Embattled All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is said to have begged some of his cabinet ministers to rethink their decision to endorse his party's national executive committee (NEC)'s proposed deal to form a new government with the opposition Democratic Congress (DC).
Three of the five ministers spoke to the Lesotho Times this week on condition of anonymity and confirmed meeting Dr Thabane at his official State House residence in Maseru. They however refused to say whether or not they would reconsider their decision.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said even if the ministers were to re-think their endorsement of the deal, this would be inconsequential as the ABC's NEC had the required number of legislators to meet the 61 MPs threshold to form a new government in the 120-member national assembly.
Dr Thabane is on the backfoot amid revelations that at least 34 ABC legislators recently endorsed the party's NEC's deal with the DC to form a new coalition to replace the current government. The DC has 26 legislators. Taken together with the 34, the five legislators of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and one each from the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and Popular Front for Democracy, who are said to be backing the deal, they would surpass the required 61 seat threshold required to form a new government even if the five ABC ministers reconsidered their decision.
The ABC's NEC is dominated by members who are loyal to ABC leader Thabane's estranged deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao. However, the revelations by authoritative ABC sources that Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro and other senior members of Dr Thabane's cabinet are part of the plot to oust him, suggests that the veteran leader has lost the support of some of his key, trusted lieutenants. It will therefore be very difficult for him to remain in power after the prorogation of parliament ends on 19 June 2020.
According to the sources, other ministers who signed the pledge supporting the ABC-DC deal are Motlohi Maliehe (Social Development), Nkaku Kabi (Health), Semano Sekatle (Justice) and Public Works deputy minister Moshe Leoma. Mokhotlong legislator Tefo Mapesela and his Hlotse counterpart Keketso Sello also signed the petition before they were fired from their ministerial posts a fortnight ago. Mr Mapesela was Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation minister while Mr Sello served in the Transport portfolio.
The seven are said to have endorsed the ABC's NEC decision to form a new coalition with the DC after ABC members of parliament (MPs) met at Mine Workers' place in Khubetsoana on 28 March 2020. The MPs resolved that the party should abandon its current coalition deal with Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki's Alliance of Democrats (AD), Communications, Science and Technology Minister Thesele Maseribane's BNP and Labour and Employment Minister Keketso Rantšo's RCL.
Dr Majoro is slated to lead the new government to be formed by the ABC and DC. He will be deputised by DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu. Although the ABC and DC will be the major parties in the proposed new coalition, the BNP, RCL and PFD will be roped to give the new coalition stability.
"We have 34 ABC legislators who have signed the pledge to support the (proposed ABC-DC) coalition deal including four cabinet ministers," a source told the Lesotho Times last week.
"The four are the incoming prime minister (Majoro), Ntate (Nkaku) Kabi, Ntate (Motlohi) Maliehe and Ntate (Semano) Sekatle."
The source said there were initially six ministers and a deputy minister who had signed the pledge before Messrs Mapesela and Sello were fired last Friday. Dr Thabane did not disclose his reasons for firing the duo but it is widely believed they were sacked for supporting moves to oust him. Mr Mapesela subsequently told the Lesotho Times' sister Sunday Express newspaper that he was one of ABC legislators supporting the ABC-DC deal.
He said the MPs had merely acted in the country's best interests by agreeing a deal with the country's main opposition party. He said they have never hidden their intentions to form an ABC-DC government whose prime minister would have been Dr Thabane himself under normal circumstances, deputised by DC leader Mr Mokhothu.
Dr Thabane has tried everything to stop his party members and others from ousting him. A fortnight ago he pleaded with the security chiefs to investigate and deal with what he called subversive actions by his own party and others aimed at unlawfully bringing down his government.
He said it was shocking and dispiriting that at a time when everyone was supposed to be observing the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, some members of his own party were plotting to topple his government.
This week, the premier played the diplomacy card by calling the four ministers and deputy minister to his state house residence where he is said by sources to have calmly pleaded with them to withdraw their support for the ABC's NEC's decision to form new government with the DC.
"Ntate Thabane's camp wants the current status quo to remain as it is until the end of the tenure of the current government in 2022," a source said, adding "most of the people suggesting this are in league with (Deputy Prime Minister Monyane) Moleleki". The ABC-DC deal would leave Mr Moleleki and his AD party out in the cold.
Some of the ministers this week told the Lesotho Times that Dr Thabane had approached them and pleaded with them to rethink their decision to endorse the ABC-DC pact.
"All I can confirm is that I have been asked to withdrawn my signature. Everything else is confidential and remains between me and my leader," one minister said this week.
Another minister said in their discussions "he (Dr Thabane) did not talk to me as a prime minister but as my leader in the ABC. Whatever was discussed remains between me and him".
A third minister also said he was only prepared to confirm that there was a meeting between him and the prime minister at the premier's request. He however, refused to say whether or not he would reconsider his decision to back the ABC-DC pact.
Dr Thabane was not reachable on his mobile phone for comment. His Senior Private Secretary Thabo Thakalekoala referred all questions to the ABC, saying this was a party issue.
"I would like you to talk to the ABC because this is a party issue," Mr Thakalekoala said. Pressed for more information, Mr Thakalekoala said "he (Dr Thabane) might have talked to them as party members".
On his part, ABC spokesperson Masoetsa said the NEC was not aware of the meeting between Dr Thabane and the ministers.
"We are not aware of the meeting but we expected it. He (Dr Thabane) cannot succeed (in stopping the proposed formation of a new government) because even if the five (ministers and deputy minister) were to renege on their decision, we would still be left with enough numbers to form government with the DC. We are going ahead to form a new government with the DC," Mr Masoetsa said.
All in all, the ABC has 52 legislators and 18 of these are not in favour of the ABC-DC deal. They are said to favour a GNU comprising of the ABC, AD and the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC).
Dr Thabane is on record saying he favoured a GNU with the LCD and MEC led by Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane respectively. However, this has been strenuously resisted by the ABC's NEC.
The 18 ABC legislators who have not endorsed the ABC-DC pact are Dr Thabane himself (Abia constituency), Samonyane Ntsekele (Tsikoane), Lekhetho Mosito (Likhetlane), Halebonoe Setšabi (Kolonyama), Litšoane Litšoane (Bela-Bela), Tšehlo Ramarou (Leribe), Leshoboro Mohlajoa (Malimong), Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Prince Maliehe (Teyateyaneng), Tšoeu Molise (Tšoana-Makhulo), Thabang Mafojane (Motimposo), Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area), Lesego Makgothi (Maseru Central), Chalane Phori (Qoaling), Lehlohonolo Moramotse (Lithoteng), Temeki Tšolo (Mafeteng), Sello Mooki (Bobatsi) and Fako Moshoeshoe (Mabote).