18 August 2018

Lesotho: ABC in a Crisis

PRIME Minister and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane has warned that the strife-torn party is "drifting towards hatred, killings and corruption".

Dr Thabane said it pained him that barely a year after assuming power in the 3 June 2017 elections, the ABC is riddled with serious in-fighting which has even affected its capacity to deliver services to the electorate.

Dr Thabane said this while addressing a rally in Ha 'Makhoroana in Mapoteng in the Berea district at the weekend.

His comments come against the background of escalating tensions and infighting within the ABC which were most recently manifested at the party's leadership conference in Berea on Friday night.

Legislators Nyapane Kaya and Malimong constituency legislator Leshoboro Mohlajoa exchanged harsh words and almost came to blows at the Friday event. The duo got involved in a heated argument after the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved to bar its chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe, from chairing the Friday conference.

The leadership conference, which spilled into the early hours of Saturday, was convened to prepare for the ABC's special conference scheduled for the 24th of this month in Quthing.

The outspoken Mr Maliehe, who has already ruffled feathers with his blistering public attack on the First Lady, Maesaiah Thabane in May this year, was once again in the eye of the storm on Friday.

It was his refusal to heed the NEC's decision to bar him from chairing the Friday conference that sparked angry exchanges among the legislators which almost degenerated into fisticuffs between the former Health Minister Kaya and Malimong constituency legislator Mohlajoa.

Mr Maliehe was barred from chairing the conference on the grounds that he had pending appearance before the party's disciplinary committee over his public attack on Ms Thabane.

Mr Maliehe also took his fight with party colleagues to a new level by defying Dr Thabane's directive that he should not chair the Friday conference. Dr Thabane made the call after NEC members voted overwhelming to bar Mr Maliehe from chairing the proceedings.

And in his address in Mapoteng on Sunday, Dr Thabane avoided the issue of Mr Maliehe.

He however, spoke of the pain of witnessing how much the ABC had become riven with infighting barely a year after assuming power.

He appealed to party members to follow the party channels to air their grievances and desist from publicising their concerns in the media particularly radio stations.

He also said that the party's NEC was busy working to address the grievances and concerns of the party faithful and warned that "anyone, even if it's some members of the NEC, who are bringing disrepute to the party by giving information to radio stations, then things will be ugly".

"It is a searing arrow to me as a leader that so early in my leadership, there are tussles, hearts are hurting and all hope is lost," Dr Thabane said, adding, "This has to come to an end and we must unite for the sake of our stability and growth".

Dr Thabane promised that the party's leadership would deal with the concerns of the ABC supporters as they (supporters) on the ground were better placed to see "where the train has been derailed".

"I have also noted that you (party members) are drifting towards hatred, killings and corruption.

"As the leadership of the party and the NEC, we have learnt of your dissatisfactions with the administration of the party and this is an issue which has spilled into the media. I have also accepted that we have problems and I want to tell you that most of your grievances are being dealt with.

"I know what you have been through to topple the previous government and your efforts have not been forgotten and therefore I have even directed my cabinet ministers to give me work plans we can implement so that we ensure that there is service delivery and you also get jobs as expected.

"Let us not forget where we come from and let us work together as a team. We should try by all means not to fight among ourselves as this can impact negatively on our party and on our coalition government partners and give cause for our enemies to rejoice in our problems," Dr Thabane said.

The ABC came to power in the aftermath of the 3 June elections when it combined its parliamentary seats with those of the Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) to form a coalition government.

Not long afterwards cracks began to emerge within the ABC and the earliest signs of internal strife came immediately after the announcement of the cabinet in July last year. There were reports that legislators from the Berea district were not happy that only one of their number, Habofanoe Lehana, of the Khafung #23 constituency was given a ministerial position.

This was despite the fact that the district had given the ABC its second biggest area electoral win with nine seats out of the 11 contested in that district in the June elections. The ABC's biggest win was in Maseru where it won 15 of the 18 contested seats in the district.

The reports of internal strife during that period were confirmed by Dr Thabane who subsequently told a rally in Hlotse that the ABC had been infiltrated by "enemies who have come to confuse us".

And on Sunday, Dr Thabane reminded party members that although the ABC was the main partner in the governing coalition and ought to be championing service delivery, "things were not working as expected because of dissatisfactions among party members".

"I therefore urge all of us who have been voted (into positions of power) to self-introspect and start delivering as expected," Dr Thabane said.

He also expressed gratitude to his coalition partners for refraining from meddling in the ABC and allowing it to sort out its issues.

"I am very grateful that my coalition partners have respected me thus far to lead them without meddling in our internal affairs as a party."

However, his sentiments were at variance with those of the ABC's Ha 'Makhoroana legislator, Lefu Hlomelang, who accused the coalition partners of seeking to exploit the divisions within the ABC.

Mr Hlomelang said that his constituency was faced with challenges of unemployment, adding, "What is even sad is to see some of our coalition partners taking advantage of our situation and luring our people to join their parties by promising them jobs".

"One just gets to wonder where these jobs are and why we can't access them.

"Our youth are jobless and they have even embarked on some projects which are also not doing well as they don't have machinery. The people in this area still drink water from wells with animals, yet our country is exporting water to South Africa," Mr Hlomelang added.

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