Lesotho: Mahao Urges MPs to Oust Thabane and Rescue Lesotho

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and ABC rival Nqosa Mahao.

"EXPELLED" All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao, has called on the government and opposition to unite to oust ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane because the latter "has lost the ability to govern due to advanced age and ill-health".

Dr Thabane, who turned 80 on 28 May 2019, has made no secret of his desire to rule until 2027 when he will be 88 years old.

And despite sending him a congratulatory message on the occasion of his birthday in May this year, his estranged party deputy, Prof Mahao, now wants Dr Thabane relieved of his duties as premier and party leader.

This after a nasty fallout between the two which was precipitated by Dr Thabane's steadfast refusal to accept Prof Mahao's February 2019 victory in the ABC's national executive committee (NEC) elections.

Prof Mahao clinched the coveted post of deputy leader after beating a strong field of seasoned party stalwarts including Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe. As deputy leader, Prof Mahao became the frontrunner to succeed Dr Thabane in both party and government when the veteran leader eventually calls it a day.

Dr Thabane and other senior party officials have fiercely resisted Prof Mahao's election arguing that he is a "newcomer" who should not be parachuted into the party's second most powerful position ahead of seasoned party stalwarts. Previous talks and court litigation have so far failed to end the impasse which has seen Dr Thabane "expel" Prof Mahao and his fiercest allies, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and his deputy 'Matebatso Doti.

The quintet, who were "expelled" in June 2019 for alleged insubordination after they convened and addressed rallies in apparent defiance of Dr Thabane's orders for them not to do so, hit back by suspending Dr Thabane and other senior officials from the party. They were only stopped by a High Court order from holding a special party conference on 6 July 2019 which would have expelled Dr Thabane from the party.

In June this year, pro-Mahao ABC legislators filed a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane in parliament. While the Democratic Congress (DC) and other opposition parties have pledged to support the Mahao faction's bid to oust to Dr Thabane, the Mothejoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is still holding out for possible deal to save Dr Thabane from ouster on condition he accepts proposals for the establishment of a government of national unity (GNU).

There have been widespread allegations that Mr Metsing has inked a deal to save Dr Thabane's government in exchange for the Deputy Prime Minister's post alongside the incumbent Monyane Moleleki in a new coalition deal. However, the ABC and the LCD have denied inking such a deal and Mr Metsing has said his party is prepared to vote against the motion only if Dr Thabane agrees to a GNU.

And on Sunday, Prof Mahao told ABC supporters in Teyateyaneng that it was necessary for legislators across the political divide to unite and oust Dr Thabane. He said the veteran leader's advanced age and alleged poor health made him susceptible to the machinations of unscrupulous senior politicians and government officials who took advantage to get him to sign dubious deals that depleted the country's scarce financial resources.

The Teyateyaneng gathering was held to welcome former mining minister, Lebohang Thotanyana, who recently joined the ABC from the LCD.

Addressing the gathering, Prof Mahao said, "We need a united front to topple this government".

"Basotho are poor and hungry. There is a mob in Maseru that is looting public funds. Now they are clinging on to power to hide their corrupt practices.

"Ntate Thabane is no longer capable and some people are taking advantage of his old age and ill-health to get him to sign off controversial deals. Some criminals sit in restaurants to write letters and thereafter tell him to sign them off. In some countries there is an impeachment process to remove leaders who are no longer capable.

"We appeal to the legislators to work together to rescue this nation. This goes to all parliamentarians from all parties to work together to rescue this nation. If you do not do that, future generations will spit on our graves for failing them. We do not want elections. That would be a waste of public funds. All we want is good governance. Parliamentarians should forget about their party colours for once and do what is right for the people," he said.

Prof Mahao alleged that some of the senior government officials had used their influence to get Dr Thabane to fire the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Borotho Matsoso.

In February this year, Dr Thabane sent Adv Matsoso on forced leave pending the expiry of his contract on 30 June 2019. Dr Thabane did not give reasons for the move that Adv Matsoso said "came as a shock" to him.

Prof Mahao said Adv Matsoso was fired because he had begun investigations into the alleged M7 million fraud at the Lesotho Post Bank which is said to involve some senior government officials.

He also criticised Dr Thabane's latest bid to oust Court of Appeal president, Justice Kananelo Mosito.

Dr Thabane initially attempted to oust Justice Mosito on the grounds that the top judge had allegedly interfered with the administrative functions of the Acting Chief Justice, 'Maseforo Mahase.

But Dr Thabane's initial bid to oust Justice Mosito fell through on 24 July 2019 when he was forced into an out of court settlement with Prof Mahao and his allies that led to the withdrawal of his 5 July 2019 letter demanding that Justice Mosito "show cause" why he should not be suspended and impeached for allegedly interfering with Justice Mahase's duties.

This after Prof Mahao and his allies had filed an application in the Court of Appeal to stop the impeachment of Justice Mosito on the basis of the 5 July 2019 "show cause" letter by Dr Thabane.

The out of court settlement was further buttressed by an apex court ruling that Dr Thabane could not impeach Justice Mosito on the basis of the 5 July 2019 "show cause" letter. The apex court ruling was delivered on 7 August 2019.

But barely two weeks later, Dr Thabane has renewed his bid to oust Justice Mosito on the basis of the latter's continued employment at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) in violation of his (Dr Thabane's) 12 June 2019 instruction to Justice Mosito to resign from the university.

Dr Thabane now wants to fire Justice Mosito on the grounds that the latter's employment at the NUL "might compromise your independence, impartiality and competency as a judicial officer".

In a letter to Justice Mosito dated 14 August 2019, Dr Thabane states that the top judge's continued employment at NUL despite his order for him to resign from the university is an act of misconduct that compromises Justice Mosito's independence, integrity and competency as a judge.

"I therefore intend to advise His Majesty the King (Letsie III) to appoint a tribunal in terms of section 125 (5) of the constitution to investigate the aforesaid misconduct and your fitness to hold office. In order to preserve the integrity of the office of the president of the court of appeal and the administration of justice as a whole, kindly be advised that I further intend to advise His Majesty the King to suspend you from office in terms of section 125 (7) of the constitution.

"I now therefore invite you to make representations, showing cause, if any, why I cannot proceed as indicated above. Your written representations, if any, should reach my office within a period of seven days after receipt hereof," Dr Thabane further states.

And on Sunday, Prof Mahao said Dr Thabane had misdirected himself in seeking to fire Justice Mosito.

"Ntate Thabane forgets that there is no salary for that (Court of Appeal) post. Ntate Mosito only gets a sitting allowance just like anyone who sits on the boards (of companies).

"He (Ntate Thabane) also forgets that 'M'e 'Maseforo (Mahase) also gets the same sitting allowances when she sits in the Court of Appeal and he has no problem with that. This country is in serious trouble," Prof Mahao said.

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