Massive blow for Mahao
- as only nine MPs dump ABC for his BAP party,
- dealing a death blow to his plans for a no confidence vote against Majoro.
FORMER ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy Nqosa Mahao’s plans to push a successful no confidence vote against the Moeketsi Majoro-led governing coalition appear dead in the water at least for now.
This after only nine legislators dumped the ABC to join his newly formed Basotho Action Party (BAP). The nine who have publicly joined the BAP are Mphosong MP Libe Motšoane, Sotlehang Sekhamane (Maputsoe constituency), Fako Moshoeshoe (Mabote), ‘Mamoipone Senauoane (Thaba-Tseka), Motlatsi Maqelepo (Berea), Mphosi Nkhasi (Pela-Tšoeu), Nto Moakhi (Malibamatšo), Tello Kibane (Peka) and Motebang Koma (Koro-Koro).
They crossed to the opposition benches in parliament on Friday immediately after the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Lebohang Ramohlanka had read each of their letters indicating that they had ditched the ABC.
A 10th MP, Nyapane Kaya (Mechachane constituency) also left the ABC. But contrary to Professor Mahao’s last week claims that he would join the BAP, Mr Kaya instead joined Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC).
A jubilant Mr Mochoboroane was on hand to welcome him into his party. Mr Mochoboroane took off his party scarf and draped it around Khaya’s neck as other MEC MPs ululated. Mr Kaya and the other MPs defection were accompanied by a chorus of derision from the ABC MPs who chanted “go and good riddance”.
The MEC is one of the junior partners in the ABC-led coalition. It joined the government as one of the allies of Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) party.
Prof Mahao was deputy ABC leader from February 2019 until last week when he dumped the party on the grounds that there was an alleged plot to oust him from the ABC. He said the plot had been hatched by Prime Minister Majoro, ABC leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele. All three have denied the allegations.
Prof Mahao went on to launch the BAP following his dismissal by Dr Majoro from his Justice and Law ministerial post. He was fired alongside Ms Senauoane (former Police and Public Safety minister), Mr Maqelepo (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation and Mr Moakhi (former Deputy Minister of Health).
Launching the BAP last Friday, Prof Mahao had said at least 20 MPs would be crossing over to his party. This was despite that he had only announced the names of only 11 MPs including former Health Minister Kaya who has since joined the MEC.
Molefi Phamotse (Lekhoele constituency) was one of the MPs Prof Mahao had said would be crossing the floor to join his party. However, Mr Phamotse did not cross with the others at the Friday sitting of the National Assembly.
Despite the defection of the 10 MPs, the Thabane-led ABC is still the biggest party with 35 MPs. It initially had 52 MPs when it formed a new governing coalition with the DC which had 26 MPs at the time. Since then, the ABC has lost Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area constituency) and Sello Mooki (Bobatsi constituency). Mr Tsatsanyane initially dumped the ABC along with Mr Mooki for the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD).
Mr Tsatsanyane has since dumped the AD together with Mothepu Mahapa (Tele constituency) for the DC. This brings the total number of DC MPs to 28.
The ABC has also lost Mokhotlong legislator Tefo Mapesela who has apparently formed his own party. Mr Mapesela was fired from cabinet three weeks ago after telling Dr Majoro to finish his tenure and hand over to Prof Mahao to lead the ABC into next year’s elections.
Dr Majoro has since been appointed ABC deputy leader. But Mr Mapesela did not join Prof Mahao’s BAP party as expected. This amid reports of a fallout between the two over the name of the new party which Mr Mapesela had initially wanted to be called Umkhonto (a Nguni word for a spear).
Apart from the BAP MPs, Messrs Mapesela, Kaya, Tsatsanyane and Mooki, the ABC also lost Dr Pontšo Sekatle (Qacha’s Nek constituency) who vacated her seat after being appointed ambassador to Belgium and the European Union in February this year.
The nine MPs make the BAP one of the biggest opposition parties alongside the AD and the Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) which have 10 and nine MPs respectively.
However, the numbers are not enough for the BAP to push for a successful no confidence vote against the government as Prof Mahao had said they intended to do when the new party was launched at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) offices a fortnight ago.
On Wednesday, Dr Majoro and Mr Mokhothu held a joint press conference where they reiterated their commitment to maintaining their governing coalition until next year’s elections which could be held anytime from September 2022.
They said the ABC and DC still have a combined 62 seats which are enough to meet the 61-seat threshold required to form government.
They also said they still retained the support of junior coalition partners whose combined 18 seats gave them a total of 80 out of the 120 seats in parliament. This means that even with the support of all opposition parties, Prof Mahao would only be able to muster a paltry 40 seats which would not suffice to topple the government.