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ABC/LWP marriage hits rough patch

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Bongiwe Zihlangu


MASERU — The three-year-old political marriage between the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) is on the rocks.

Sources close to the coalition say the only reason the alliance is still standing is “because the parties know that dismantling the alliance now would be suicidal”.

It is reliably understood that LWP leader, Macaefa Billy, is not happy that the alliance is heavily tipped in favour of the ABC.

Also, the source said, there are some senior ABC members who are not happy that Billy is the secretary-general of the ABC.

Personal relations between Billy and ABC leader Thomas Thabane have not been smooth as well, an official within the alliance told the Sunday Express on Friday.

“Billy has always told people close to him that Thabane does not treat him as an equal,” he said.

“He says he is ready to throw in the towel if the situation continues because it seems that the alliance has lost meaning.”

A recent incident at a meeting of party delegates at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) offices showed how strained the relations between Billy and Thabane had become, said the source.

He said the meeting was between Local Government and Chieftainship Minister Ponts’o Sekatle and political party leaders and representatives to discuss plans to postpone the forthcoming local government elections.

The source said in the course of the meeting Billy raised a point which Thabane did not agree with.

Thabane burst out, the source said.

“Thabane said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is the calibre of people I am forced to work with every day.’”

He was making a mockery of the point that Billy had just raised, the source said.

The source said this angered Billy who later reportedly told the LWP executive that he was tired of being “treated like a junior partner in the alliance”.

Another source, a senior party official, told this paper that some ABC seniors are not happy with Billy’s performance as secretary-general.

“They feel a full-fledged ABC member should have been elected as secretary-general,” the source said.

“They complain that he is not hands-on and that he is in the dark about the party’s performance in the constituencies.

“For instance, the ABC will be contesting the May 22 by-elections but they say Billy does not seem bothered about the party’s progress.

“Just the other day he was asked to assist one of the candidates to fill in an IEC nomination form.

“He did not know how to go about it.  He panicked because he had no idea how to do it.”

When contacted for comment on Friday, Billy stopped short of admitting there were tensions in the alliance.

He said it was “up to the ABC to decide if the alliance continues beyond the next general elections”.

“Whether or not the ABC/LWP alliance survives beyond the next general elections is up to the ABC,” Billy said.

“The LWP would like the ABC/LWP alliance to continue beyond the next general elections, but I am speaking here in my capacity as the LWP leader, not the ABC.

“The ABC might have a different opinion on the matter.

“It could be that the ABC leader has an opinion different to mine as the LWP leader.

“I don’t want to speak for the ABC (but will leave it) to the party to decide if the alliance still or longer serves a purpose anymore,” he added.  

According to Billy, the LWP had already submitted a proposal to the ABC outlining what the trade unions-linked party wanted in a new alliance.

“The current alliance was for the purpose of the 2007 elections and the alliance was just for the duration of the seventh parliament,” Billy said.

“As such the LWP has submitted a proposal outlining the structure of the new alliance.

“The onus is now on the ABC to add its own proposals and/or disapprove or approve the LWP proposal.

“I am not afraid of Thabane. If and when I don’t feel good about something I raise it with him without any fears.”

Billy also denied allegations that he had failed to deliver as secretary-general of the ABC. 

“I have been doing my work for the ABC — delivering results expected of me,” he said.

“I am very strict when it comes to my work. I do not even look to make friends at work.

“I do my work the way it is supposed to be done.

“Nobody dictates to me how I should work and I am not about to let it happen.

“It’s questionable that there are people who would complain about my performance when they don’t even know what the job of the secretary-general entails.”

Thabane was also evasive when asked about the tensions in the alliance.

He preferred to speak in general terms about the alliance. 

He however hinted that there were still some outstanding issues that needed to be cleared.

“The alliance was entered into voluntarily,” Thabane said.

“But the reality is that we have to deal with the consequences of the pacts we entered.

“The reality of the matter is that we share MPs.

“We have MPs under both parties’ banners.

“We have to correct some of the things but that will evolve with time.

“Even if certain things happened within our alliance that we were not happy with, alliances between parties will continue — be it between the ABC and LWP or any other political party.”

Thabane said they were going to review a “host of things and the manner in which we handle issues”.

“For one, we believe it would be wise to use one logo instead of two on the ballot paper,” he said.

“But the LWP might also have other ideas.

“They could have questions as we have not really met as yet to discuss things at length.”

The ABC, Thabane said, had not yet responded to the LWP’s proposal regarding the nature of a future alliance.

“We are yet to form our own proposals and opinion,” he said.

“We will sit down and explore certain issues. But beyond that I cannot say much.”

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