Thabane admits war with Majoro

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  • says he and Majoro are leading antagonistic party factions,
  • as SG Hlaele blasts Majoro and other party figures for snubbing gig at Thabane’s home,
  • says their behaviour is “unacceptable” and amounts to ill-discipline

Pascalinah Kabi

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has for the first time publicly admitted that he and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro are leading two party factions which are locked in a messy leadership war.

However, Mr Thabane insists that he remains the “legitimate leader elected by the majority of ABC members and not just a small clique”. He says he does not have any plans of relinquishing the post anytime soon.

Dr Majoro is also the ABC’s deputy leader, having been coopted into the national executive committee (NEC) to replace the former incumbent, Nqosa Mahao, who jumped ship in April this year after falling out with the prime minister and other ABC bigwigs.

So serious is the bad blood and infighting within the ABC that Dr Majoro, chairperson Samuel Rapapa and three other senior NEC members are said to have snubbed an invitation to celebrate the party’s 15th anniversary celebrations with Mr Thabane at his home over the weekend. Dr Majoro has however, denied snubbing the event. The premier said he was on official government business in Mokhotlong on the day. In any event, the ceremony was not communicated through the official party channels, the premier said.

The other three who did not turn up for the event which was held at Mr Thabane’s Makhoakhoeng home in Ha Abia, Maseru, are deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and his deputy ‘Matebatso Doti.

ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele described the quintet’s no-show as “unacceptable”.

Of the five, Dr Majoro and Mr Rapapa are known to harbour ambitions of replacing Mr Thabane and leading the party in next year’s eagerly anticipated elections. It is not clear whether Messrs Kabi, Masoetsa and Ms Doti have any ambitions of their own. Nor is it clear if they are supporting any of the leadership hopefuls, though Mr Kabi is said to have drifted from Mr Thabane into Dr Majoro’s camp.

Mr Thabane was premier from June 2017 until he was forced out by his own party in May 2020. At the time, NEC members who included the now opposition Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader, Prof Mahao, and Mr Hlaele said he was no longer fit to be prime minister due to his failure to rein in his wife, ‘Maesaiah, who was accused of meddling in government and party business.

The NEC also said he had to clear his name after being accused alongside Maesaiah of the June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo. There is still no indication as to when the Thabanes’ murder trial will eventually begin in the High Court, if at all.

Until the weekend, Mr Thabane had refrained from publicly commenting about his relationship with the man who succeeded him as premier in May 2020.

But Dr Majoro and others’ absence from the party’s 15th anniversary celebrations finally jolted him into speaking out. He admitted that he and his ABC deputy are leading factions in the troubled party.

He however, reminded all and sundry that he remained the legitimate leader of the party.

“We were 17 when we crossed the floor in parliament (to form the ABC in 2006),” Mr Thabane said.

“I thank all Makobotata (ABC members) for the role each of you has played in the ABC since its formation, particularly the committees that lead the party at a national level. I thank you my fellow men and women.

“However, I am not happy at all because you have formed factions. There are now people belonging to the Majoro and Thabane camps. Fellow men and women, let us stand firm on our project. Tell me men and women of the ABC, what should I do? Should I step down to free you?”.

He then requested Mr Hlaele to urgently organise meetings between him and the party’s constituency committees, saying that he had since realised that some people had “forgotten” that he was still the legitimate ABC leader.

“I realise that you have forgotten that I am the legitimate leader of this party. I was not appointed by a clique of people but I was voted in by the majority of the Kobotata members,” Mr Thabane said.

His remarks were seemingly a jibe at Dr Majoro who only became prime minister after being endorsed by the ABC parliamentary caucus. He then got the backing of the Democratic Congress and other opposition parties to become premier after Mr Thabane’s ousting. Dr Majoro had also originally lost the deputy leadership contest to Professor Mahao in 2019. He was only coopted into the post by fellow NEC members after Prof Mahao’s acrimonious April 2021 departure from the party to form his own BAP.

At the time, Prof Mahao claimed that he had jumped ship after discovering a plot by Messrs Thabane, Hlaele and Dr Majoro to oust him from the party.

It had then looked like the ABC’s factional battles were over as Mr Thabane and Dr Majoro appeared to have smoked the peace pipe, resulting in the former endorsing the premier’s cooption into the NEC to replace  Prof Mahao.

But the past few months have shown that Prof Mahao’s departure only got rid of just one of the leadership hopefuls and the infighting is likely to continue until the 82-year-old Mr Thabane is replaced as party leader.

The octogenarian founding ABC leader nonetheless seem determined to cling on. Some top sources close to Mr Thabane have hinted that he is even contemplating a comeback and might seed a return to the premiership.

“Fellow ABC members, remember where you come from and how you got to where you are today,” Mr Thabane said in probable reference to Dr Majoro.

“There is no way that anyone should be raising questions regarding who the leader of the party is. The leader remains the leader. There is no government which does not draw its mandate and power from its supporters,” he added.

All along, some NEC members, particularly Mr Masoetsa had publicly spoken out against Dr Majoro’s alleged propensity to ignore the NEC whenever it came to decision-making in government.

Mr Masoetsa had said although the premier had the prerogative to make executive appointments, he was still obliged to consult the NEC as he was a party deployee to government.

He recently said that the fed-up NEC was in the process of issuing circulars to the constituency committees to advise on the appropriate measures to take against Dr Majoro for repeatedly snubbing the NEC even though he had been coopted to the deputy leader’s post to facilitate ease of communication between the party and the government.

Mr Thabane’s weekend remarks seemingly confirm that despite his previous silence on the issue, he too is against Dr Majoro’s way of operating.

Mr Hlaele spoke to the Anglican Church of Lesotho (ACL) radio station on the sidelines of the weekend celebration and condemned what he said was the “unacceptable” behaviour by Dr Majoro and other NEC members who snubbed the celebratory event.

He said he had informed all NEC members of the celebration in the committee’s WhatsApp group but only the party’s minutes secretary, Likhapha Masopha, had bothered to communicate that she would not be able to attend.

“Those who are not here today (Saturday) all knew about the event because we have an NEC group. I informed all of them in that group that the leader, Ntate Motsoahae Thabane, had requested that they come and celebrate the ABC anniversary with him. Only one person, the minutes secretary, issued an apology. I expected to see everyone else here celebrating with the leader.

“Even the honourable deputy leader (Majoro) of the party is part of that group that did not attend but I don’t know his reasons for not showing up. He did not want us to know why he is not coming. It is only Mme Likhapha Masopha who issued an apology, all the others were expected to be here.

“I cannot speak on behalf of those who did not come but I can say that their behaviour is unacceptable. When the leader of the party has spoken and given an order, his word is final. Those who did not come are ill-disciplined and their behavior is unacceptable.

“We have also heard the leader (Thabane) saying there are cliques in the party and I can say that this is another clique that does not align itself with the call of the leader for their own reasons,”  said Mr Hlaele in reference to the group of senior party officials who did not pitch up.

He was later to change tack in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, saying the unnamed ABC individuals who organised the celebrations had belatedly informed him of the event on Friday night.

“I only received the message from the organisers of the event on Friday night. I immediately informed fellow NEC members, requesting those who could to come and celebrate with the leader (Thabane). As the NEC, we were not involved in organising the event. We were just celebrating with him (Thabane) by showing up for the event organised by people from two constituencies in Maseru.

“I dispatched the message to attend the celebrations to NEC members between 8 and 9pm on Friday in our NEC WhatsApp group. I clearly indicated that those who were available may come to celebrate with the leader.

“The spokesperson (Masoetsa) also issued an apology (for not attending). But I cannot speak on behalf of him (Majoro). But I heard from his official speech (on Sunday) that he had been in a cabinet meeting on Saturday to address Covid-19 issues,” Mr Hlaele said.

In separate interviews with this publication, Mr Masoetsa said he did not attend the celebrations because he was in South Africa while Mr Rapapa said he had not been invited.

Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, denied allegations that the premier had snubbed the party celebrations. He said the premier could not make it to the event because he was out on a well-known official assignment in Mokhotlong, a task that his “esteemed leader (Thabane) knew about- service delivery to Basotho”.

“Secondly, the NEC had not sat and decided upon that celebration. The very same allegation was addressed during the sitting of the NEC on Monday this week where all sides agreed that no proper communication regarding the celebration was done as an invitation was posted in a WhatsApp group, not via a circular, which is an official communication to all members of the party. Therefore, the failure to make it to the festivity shouldn’t be seen or described as a snub,” Mr Moseme said on behalf of the premier.

At the time of going to print, Mr Kabi and Ms Doti and had not responded to messages sent to them on the issue.

Authoritative ABC figures said Mr Thabane’s decision to cling to power might cost the ABC dearly in next year’s general elections.

“What we need is a complete renewal of the party but the old man does not seem to get it…He has developed this unfortunate sense of entitlement wherein he believes he must remain leader because the ABC is his project,” said a senior ABC figure who spoke on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter.

“As long as he clings on, there is no chance of re-uniting the party because there is a clique that remains loyal to him and that is very disruptive.”

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