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ABC, LWP break alliance

Bongiwe Zihlangu


MASERU — It was a tempestuous marriage.

The marriage had been on the rocks for months.

But on Thursday, the three-year marriage ended in acrimonious divorce.

The opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party sensationally walked out of the alliance leaving the junior partner in the coalition, the Lesotho Workers Party (LWP), licking its wounds.

ABC leader Thomas Thabane confirmed yesterday that “the electoral alliance had been disbanded”.

“The ABC/LWP alliance which was entered into targeting votes in the 2007 elections has been terminated,” Thabane told the Sunday Express.

The marriage had been beset with problems right from the onset.

Although the two parties had entered into an electoral pact to increase their chances of winning more seats the alliance had not been properly formalised.

The alliance had also been plagued by internal wrangles with small factions battling to outdo each other at every turn.

There were also rumours that Thabane and LWP leader Macaefa Billy had never seen eye-to-eye.

Thabane and Billy however sought to present a united front denying there was any power struggle between them.

The LWP had, in muted tones, continued to complain that it was being treated as a junior partner in the alliance.

Billy, who wore two hats as leader of the LWP and ABC secretary-general, had also not endeared himself to Thabane.

Thabane often complained in private over the “shoddy” manner Billy discharged his duties as the party’s secretary-general.

Matters however came to a head after Thabane came up with a seven-member panel with a clear mandate to review the alliance.

Critics say its mandate was essentially to devise ways of getting rid of Billy.

The committee, sources said, had at one time dabbled with the idea of passing a vote-of-no-confidence against Billy.

But that plan crumbled after they realised that the ABC constitution did not provide for a no-confidence vote.

The committee was chaired by national executive member Ntsieng Lethunya.

The committee this month released a five-page report titled Proposed Position of All Basotho Convention on the Alliance with Lesotho Workers Party”.

The report says “the ABC/LWP alliance pre-2007 general election was illegal as it violated Lesotho’s constitution, the National Assembly Elections Order No. 10 and the ABC constitution. We therefore recommend that the alliance be disbanded.”

The report states that for the ABC to achieve its goal of garnering as much membership as possible from the “labour electorate” it should form alliances with trade unions and “implement its strategy of having trade union representation within its structures”.

The report also stresses that aligning itself with trade unions would give the ABC “flexibility and freedom to associate across all industries and professions (health, transport, health, education etc).

“Current ABC membership should therefore be a pre-requisite for any office bearer in all the structures,” the report reads.

This resolution appears to have been passed as a swift rebuttal to a 2008 LWP conference ruling which sought to bring “normality and equality into the alliance”.

The LWP conference had also stipulated that there should be a formal document outlining the nature and form of the alliance.

The Thursday meeting was called to discuss the national executive committee’s report on the way forward.

Sources that attended the meeting told the Sunday Express when it became clear that Billy and the ABC leadership could not agree on the way forward an agreement was reached to “disband the ABC/LWP alliance”.

“There was nothing much that could be done to save the alliance. The ABC could not take the recommendations by the LWP hence the nature of its report,” the source said.

He also revealed that Billy was given an ultimatum to relinquish his leadership and membership of the LWP if he still wanted “to retain his position in the ABC”.

The ultimatum, he said, would also apply to all members of the LWP participating in ABC committees.

“He is yet to inform the committee of his decision. But let me add that it was done because the ABC seriously wants to emancipate itself from the LWP,” he said.

“Besides, logic will tell you that Billy would never give up the leadership of the LWP just to appease the ABC. But who knows? Worse things have been known to happen when you least expect it.”

Thabane said although they had been given the green light by the Independent Electoral Commission to enter into an electoral pact with the LWP it had since dawned on the ABC that the alliance was illegal.

Thabane said former Botswana president and Sadc envoy to Lesotho, Sir Ketumile Masire, had denounced the electoral pacts and “we decided to uphold his recommendations”.

“Masire questioned the authenticity of our alliances and ruled they were in violation of the MMP electoral model,” Thabane said.

“Although LCD has rejected Masire’s recommendations, we uphold his report in its entirety hence the decision to disband the ABC/LWP alliance.”

Billy refused to comment saying he was reserving his comment “for the future”.

However, LWP deputy leader Sello Maphalla was not amused by the outcome.

Maphalla was an LCD member of parliament who crossed the floor in 2006 to form the ABC.

He was elected into the LWP national executive committee as Billy’s deputy at the party’s 2008 elective conference.

“If the alliance is disbanded as is the recommendation by the ABC, I will remain with the LWP,” Maphalla said.

He took a swipe at the ABC for its “underhand tactics” and predicted that no other party would ever “be comfortable to enter into an alliance with the ABC”.

“If this is the way the ABC treats its alliance partners, then I do not want to be part of it.”

After the 2007 general elections, the ABC/LWP alliance got 10 seats through the proportional representation system.

Three of the seats went to LWP members, including Billy.

Thabane said the split would not affect the relationship of the two parties in parliament.

“The ABC and the LWP are going to continue working together. We have to now think of ways to take our relationship forward,” Thabane said.

“For instance, we are targeting trade unions like the Factory Workers Union (Fawu). As you well know, Fawu is part and parcel of the LWP.

“We are also looking into working with the Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions, Lesotho Congress of Allied Workers Unions and others.”

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