…as ABC MPs reject Thabane’s call to oust him
THE main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s parliamentary caucus, has rejected party leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s call for ABC legislators to recall Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro.
Instead, the legislators this week expressed their support for Dr Majoro at a press conference at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru.
Although 25 out of the party’s 50 legislators turned up for the Tuesday press briefing, they claimed that they had the support of 10 others who were not at the venue. If this is true, this means that 35 ABC MPs still support Dr Majoro’s government.
Taken together with the Democratic Congress (DC)’s 25 MPs and the smaller parties’ combined 16 seats, it all means the governing coalition still commands the support of at least 76 MPs . This means that Dr Majoro has got the numbers to survive any attempt to oust him. Even without the 10 ABC MPs, who did not attend the presser, the government still has 66 MPs- a figure above the 61 seat threshold required to be government.
Dr Majoro, the ABC Thetsane legislator and former finance minister, replaced Mr Thabane as prime minister on 20 May 2020. This after the ABC MPs and the party’s national executive committee (NEC) had resolved that Mr Thabane should step down as they felt he could not continue as premier after being named as a suspect in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo.
The ABC’s NEC had already agreed to form a new coalition government with the DC and other smaller parties such as the Basotho National Party, Movement for Economic Change, Popular Front for Democracy and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
Despite Dr Majoro’s advent with popular support from the ABC MPs, Mr Thabane and his allies have been working with the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) to unseat him, accusing them of not serving their interests. Among other things, Dr Majoro has been accused of failing to appoint Mr Thabane’s allies to his cabinet and to other key government posts.
The attempts to unseat him have not yielded any results hitherto as Dr Majoro still appears to retain the support of the majority of the ABC’s NEC members, MPs as well as his coalition partners.
This has however, not stopped Mr Thabane and his loyalists from lobbying for the premier’s ouster.
According to ABC spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, and other NEC members who spoke on condition of anonymity, Mr Thabane pleaded with NEC to recall Dr Majoro during an NEC meeting in Maseru on 29 December 2020.
“It is true that the leader raised such an issue (of Dr Majoro’s recall) but the matter was never discussed and no date was set as to when it will be deliberated,” Mr Masoetsa told the Lesotho Times yesterday.
Another NEC member said, “we had a meeting and Ntate Thabane talked tough, saying that ABC members were frequenting his home, complaining that they were being sidelined by the government”.
“He was unhappy that ABC members were not being hired whenever there were vacancies or awarded tenders by this government. He said those who approached him indicated that their loyalty to the ABC was not being rewarded and that only a certain clique within the party was being handsomely rewarded,” the NEC member said.
It is against this background that the 25 ABC MPs addressed the Tuesday press conference and expressed confidence in Dr Majoro’s government.
Reading a statement, the caucus’s secretary, Tlokotsi Manyoko – an ABC MP for Hololo constituency – said they still supported Dr Majoro as prime minister.
“During the ABC national executive committee meeting of 29 December 2020, an issue was tabled that the head of government be removed immediately.
“As the people’s representatives in parliament, we would like to clarify our stance and state that the removal of the head of government means the collapse of government as stated in the constitution and the Westminster parliamentary system.
“As such, we as the people’s representatives, hereby state that we support the decision of the NEC which rejected the collapse of the current government. It is not in the interests of the nation to keep on changing governments. We strongly support the current government. We also assure Basotho that our numbers in parliament, together with those of our coalition partners are stable,” Mr Manyoko said.
The ABC’s Mokhotlong legislator, Tefo Mapesela, weighed in, saying they had rejected Mr Thabane’s call.
“We heard that the issue of removing the prime minister was raised by our leader, Ntate Thabane. We, as the ABC caucus, reject that and firmly state that it will not happen. The government can only be changed by us MPs,” Mr Mapesela said.
His sentiments were echoed by fellow legislator, Motlohi Maliehe, (Butha-Buthe constituency) who said only MPs had the power to change governments.
“The caucus has powers to make final decisions regarding the interests of the ABC in parliament. The NEC cannot form or bring down a government,” Mr Maliehe said.
However, Chalane Phori- a self-proclaimed Thabane loyalist who is also MP for Qoaling- yesterday rubbished the Tuesday press briefing as an “informal meeting” which did not reflect the party position.
“What happened is that ABC MPs met informally to pronounce their stance but their decisions are not those of the ABC. They cannot meet informally and decide anything,” Mr Phori said.
He also reiterated his support for Mr Thabane, saying, “I have always stated that I stand with Ntate Thabane as the party leader as per the constitution of the ABC”.