. . . PM refuses to go
AS correctly predicted by the Lesotho Times in its latest edition, the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) has recalled Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro. ABC deputy secretary general and cabinet minister, Nkaku Kabi, has been chosen by the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to succeed Dr Majoro.
Mr Kabi polled 10 votes to Dr Majoro’s seven at a Thursday voting session conducted by NEC members at the party offices in Maseru. But the war is far from over after Dr Majoro refused to step down in the aftermath of the Thursday vote. He is said to have told his NEC colleagues that those expecting him to make way for Mr Kabi “would never see that happening”.
The matter will now have to be decided in parliament by ABC legislators and their coalition allies including Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) party.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa confirmed that the NEC had elected Mr Kabi to replace Dr Majoro at a meeting which was chaired by Mr Thabane. He said they had recalled Dr Majoro following an outcry by the rank and file of the party as well as the general public over a plethora of issues including poor service delivery and the premier’s alleged failure to stop the high murder rates in the country over the course of his 19 months in power.
“It has been decided that Majoro must be recalled from the prime minister’s post because of poor service delivery and his failure to implement strategies to stop the escalating murder cases in the country,” Mr Masoetsa said in a weekend interview with the Sunday Express.
“ABC members and the public are all dissatisfied. We have received numerous complaints at our office. As a result, the party’s NEC now finds itself having to address issues that should have been dealt with at a ministerial level.
“There is also an issue of discrimination when it comes to awarding government jobs. It has now come to a point where other party members are discriminated against and preference is given to those who belong to the prime minister’s faction. There is a perception that some ABC members are loyal to the leader (Thabane) hence they are being denied jobs as punishment for not supporting the prime minister. These and the longstanding issue of the prime minister’s refusal to work closely with the NEC are the reasons why he has been recalled. Even now, he (Majoro) does not engage with us. He is always hitting us with surprises (sic),” Mr Masoetsa said.
He said the NEC could not fold its hands and watch while the country was burning. Hence it had exercised its oversight role by voting to recall Dr Majoro, Mr Masoetsa said. He said right now the country needed a decisive prime minister who would act to address the multiple challenges bedevilling the country, not someone like Dr Majoro who “only paid lip service to pressing issues”.
He said the NEC believed that in Mr Kabi, they had found the best candidate to address all the challenges.
“We are certain that he (Kabi) is the right person because of all the cabinet ministers, he is the only person who is performing. He is delivering in his ministerial portfolio and he is also an NEC member.”
Asked if other ABC ministers were underperforming, Mr Masoetsa said “you are a witness to that”.
Reacting to allegations by authoritative ABC sources that Dr Majoro had refused to resign after losing the Thursday vote, Mr Masoetsa said the premier had no choice but to accept the “collective decision” that had been made by the NEC.
He said even Mr Thabane had initially refused to go but he had to eventually make way for Dr Majoro when the party decided he had to step down in May 2020. He said the NEC had some options to deal with Dr Majoro in the event of his refusal to step down, including expelling him from the party.
Their next step would be to inform their coalition partners of their decision to recall Dr Majoro. Thereafter, they would engage the ABC’s parliamentary caucus to inform the Speaker of the National Assembly, Sephiri Motanyane, of the decision to replace Dr Majoro with Mr Kabi, Mr Masoetsa said.
“Ten out of the 17 NEC members voted that he (Majoro) must go. That is a collective decision and he must abide by it.
“We will meet with our coalition partners and inform them of our decision. The fact of the matter is that if a person does not resign, we have the power to expel them from the ABC. It is not about whether someone likes it or not. Even Thabane did not want to resign but he eventually did.
“There is a collective decision for him to go and he must abide by it. He was there when the decision was made. Thabane was there, Kabi was also there and they all voted. The NEC decided that five of us- myself, Ntate Kabi, secretary general Lebohang Hlaele, Maseru District Chairperson Tsotang Mphethe and Sekhonyana Mosenene — must deal with logistics of implementing the decision to recall Majoro.
“As you know NEC decisions cannot be enforced at a government level. Therefore, we will have to meet with our (DC) coalition partner and explain our position. Thereafter, we will call an ABC parliamentary caucus which will then inform the Speaker of Parliament that the coalition agreement remains in place and we are just changing the head of government. There are no set timeframes but the expectation is that we have to expeditiously implement this decision,” Mr Masoetsa said.
Other NEC members, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed that the NEC had indeed voted to replace Dr Majoro. They said the Thursday voting merely confirmed the decision to recall Dr Majoro which had been made at the NEC’s Monday meeting.
They said after the vote, Dr Majoro was asked to write to King Letsie III to inform him of his resignation to facilitate a smooth process of appointing Mr Kabi as his successor.
However, Dr Majoro is said to have refused to budge, saying NEC members who expected him to resign were simply wasting their time as that would never happen.
“Seventeen of us NEC members attended the Thursday meeting and voted,” an NEC member said.
“Ntate Majoro himself attended and voted along with Ntate Thabane and Kabi and others. Kabi emerged the winner with 10 votes while Majoro got seven.
“Majoro was then given a chance to speak after the voting. In clear terms, he said “bohle ba lebelletseng ke itokolle, taba eo ba tla e bona ha soebehla (those expecting me to resign will never see that happening). He (Majoro) was very calm when he said that. He said this in his usual soft-spoken demeanour”.
The NEC member, who is a Majoro supporter, said their faction was disappointed with the outcome as they had gone into the meeting believing they had the numbers to win.
The member said their confidence emanated from the fact that they had held a meeting at the State House on Monday which was attended by 10 NEC members, including Mr Kabi, who had all declared their support for Dr Majoro.
“The Thursday voting was a continuation of the NEC meeting which had been held on Monday to consider the issue of removing Ntate Majoro. In his speech on Monday, Ntate Thabane had said that Majoro was no longer fit to be prime minister and he must be recalled. He proposed Kabi as Majoro’s replacement.
“The matter was extensively debated and during this debate, Kabi indicated that he had been caught off guard and requested permission to speak privately with Majoro over the issue. We didn’t vote on Monday because it was agreed that tempers were running high and we needed to cool off. It was then agreed that we should reconvene on Thursday.
“As the Majoro faction, we had our own meeting at State House later in the day on Monday. Our camp had 10 members including Kabi himself. We therefore went into the Thursday NEC meeting confident that we had enough numbers to save Majoro. But clearly three of our members voted against him (Majoro). We don’t know the three who voted for Kabi because it was a secret ballot,” the NEC member said.
Another Majoro loyalist concurred, saying they lost the vote because “three of our faction members voted with our rivals”.
The voting merely confirms Mr Kabi as a cunning Machiavellian political operator for making the Majoro camp believe he was one of their own while simultaneously currying favour with Mr Thabane and his allies.
An NEC member from the Thabane faction said Dr Majoro’s biggest undoing had been his decision to sideline Mr Thabane and his powerful backers like Messrs Hlaele and Masoetsa.
“Unlike Kabi who still holds Ntate Thabane in high regard, Majoro has made it clear that he will not work with the old man and that was his biggest mistake. He (Majoro) should have also tried to accommodate Hlaele and Masoetsa because they carry a lot of weight with Ntate Thabane.
“Our (Thabane) faction considers Ntate Kabi as the best candidate for the job because the man is decisive.
“We need a decisive person as prime minister ahead of next year’s elections. We can’t go for elections with Majoro in charge because he is not decisive. But in Kabi, we see a younger version of Ntate Thabane who used to make tough decisions as long as they were beneficial to the party and country. We think Kabi can make painful decisions and lead the ABC to victory in the elections. He may have been in the Majoro camp but he has always proved capable of working with other factions,” the Thabane loyalist said.
Despite voting against Dr Majoro, the NEC member conceded that they still had their work cut out because the premier was refusing to go.
“It would have been easier if Majoro had agreed to resign. But now that he has told us to our faces that he won’t resign, we will have to lobby our MPs to initiate his removal in parliament. We are confident that he will lose a no confidence vote because the majority of ABC MPs agree with our decision,” the Thabane loyalist said.
But it remains to be seen if the NEC’s support and Mr Kabi’s much vaunted charm will be enough to sway the ABC’s 35 MPs as well as the party’s key coalition ally, the DC. The latter has previously intimated that despite its differences with the premier, it will not support any no confidence motion against him.
Most ABC MPS in Dr Majoro’s current cabinet are unlikely to support his ouster for fear of losing their cushy positions. There is no guarantee that any of them would be retained in a new Kabi cabinet.