Lesotho: Thabane Warns of Bloodshed

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane says his patience with party rivals has worn thin, adding "all hell will soon break loose" if they continue to provoke him.

Dr Thabane also scoffed at his weekend "suspension" by the ABC's constituency committees, saying he was still in firm control of the fractious ruling party.

He said there was "only one prime minister in Lesotho" and he was not going anywhere despite his six year "suspension" from the ABC by the party's constituency committees, adding "if there was any firing of people from the party that needed to be done, then it would only be done by me".

He also called on law enforcement agents to intervene and prevent possible bloodshed that could potentially arise from the power struggle that has gripped the ABC in the run up to and after its 1-2 February 2019 elective conference that ushered in Professor Nqosa Mahao and others against his (Dr Thabane's) will.

Dr Thabane said this while addressing a rally in Qeme, Maseru, this week.

His comments come against the background of the weekend drama wherein 54 out of the party's 80 constituencies converged at Thaba Bosiu and voted to "suspend" Dr Thabane, former secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele and newly elected deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi from all party activities for six years.

The defiant ABC constituencies took it upon themselves to hold the conference after the High Court last Thursday barred ABC deputy leader Prof Mahao and his faction of the ABC's national executive committee (NEC) from holding the event which would have deliberated on the expulsion of Dr Thabane and other senior officials from the party.

But a swashbuckling Dr Thabane came out guns blazing on Sunday and scoffed at his rivals, saying his suspension was null and void. He even called on the law enforcement authorities to intervene and prevent possible bloodshed that could potentially arise from the power struggle that has gripped the ABC.

"There is a rumour making rounds that I was fired as leader of the ABC. If anyone has to do the firing, it would be me. But I am not in the business of firing people. I was elected to inspire people to become better versions of themselves.

"I urge law enforcement agencies to do their work to avoid bloodshed that could be caused by those who are misusing the ABC banner to defy court decisions.

"These people should be stopped. They have been poking their fingers in my eyes for far too long and my patience is wearing thin. All hell will break loose if they do not stop. There is only one prime minister who is also a party leader in this country and that is me."

A previous warning that the ABC conflict could turn deadly was issued by the party's prominent legislators, Habofanoe Lehana, Keketso Sello and Mohapi Mohapinyane in February this year.

"There is a high likelihood of chaos and/or bloodshed ensuing at the headquarters of the first respondent (ABC) with the second respondent (outgoing ABC's NEC) and the purported recently elected (NEC) members trying or vying to take and/or remain in control of the offices of the ABC.

"There is a high likelihood that the factions will fight each other. The recently elected NEC has not assumed office and if they do it will be to our prejudice as we are challenging the election results," the trio told the High Court in their ultimately unsuccessful bid to overturn the election of Prof Mahao and others into the ABC's NEC.

More recently in June, Dr Thabane "expelled" Prof Mahao, secretary general Lebohang Hlaele, chairperson Samuel Rapapa, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson) from the ABC for alleged gross insubordination despite a High Court ruling which recognized their election.

The quintet are challenging their "expulsions" in court and they were forced by a Thursday High Court interdict to abort at the last minute, a special conference they had planned for the weekend to deliberate on the possible expulsion of Dr Thabane and other senior party officials.

The court interdict did not however, prevent the weekend drama where 54 out of the party's 80 constituency committees held what they called a 'court of public opinion' in Thaba Bosiu and "suspended" Dr Thabane and others for six years. The constituency committees "elected" Prof Mahao to hold fort while Dr Thabane 'served out his suspension'.

According to Matšeliso Tuoane-Sepiriti, who was elected interim secretary general by the constituencies, "this special conference had nothing to do with the one that was earlier called by the newly elected NEC of Prof Mahao".

"The conference has decided to suspend the leader of the party, Thomas Thabane, former secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele and newly elected deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi from all party activities for six years.

"Further to this, the special conference has decided to have Professor Nqosa Mahao hold fort as the leader of the party while the party leader serves his sentence," Ms Tuoane-Sepiriti said.

Contacted for comment, "expelled" ABC secretary Mr Hlaele said the NEC had the authority to convene a special conference. He whoever, said, as owners of the party, ABC members in their various constituencies, had the right to call the conference whenever they deemed necessary.

"In this confusion that exists in the party where the courts of law seem to have taken over the administration of our parties, ABC members who are also the owners of the party have every right to protect and safeguard their party.

"In this situation where they (ABC members) realised that their party was in danger and that no one with authority was keen on saving the party, they saw it fit to protect the ABC. They were within their rights to hold the special conference," Mr Hlaele said.

Mr Hlaele said regardless of whether or not the special conference was constitutional, the most important issue it brought out was that the majority of ABC members had lost faith in Dr Thabane's leadership.

"Whether it was constitutionally correct or incorrect, the conference was convened by the owners of the party. Whether the decision was constitutional or unconstitutional is not the real issue. The clear underlying message is that the members of the party no longer have confidence in the leader (Dr Thabane)," Mr Hlaele said.

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