Moment of truth for the ABC

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FORMER Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s imminent exit from his beloved All Basotho Convention (ABC) presents his party colleagues with an excellent opportunity to plot a new path in terms of rejuvenating the ailing party and carving out new policies to make it attractive again.
But they can only do that if they decide to eschew the petty politics and selfish considerations which have led to vicious infighting and splits within the biggest party in the coalition government. They should be selfless enough to choose a successor with the right blend of education, local and international appeal and the willingness to push the government to implement tough decisions to attract investment and lift the country out of its penury. It has to be said that Mr Thabane, for all his flaws, had for long been a much-loved figure, before the advent of his garrulous and undiplomatic young third wife. His return to power in 2017 was achieved on the back of a popular campaign to stabilise the country after years of instability and gross human rights violations mainly by the army and the police under the watch of the previous Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties coalition.
But for the three years that he was in power from 2017 to 2020, he failed to transform Lesotho into the hoped-for peaceful and stable country with high investment inflows. By the time he was forced to resign by his own party in May 2020, Mr Thabane had also failed to stabilize the ABC. His tenure had been seriously underwhelming. A month before he resigned as premier, his party had already experienced two splits. His former deputy, Nqosa Mahao, had jumped ship with 10 MPs to form the Basotho Action Party (BAP).
This after a two-year acrimonious battle with Mr Thabane for control of the party. Professor Mahao and his allies were soon followed through the exit door by the outspoken former cabinet minister and ABC MP for Mokhotlong, Tefo Mapesela. This left the ABC with a thin majority in government and the new premier, Moeketsi Majoro, has been hanging on by a thread ever since. Dr Majoro has Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) largely to thank for allowing him to continue as prime minister. At a personal level, Mr Thabane was hounded by the sensational revelations that he and his current wife, ‘Maesaiah, are the key suspects in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo. They and other suspects, who include some Famo musicians, are due to stand trial in March this year.
By his own admission, the soon-to-be 83-year-old Mr Thabane has also been dogged by health challenges. These, coupled with the chaos and instability within the ABC, had made his continued hold of the party leadership untenable.
We are glad that after so many exhortations in this publication, Mr Thabane has finally decided to relinquish the leadership of the party he founded way back in 2006. Mr Thabane has been a permanent feature in our politics from independence in 1966 and that puts him in the league of many liberation leaders on the continent. However much as we may love the liberation era generation of politicians, the reality is that their time is long up. The politics and needs of African countries have changed a lot since the days of founding fathers and liberation era heroes like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Robert Mugabe, Jose Eduardo do Santos and Samora Machel.
The likes of Nyerere were among the earliest to realise the need for fresh ideas hence his decision to hand over to Ali Hassan Mwinyi in Tanzania in 1985. Even Nelson Mandela who came to power much later in 1994 was clever enough to realise that despite his enormous local, continental and global appeal, he could not go on beyond one term in office. And he handed over the baton to Thabo Mbeki and left with his legacy very much intact. But just like Mr Thabane, the late Mr Mugabe either failed or refused to understand the times and sought to remain in charge even when the need for fresh blood was clear. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming from State House by the very military which had propped him up for a long time. Fortunately for Mr Thabane, he did not have to suffer the ignominy of a military coup. He gave up the premiership and still retained respect from some in his party colleagues- the Lipolelo murder mystery notwithstanding.
Now that he is also giving up the ABC leadership, we hope he will truly be gone from the scene and not continue to pull the strings in the background like a puppeteer. The ABC should take advantage of the opportunity presented by Mr Thabane’s exit to wipe the slate clean. The party needs to urgently unite and choose a new leader who can bring cohesion and end the infighting. This is a historic moment for the ABC, very much like it was for the DC when the founding leader, Mr Mosisili stepped down in 2019. The DC seized the moment and chose Mr Mathibeli who has since worked hard to rebrand the party and cleanse its previous unfavourable image as a corrupt organisation.
Similarly, the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC) and the party’s legislators must think long and hard. They must rise above petty politics of parochial, factional and selfish considerations to choose the candidate who embodies the necessary qualities to lift the party and ultimately, the country out of its current rot and stagnation. They have an excellent opportunity to nominate a deserving candidate who will appeal to the previously feuding party factions as a unifying force. That candidate must also be one with sufficient clout to appeal to regional, continental and international development partners. This must be someone with the requisite understanding of international relations to ensure that we do not fall foul of these partners.
It goes without saying that choosing Mr Thabane’s successor is not a Mickey Mouse programme. It calls for high-mindedness on the part of everyone involved.
To borrow from the legendary Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie; history will remember the judgement and decisions of the ABC. We pray and urge them not to mess it up and fail themselves and the nation.

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