Thomas Thabane's allies have declared war on Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro.
They have threatened to "expose" Dr Majoro's own "dirty secrets" if the new premier does not give in to their demands to have the murder charges against Mr Thabane dropped.
Dr Majoro's mobile phone rang unanswered yesterday when he was called for comment.
But former cabinet minister and current Qoaling legislator, Chalane Phori, who acts like the unofficial spokesman of Mr Thabane's allies, vowed that Dr Majoro's "dirty secrets" would be exposed unless he intervened to halt efforts to charge Mr Thabane with the June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo.
Mr Phori does not however explain how Dr Majoro can make such a patently illegal intervention as a prime minister does not have the legal authority to interfere with prosecution processes.
The threats nonetheless come against the background of widening fissures within the ABC which have seen some Thabane loyalists voting in parliament against their own party on crucial issues such as the position of deputy speaker of parliament. In the aftermath of Mr Thabane's enforced departure from power two months ago, two ABC legislators Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area constituency) and Sello Mooki (Bobatsi) have defected to the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD). The AD was the second biggest party in Mr Thabane's four party regime which lasted from June 2017 until 19 May 2020 when the former premier was forced to step down by his own party.
A new coalition comprising of the ABC and the Democratic Congress (DC) was formed in place of the former government. Ominously for the ABC, Mr Thabane and his loyalists have lately been hobnobbing with senior AD officials.
AD lawmakers, Thuso Litjobo, Tlohelang Aumane, Tsukutlane Au, Mokoto Hloaele and Mokherane Tsatsanyane attended a Monday press conference convened by Mr Thabane at his Hillsview residence to express his anger over his "persecution" by the Majoro government and his own ABC party.
The AD officials also attended last week's ceremony at the same venue to celebrate the release of Mr Thabane's wife, 'Maesaiah, on bail over the same murder charges. This and the fact that the Thabane faction held a secret meeting with the AD on Sunday "to plot how to assist Mr Thabane" in the face of murder charges has fuelled speculation that the former premier and his allies could be considering ditching the ABC for a new political arrangement which includes his former coalition partner.
Mr Thabane and his wife, 'Maesaiah, are accused of murdering the former premier's ex-wife, Lipolelo, on 14 June 2017.
'Maesaiah first appeared in court on 5 February 2020 and is out on M10 000 bail.
Mr Thabane had been expected to finally appear alongside his wife on Tuesday but that did not happen. Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete, yesterday said they were only tying up loose ends before taking Mr Thabane to court. He said they had delayed to ensure that when they finally bring him to court, the former premier would not avoid trial on any technicality.
Amid all the brouhaha surrounding the case, the former premier, his allies and the AD officials held a meeting at Mr Thabane's Hillsview residence on Sunday to plot their response to the murder case.
Former ministers Phori (Small Business, Cooperating and Marketing), Samonyane Ntsekele (Water), Tšehlo Ramarou (Public Works) and Mahala Molapo (Local Government and Chieftainship) were among some of the ABC MPs who attended the meeting.
The meeting was held to plot ways of supporting Mr Thabane after the MPs had caught wind of plans by the police to haul Mr Thabane before the courts.
A day later, Mr Phori, a self-confessed Thabane loyalist, told the Lesotho Times that they want Dr Majoro to instruct the police and the crown to drop the charges against Mr Thabane.
He said ABC MPs loyal to Mr Thabane met on Sunday to come up with a strategy to support Mr Thabane.
Asked what strategy they had agreed, Mr Phori said, "allow me not to say anything now. This is a political war".
But if his video recorded on Monday night and went viral on Tuesday is anything to go by, the Thabane loyalists' strategy is to go for broke and fight dirty by exposing what they say are Dr Majoro's dirty secrets.
Mr Phori said Dr Majoro's closet was 'full of skeletons' that the premier would not want the world to know about. To ensure that those skeletons remain hidden, Mr Phori said Dr Majoro would have to ensure that the charges against Mr Thabane are dropped.
In the video, Mr Phori is heard saying that Mr Thabane was elected into office after the party received about 250 000 votes at the 2017 elections. He alleges that at least half of that number are still solidly behind Mr Thabane even after he was forced to step down on 19 May 2020 by his own party's national executive committee (NEC) and several legislators.
He warns that Dr Majoro would have serious problems on his hands if he does not instruct the prosecuting authorities to drop the charges against Mr Thabane.
"Thabane's staunch supporters will stand by him. He (Thabane) was voted into power by 250 000 people. If there are people who hate him that much in the party, divide that 250 000 by half and you will still have another half which supports him.
"This means you will still have serious problems in your hands. That is why those things you are doing must come to an end. I want to say this to you Dr Majoro. Get your house in order while there is still time for that".
He said that he had held meetings with Dr Majoro on the issue. He and fellow Thabane allies had restrained themselves thus far because they wanted to support the premier who came to power on 20 May 2020.
But due to his failure to support Mr Thabane, Dr Majoro no longer deserved their support, said Mr Phori.
"We supported you before but do not force us to fight back. Who can claim that he is squeaky clean? We do not want to fight a nasty political fight here but if push comes to shove, we will not hesitate to (fight).
"We are ABC members and we will use everything within our powers. He (Thabane) relinquished power, what more do you want from him now? Will you ever let Ntate Tom rest?"
Mr Phori even urged ABC supporters to attend Mr Thabane's court appearance in their thousands to show their support. The court hearing did not materialize on Tuesday as had been expected.
"People who are taking him to court will know from tomorrow (Tuesday) that we are against them. You will know that we stand against you. We are staunch ABC members who will not be shaken by anything. You cannot do that to Tom Thabane," Mr Phori said.
He urged the ABC to take a leaf from the DC which he claimed had protected its former leader and ex-premier Pakalitha Mosisili from being exposed for his wrongs.
He said just like the DC founder, Mr Thabane should be similarly protected by the party he had founded.
"There are a lot of things that we can say about Ntate Mosisili but the DC has moved to protect him by ensuring that those issues remain hidden. This is because the DC members love him and that is a good thing.
"The Basotho Congress Party and Lesotho Congress for Democracy respected Ntate Ntsu Mokhehle as their founder and still continue to do so even after his death. Ntate Monyane Moleleki is the founder of his party (AD) and he is respected. When he is being embarrassed, the party comes to his defence and that is a good thing. What is it that Tom Thabane has done to warrant you to go after him like a vulnerable animal being preyed on by a hunter?"
Without mentioning any names, Mr Phori took a swipe at those campaigning to replace Mr Thabane as party leader. ABC deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao and chairperson Samuel Rapapa have openly declared their willingness to contest the top post. Party insiders have said that Dr Majoro will also contest to consolidate his position in the party as he is currently just a legislator and not a member of the powerful NEC.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa had previously said elections to replace Mr Thabane would be held sometime this month. But this week, he told this publication that replacing Mr Thabane was "not a priority".
"There were some ABC members who had already started campaigning for the leadership post but we made a decision that those campaigns must be suspended. Our most pressing priority is to stabilise this government and ensure that it delivers services to the people," Mr Masoetsa said.
Mr Phori said it was wrong for anyone to campaign for the post when it was still occupied by Mr Thabane.
He said he even warned the party against choosing Mr Thabane's successor in government but this had gone unheeded and this had divided the party further.
"I once warned that it was unwise to elect the prime minister's successor while Thabane was still in office but we embarked on that route. I warned that we will divide this party. But we still supported you ( ABC NEC). You are now starting yet another thing and I must tell you that this time around you are not going to win," Mr Phori said without explaining the legal authority he expects Dr Majoro to use to stop the prosecution of Mr Thabane.