Three men horse race for ABC leadership

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. . . as Ntsekele reportedly withdraws and throws weight behind Kabi

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE race to succeed founding All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Thomas Thabane, is heating up with just over two weeks before the elective conference on 28 and 29 January 2022 at Lesotho High School in Maseru.

This amid claims by party insiders that former secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele has withdrawn from the contest and thrown his weight behind current deputy secretary general and former cabinet minister, Nkaku Kabi.

If true, his withdrawal would leave Mr Kabi to battle it out with Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and party chairperson, Samuel Rapapa.

Mr Ntsekele yesterday promised to call back to explain his position when this publication called him for comment. He had not done so at the time of going to print last night.

Party insiders have been giving conflicting views with some claiming that Mr Kabi is the frontrunner as he has received overwhelming support at the various branch meetings held countrywide over the past week.

Those who are rooting for Mr Kabi said he will profit from Mr Ntsekele’s withdrawal as this now meant that he has the full backing of Mr Thabane’s faction.

However, other party members said the contest is between Dr Majoro and Mr Rapapa.

“The real contest is between Majoro and Rapapa,” one party official said on condition of anonymity.

“Majoro has the advantage of incumbency and enjoys the support of several MPs and ministers in his cabinet. On the other hand, Rapapa is popular with the grassroots. Kabi is only a dark horse. He does not have much clout in the party structures countrywide.”

However, Mr Kabi’s backers insisted that he was the man to beat.

“Over the weekend, 15 out of 18 Maseru constituencies threw their weight behind Kabi. The constituencies in Berea and Leribe (11 each) are all behind Kabi. Furthermore, Kabi has the support of the Thabane camp. Having the outgoing leader’s support could well tilt the contest in his favour,” a party source said in an interview.

The Thabane faction in the national executive committee (NEC) had on 2 December 2021, voted to recall Dr Majoro and replace him with Mr Kabi. However, Dr Majoro refused to resign and make way for Mr Kabi, saying prime ministers are only removed through a no confidence vote in parliament and not by political parties.

The ABC’s initial reaction was to invite all political parties represented in parliament to a meeting to discuss the formation of a government of national unity (GNU) to replace Dr Majoro’s government.

The proposed GNU meeting had initially been slated for 15 December 2021 at the AME Hall in Maseru. However, it had to be called off after two of Dr Majoro’s allies, Keketso Lepheane and Tlali Mohapi, obtained a last-minute interim Constitutional Court order to stop it pending the finalisation of their application to permanently halt it from proceeding because it allegedly violated the constitution.

The duo had argued that the proposed GNU meeting was “treasonous” as it had been convened to “illegally” oust the prime minister.

However, the Constitutional Court bench comprising of Justices Molefi Makara, Keketso Moahloli and Fumane Khabo subsequently issued a final judgement dismissing Messrs Lepheane and Mohapi’s bid to permanently stop the meeting. The bench ruled that their fears that the political parties would engage in treasonous conduct “lacked merit.”

Despite the court victory, the Thabane faction abandoned the GNU plans as it had already emerged that the ex-premier and his allies did not have enough support to oust the Majoro administration. Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) and Professor Nqosa Mahao’s Basotho Action Party (BAP) both came out in opposition to the GNU, saying it was merely a selfish ploy by the Thabane faction to help it win its factional wars at the expense of the national interest.

Meanwhile, ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said preparations for the conference were ongoing and the candidates were now campaigning in earnest. He said they had not been informed of Mr Ntsekele’s withdrawal from the race.

“Submissions of names of candidates closes on 21 January 2020. Only then will we know for sure who is in and who has pulled out,” Mr Masoetsa said.

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