There is no war in ABC, only differences of opinion: Hlaele
THE main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) celebrated its 15th anniversary over the weekend. The celebrations were held at party leader, Thomas Thabane’s home in Ha Abia, Maseru.
However, the celebrations were not without controversy as Prime Minister and ABC deputy leader Moeketsi Majoro is said to have snubbed the event. Other national executive committee (NEC) members who did not attend the celebrations are chairperson Samuel Rapapa, deputy secretary Nkaku Kabi, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and his deputy ‘Matebatso Doti.
Mr Thabane spoke at the event and admitted there was infighting in the party. For the first time, he publicly acknowledged that he and Dr Majoro were leading party factions which were locked in a bitter struggle for control of the party.
ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele’s (Hlaele) initial reaction was to attack Dr Majoro and others for snubbing the event. He branded them “ill-disciplined” and described their actions as “unacceptable”.
This week, the Lesotho Times (LT)’s Senior Reporter, Pascalinah Kabi, caught up with Mr Hlaele to get a clearer understanding of the problems besetting the ABC. He also outlined the ABC’s achievements to date. Below are excerpts of the interview.
LT: The ABC had a weekend event to commemorate 15 years of its formation. How did it go?
Hlaele: Everything went according to plan. It was a successful event even though I was only informed of it by the organisers on Friday night. I immediately informed fellow NEC members and requested those who were available to go and celebrate with the leader at his home.
LT: But in your interview with the Anglican Church radio station on Saturday, you criticised Dr Majoro and other NEC members for allegedly snubbing the event. How do you explain your new position?
Hlaele: A handful of NEC members attended the celebration. The majority of NEC members stay outside Maseru.
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 go and celebrate with the leader. 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 relayed 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 should go 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.
LT: In its 15 years of existence, what would you say are the ABC’s major achievements?
Hlaele: Pensioners used to get M350 each per month and Ntate Thabane increased that to M500. We are proud that under his leadership, the pension was increased to what it is today.
We are also proud that under his leadership, murders and other crimes like stock theft decreased. We are also proud that under the current ABC-led coalition, the problems facing wool and mohair farmers have been dealt with. The farmers may not have been paid what they expected for their produce but at least the challenges affecting that sector have been dealt with.
Still on wool and mohair, we are proud that we ensured that every Mosotho is allowed to sell their produce at a place of their choice and through brokers of their choice.
We are also proud of the services we have delivered to date. We are even constructing the Ha-Belo estate in Butha-Buthe to accommodate factories and other businesses. We are also constructing roads in rural areas such as the Mpiti to Sehlabathebe road.
Though we are very proud of these achievements, we have to accept that every journey has its lows as well. There have been many challenges in our 15-year journey. But we take these as mirrors reflecting the journey ahead. We must turn these challenges into achievements.
LT: What are those challenges and how do you propose to deal with them?
Hlaele: These challenges include the fact that we do not always see eye to eye as party members.
But that is not wrong or unusual because even siblings do not necessarily hold the same views on every issue. But the NEC is working very hard to ensure that there is unity, oneness and growth within the party. This is the challenge we are fighting really hard to overcome once and for all.
We are currently faced with a serious challenge of rising murders in the country as well as theft of funds and assets in government. For example, there are reports of fertilisers and other goods being stolen by civil servants and politicians. We must ensure that these things are dealt with once and for all for the sake of the nation.
LT: You say that murders decreased under Mr Thabane but the statistics suggest otherwise. In fact, Lesotho is now the murder capital of Africa and number six in the world for homicides. There were also several cases of police brutality when Mr Thabane was the prime minister. How do you explain that?
Hlaele: Stock theft and murders actually declined when Ntate Thabane first became prime minister in 2012. The murder cases only escalated under this current government which we are leading together with the Democratic Congress (DC).
Even during the previous (Thabane) government (from 2017 to 2020), the cases were not as high as they are now. Police officers were not being murdered as they are now. The fact of the matter is that Basotho are killing each other and police officers are now being killed as well. As the ABC, we condemn these killings.
LT: You say that the ABC has decisively dealt with issues of corruption but many people beg to differ. In fact, many believe that the party has paid lip service to the issue and has been part of the problem itself. What is your take …?
Hlaele: It will not be possible to convince everyone that we have indeed tackled corruption when there are all these allegations of corruption which still have to be tested.
We are in government and all eyes are watching our every move and actions. We will not be applauded for every single thing that we do. Some people will throw stones at us over many issues. But we do not take the attacks in a negative manner. We take the criticism as pointers to what needs to be fixed going forward.
But issues surrounding the (botched M1, 7 billion) Frazer Solar deal (between the German company and the previous Thabane government) remain allegations that have to be tested to understand what actually transpired. The same applies to the allegations of the misappropriation of M50 million from the Ministry of Finance and the alleged missing (4000 bags of) fertiliser from the Ministry of Agriculture.
But even if all these alleged acts of corruption are proven, it doesn’t mean that we condone corruption. Corruption is not part of our policy.
Theft and murders are not part of our policies. Our policy is to ensure that Basotho are safe and that their assets are protected.
LT: One of the ABC’s catchphrases is sera sa motho ke tlala (hunger is a human being’s biggest enemy). How is it that food insecurity is a perennial problem and the country has to rely on imports and even donations to avert hunger?
Hlaele: Basotho can testify that since 2012, we have been heavily involved in promoting agriculture. We did everything to protect livestock from diseases. From 2017 to date, the government has been doing everything possible to ensure that all Basotho farmers are able to plough their fields. The government has been doing everything to ensure they have access to subsidised fertiliser and seedlings.
There may be challenges but the ABC’s goal remains to improve the people’s wellbeing through farming.
LT: You indicated that the NEC is working hard to unify the party. The infighting has been going on since 2019. How is it affecting service delivery by the government?
Hlaele: Services are delivered by our deployees in government. Service delivery has nothing to do with our conflicts or challenges because these are challenges within the party not government. His Majesty’s ministers have gone all out to deliver services. Electricity and water connections are happening everywhere and these developments have nothing to do with the contradictions within the party. The noise that you are hearing about the party does not mean there is war, it means people are loudly voicing out their different opinions.
LT: Don’t you think these ‘contradictions’ will affect your party in next year’s elections?
Hlaele: We need to consider what kind of contradictions are we faced with and whether those contradictions affect service delivery. If they affect service delivery, then they will cost us in next year’s elections. But if not, then we will not be affected. As I have said, these contradictions are only happening within the party and they do not affect service delivery. All that is happening is that party members are simply being vocal about their different views. But this does not mean that there is a war within the party.
As we go forward, my message to the party members is that we have to put our party before everything else. Let us bury our differences and put the party first. Ours is the only party that can liberate Basotho and enable everyone to live in peace with each other. All ABC members must strive to make positive statements on social media which help to promote unity and cohesion.