Pressure is mounting on All Basotho Convention (ABC) Secretary General (SG) Samonyane Ntsekele, to step down and “make room for more capable hands”.
So intense is the pressure that Ntsekele’s deputy, Lebohang Hlaele, who is ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s son-in-law, has already been earmarked for the post, according to two highly-placed ABC sources who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week.
Ntsekele, the sources further revealed, came under severe criticism during a recent conference of ABC committees in which some delegates allegedly wanting him removed from the post for incompetence.
Leading the faction calling for Ntsekele to step down, the sources further alleged, was the premier’s daughter, ‘Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, née Nkoya Thabane.
However, the sources added, the matter could not be discussed further as it did form part of the conference’s agenda, and was therefore “referred to the executive for consideration at the next special conference”.
According to one of the sources, who is a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, Hlaele was, by comparison the best man to hold the office of secretary general because of his exposure and administration of organisational structures having, among others, featured in the Free State Provincial Committee of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
“He also currently features in the African National Congress (ANC) structures in the Free State, due to his immense experience in the administration of organisations,” the source said.
“Ntsekele, on the other hand, has no experience of party structures and enough political exposure, hence his dismal performance as secretary general.”
The source added: “Even at the party’s elective conference which made him secretary general, there were concerns that electing him into that position would prove disastrous in the long run, but he prevailed.”
Asked what really transpired in the conference, the source said some delegates were unhappy with the poor performance of the NEC, particularly the office of the secretary general, and demanded an explanation.
“They were attacking the office of the SG, which includes his deputy Ntate Hlaele. Ntate Hlaele had to defend himself and explained to the conference that the SG was the one in charge of the office,” the source said.
“That’s where his wife, ‘M’e ‘Mabatšoeneng came in to defend her husband. She was not necessarily attacking Ntsekele, but she had to stand up for her husband because Ntsekele is in charge of the office, while Ntate Hlaele works out of the country most of the time.”
According to the source, a group of delegates seemingly with influence from Ms Hlaele, who had made the proposal from the floor that Mr Ntsekele’s fate be discussed then, were fiercely demanding that if the SG could not manage his duties as both the premier’s Political Advisor and SG “he should relinquish one of the posts”.
“They were adamant that he should step down and although they did not say it out loud, one could tell by taking from previous events that they want Ntsekele to step down,” the source said.
“If he does decide to resign as he cannot be removed because he was elected by a conference, that will pave the way for the leader to use his discretion, and appoint Ntate Hlaele to the position of secretary general.”
However, the source added that the matter could not be discussed by that particular conference as it was not part of the agenda, but was referred to the NEC for consideration, to be discussed at the party’s next special conference.
“All the recommendations made in that conference will be submitted to the NEC for consideration by a special conference, which is the only body that can decide to remove him,” the source said.
“But by proposing that Ntsekele be removed from his position for incompetence, ‘M’e ‘Mabatšoeneng has set the ball the rolling.”
However, the source was quick to add that although they were not happy with Mr Ntsekele’s performance “some of us do not embrace the idea of our leader’s son-in-law becoming SG”.
“It will be dangerous because the ABC will automatically become family property. We don’t want that but we will see what happens in the long run,” the source said.
Meanwhile, another source at the ABC headquarters, told the Lesotho Times that the administration of the party was suffering because “Ntsekele is a hoarder who doesn’t want to share work with his deputy”, adding Mr Hlaele was “a better alternative”.
“If I had my way, I’d have Ntate Hlaele any day as the party’s SG. Since Ntsekele took over, the party’s administration is worse than at any other time,” the source said.
“Ntsekele is always behind schedule and now there are complaints from the constituencies because vital information and documents never reach people on time.”
The source added: “If you were to come to the office now, you would realise that everything is a mess. The man just doesn’t seem to have time for his administrative duties.”
A desperate suggestion, that another member of the party’s NEC be assigned some duties to relieve Ntsekele, the source further revealed, was allegedly met with hostility by Mr Ntsekele, who also lobbied his colleagues in the executive to fight the motion, nearly leading to a split in the ABC executive committee.
“The man thought he was being stripped of his duties and now feeling vulnerable. He had to fight and lobby his friends in the NEC to gang up against this other member,” the source said.
“But the matter was eventually solved by the other member not assuming any duties of the office of the SG.”
However, the source further sought to remind that when the ABC decided to introduce the position of deputy secretary general “it was to take the load off the SG”.
“The decision to introduce the new position at the last elective conference, was to lighten the SG’s load and for the two offices to split duties, but sharing is not an option for Ntsekele,” the source said.
Contacted for comment on Monday, Ms Hlaele told the Lesotho Times that she was not at liberty to discuss what transpired in that conference “because it was a closed meeting”.
“As custodian of the party and as a matter of principle, Mr Ntsekele is the only one with the authority to discuss party issues with the media. He is also the only one who can grant me permission to speak in the media,” Ms Hlaele said.
“Please go and seek a comment from Mr Ntsekele and ask him on my behalf, if he gives me the permission to comment in the media about that meeting.”
However, asked if it was true that she was lobbying for her husband to become party SG, Ms Hlaele suggested that “it is impossible”.
“The allegation is wrong. In the constitution of the ABC, there’s no automatic assumption of positions,” Ms Hlaele said.
However, the Lesotho Times understands that the constitution of the ABC makes provision for the party’s executive, to use its discretionary powers to fill vacant positions in the decision-making body.
In the event that Mr Ntsekele decides to resign, the leader of the ABC can use Section B (1) (i), to fill any vacant position in the executive committee.
The section notes, under Functions of the Executive Committee, that the executive committee will “fill any vacant positions that occur during its tenure of office” and that “the vacancies should be filled in line with the provisions of section C (1) of the ABC constitution”.
According to the ABC constitution, to be eligible for the position, a candidate needs to have paid his or her annual subscription fee, needs to have been a member of a constituency committee for at least 36 months, has to have been a member of the executive at one point as well as familiarity with the constitution and the ability to protect it should need arise.
Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Mr Ntsekele was modest in his response, saying it was news to him that the pressure on him to quit had to do with Mr Hlaele adding: “I’m not aware that there’s an ulterior motive.
“When ‘M’e Nkoya said the things she said in that meeting, I believed she was genuinely speaking from the point of view of a concerned member of the ABC.”
Asked what his view was on claims that he was inexperienced compared to Mr Hlaele and that he was a hoarder, Mr Ntsekele said: “These are merely people’s allegations and I will not entertain them. As far as I know, we work just fine with Mr Hlaele.
“And whoever says I’m inexperienced, it’s their business. I’m still doing my job to the best of my ability and my interest is to serve the ABC.”
Mr Ntsekele added: “What other people say is none of my business, because my interest is solely on the ABC.”
Asked why he was taking such malicious allegations lightly, Mr Ntsekele said as the party’s administrator “mine is to protect the ABC and refrain from attacking other people or responding in a manner that puts the party into disrepute”.
Meanwhile, there was no immediate comment from Mr Hlaele.
ABC secretary general officeholders since 2006
Motlatsi Matekane (2006-2008. Founding secretary-general who led the party to its first elective conference); Macaefa Billy (2008-2010); Sam Rapapa (2010-2011); Thabiso Litšiba (2011-2013); Futho Hoohlo (2013-2014); Samonyane Ntsekele (February 2014 to-date).