Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro was against the inclusion of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) into his new cabinet but his hand was forced by the national executive committee (NEC) of his All Basotho Convention (ABC), a former ABC legislator has claimed.
Bobatsi constituency MP Sello Mooki, who dumped the ABC for the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) last Friday, this week told the Lesotho Times that Dr Majoro had expressed his unhappiness over the inclusion of BNP and RCL leaders in the new governing coalition at a meeting with several disgruntled ABC MPs last week.
BNP leader Thesele 'Maseribane was reappointed Communications, Science and Technology minister while his party deputy, Machesetsa Mofomobe, was appointed deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations. RCL leader Keketso Rantšo retained her Labour and Employment portfolio.
Dr Majoro did not respond to calls and messages requesting his response to the allegations this week.
However, Mr Mooki said Dr Majoro had argued that the appointment of BNP and RCL leaders would cause friction within the ABC but the party's NEC argued that it was necessary to achieve stability as the two parties were traditional allies of the ABC.
The appointments have been the source of renewed infighting in the fractious ABC and have resulted in MPs Mooki and Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area constituency) dumping the party for the Monyane Moleleki-led AD.
Mr Mooki was the first to defect on Friday and Mr Tsatsanyane followed suit on Monday amid indications that more MPs could also ditch the fractious ruling party.
Narrating the events that led to his departure, Mr Mooki said there were at least 26 MPs who were unhappy with the decision to include the BNP and RCL in the new government.
He said he had a one-on-one meeting with Dr Majoro where he (Mr Mooki) told the premier of his and other ABC MPs' anger over the inclusion of BNP and RCL leaders in cabinet at their expense. He said Dr Majoro subsequently convened a meeting with the disgruntled legislators on Tuesday 9 June 2020 in Maseru.
He said at both meetings Dr Majoro told them that although he was against the move, his hand was forced by the NEC's insistence on appointing Messrs Maseribane, Mofomobe and Ms Rantšo to "reward their loyalty to the ABC and cement the political friendship".
"I met him (Dr Majoro) alone and again with some of the disgruntled MPs last Tuesday. In both meetings, he confessed that he had been against the inclusion of the BNP and RCL (in the coalition) because their presence threatened the stability of the ABC and his government.
"But he (Dr Majoro) said the ABC's NEC had insisted on their inclusion and he was powerless to disregard the NEC," Mr Mooki said. Although he is prime minister, Dr Majoro is not a member of the powerful NEC which signed a coalition deal with the Democratic Congress (DC) in April 2020.
Mr Mooki said the disgruntled MPs then threatened to dump the ABC over the issue but Dr Majoro allegedly begged them not to. The premier allegedly pleaded for time to discuss the issue with the NEC in the hope that it would reconsider its stance on the inclusion of the BNP and the RCL.
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"He (Dr Majoro) said his hands were tied because the NEC was powerful but he pleaded with us not to leave, saying his position as prime minister would be threatened if we did. He said he would talk to the NEC but he had not reported back to us when I left the ABC (on Friday)."
Mr Mooki said he had no choice but cross over to the AD after ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa told them to leave if they were not happy with the inclusion of the BNP and RCL.
"I was shown the exit door when I questioned some of these decisions, including the one to kick the AD out of the government.
"I asked why the BNP and RCL were kept in government and the answer was that they were friends of ABC. Nothing was said about the two parties' ability to deliver services to the people. I also said that the ABC and DC had more than enough numbers to form government on their own and did not have to give ministerial posts to other parties at the expense of their own MPs. I did not necessarily want a cabinet post for myself.
"The two parties (DC and ABC) together had 78 seats and therefore it was very unfair to give ministerial posts to other parties on the basis of mere friendship. I was then accused of challenging the decisions of the NEC and told to go."
Mr Mooki said he chose the AD because during its time in government it had shown that it was committed to service delivery in the ministries under its control.
"I decided to join the AD because it had proved its ability to deliver services to the people. The AD was kicked out of government because it was accused of using government resources to strengthen its support base by building schools, roads and implementing the rural electrification programme. But that is what the people expect of government and we in the ABC could have done the same as we had critical ministries like Public Works as well as Water.
"We could have also provided services and increased our support base but we didn't hence the baseless accusations against the AD when they were doing what they ought to do.
"I chose the AD because they delivered services in the few ministries that they were given in the previous government. I want to be associated with people who deliver services."
Mr Masoetsa this week told this publication that there is no going back on the appointment of BNP and RCL leaders to cabinet and disgruntled ABC MPs were free to leave the party.
Mr Mooki said although the AD had its own internal squabbles, they always closed ranks to focus on the more important task of providing services.
"I was compelled to join the AD because of their ability to put aside their internal differences and unite to provide services to the people. The same cannot be said of the ABC who forgot about the people and only focused on internal differences."
Mr Mooki said when the new government came into being on 20 May 2020, he had been optimistic that the ABC would build roads in rural constituencies including in his own Sekokong village. But he said he was not optimistic that will ever happen, judging by the performance of the government in the short period it has been in power. The Majoro government had hitherto failed to articulate a clear policy agenda on improving the lives of Basotho, he claimed.
"I walk for over an hour from the main road to reach my village. The prime minister (Dr Majoro) can attest to that because I once hosted him. He travelled on horseback to reach my home," Mr Mooki said.
He said at least 24 other ABC MPs could join him in defecting, claiming they were also not happy with the inclusion of the BNP and RCL in the new cabinet.