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Maisa, Tšehlana plotting ABC comeback?

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

FORMER All Basotho Convention (ABC) stalwarts Pitso Maisa and Lehlohonolo Tšehlana’s ‘surprise’ appearance at the ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s recent rally in Hololo, Butha-Buthe has fuelled speculation that the duo could soon be retracing their steps back to the ruling party.

Mr Maisa, the former legislator for the Motimposo constituency, and the ABC’s former deputy, Tlali Khasu, left the ABC under acrimonious circumstances in January 2017 after falling out with Dr Thabane.

They subsequently formed the Truth and Reconciliation Unity (TRU) with Mr Khasu as the leader and Mr Maisa as his deputy.

At the time of their departure from the ABC, Mr Maisa, who served as the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office during Dr Thabane’s first administration from 2012 to 2015, said they were forced out of the party by the ABC leader who acted on the advice of some divisive and rumour-mongering members of the ABC’s then national executive committee (NEC).

Mr Tšehlana parted ways with the ABC much earlier in 2008. The then Mokhotlong legislator left the ABC after accusing its leadership of “lacking vision and personalising” the party.

But all the acrimony seemed to have been forgotten at the Sunday Hololo rally where Mr Maisa and Mr Tšehlana, who leads the Sankatana Social Democratic Party, received a rapturous welcome from the ABC supporters.

Mr Maisa and Mr Tšehlana made a grand entrance which was greeted with wild cheers.  The rally’s Master of Ceremonies, Kemiso Mosenene was even forced to temporarily halt the proceedings to allow the duo to soak in and bask in the glory of the crowd’s adulation.

Even, the First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane was caught up in the excitement and brought the duo to Dr Thabane where they hugged and shook hands with the entire high table of ABC leaders. This fueled speculation that the duo could be re-tracing their footsteps back to the ABC.

Mr Tšehlana subsequently told the Sunday Express that negotiations were ongoing between him and ABC officials and he could soon make a comeback.

He said moves to get him to return started last year when Dr Thabane asked him to “come back and help him (Dr Thabane) build a strong administration”.

“The moves to get me to return started last year when Ntate Thabane called me to help his government achieve the strength it needed. There have been talks about appointing me into a position that would enable me to exercise my leadership skills,” Mr Tšehlana said.

He further that he would not hesitate to re-join the ABC and take up a post in the government. He added that the two sides would begin negotiations on the modalities of absorbing his Sankatana party members into the ABC.

However, Mr Maisa sang a different tune, telling this publication that he had no plans to re-join the ABC even though he had been in talks with Dr Thabane about his possible return.

He insisted that his appearance at the ABC’s Sunday rally was “just a gesture to honour his father, Dr Thabane’s invitation” for him to attend.

He said he was happy at the TRU and had no intention of jumping ship.

“I am not joining the ABC and I have no intention of doing so. I was at the Hololo rally just to honour my father’s (Dr Thabane’s) invitation to be with them. I attended out of respect for Ntate Thabane. I was surprised with (thunderous) welcome that I received at the rally but I am happy where I am. I am still the deputy leader of TRU,” Mr Maisa said.

He said that nothing had changed in the ABC and the ruling party was still faced with the same problems of maladministration that had forced him to leave the party in 2017.

He said the ongoing problems in the ABC which had seen the emergence of two rival NEC factions facing off in a war for control of the party were the product of the maladministration.

“They are facing the same troubles that forced me to leave the party. Their poor administration is reason they are where they are today. Their troubles have now landed them in court. This is exactly what I was warning them against and they did not listen,” Mr Maisa said in reference to the power struggle between the two factions- the outgoing NEC and the new NEC which has Professor Nqosa Mahao as the deputy leader.

The old NEC has dug in and refused to hand over to the new NEC that was elected at the ABC’s 1-2 February 2019 conference in Maseru.

Mr Maisa said that Dr Thabane had called him for more meetings which he would still honour to hear what he had to say.

On his part, the spokesperson of the old NEC, Tefo Mapesela, said they were pleasantly surprised by Messrs Maisa and Tšehlana’s appearance at their rally, adding this was a clear indication that the party remained a strong and attractive proposition despite its challenges.

“This is a complete surprise. We had no idea that they would be here. This is an indication that the party is still growing despite of the present situation (of the power struggle),” Mr Mapesela said.

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