Ntsekele allays ABC split fears

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Tsitsi Matope

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) secretary-general, Samonyane Ntsekele, says the party acknowledges that there are “misunderstandings” within the party that need to be discussed and urgently resolved to avoid disrupting the reforms agenda and the smooth-running of the government.

Mr Ntsekele, who is also the Minister of Water Affairs, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that it would be folly for the ABC to allow “mere internal disagreements” to split the party and collapse a coalition government formed after the country went through a very difficult time.

He emphasised the ABC was a major political party that would not easily crumble over issues they have the capacity to resolve.

He maintained the ABC has been growing exponentially over the years as reflected by its massive jump from winning 17 constituencies in its first election in 2007 to the current 51 seats, adding this growth could not be sacrificed on the altar of squabbles they can resolve.

“We are in the process of understanding the meaning of what the ABC chairman (Motlohi Maliehe) said at recent rally. An internal review process is underway to iron-out any disagreements so that the party can move forward,” Mr Ntsekele said.

On the other hand, he further explained that the National Executive Committee (NEC) will facilitate an amicable process with the understanding that conflicts are healthy and an integral part in a vibrant democracy.

“Conflict is a normal and natural occurrence that can be used to resolve differences. It is an inevitable part of our lives and cannot be completely eliminated. However, it is important to manage it constructively and innovatively so that it does not escalate into violence or unhealthy situations,” Mr Ntsekele said.

Viewed in this positive light, he explained that conflict may present opportunities for change, growth, development and creative problem-solving.

“Real democracy is about resolving conflicts constructively, listening to others, accepting when you have made a mistake, welcoming to the idea of following set procedures to address issues and reconciling for development,” Mr Ntsekele said.

He explained that the ABC was handling the situation in a manner that was not vindictive but conciliatory and also seeking to integrate transformative conflict-resolution mechanisms that will prevent similar occurrences.

“The painful experience this country went through makes it difficult for the ABC to break the promise the party made to the people, that we will ensure justice, the rule of law and observe other tenets of good governance to make Lesotho a better place. There is a lot at stake and we know that a fourth election in six years is not something that we can be proud of as a country. The government cannot afford to use the country’s limited resources irresponsibly, mainly because it is not Basotho who want another election. In fact, in all the three recent elections held in this country, the majority of Basotho never demanded any of them. We understand that is unfair and I am re-assuring the people who might have perceived the latest developments in the party negatively, to give us a chance to amicably resolve this matter,” Mr Ntsekele said.

The government, he added, was committed to doing all it can to ensure the country healed from bitter past experiences, explaining that he was one of the people who despite being at risk, remained in the country to fight alongside many other believers of true democracy.

“My leader, Dr Thabane, feared for me but we eventually agreed that I should stay behind to fight with others. He was concerned about what was happening in the country and always called to give advice on the challenges faced in the country. Times were dangerous, but there were also some sympathetic intelligence officers who shared information warning us of any danger.

“In view of the dark days we are emerging from, the ABC will not put this coalition at risk. I know what happened in this country, the level of evil perpetrated on certain people and the plotters. Some information remains hidden for national security reasons and I can tell you that there is pain and heaviness associated with knowing something but unable to release the information.”

Mr Ntsekele said while freedom of expression was a key pillar in the ABC, there should also be regulations to ensure this is not abused to defame others. He said there was also need to review the party’s systems in order to detect and act on all the signs and symptoms of discontent and prevent members from resorting to public statements on issues that should be handled internally.

“As a party, we must remind each other that we never expected our comeback in government to be a walk in the park. As human beings, we sometimes we make mistakes but the most important thing is to remember where we are coming from, to be mature, disciplined and to respect the people who trusted us to return to government.”

He said the ABC and its coalition partners have more serious issues to deal with as expectations from Basotho were high.

“We are under immense pressure to stimulate the economy and create jobs. We need to create opportunities and raise funds to support private sector growth. We are losing sleep because we made promises to the people during the election campaign and they expect us to deliver.”

Mr Ntsekele also said the ABC has indeed learnt from its past experiences, particularly on the need to compromise and work with others. In one of the ABC internal fights, the former deputy leader, Tlali Khasu and Pitso Maisa left the party to form the Truth and Reconciliation Unity (TRU).

“To avoid splits we should be tolerant and stop fooling ourselves that we can do better on our own. The Ubuntu ideology says: I am because you are. We are who we are because of others,” he said.

Mr Ntsekele added as progressive entities, political parties should continue updating their constitutions and procedures to meet the needs of the people and effectively respond to conflicts and other challenges.

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