ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) legislator and nominee for the party’s chairship, Samuel Rapapa, has dispelled rumours that he is disgruntled that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane overlooked him for the Tourism, Environment and Culture portfolio in favour of former Democratic Congress (DC) secretary general Semano Sekatle.
Mr Rapapa said he was fully behind last week’s appointment of Mr Sekatle. Mr Sekatle was on Monday sworn-in as the Tourism minister, filling the vacancy created by the sacking of then suspended ABC chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe, in August this year.
Mr Sekatle is the member of parliament for the Lebakeng constituency and he received the second highest votes in last year’s national elections. Only Dr Thabane, who stood in the Ha Abia constituency, won his seat with more votes than him.
Mr Sekatle, who held different cabinet portfolios in previous governments led by Dr Pakalitha Mosisili is the third high-profile DC member to dump the party to join one of the parties in the ruling coalition.
Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane and Deputy Minister of Education Mothepu Mahapa left the DC last year to join Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD).
Immediately after being sworn-in at the Royal Palace in Maseru on Monday, Mr Sekatle announced that he had ditched the DC to join Dr Thabane’s ABC.
He said his decision was prompted by the “fact that the DC’s national executive committee (NEC) had made his stay in the party a living hell”.
He said that he chose to join the ABC because its leader (Dr Thabane) had approached him and pulled him out of the “hellhole that the DC members were digging for me”.
“The DC especially the NEC, made my stay in the party a living hell. That made me realise that they didn’t need me in the party and as soon as the National Assembly reopens, I will cross the floor from the DC to ABC,” Mr Sekatle said.
He said several DC legislators, including his wife Pontšo ‘Matumelo Sekatle, were no longer happy at the DC although he was not sure whether all of them would follow him to the ABC.
“The executive believes so much in Linakeli (secret night meetings) and those are meetings where plots against other members are formulated in order to trouble such people until they leave the party.
“During a recent leadership conference, it was said that I and other legislators were causing commotion within the party because we wanted to join Ntate (Monyane) Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats. It was painful when the leader (Dr Mosisili) was also believing those allegations. People who were mostly accused were Dr Pontšo ‘Matumelo Sekatle, Tlohang Sekhamane, ‘Mamphono Khaketla and myself.
“I noticed there were plans to bury me alive and soon I would be a nobody, not only in the DC but politically. I can say Ntate Thabane approached me at the right time and snatched me from the lion’s claws,” Mr Sekatle said.
Ahead of its elective conference next month which will choose a replacement for Dr Mosisili, the DC has been split into two main camps. One faction, known as Melele, is said to favour deputy secretary general Tlohang Sekhamane who is set to battle with Dr Mosisili’s deputy, Mathibeli Mokhothu, for the DC leader’s post.
Mr Sekhamane is a former finance minister, former government secretary and former member of parliament for the Mokhotlong #79 constituency.
The other faction, known as Liphakoe, is said to have thrown its weight behind Mr Mokhothu in his quest to succeed Dr Mosisili. Mr Mokhothu is the official leader of the opposition in parliament and he is the member of parliament for the Qhoali #68 constituency.
Mr Sekatle’s recent cabinet appointment is said to have been met with resentment from some senior ABC officials including Mr Rapapa. Some sources said the ABC officials felt they had been overlooked for cabinet appointments despite their loyalty and longevity in the party.
However, Mr Rapapa said he was fully behind Dr Thabane’s decision as it helped grow the party.
“I have heard people suggesting that I am not happy with the appointment but why would I be unhappy when my party is growing,” Mr Rapapa asked rhetorically.
“I am happy because the people of Mosalemane voted me to represent them in the National Assembly and as for ministerial posts, those are the prerogative of the Prime Minister to appoint anyone a minister.
“I would love to be a minister but that does not mean I am not happy when my leader is destroying the opposition. I fully support this appointment and I neither have a problem nor grievances with it,” Mr Rapapa told the Sunday Express.
He said that his presence at the swearing-in ceremony and his religious attendance of such events since the advent of the current government in June 2017, was a clear indication that he was not hurting.
He said it was important to look beyond the present, adding that the future was bright for him.
Mr Rapapa has thrown his hat into the contest for the post of ABC chair at the party’s elective conference in February 2019.
He said he had chosen to contest for the post because of his ambition to assume one of the highest leadership positions.
“I have been a secretary general and treasurer in the past and I cannot be recycled to those positions, I have filled a nominee’s form for the post of party chair because I am an ambitious person and I want to be the third in command,” Mr Rapapa said.
He served as party secretary general and treasurer between May 2010 and 2014.