Thabane appoints “new” ABC NEC

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  • as Mahao suffers court setback
  • while Majoro is elevated to deputy leader

’Marafaele Mohloboli

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has appointed “new” national executive members, including Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro as deputy leader replacing the “expelled” Professor Nqosa Mahao.

Three other losing candidates have also been appointed to the posts of chairperson, spokesperson and deputy spokesperson in place of the winners of the February elections who were “expelled” along with Prof Mahao. The appointments were announced by the ABC’s deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi as Dr Thabane moves to consolidate his position after “firing” Prof Mahao and others in June this year for alleged insubordination.

The appointments, which have been dismissed as a non-event by the Mahao faction, can only aggravate the already combustible situation in the troubled ruling party, which many observers say can no longer be resolved amicably after numerous failed attempts.

Party insiders told the Lesotho Times the appointments – announced in a circular dated 9 August 2019 –  were all the more baffling, coming  before a court case in which Prof Mahao and his allies Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and his deputy ’Matebatso Doti had challenged their “expulsions” from the party by Dr Thabane.

The insiders said if the court had ruled in favour of Prof Mahao and his allies’, then the ABC’s leader’s latest appointments would have been an automatic nullity. However, Prof Mahao and his allies suffered a setback yesterday afternoon after the High Court threw out their application against their “expulsions” on a technicality. (See story on page 4).

But the fact that Dr Thabane had made the appointments ahead of the finalization of the court case had already signaled a bad omen that  court decisions no longer mattered as the factions vie for supremacy, party sources said.

After losing the case yesterday, the Mahao camp immediately vowed to file another one challenging their “expulsions” and resolving the technicality which had caused their lose. What all that meant was that the door to resolve the power struggle amicably was now completely shut, party sources said.

Still, far from resolving the problems in the ABC, the party insiders said, Dr Thabane’s appointments could create a new layer of problems from some of the Prime Minister’s very own backers who feel that Dr Majoro should not have been appointed ahead of former acting deputy leader Prince Maliehe. While Dr Majoro is acknowledged as a decent technocrat, those against his elevation say he lacks the political charisma to be the champion of the ABC and to hold the party together. Moreover the economy has almost ground to a standstill under his watch as finance minister and many businesses have been stunted by lack of payment from the government, an issue that is likely to be seized by the Mahao faction and the opposition to discredit Dr Majoro.

According to Mr Kabi’s 9 August 2019 circular to the ABC’s NEC, women’s and youth leagues, constituency committees and branches, the party had moved to implement its resolutions taken on 18 July 2019 to fill the vacancies created by the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of Prof Mahao and four other NEC officials.

Mr Kabi’s states that in accordance with the party constitution, the NEC resolved to appoint Dr Majoro in place of the “expelled” Prof Mahao.

Others who have also been appointed are Kemiso Mosenene (as chairperson in place of Mr Rapapa), Sentle Rabale (spokesperson in place of Mr Masoetsa) and Joel Mohale as deputy spokesperson in place of Ms Doti. The four appointments are effective from 9 August 2019 while the post of secretary general made “vacant” by the “expulsion” of Mr Hlalele, will be filled in due course.

“The four vacancies have been filled by those who came second (at the ABC’s February 2019 elections) to those who were elected to those positions. The new appointments were made following the expulsion of the members who were elected to those positions due to their behaviour which jeopardised the party,” Mr Kabi’s circular states.

The ABC has been in turmoil since Prof Mahao beat Dr Majoro and others to the coveted deputy leader’s post in February this year. Others who lost out to Prof Mahao were Mr Prince Maliehe, the former acting incumbent, and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.

Dr Thabane and some senior ABC officials refused to accept Prof Mahao’s election, arguing that he should not have contested and been elected ahead of seasoned party stalwarts. Incidentally, Dr Majoro had issued a statement congratulating Prof Mahao on his victory soon after the announcement of the results in February.

But Dr Thabane and his allies’ refusal to accept Prof Mahao set the stage for a bruising litigious power struggle resulting in the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of Prof Mahao and his key lieutenants for alleged insubordination.

Prof Mahao and his allies refused to take the “expulsions” lying down and they reacted by announcing the “suspension” of Dr Thabane from the party. They were only stopped in their tracks by Acting Chief Justice Maseforo Mahase from holding a special conference on 6 July 2019 to “expel” Dr Thabane.

They, however, filed a court application challenging their “expulsions” which they then lost yesterday on a technicality.

Speaking on behalf his Mahao side, Mr Hlaele dismissed the appointments of Dr Majoro and others as a mere emotional reaction to his faction’s decision to vote with the opposition in parliament to block the government from fast-tracking the National Reforms Authority Bill instead of allowing it to go through the normal parliamentary process for proper scrutiny.

The government lost the vote in parliament on Monday after the pro-Mahao ABC legislators voted with the opposition.

“There is nothing wrong with what they (pro-Thabane NEC) did (appointing Dr Majoro and others to fill the vacancies of the “expelled” Mahao faction). That was an emotional decision because we voted with the opposition in parliament and outsmarted the government. This is nothing to write home about…..This is just psychological warfare and we will not entertain it in any way,” Mr Hlaele said.

Party insiders had criticised the appointments of Dr Majoro and others before the finalization of the court application, eventually lost by the Mahao faction yesterday.

In a recent audio clip from a WhatsApp group of ABC members, one of them is heard saying, “have the courts decided on the (Mahao and others’) application now that this move (appointments) has been made?”

Another replies by saying, “we are all surprised by the appointments. The ABC has problems I tell you. We are barely hanging in there against all odds”.

Another ABC member is heard saying, “I give up. I’ve never seen such….if only there was service delivery while all this is happening, it would be better. We are so tired of this noise…these people have gotten us into a mess. They have ignited a fire and I wonder what’s going to happen next”.

Some party insiders said the appointment of Dr Majoro had not been well received at all by some of Dr Thabane’s backers who feel that the former acting incumbent, Mr Prince Maliehe should have been appointed instead.

Mr Maliehe was appointed to the post in an acting capacity in January 2018 in the aftermath of the sacking of former deputy leader Tlali Khasu.

Soon after his appointment, Mr Maliehe told the Lesotho Times that Dr Thabane settled on him as a “unifying figure” after realising that jockeying for the post had the potential to create instability in the party.

The party sources said there is a group in the ABC that believes the mild mannered Mr Maliehe would have been a “better bet” than Dr Majoro who could turn out to be “cannon fodder” for the opposition and the Mahao faction because of the current disappointing state of affairs in the economy.  It nonetheless remains to be seen whether the pro-Maliehe group is strong enough to create serious ructions within the Thabane group, also known as “the state house faction”.

 

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