Lesotho: ABC Split 'Worries' SADC Leaders

Lesotho Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro (file photo).

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu have reassured "worried" Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders that their government remains stable and will last its full tenure despite the split in the All Basotho Convention (ABC).

This was said by the prime minister's press attaché, Buta Moseme, in an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday.

Mr Moseme was speaking in the aftermath of this week's visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's special envoy, Jeff Radebe.

Mr Radebe was accompanied by South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Candith Mashego-Dlamini, and Deputy Minister of State Security, Zizi Kodwa. The trio jetted into the country on Monday and left the following day after holding separate closed-door meetings with His Majesty King Letsie III, Dr Majoro, Mr Mokhothu and other senior government officials. This amid indications that Mr Ramaphosa and other SADC leaders were worried that the ABC split could bring down the government and thus prevent Lesotho from implementing the much-delayed multi-sector reforms recommended by SADC in 2016.

The ABC split a fortnight ago after its former deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao left the party with nine legislators to form the Basotho Action Party (BAP). Two other ABC MPs Tefo Mapesela and Nyapane Kaya also dumped the party to form the Basotho Patriotic Party and to join the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) respectively. (See stories on Pages 2 and 8).

A few days after jumping ship, Prof Mahao claimed that he had the support of at least 11 more ABC MPs and his new party would soon table a no confidence motion against the government in parliament.

This prompted newly appointed ABC deputy leader Dr Majoro and DC leader Mr Mokhothu to address a joint press conference last Wednesday reaffirming their commitment to their coalition deal. They said their two parties jointly had 62 seats, after the defections, enough to sustain the government. Moreover, they said they still had the support of the smaller parties whose combined 18 seats gave the government a commanding 80 out of the 120 National Assembly seats- a two thirds majority.

But according to authoritative government sources, Dr Majoro and Mr Mokhothu's public affirmation of their commitment to upholding the government was not enough for Mr Ramaphosa and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi who chairs the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. They sent Mr Radebe and his team to assess the situation for themselves.

"Given Lesotho's chronic instability, President Masisi and the SADC facilitator to Lesotho (Ramaphosa) were worried about the potential impact of the ABC split and wanted their envoy to have face-to-face meetings with key political players to get assurances that this will not in any way derail the coalition government," a source said yesterday.

"There is a SADC meeting scheduled for next month and they (Masisi and Ramaphosa) don't want any surprises at that meeting, hence the decision to dispatch their envoy to Lesotho.

"We assured them that government is stable despite the split and that the DC has thrown its weight behind Dr Majoro following the split."

Another source concurred, saying the envoys also met with Prof Mahao, opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) leader Monyane Moleleki and fellow opposition Lesotho Congress for Congress (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing.

Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister 'Matsepo Ramakoae yesterday referred all questions to Mr Moseme.

On his part, Mr Moseme said, "South African President Ramaphosa's special envoy, Jeff Radebe, paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Majoro in Maseru on Monday".

"In his discussions with Mr Radebe, Dr Majoro said he was told that the purpose of the visit was to get an explanation on issues surrounding the political events that unfolded in the country in the past two weeks. This follows the formation of a new political party led by Professor Nqosa Mahao.

"Dr Majoro said he assured the envoy that government remains intact as he and his deputy had already assured the nation. He (Majoro) advised Mr Radebe to meet with Honourable Mokhothu for him to get the same assurance that the government remains intact," Mr Moseme said.

Mr Radebe later told the South African media that his trip to Lesotho had been necessitated by the "recent political developments" in Lesotho.

"Recently there was a cabinet reshuffle which necessitated that we get a full briefing about what is happening because we are concerned about political stability in Lesotho.

"We are concerned especially now with all those reform programmes that are under the auspices of SADC being facilitated by our former Deputy Chief Justice (Dikgang) Moseneke ahead of the general elections next year. So, I paid a courtesy visit to His Majesty the King (Letsie III). I also spoke with the prime minister and the deputy prime minister," Mr Radebe said in the brief interview.

His remarks about a cabinet reshuffle were most likely in reference to Prof Mahao and some of his allies' dismissal from cabinet shortly after he announced that they had dumped the ABC.

Prof Mahao was fired from his post as Justice and Law minister. He was fired alongside Motlatsi Maqelepo (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation), 'Mamoipone Senauoane (Police and Public Safety) and Deputy Minister of Health Nto Moakhi. The three subsequently joined him in his BAP party.

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