New controversy rocks ABC-DC coalition
- as DC accuses ABC of sabotaging its ministries and seeking to turn nation against it,
- controversy captured in Minister Tampane’s leaked audio.
ON the eve of its first anniversary, the Moeketsi Majoro-led governing coalition once again finds itself in the all-too-familiar situation of having to resolve a fight between two of its biggest coalition partners.
This amid indications that Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) is unhappy with its bigger coalition ally, Dr Majoro’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) over the latter’s alleged scorched earth tactics to sabotage it in government.
A leaked audio by Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation Minister Likeleli Tampane, states that the DC is “deeply hurt” by the ABC’s refusal to cooperate with them as governing partners ought to.
According to Ms Tampane, who is also DC women’s league secretary general, the ABC has used the DC “as a tool to reach its destiny” of remaining in government after its bitter power struggle which saw a faction led by deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao ousting party leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last year.
With DC support, the Mahao faction was able to forge a new coalition in May 2020 to replace the previous Thabane administration. Mr Thabane was then forced to give up the premiership to the ABC’s Thetsane constituency legislator and former Finance Minister Majoro.
Ms Tampane says now that the ABC had used the DC to fight its own internal wars, it was sabotaging the DC by refusing to approve various projects being undertaken by ministries controlled by the party and its allies in government.
The outspoken Ms Tampane’s audio was meant for the ABC’s equally outspoken Mokhotlong legislator, Tefo Mapesela.
Mr Mapesela was Agriculture, Marketing and Food Security minister until he was summarily dismissed by Dr Majoro on Wednesday. Although no reasons were given for the decision, government and ABC sources said the garrulous Mr Mapesela’s dismissal was the result of his freshly strained relationship with Dr Majoro after he declared that the premier had no chance of ever leading the ABC. The firing is also a culmination of the “fierce and intractable infighting within the ABC”, one official said.
Before his dismissal, Mr Mapesela was widely viewed as a kingmaker within the ABC. He was one of the most vocal ABC MPs who challenged the party’s national executive committee (NEC)’s initial decision to select chairperson Samuel Rapapa to replace Mr Thabane as prime minister. The ABC MPs successfully pushed for the election of Dr Majoro instead of Mr Rapapa.
It remains to be seen if he still has any influence in the ABC’s far-from-resolved power struggles ahead of next year’s elections. But prior to his dismissal, he was certainly considered to be powerful enough within the ABC. Even senior DC officials like Ms Tampane believed that he was one of the ABC members who had Dr Majoro’s ear hence the audio to him detailing the DC’s anger with the ABC.
Repeated efforts to obtain comment from Ms Tampane were unsuccessful as she did not answer her mobile phone or respond to messages yesterday.
However, Mr Mapesela confirmed to a local radio station over the weekend that Ms Tampane indeed sent him the audio three weeks ago.
“The audio was sent to me by Senqu’s honourable legislator (Tampane) but I don’t know how it was leaked,” Mr Mapesela said, adding he had forwarded it to Dr Majoro and Mr Mokhothu. He did not say how it had been received by the premier and his deputy or if at all they had taken any action to address the issues raised by Ms Tampane. Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, was not reachable to comment on behalf of the premier. Mr Mokhothu was also not reachable on his mobile phone yesterday.
In the audio, Ms Tampane is heard saying, “Pesi (Mapesela) I am calling you and you are not picking my calls, maybe you are still busy.
“I am calling you because I have not slept at all. I am deeply hurt because of the way you (ABC) are treating us.
“Brethren in the ABC, we felt that there were no other people that we had ever enjoyed warm government relations as we had with you. But it now appears you have reached your destination.
“Pesi, I am crying today. Please pass my message to your boss (Majoro). I know that you trust your boss and you will pass my message. Ntate, I don’t want my message to be leaked to the public but if you want to go viral, please make sure it reaches the right hands.
“There is no other way I can say this. I fear no one but I respect all human beings. I respect my leadership and if this is the end of my life, let it be because I am saying these words to you. You are one person I fully understand,” Ms Tampane says.
Last May, the DC lent its 26 seats to the Mahao faction to help it achieve the 61-seat threshold to oust Mr Thabane and form a new coalition. It was then rewarded with some key ministries in the new government including Gender and Sport which is headed by Ms Tampane. It also got the Home Affairs portfolio which is headed by its deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa.
Other DC ministers are Serialong Qoo (Mining) and Thabiso Molapo (Trade and Industry).
Without providing details, Ms Tampane complains that all the DC ministries as well as those of its allies like the Tourism, Environment and Culture ministry headed by Popular Front for Democracy leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane, have been unable to successfully implement their projects due to sabotage by the ABC.
The sabotage is aimed at creating a public perception that the parties are either incompetent or uninterested in ensuring service delivery, Ms Tampane argues.
“Ntate (Mapesela), here is the issue. Look at all the ministries allocated to the DC. The Ministry of Trade is unable to move an inch because the minister is unable to run that ministry. You (ABC) know what you have done to render him (Molapo) unable to run that ministry. Look at the Ministry of Transport Pesi: it is unable to move an inch. Look at the Sports Ministry where I am the minister, we are unable to do anything. Civil servants are telling us to justify why we want to implement projects. What type of a working arrangement is that?
“They (civil servants) want to deny the sports fraternity an opportunity to thrive because of their political inclinations. Ntate, look at Home Affairs, look at Tourism, look at Mining. You can count all of them (DC ministries) and they are all unable to move an inch and do anything.
“Yet when it comes to your (ABC) projects, we pass them in the cabinet without much ado. We don’t even require many things because we feel you are implementing them for the benefit of the people. I will not go into details but I just wanted you to know that we see what you are doing. Why are you doing this to us Mapesela? Why are you doing this to us?
“We appear as though we are a people and party whose primary business is just to help you (ABC) reach your destination in this government.
“We request that by the end of this week, you have given this matter some thought. Please sit down and discuss this matter among yourselves. Brethren, if you have reached your destination, tell us so we can be able to see what to do next,” Ms Tampane says.
She even hints at the DC pulling out of government and joining the opposition benches in parliament.
“It’s okay bontate, we are going back to the crossbenches. It is nice to be a backbencher or sit on the crossbenches. We will go and sit there in parliament. We never thought that you will do this to us but today we are hurt. There is nothing that is progressing under the DC ministries and at the end of the day this nation will insult us and say the DC is just a parcel or passenger in this government. The people have already started insulting us. It’s enough,” Ms Tampane says.
DC secretary general Tsitso Cheba was evasive on the issue yesterday.
Mr Cheba laughed heartily before saying, “we will talk when have you spoken to the owner of the audio and asked her about those issues.
“I will talk to you in ten minutes,” he added but he was not reachable later for comment.
The Tampane claims point to the latest problems bedeviling the ABC-DC ahead of its first anniversary next month.
The two parties have clashed over the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane’s plans to prosecute former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and current Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane for treason. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had urged Lesotho to suspend the prosecutions until after the completion of multi-sector reforms expected to bring lasting peace and stability to the Kingdom. The DC does not think the ABC has done enough to try and implement SADC’s recommendations and rein-in the judiciary from proceeding with the prosecutions which threaten to stall the reforms process.
Unless their latest Court of Appeal application succeeds, Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane are now set to be prosecuted alongside former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and three other soldiers, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa for treason in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Mr Thabane.
Mr Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Mr Mochoboroane was Communications Minister and LCD secretary general. Last November, the DC held a press conference where it accused the ABC of instigating the prosecution of Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane. The DC said the ABC could have done better to halt the trials at least after the country had implemented the multi-sector reforms process to be completed. The DC argues that the trial should be held in abeyance because Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane are key players in the reforms process.
The two parties also publicly traded barbs last December after the ABC held a press conference where it said it would not shield Mr Mokhothu from prosecution for alleged human trafficking activities. Addressing the media, ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele and spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said Mr Mokhothu should step down from his post as deputy prime minister if he is charged with human trafficking.
They said stepping down would be an “honourable thing” for Mr Mokhothu to do as that is exactly what their leader, Mr Thabane, did in May 2020 when he stepped down from the post of prime minister after being hauled to court over the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane.
The ABC press conference was held in the wake of allegations of Mr Mokhothu and other senior DC officials’ alleged complicity in human trafficking activities alongside a Pakistani, Rana Qamar.
The allegations are contained in a High Court application by an immigration officer, Mapeete Jonathan, challenging her transfer from Moshoeshoe I Airport to the head office of the immigration department in Maseru.
Unsurprisingly, the ABC’s press conference provoked a furious response from the normally soft-spoken Mr Mokhothu who subsequently called on the ABC to rein in what he described as the Hlaele-led “Satanist” faction of the party which he said was bent on tarnishing his good name and that of the DC. Failure to rein in Mr Hlaele would mean that the ABC was in full agreement with the sentiments of its secretary general and his allies, Mr Mokhothu said.
Despite the public squabbles, the two parties appear determined to ensure their coalition lasts the distance. So far it has weathered the storms and it will reach its first anniversary next month.