Lifeline for Majoro
- as major political parties rally behind premier,
- oppose ABC’s quest to oust him,
- while backing Mahao’s call for early elections,
PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro appears to have outmanoeuvred newly-elected All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Nkaku Kabi, and other rivals who want him ousted as premier.
Despite his rivals’ spirited efforts to topple him, Dr Majoro now looks set to remain in charge until the next general elections due later this year. In fact, to prove that he is in charge and is not sitting in the exit lounge, the premier even enjoyed the luxury of reshuffling his principal secretaries yesterday.
It is now crystal clear that the ABC’s quest to replace Dr Majoro with Mr Kabi has now totally collapsed. This after the Democratic Congress (DC) and other major political parties indicated this week they would not support a parliamentary no confidence vote against the premier. Such a no confidence vote is the only option left to dethrone Dr Majoro after he refused to relinquish the premiership in the wake of his recent loss to Mr Kabi in the ABC leadership race.
The Lesotho Times has established that following his 29 January 2022 election as ABC leader, Mr Kabi immediately held a fruitless meeting with DC leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu to lobby for the latter’s support for a no confidence vote against Dr Majoro.
Mr Mokhothu is nonetheless said to have flatly refused to support Mr Kabi and his allies’ bid to oust Dr Majoro.
Instead, the DC and other parties like Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and the Nqosa Mahao-led Basotho Action Party (BAP) want the status quo maintained. Alternatively, they want the premier to push for the dissolution of parliament and the holding of early elections instead of him being replaced by Mr Kabi. Either way, Dr Majoro will remain in charge until a new leader is sworn in after the polls
That leader is unlikely to be Mr Kabi in the DC’s calculations. The DC is super confident of victory in light of the divisions that have rocked the ABC and caused it to splinter with Prof Mahao abandoning it to launch his BAP while Mokhotlong legislator Tefo Mapesela moved away to form the Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP). The DC believes the BAP will decimate the ABC’s support base instead of its own.
“The ABC is no longer a potent force and it will be stupid if not suicidal for us to help it by making Kabi prime minister,” one DC insider said.
“The ABC is very predictable. We know that Majoro and Kabi will keep on fighting despite their pretense of unity and that works to our advantage. So why help them by elevating Kabi and give him the power to even rig the elections if he takes charge of government. We won’t do that.”
Dr Majoro’s position had increasingly become precarious after he lost the ABC’s leadership contest to Mr Kabi who he had fired from cabinet in December 2021. The premier, who had lost the support of former ABC leader, Thomas Thabane, was recalled by the party’s national executive committee (NEC) on 2 December 2021.
The NEC had then sought to replace him with Mr Kabi who was then ABC deputy secretary general as well as Agriculture and Food Security minister.
However, Dr Majoro refused to make way for Mr Kabi. The premier insisted that only MPs, and not political parties, could oust a sitting prime minister through a no confidence vote in parliament.
Still pressure for him to quit had mounted after he lost the ABC leadership race to Mr Kabi by a margin of 609 to Mr Kabi’s 723 votes. But Dr Majoro refused to go.
He only resigned from the NEC as deputy leader, saying the party’s decision to elect Mr Kabi over him was a clear indication that they did not consider him the right person to take the party forward. That very argument had intensified the quest by Mr Kabi and his allies to oust Dr Majoro. They interpreted it to mean that his heart was no longer with the ABC and could no longer represent the interests of the party in the government.
Dr Majoro had been co-opted as deputy leader to replace Prof Mahao after the latter dumped the ABC in April 2021 to form the BAP.
Mr Kabi’s allies had insisted that they would stop at nothing to remove Dr Majoro because they wanted Mr Kabi to takeover “yesterday” and get a head start against opponents in the upcoming general elections. Mr Kabi’s ascension to the premiership would not only enable party supporters to get used to him as the new face of the ABC. It would also make his campaigning easier through access to the requisite state resources. ABC officials had also expressed fears that Dr Majoro would sabotage Mr Kabi if he remained premier.
ABC and DC sources this week told this publication that the calculating Mr Kabi had, soon after his election, approached Mr Mokhothu to lobby for his support in his faction’s quest to oust Dr Majoro. However, Mr Mokhothu is said to have rebuffed his overtures. Mr Kabi had himself, soon after his election, declared in a radio interview that he should immediately become prime minister. He wasted no time in canvassing Mr Mokhothu.
“When his efforts failed, Kabi and his NEC allies then arranged last week’s press conference at the TRC (Transformation Resource Centre) offices where they presented a show of public unity with Majoro,” said one ABC official.
“But beneath that public display of unity, tensions are bubbling under and Kabi’s allies are still working to topple Majoro. But unless Majoro himself agrees to go, these efforts will not succeed without the support of the DC and other major parties,” the official added.
The meeting between Messrs Mokhothu and Kabi had happened despite the DC’s protestations that it had not been approached by the ABC after Mr Kabi’s election to discuss leadership changes in the government.
Dr Majoro’s chances of remaining in office this week received a major boost from BAP leader, Prof Mahao, who said they would not support a no confidence vote against the premier. Prof Mahao advised Dr Majoro to push for the dissolution of parliament and the holding of snap elections to resolve his current dilemma of being a prime minister from a party with which he remains at war. Prof Mahao pledged that his party’s 10 legislators would support Dr Majoro if he pushed for early elections.
Addressing a well-attended rally, ironically in Dr Majoro’s Thetsane stronghold early this week, Prof Mahao advised Dr Majoro not to give in to the ABC honchos who wanted him to step down as premier.
Rather, he should push for early elections and he will receive the full backing of the BAP’s 10 MPs to help him gain the two thirds majority required for him to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to dissolve parliament before the due date of 22 June 2022.
“We have noticed that your own are harassing you and there is a solution,” Prof Mahao said in remarks directed at Dr Majoro.
“I promise to give you BAP MPs’ votes to add to those who support you in the ABC. This will help you to come up with the two thirds majority that you need to put on your soccer boots and run to Matsieng (The King’s palace) and inform His Majesty to dissolve parliament and call for elections.
“We know that there are those (ABC members) who want a new prime minister now. But for that to happen, they must first ask for Basotho’s votes in an election. Ntate Majoro, please stop wasting Basotho’s time. We know that the ABC will not let go. They won’t stop harassing you. Now that you have qualified for your pension, let’s work together to achieve a two thirds majority to enable His Majesty to dissolve parliament and call for snap elections.
“We are ready to go to for elections now but others are busy trying to change the government. We will not participate in anything meant to change the government other than through elections. Ntate Majoro, you have to stop looking behind you like Lot’s wife. There is no peace for you in that (ABC) house. They will chase you. Already many people are leaving the ABC to join the BAP. Even if you remain there, you will be left with nothing but a mound without termites,” Prof Mahao added.
Prof Mahao and his BAP will not be the only ones supporting Dr Majoro should he decide to push for early elections.
Mining Minister and DC spokesperson Serialong Qoo yesterday told the Lesotho Times that while they were unwilling to meddle in the internal affairs of their coalition partner, they were however, ready to support calls for snap elections “because the country was already in election mode”.
“We are ready for elections and we have been ready since yesterday,” Mr Qoo said.
“If we were to change government now, this will be happening when there is limited period before the elections are due. Since the elections are near, we need to get a fresh mandate from the people for Prime Minister Majoro to end his term.
“All that we want right now are elections and nothing else. The government should just wrap up its business because there is no time left for all these other things (like replacing Majoro with Kabi),” Mr Qoo added.
Development Planning Minister Mochoboroane said his MEC party- a key ally of the DC- would not support any attempts to oust Dr Majoro. They would only support efforts to ensure that the country goes for elections without further delay, Mr Mochoboroane said.
“There’s nothing left to do but to go for elections. We want to go for elections now. Anyone talking about elections is talking a language that we understand. It is time for elections and we don’t think there is any need to replace the premier given that there is little time before the elections are due.
“In any event, I have no interest in other parties’ internal affairs, they should work out those issues on their own. My only interest is going for elections now,” Mr Mochoboroane said.
Alliance for Democrats (AD) spokesperson Thuso Litjobo, said his party which has nine seats, would not support Prof Mahao’s call for early elections nor any motion pertaining to the removal of the premier.
He said they had their own internal issues to deal with than involving themselves in anything that would help resolve the ABC’s internal contradictions.
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele, said although they had not discussed the issue, they were not inclined to support Dr Majoro as he had failed to offer LCD leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, any support when he was charged with treason and murder last year.
Mr Metsing was charged alongside Mr Mochoboroane, former army commander Tlali Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa. While the others have appeared in court, Mr Metsing has been a no show, having fled the country last month to avoid prosecution.
Even without the LCD’s support for early elections, Dr Majoro appears guaranteed to survive a no confidence vote should it be held. This because such a motion will not be supported by the DC (27 seats), BAP (10 seats) and MEC (seven seats). The three parties have a combined 44 seats. These together with those of smaller parties like the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), other congress parties who traditionally side with the DC as well as Dr Majoro’s own faction in the ABC, would be enough to enable him to stave off a no confidence vote. It is not clear how many ABC MPs support Dr Majoro but given the current reluctance of Mr Kabi’s loyalists to push for a no confidence vote, it appears they are aware that the premier still has considerable backing within the party and outside it. In fact, it can also be safely assumed that all members of Dr Majoro’s cabinet, who stand to lose their posts should he be ousted, will rally behind him.
Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that while the premier “appreciates the offer made by Mahao, he will only cross that bridge when he gets there. But for now, he doesn’t see any need to call for early elections because his administration is not under threat and is stable”.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said they had nothing to say about the call for early elections as it was “Mahao’s issue”.