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ABC headed for split

  • as Mahao mulls forming splinter party

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) could be headed for a damaging split in the event that embattled deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao and his allies lose their court battle to overturn their 17 June 2019 “expulsions” from the party by ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

This was said by the Mahao faction’s spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, in a recent interview with the Sunday Express. Mr Masoetsa said while they were confident of winning their long-drawn out battle with Dr Thabane for control of the ABC, they would explore other options including forming a splinter party in the event that the court rules against them. He said this in the wake of Monday’s decision by High Court judge, Justice Tšeliso Monapathi, to reserve judgement to 17 December 2019 in their application to overturn their “expulsions” from the ABC by Dr Thabane.

The ABC has been torn apart by infighting and factionalism ever since Dr Thabane and some members of the party’s old national executive committee (NEC) rejected the candidature and subsequent election of Prof Mahao to the deputy leader’s post at the party’s February 2019 elective conference.

The infighting has resulted in court litigations and counter-litigations including the Mahao faction’s High Court application challenging their 17 June 2019 “expulsions” from the party by Dr Thabane for alleged insubordination.

Dr Thabane expelled Prof Mahao along with fellow NEC members, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and his deputy Matebatso Doti.

The quintet were “expelled” for alleged insubordination after they convened and addressed rallies in apparent defiance of Dr Thabane’s orders for them not to do so.

They subsequently approached the High Court seeking the nullification of their expulsion and also for the court to declare that Dr Thabane had no powers to expel party members without the ratification of the NEC.

And exactly six months after their purported expulsion from the ABC, Justice Monapathi is expected to deliver judgement on their application to have Dr Thabane’s decision rescinded.

The Mahao camp is banking on a favourable verdict in the high stakes battle for the control of the ruling party after they were granted an interim order in September this year barring Dr Thabane from expelling them or making unilateral decisions and interfering with the affairs of the ABC without involvement of the full contingent of the NEC.

Should they lose the case however, the Mahao camp will not just quietly fade into political oblivion. Mr Masoetsa said they would explore other options including forming a new party.

“We are relieved that the court battle is almost over,” Mr Masoetsa recently told the Sunday Express.

“We will deliberate on the way forward after the 17 December 2019 verdict. If that fails to bring peace in the ABC and we fill that our backs are against the wall, we will weigh our options of forming a new party.

“We are not worried about numbers because we have other people who have joined our side from within the party. There are people from the party’s district committees who also support our side,” Mr Masoetsa said.

Prof Mahao and other members of his faction have previously fended off calls from their restive supporters to form a new party.

Addressing ABC supporters at a rally in Matsieng in August this year, Prof Mahao said he was aware that some supporters had grown weary of the ABC power struggles and even wanted him and his allies to form a new party. He however, ruled out forming a new party. Instead, he urged his supporters to be patient, saying the battle was almost over and they were confident of winning their case against Dr Thabane.

“We have heard and we know that the patience is wearing off for some of you.

“But I should remind you that we want to build a strong party with good leadership,” ,” Prof Mahao said adding they were optimistic that they will win the case against their “expulsion” from the party.

He was supported by Mr Hlaele who also ruled forming a new party, saying a lot of time and resources had already been invested in the fight for the control of the ABC and it would not be right to give up now.

“It is too late to form a new party. We have fought for far too long using our resources. We cannot despair now when victory is in sight. Let us not form a new party out of anger. We have faith that we will cross over to the promised land. This party is ours. We have a right to it,” Mr Hlaele said.

Should the Mahao camp go ahead to form a new party, they could take with them a huge chunk of the party’s legislators as well as the majority of the party’s constituency committees.

At least 21 out of the ABC’s 53 legislators have come out in support of Prof Mahao in his battle against Dr Thabane. In addition, 54 out of the party’s 80 constituencies converged at Thaba Bosiu in July 2019 and voted to “suspended” Dr Thabane, former secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele and deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi from all party activities for six years.

The “suspension” of Dr Thabane and others was an clear show of support for Prof Mahao by the defiant ABC constituencies who took it upon themselves to hold a conference after the High Court had barred Prof Mahao and his faction of the ABC’s NEC from holding the event which would have deliberated on the possible expulsion of Dr Thabane from the party.

If the legislators and the constituency committees follow Prof Mahao and his allies out of the party, this could collapse the party and even the government.

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