Mahao breathes fire


…says he and Lebohang Hlaele will not be pushed out by old NEC

Pascalinah Kabi

Nqosa Mahao is breathing fire.

The  National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor says he and former Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights minister, Lebohang Hlaele will not step down from their posts of deputy leader and secretary general of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) respectively.

He vowed this in the wake of allegations by some party sources that the old ABC’s national executive committee (NEC), which was ousted at the party’s elective conference last month, had demanded that the pair step down before the old NEC can hand over the reins to the new NEC.

Prof Mahao said the negotiations between the old and new ABC NECs should only lead to one outcome;  the old NEC handing over power to the new NEC, failing which they go as far as  the Court of Appeal if the High Court does not rule in their favour.

The fire-spitting professor further said they were only negotiating to “understand what sort of sickness had afflicted their colleagues” and if necessary, they would even “force democracy down the throats” of the old NEC to get them to accept that they should relinquish power.

The two factions have been locked in a bitter struggle which has seen the old NEC refuse to hand over power to the new NEC.

The old NEC alleges that the elections which ushered in Prof Mahao, Mr Hlaele 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.

Last week,  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. Should they fail to agree, the factions will return to court for a full hearing of Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane’s application against the election of the new NEC.  A verdict will then be delivered on 29 March 2019.

The talks, however, failed to kick off last week amid claims by some ABC sources that one of the sticking points was the demand by the old NEC that Prof Mahao and Mr Hlaele  relinquish their posts in the new NEC.

And on Sunday Prof Mahao addressed a rally in Ha Makhalanyane in the Koro-koro constituency where he indeed alluded to the claims that there were demands that he and Mr Hlaele should give up their new posts.

He told  thousands of ABC supporters that he and Mr Hlaele were not going anywhere and neither would there be fresh elections as demanded by the ABC legislators who filed the court application challenging their election.

The fire-spitting Prof Mahao said the negotiations were only meant to enable them to “understand what sort of sickness” had afflicted the old NEC to cause them to refuse to hand over power, adding the talks would enable them to determine “what kind of medication was required to cure that sickness”.

“People are asking why we are negotiating and it is our responsibility as leaders to explain  to them so that they can fully understand what is happening,” Prof Mahao said on Sunday.

“The ABC is one big house and it is important to understand that in every family, children come different with different features. The ABC will always have different individuals and some will have good intentions while others will have different inclinations.

“It is therefore the responsibility of the party to discuss any issues arising in the party regardless of different opinions we may have as members and this is why the (new) NEC made a decision to go for negotiations. We went for negotiations because we wanted to hear their side of the story. We wanted to know the type of sickness they are suffering from and see if we cannot get the  right medication for that sickness,” Prof Mahao said.

He added: “We wanted to know why is he ( who………………….)closing the office”.

“What is their problem, why are they refusing to step out of the office? We need to talk to them and establish what is bothering them. What is your problem comrades? We wanted to establish if we can assist them in solving their problems and that is why we went into the negotiations.

“Lebohang Hlaele is not going anywhere. Nqosa Mahao is not going anywhere. The voice of the ABC electorate is not negotiable and we are not going for fresh elections. No fresh polls will happen, we will force democracy down their throats and you should therefore be still because you have made your own decisions (of voting the new NEC into power),” Prof Mahao said, adding that there was nothing stopping the outgoing NEC from walking out of the negotiations if they wanted to.

Should the negotiations fail to bear the desires results, Prof Mahao said they were ready to go to court and argue the case before Justice Mahase on 20 March 2019 as  per the Acting Chief Justice’s court order  issued  last Wednesday.

“If the negotiations have collapsed or failed by 19 March 2019, then the matter shall be heard on 20 March 2019 at 9:30am and this honourable court shall issue and deliver its judgement on 29 March 2019 at 9:30am,” part of Justice Mahase’s order states.

Prof Mahao said if the negotiations fail, “we (the new NEC) expect the final judgement on the matter on 29 March 2019 and if the judgement is unconstitutional, we are going to the Court of Appeal to challenge it”.

“We will go to that very same Court of Appeal that gave one Ntate a stomach ache,” Prof Mahao said.

This was in reference to former ABC chairperson Motlohi Maliehe’s attack on the Court of Appeal president, Justice Kananelo Mosito, over the latter’s 1 February 2019 verdict which allowed Prof Mahao to contest the deputy leader’s post at the ABC’s elective conference.

Addressing a recent rally in his Butha-Buthe constituency Mr Maliehe said that Justice Mosito was wrong to overturn the party’s decision to expel Prof Mahao from the ABC for taking it to court over his disqualification.

Mr Maliehe further said the court ruling was the reason why the ABC had been rocked by the infighting which is threatening to split the party and even collapse the government.

Prof Mahao said that it was unfortunate that the ruling party was pre-occupied with the internal power struggles instead of addressing pressing national issues such as the grievances of the teachers as well as the wool and mohair farmers.

It had been anticipated that the old and new ABC NECs would begin negotiations last Thursday in line with the court ruling by Justice Mahase but that did not happen.

Party sources said it was still unclear on which day the talks would now get underway.

According to an 8 March 2019 letter written by the secretary general in the old NEC, Samonyane Ntsekele, the meeting should have been held last Thursday but as one ABC source explained, the meeting did not take place because of logistical bungling in the secretary general’s office.

“There was a lot of bungling and disagreements between the two factions as to when to start,” said one ABC source who spoke on condition of anonymity after the party officials were gagged by Justice Mahase’s court order from speaking to the media.

“The bungling is even reflected in the date that the letter announcing the commencement of negotiations was written. The letter is dated 8 March and it is announcing the commencement of talks on 7 March,” the source added.

Efforts to obtain comment from Mr Ntsekele and his counterparts in the new NEC were fruitless with both sides saying they could not comment due to a clause in Justice Mahase’s order which bars both sides from speaking to the media about the factions’ talks.


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