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Mahao faction not forming a new party

Pascalinah Kabi

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and deputy secretary general, Nkaku Kabi, have withdrawn their application to bar the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction from holding a special conference to discuss the proposed expulsion of Dr Thabane from the party.

It remains to be seen what impact the withdrawal of the application (which was initially heard by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase on 5 July 2019) will have the ongoing struggle between Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao for control of the party.

The Mahao faction on Friday said the withdrawal of the application meant that they were the legitimate NEC of the ABC and they could proceed with the conference they had initially planned for 6 July 2019 to deliberate on Dr Thabane’s fate.

However, Mr Kabi yesterday told the Sunday Express that the Mahao camp was deluded if it thought the withdrawal of the case meant they were back in the ABC after being expelled for alleged insubordination in June this year.

“We have outsmarted them,” Mr Kabi said of the withdrawal of the case. “But if they think it means they are back in the party, then they are wrong. They were expelled from the ABC and they know what they must do if they entertain any hopes of coming back. They must apply to rejoin and if accepted they will start from the party branches,” Mr Kabi said. He however, refused to say why they had withdrawn the application or elaborate on how they had outsmarted the Mahao camp.

The ABC has not known peace ever since its February 2019 elective conference where Prof Mahao clinched the deputy leader’s post despite the express opposition from Dr Thabane and other senior party officials. They argued that Prof Mahao was a relative newcomer who should not be parachuted to the party’s second most powerful position ahead of seasoned party stalwarts. Previous talks and court litigation have so far failed to end the impasse which has seen Dr Thabane “expel” Prof Mahao and his fiercest allies, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and his deputy Matebatso Doti.

The quintet, who were “expelled” in June 2019 for alleged insubordination after they convened and addressed rallies in apparent defiance of Dr Thabane’s orders for them not to do so, hit back by suspending Dr Thabane and other senior officials from the party. They were only stopped by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase’s 5 July 2019 interim court order from holding a special party conference on 6 July 2019 which would have expelled Dr Thabane from the party.

And on Friday, Mr Hlaele and the Mahao faction’s lawyer, Attorney Koili Ndebele, told the media that the case was withdrawn on Thursday.

“On 15 August 2019, we received a notice that the case (by Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi) has been withdrawn and this means that the interim court order barring my clients from calling themselves the ABC’s NEC falls away,” Attorney Ndebele said.

“We suspect that the case was withdrawn because the Court of Appeal ruled that the case should now be heard by a different judge. The applicants realised that their case would not hold water before any other judge except the acting chief justice.

“This means we are back to a point where the High Court confirmed (Prof Mahao and his allies) as the legitimate ABC’s NEC (on 12 June 2019).

“It also means that the leader (Dr Thabane)’s decision to expel my clients is null and void; it is non-existent and my clients shouldn’t concern themselves with that decision.”

Attorney Ndebele said he had even advised his clients to take over the administration of the party because the court cases that had temporarily tied their hands were no longer in their way.

“It is actually lawful for them (Mahao camp) to take over the administration of the party and it is also a political strategy for them to occupy the office,” Attorney Ndebele said.

However, Mr Kabi insisted that Prof Mahao and his allies remained expelled from the ABC and were no longer members of the party.

It remains to be seen how the ABC power struggle will play out as Prof Mahao and his allies have vowed to file a fresh High Court application challenging their 17 June 2019 “expulsions” from the party by Dr Thabane.

They lost their initial bid last Wednesday after High Court Justices Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, Sakoane Sakoane and Moroke Mokhesi dismissed the application on a technicality, saying it had not been properly filed before the court.

Reading the verdict on behalf of the court bench last Wednesday, Justice Mokhesi said the prayers for the setting aside of their expulsions could not be granted as they had been sought in an interlocutory application to have Dr Thabane held in contempt of court for his alleged failure to abide by a 12 June 2019 High Court judgement declaring that they had been properly elected into the ABC’s NEC at the party’s February 2019 elective conference.

And soon after the ruling, Prof Mahao told his supporters that they would file a fresh application challenging their expulsion from the party.

“We filed this application as an interlocutory one because our fear was that if we filed it as an independent matter, ‘M’e (Acting Chief Justice, ‘Maseforo) Mahase would have allocated herself the case and we know our experiences with her.

“However, since the Court of Appeal has ruled that she should recuse herself from ABC matters, we will file a fresh independent application on similar grounds,” Prof Mahao said.

At the same press conference on Friday, Mr Hlaele reiterated that they had no intention of forming a new political party, saying they were confident of winning their power struggle with Dr Thabane.

Mr Hlaele said they were fully aware of calls by their supporters to break away from the ABC but said that they had decided to soldier on within the party.

He said the calls for a new party were borne out of frustration with Dr Thabane and others’ refusal to allow them to assume office after they won the national executive committee (NEC) elections in February 2019.

He however, said they had decided against forming a new party because they were confident of victory in their court application to force Dr Thabane to accept them as the duly elected ABC’s NEC.

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