Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has been appointed deputy leader of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).
He replaces Professor Nqosa Mahao who dumped the ABC to form the Basotho Action Party (BAP) after falling out with Dr Majoro and secretary general Lebohang Hlaele whom he both accused of conniving to hand back the party and government to former Prime Minister and current ABC leader Thomas Thabane.
His appointment was announced by the ABC's national executive committee (NEC) at a media briefing at the State House this week. The briefing was attended by Mr Thabane, NEC members and members of parliament (MPs) who pledged their support for Dr Majoro to remain prime minister until next year's elections.
Asked how it felt to be part of the NEC, Dr Majoro said it was a "relief" because his exclusion had been one of the causes of instability in both the party and government.
"I must tell you this is a relief. This is because the government was on one side while the party leading government was on another side. I was not part of the NEC and for that reason the party did not understand how the government functioned.
"It (exclusion from the NEC) was a nightmare and a source of instability in both the government and party. Therefore, it (inclusion in NEC) is a good thing which will give us an opportunity to improve our performance. I am happy that this decision has been made," Dr Majoro said.
Mr Hlaele said the NEC had resolved to appoint Dr Majoro at its meeting earlier on Monday.
"In its meeting today, 26 April 2021, the NEC decided to co-opt Moeketsi Majoro into the NEC to serve as deputy leader of the party.
"Ntate Majoro is the prime minister and the premier must be part of the NEC because this party is leading the government. There should be a warm relationship between the ABC's NEC and the executive arm of government," Mr Hlaele said.
He said despite "perceptions" of bad blood between them, Dr Majoro and the NEC had always enjoyed good relations since the formation of the current governing coalition.
"Even now we are still working together. You cannot have a prime minister who is not part of the NEC and run the party without him. There will always be sharks who will use the vacuum created by the premier's absence from the NEC to create divisions. We identified that problem and agreed to close the gap (by co-opting him into the NEC)," Mr Hlaele said.
Dr Majoro's appointment will go a long way in consolidating his government position. He had been in an extremely difficult position of heading the government while not being a member of the party's powerful NEC which inked a new coalition deal with the then opposition Democratic Congress (DC) last April and rallied the party's MPs to oust Mr Thabane.
For a long time, the NEC was loyal to Prof Mahao until the cracks began to appear after the ouster of Mr Thabane. Even with Prof Mahao's departure, Dr Majoro's position was still shaky if he remained outside the NEC which has bigwigs like Mr Hlaele and chairperson Samuel Rapapa. The latter has made no secret of his ambitions to challenge Dr Majoro and any others for the party leadership when Mr Thabane goes.
Dr Majoro's appointment will therefore increase his clout and standing in the party. Until his elevation this week, he was just an MP for the Thetsane constituency.
Mr Hlaele also said the party and government remained solid despite the departure of Prof Mahao and some MPs. He claimed the ABC retained the support of at least 35 MPs.
Taken together with the 27 DC MPs, he said the government was not in any danger of collapse following Prof Mahao's vow to table a no confidence vote in parliament in the coming weeks. Prof Mahao has claimed to have 20 ABC MPs supporting his breakaway party. But Deputy Prime Minister and DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu has thrown his support behind Dr Majoro and the ABC. Their combined 62 seats are enough to save the government from collapse.
Mr Hlaele said, "we are meeting as the NEC, women and youth's leagues and ABC MPs under the leadership of Ntate Thomas Thabane to announce that ABC still enjoys the strong support of 35 MPs. The ABC wishes to inform the nation that allegations that Ntate Moeketsi Majoro's government will collapse this week are just wishful thinking."
Mr Hlaele said the 35 MPs who remained loyal to the ABC included Prof Mahao's former allies, chairperson Samuel Rapapa (Mosalemane constituency), 'Matebatso Doti (Lithabaneng), Thabo Sophonea (Thaba-Bosiu) and 'Mankoe Maime (Maama).
Other MPs who are sticking with the ABC are Lepota Sekola (Makhaleng), Lesego Makgothi (Maseru), Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Moshe Leoma (Matlakeng), Chalane Phori (Qoaling), Litšoane Litšoane (Bela-Bela), Likopo Mahase (Mabote), Tšeliso Kalake (Thupa-Kubu), Tšoeu Molise (Tšoana-Makhulo), Leshoboro Mohlajoa (Malingoaneng), Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe), Lekhetho Mosito (Likhetlane), Tšehlo Ramarou (Leribe), Samonyane Ntsekele (Tsikoane) and Semano Sekatle (Lebakeng).
The ABC also has Mahala Molapo (Thaba-Phatśoa), Halebonoe Setśabi (Kolonyama), Prince Maliehe (Teyateyaneng), Thabang Mafojane (Motimposo), Temeki Tšolo (Mafeteng), Lehlohonolo Moramotse (Lithoteng), Keketso Sello (Hlotse), 'Matšepo Ramakoae (Matsieng), Tlokotsi Manyoko (Hololo), Selemo Mangobe (Taung), Nkaku Kabi (Qeme), Dr Majoro (Thetsane), Motlohi Maliehe (Butha-Buthe), Mokoma Khobohelo (Mantšonyane), 'Mathato Phafoli (proportional representation) and Mr Thabane.
Mr Hlaele blamed Prof Mahao for the infighting which had plagued the ABC since 2019.
"The ABC has been plagued by endless infighting for far too long. We were unable to find the source of our infighting until a few days ago when we heard the former deputy leader (Mahao) telling a local radio station that he had started processes to form a new party.
"We were not aware that the primary source of our problem was within us. Our agenda was different. Others' agenda was to build the party and make it stronger while others were busy plotting to pull us down.
"The former deputy leader voluntarily left this party after achieving his primary objectives of causing confusion ahead of the (2022) elections."
Mr Hlaele's allegations are despite that he and the majority of NEC members had stood solidly behind Prof Mahao in his power struggle with Mr Thabane from 2019 until after the formation of the current governing coalition last May.
Despite his previous support for Prof Mahao, Mr Hlaele claimed that he knew from the onset that the former deputy leader did not have the ABC's best interests at heart.
"I realised this while we were still the big five (Mahao, Rapapa, Hlaele, Masoetsa and Doti). We spotted his weaknesses but since we were already fighting a bitter war (against the Thabane camp then known as the State House faction), we could not afford to give in and join the state house faction. Our pride would not allow us to do that. We agreed to fight to the bitter end despite realising that we were following the wrong leader (Mahao)."
He said Prof Mahao was only elected into the ABC leadership out of sympathy. Although he did not give details, this could have been in reference to the fact that Prof Mahao's younger brother, army commander Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Maaparankoe Mahao, was assassinated in June 2015 by soldiers who were under the command of former army commander, Tlali Kamoli.
"You all know how he became the deputy leader? It was through sympathy because of the attacks on him. He eventually realised that his agenda was different from the ABC and jumped ship. We then said amen," Mr Hlaele said.
Dr Majoro also took the occasion to respond to Prof Mahao's allegations that he had betrayed him by conniving with Mr Hlaele to hand back the government and party to Mr Thabane who they had worked so hard to unseat.
"Professor Mahao was my minister who I appointed to the Law and Justice portfolio.
"His statements that we have taken the government elsewhere make me wonder what pushed him to say that. Was it not because he was preparing to jump ship?
"He said the government had been taken to Makhoakhoeng which is Ntate Thabane's home. There used to be stories of enmity between him (Thabane) and I.
"Those people wished we would hate each other amidst all the infighting but it was all just wishful thinking. A few days after I had gone to see him, I heard the noise that I had taken the government back to Makhoakhoeng.
"I was just there visiting him after he had invited me to a traditional feast. I went there and smoked tobacco, drank mohlaba (traditional beer). We laughed together with Ntate Thabane.
"The following week I heard stories that I was in Makhoakhoeng. I never hide my visits to Ntate Thabane. He is my leader and founder of this party. I have every right to consult him regularly and that happens in every party," Dr Majoro said.
He also said he had told Prof Mahao that he was not part of any plot to expel him from the party as the latter had alleged.
"I heard from the Professor that a plot to expel him was hatched at Makhoakhoeng and I assured him that there was no such plot. I promised to follow up on this matter. After our meeting, I called some people and I was told that there was no such plot."
He said he was later surprised to hear a recorded clip of Prof Mahao addressing his party supporters last Tuesday where he repeated allegations of the plot against him. He said the claims that he had handed back the government to Mr Thabane were "absurd" as there was no way he could have been swayed by anyone into plotting against Prof Mahao because he had a "backbone and independently" made his own decisions.
His appointment as deputy leader was welcomed by Mr Thabane who warmly embraced him and asked him to "lead this party".
He said the party had been founded on values of Christianity and commitment to serving the nation which it had to abide by.
"Let us ask ourselves what is the main reason for Lesotho's instability. Who cursed us? Can we all attempt to accept each other and co-exist? Can we not make collective decisions and abide by them," Mr Thabane pleaded.