Lesotho: 'Maesaiah Plots Majoro's Ouster

Former First Lady Maesaiah Thabane (file photo).
8 September 2020

Barely three months after her husband former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's ejection from power, former First Lady 'Maesaiah Thabane is now spearheading a spirited plot to oust his successor, Moeketsi Majoro.

According to multiple authoritative sources, 'Maesaiah is mobilizing legislators from different political parties to support a no confidence motion against Dr Majoro when Parliament re-opens after its winter break. She has also been traversing the country meeting with all and sundry and making donations to drum up support for her plans. So determined is she that she has vowed Dr Majoro would be history within a matter of months, a source close to her said.

'Maesaiah recently slammed Dr Majoro's government for incompetence, criticizing some of his ministers for being "novices". She also slammed Dr Majoro's wife, First Lady Mamusa Majoro, for celebrating "foreign concepts" like women's month, marked annually in South Africa and Lesotho to honour women who marched in 1956 to protest the apartheid regime's pass laws.

Sources close to 'Maesaiah said she is buoyed by remarks by Judge Thamsanqa Nomngcongo in granting her bail in the June 2017 Lipolelo murder case.

"She reads the remarks as guaranteeing her acquittal if the state proceeds with the murder case... .," said a source.

"She is now undeterred, more energetic than ever and focused on her next political projects to oust Majoro and unseat (Tefo) Mapesela as Mokhotlong legislator. The murder case is now a non-issue for her and doesn't appear to bother her at all."

Judge Nomngcongo released 'Maesaiah on bail on 29 June 2020, claiming the State's case against her was weak. The judge also criticized the police for "throwing-in" Mr Thabane's name "just for the drama". Judge Nomngcongo seems to have been vindicated by the police's failure to charge Mr Thabane yet claiming his number was coded during the murder.

'Maesaiah sees this playing in her favour if the case proceeds as she cannot be expected to account for the use of her husband's phone without him being in the dock. The ongoing war of attrition between the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane's office is also seen playing in her favour. The law enforcement agencies are said to be not cooperating to build a solid case against the Thabanes. In fact their turf war has paralysed the criminal justice system.

Talks

Apart from disgruntled ABC members, 'Maesaiah is said to be equally wooing equally disgruntled members of the Mathibeli Mokhothu-led Democratic Congress (DC), also peeved by their failure to land cabinet posts.

'Maesaiah is said to be in regular talks with members of the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) whose leader Monyane Moleleki served as a loyal deputy prime minister in Mr Thabane's government.

Mr Moleleki was often accused by ABC members of taking advantage of Mr Thabane to further his own cause.

AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo yesterday confirmed that his party was indeed in talks with the ABC to push a no confidence vote whenever parliament reconvenes after the winter break.

Mr Litjobo expressed confidence that the vote will succeed as they had "the numbers including some ABC ministers in the current government".

Even after his ouster, senior AD officials have made no secret of their support for the Thabanes especially after 'Maesaiah's bail was revoked and she was briefly jailed pending her new bail bid.

Hordes of opposition AD members including its secretary general, Mahali Phamotse, even attended and spoke at a welcome party for 'Maesaiah at her Hillsview, Maseru home following her release on bail in June 2020.

A few days later, they also attended a press conference by Mr Thabane where he accused the Majoro administration of ill-treating him by denying him his pension after his forced retirement.

Repeated efforts to obtain a comment from 'Maesaiah were unsuccessful as her mobile phone was either constantly engaged or rang unanswered if the calls went through.

But sources within Mr Thabane's ABC faction said the ex-first lady's spirits have never been higher. She was fighting tooth, nail and claw to achieve Dr Majoro's ouster.

The sources said the Thabanes feel betrayed by Dr Majoro.

Mr Thabane was forced to step down in favour of Dr Majoro on 20 May 2020 by his own party which considered him a liability after the Lipolelo debacle.

The party was also angered by Mr Thabane's apparent failure to rein in 'Maesaiah, who was accused by several party and cabinet ministers of interfering with the affairs of the party and government.

The powerful ABC's national executive committee (NEC) caused Mr Thabane's ouster by withdrawing the ABC from its then governing coalition with the AD, Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

The NEC then formed a new coalition with the DC to replace the Thabane government. The BNP and RCL were retained as junior partners in the new government and their leaders rewarded with cabinet appointments. However, the AD was excluded from the new coalition because it had opposed the ABC's moves to oust Mr Thabane.

Although Dr Majoro finally came to power with the support of the Thabane loyalists who had opposed the ABC's NEC's earlier choice of party chairperson, Samuel Rapapa, the ex-premier was never happy with Dr Majoro.

Sources say Mr Thabane was bitter that Dr Majoro had not supported his plans to delay his departure till the end of July 2020. Even after the ABC had agreed on a new coalition deal with the DC, Mr Thabane's loyalists had been urging him to briefly assume the leadership of that new coalition government until his departure end of July. This because he remained ABC leader.

The Thabanes view Dr Majoro's "impatience to get to State House" as having been behind the ex-premier's early departure. The Thabanes and their supporters also feel Dr Majoro has not shown them respect after he assumed the premiership, the sources claim.

Dr Majoro, who served as finance minister in Mr Thabane's government, defeated Mr Rapapa by 26 votes to 18 to win the ABC's nomination for the post of premier.

Despite aiding Dr Majoro's ascendancy, many Thabane loyalists complain they were overlooked for cabinet appointments.

No confidence vote

The Thabane loyalists, who have previously made no secret of their unhappiness with Dr Majoro, this week vowed to support a no confidence vote against the premier when parliament reconvenes.

They said 'Maesaiah was backing the plot by actively mobilising support among disgruntled ABC and DC MPs as well as the opposition AD.

"We are working hard to ensure that we have enough numbers to send Majoro home when parliament reopens," an ABC MP who requested anonymity told this publication this week.

"He (Majoro) will suffer the same defeat that Tom (Thabane) suffered. We thought he was one of us but it is clear he is not. We were pushed out of government together with the AD only for him to accommodate non-entities like the BNP and RCL into government.

"I heard him from somewhere saying that his government will last until 2022. He (Majoro) is day dreaming."

Donations

Another ABC source said apart from participating in the talks with ABC, DC and AD MPs, 'Maesaiah had been mobilizing resources for donations to vulnerable Basotho through her trust fund. This was her way of projecting a positive image of herself and drumming support for her political project while casting the Majoro government in a bad light as a "do nothing government" that is not helping the vulnerable.

Just yesterday, 'Maesaiah donated food parcels to 90 Avani Hotel employees who congregated at the former prime minister's Makhoakhoeng home to ask him to intervene and save their jobs which are at stake due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) induced economic slowdown.

'Maesaiah donated a wheelchair to a disabled man in 'Muela, Butha-Buthe over the weekend. She also officiated at the sod-turning for the construction of a house by her trust fund for the same man.

On 26 August 2020, 'Maesaiah donated stock for a disabled Qeme man to enable him to resume his vending business. She also promised that her trust fund would rehabilitate the road in the constituency whose MP is water minister Nkaku Kabi. Mr Kabi backed Mr Thabane in his year-long power struggle with the Professor Nqosa Mahao-aligned ABC's NEC.

He is accused of having turned his back on Mr Thabane by joining Dr Majoro, current Public Works Minister Semano Sekatle and Deputy Minister of Local Government and Chieftaincy Moshe Leoma as the only members of Mr Thabane's cabinet to endorse the ABC's NEC's deal with the DC to oust him.

Speaking at the Qeme event, 'Maesaiah advised the people to seek her trust fund's opinion before voting for anyone.

"I have never seen a road in such a bad state. Do you vote during general elections? What did you vote for? What were you expecting to get in return after voting when this road remains in such a bad state?

"I have never seen a road in such a bad state... you should avoid voting for the sake of voting. Don't just vote, you should ask the trust fund for direction before casting your vote, you must do that from now on," 'Maesaiah said.

She later donated M20 000 to some street vendors in Maseru.

New Party

Another ABC MP, who also preferred anonymity said 'Maesaiah's humanitarian work was part of the plan to portray a negative image of the government "ahead of the main show in parliament".

"We are making great strides in mobilising other ABC MPs to join us in our cause to topple Majoro. I wouldn't say 'Maesaiah is leading us. Rather, she is part of our team. We are working together to topple the government.

"They created a law that prohibits a prime minister from calling for a fresh election when a no confidence vote is passed against him in parliament. They have created a monster for themselves because we will use the same law to topple Majoro's government. His days are numbered. Let them open parliament. We are ready for them," said the MP.

The sources said there was also a high likelihood that the Thabanes could breakaway from the ABC and form a new party. Their disgruntled MPs would then cross the floor and join forces with the opposition to try and form a new government excluding the ABC. Mr Thabane has already threatened to abandon the ABC if it does not take action against Mr Mapesela for attacking 'Maesaiah.

AD spokesperson Mr Litjobo confirmed that his party was part of a plot to oust Dr Majoro.

"It is true that we are working to topple this government when parliament reconvenes. We are working with ABC MPs and some of them are ministers. The plan is gathering momentum," Mr Litjobo said.

When asked how they hoped to topple a government which was installed by a solid majority of MPs, Mr Litjobo said, "we are certain that we will succeed because we have the numbers".

"Allow me not to mention names but it is true that we have joined hands with ABC MPs to topple this government. You can quote me, some of these people are ministers in this current administration".

Numbers Game

ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said they were not aware of the plot to unseat the government.

"We are not aware of it. But let her (Ms Thabane) try. Would she successfully pull that off... .?" Mr Masoetsa asked.

The ABC and DC jointly have 75 seats including the disgruntled Thabane loyalists.

Seven smaller parties also back the ABC-DC coalition with 18 seats. The smaller parties are Movement for Economic Change (6 seats), BNP (5 seats), Popular Front for Democracy (3 seats) and one seat each from Basotho Congress Party (BCP), RCL, National Independent Party (NIP) and the Marematlou Freedom Party.

'Maesaiah and her allies believe they can achieve an upset despite the seemingly strong numbers that brought about the current coalition. Politics is always a numbers game.

They feel buoyed by the shenanigans around the vote for the deputy speaker of parliament's position. About 24 ABC MPs voted with the opposition against their party's preferred candidate.

Lebohang Ramohlanka, the new coalition's choice, eventually won with a razor thin margin of 61 votes in the 120-member parliament. Her opponents Nyapane Kaya, an ABC legislator, was ironically nominated by the opposition AD to contest.

"In Lesotho nothing is permanent and allegiances change as much as the weather. So Majoro must not feel safe... ," said an ABC MP, speculating that a combination of the Thabane loyalists and disgruntled members of the DC could combine with the AD, LCD and achieve the "unthinkable". He warned MPs from the smaller parties were "enticable" to abandon the Majoro coalition.

Another highly placed source said Dr Majoro might also have pulled the rug from beneath his feet by bowing to pressure to not prosecute Mr Thabane, fearing a backlash from his supporters.

"If your enemy has adequate time... he will use it against you. That is what we are seeing with 'Maesaiah" and Ntate Thabane. They don't have to worry about preparing for murder trials... They have their eyes on Majoro's ouster," the source said.

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