Lesotho: Thabane Gives Up On ABC Conflict

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane says he has all but given up hope of ever resolving the ABC power struggle due to what he describes as the "arrogance and intransigence" of his party deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao, and his faction of the ruling party.

The ABC leader said he had tried everything to resolve the infighting with his deputy, including inviting Prof Mahao's faction to explain why it should not be censured for insubordination and for taking party disputes to court. But all had been in vain. The premier said he had now given up on resolving the infighting within his ruling ABC. He blamed the rebuff of his overtures on what he described as Prof Mahao's "pomposity".

Dr Thabane said this while addressing a weekend rally in Koro-koro, a stronghold of the Mahao faction. The ABC has not known peace ever since the party's Koro-koro constituency committee nominated Prof Mahao who subsequently clinched the deputy leader's post at the February 2019 elective conference. Prof Mahao's victory was achieved despite the fierce resistance by Dr Thabane and other senior ABC officials who argued that the former National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor was a political greenhorn who should not be parachuted to the top post ahead of more seasoned party stalwarts. The resistance to Prof Mahao has continued even in the aftermath of the 12 June 2019 High Court ruling which recognised him and his other colleagues as the legitimate NEC of the party. Talks between Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao have failed to resolve the impasse. Three weeks ago Dr Thabane announced that he had expelled Prof Mahao, Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson) for alleged insubordination. The quintet have however, resisted the move and in turn, they have "suspended" Dr Thabane from the party.

Conscious of the fact that he had entered the lion's den, the hotbed of the pro-Mahao faction on Sunday, Dr Thabane was at pains to pin the blame for the infighting on his rival.

He told the ABC supporters, including many who had been bused in from other parts of the country, that Prof Mahao and his loyalists' were to blame for the divisions in the party.

He said he had done everything in his power to resolve the crisis but he had now all but given up due to Prof Mahao and his supporters' "arrogance".

"I exhausted all avenues to try and bring peace within the party," Dr Thabane said, adding, "I tried to bar the party members from taking our issues to the courts of law because I knew that the courts would not bring us any solutions as they deal with other crimes such as rape. The ABC is not a party of rape.

"I tried to resolve the impasse by asking the newly elected NEC members to furnish me with reasons why I could not suspend them from the party, but given all the pomposity from them I must say I have given up.

"I played along and thought that with time they would come to their senses and repent but all was in vain."

Despite having "expelled" the quintet from the fractious ruling party, Dr Thabane said he still entertained hopes that "they will eventually come around" and make peace with him.

Contacted for comment the pro-Mahao ABC spokesperson Mr Masoetsa dismissed Dr Thabane's claims that he had tried his best to broker peace with his party rivals. Mr Masoetsa accused Dr Thabane of public posturing in Koro-koro and other rallies that he had addressed, saying, "everything that Thabane says either at party or administration level is just cheap talk meant to entertain his followers".

"He (Dr Thabane) has failed to take control and bring about the much-needed change in the country. Whatever he says is neither here nor there because it doesn't impact us in any way," said Mr Masoetsa.

Dr Thabane also railed against unnamed party members for allowing themselves to be used in fighting him by unnamed people. He suggested his party opponents were angry with because they had failed to land influential posts in cabinet and elsewhere in the government.

"Stop fighting other people's battles. Some of those who are pelting me with stones today were once very close to me but you should understand that it's not all of you who can be ministers or principal secretaries. It's not all of you who can be appointed to high posts in the embassies."

He said the infighting in the ABC had caused most Basotho to lose faith in his two year-old administration's ability to resolve the pressing socio-economic challenges facing the country.

"All the good that we have done and are still doing as a government has become invisible to the nation (because of the infighting)... . Yet I have received reports that the last batch of wool and mohair farmers are being paid their dues," he said in reference to the recent events that have seen angry wool and mohair farmers take to the streets in their thousands to protest against the government's regulations barring them from selling their produce from the country and through brokers of their choice.

The wool and mohair farmers are livid with the government over its regulations which prescribe that their produce be sold from Lesotho only by the Chinese controlled Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) in Thaba Bosiu. The farmers have complained of late about inadequate payments by the LWC. They contend that they used to receive higher payments for their produce from South Africa through that country's wool and mohair broker, BKB.

ABC Youth League president, Tšoloane Maphasa, also used the Koro-koro rally to attack principal secretaries for allegedly failing to ensure youths were provided with jobs.

"The principal secretaries have their hands in their pockets doing nothing while we youths are suffering and don't have jobs. Why is it that we have become beggars when the ABC is in government? If they (principal secretaries) can't deliver they should just go," an irate Mr Maphasa said.

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