to elaborate.