- their posts to be filled in January 2020
ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was yesterday suspended from the party for six years for “uncomely behaviour” and sowing divisions within the fractious ruling party. He was suspended along with the party’s deputy secretary general, Nkaku Kabi.
The duo were suspended by a special ABC conference that was organised by the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the party’s national executive committee (NEC).
The special conference also nullified the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of ABC deputy leader, Prof Mahao and his four NEC allies, namely, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and his deputy, Matebatso Doti.
The quintet were expelled by Dr Thabane for alleged insubordination but the special conference reversed their expulsions on the grounds that Dr Thabane’s reasons were “not convincing enough”.
The conference went ahead at Lesotho High School despite desperate last minute attempts by the ABC faction loyal to Dr Thabane to stop it through court litigation. In the end, the conference was rushed and it ended just before 2pm as the delegates, who had been alerted of their rivals’ moves to stop it, moved swiftly to ensure that they would not be found when the other party faction eventually came with a court order to stop proceedings.
The suspensions of Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi are a product of the long-running battle between the ABC leader and his deputy, Prof Mahao, for control of the fractious ruling party.
The ABC has not known peace and stability ever since Dr Thabane and some members of the ABC’s former NEC rejected Prof Mahao’s election into the NEC at the party’s February 2019 elective conference.
Dr Thabane and some senior party officials argued that Prof Mahao was a relative newcomer who should not have landed the second most powerful party post ahead of more seasoned campaigners. The impasse over Prof Mahao’s election led to the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of Prof Mahao and his allies and also sparked a series of court litigations between the factions. The Mahao faction responded by suspending Dr Thabane and they initially sought to hold a special conference on 6 July 2019 to decide whether or not to expel Dr Thabane from the party.
The July conference was nonetheless aborted at the last minute after Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi obtained an interim interdict from Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase to block the conference.
The Court of Appeal has since barred Justice Mahase from hearing all cases pertaining to the Mahao faction’s struggle with Dr Thabane for the control of the ABC because of the judge’s alleged pro-Thabane bias.
The premier and Mr Kabi also withdrew their 5 July 2019 application to bar the special conference and to stop Prof Mahao and his allies from presenting themselves as ABC’s NEC members after their 17 June 2019 “expulsions” from the party. Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi did not give reasons for withdrawing their application.
Following the withdrawal of Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi’s application to stop the special conference and High Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monapathi’s Wednesday 4 September 2019 interim order blocking the “expulsions” of Prof Mahao and his allies from the ABC, the Mahao camp finally held its special conference yesterday.
Not surprisingly, the main agenda was Dr Thabane’s fate.
Commenting on the outcome of the special conference, ABC spokesperson, Mr Masoetsa said, “The conference is mindful of the fact that there were members of the party (Dr Thabane, Mr Kabi and some of the old NEC members) whose behaviour was unacceptable after the announcement of the elective conference results held at Lehakoe in February 2019”.
“After deliberating on the reports made by the deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao and the secretary general (Mr Hlaele), a disciplinary committee to investigate the leader (Dr Thabane)’s uncomely behaviour shall be set up.
“While we await that, the conference has decided to suspend the leader (Dr Thabane) for a period of six years during which he will not meddle in the internal affairs of ABC,” Mr Masoetsa said.
He said Mr Kabi had also been suspended for the same period and for the same reasons as Dr Thabane.
The special conference also nullified the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of ABC deputy leader, Prof Mahao and his four NEC allies. Mr Masoetsa said Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi’s posts would remain vacant and they would only be filled in January 2020 when another conference is convened.
He said the conference had also directed the NEC to review the party constitution, make amendments where necessary and send them to the party’s constituencies for revision before the end of October 2019.
The conference went ahead after the Mahao faction obtained an 11th hour High Court interdict against the police who had revoked their permit to hold the conference on Friday. And when news reached the delegates that their party rivals had rushed to the courts yesterday morning in another bid to block the conference, the Mahao faction expedited proceedings and ended the conference just after midday to ensure that they would have finished by the time court officers arrived at the venue to serve them with an order blocking the conference.
The conference ended just before 2pm and by then no one had showed up to serve the delegates with the court order issued yesterday just after midday by Justice Semapo Peete to block the conference. The order cited the Minister of Police Safety and Security, the District (police) Commissioner of Maseru, the Commissioner of Police, the Maseru City Council and the Attorney General as applicants. The ABC and ABC’s NEC were cited as the respondents.
Justice Semapo Peete’s order called upon the respondents to “show cause if any why the execution of the court order granted on the 6th September 2019 at 22.00 hours (allowing the special conference to proceed) shall not be stopped pending finalisation hereof (of the application to stop the special conference)”.
But by the time the court order was ready, the conference was over and the delegates had already dispersed from Lesotho High School. Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Kabi said he was not aware that he and Dr Thabane had been suspended. He said there were many reasons why they wanted to stop the conference but did not elaborate on the reasons. He did not say who received the court order and why they failed to serve it before the end of the conference despite the order having been issued just after midday. He also would not say how they would respond to the latest moves by the Mahao camp to oust them from the party.
He however, conceded that their rivals had been “quite smart because they dodged the court order”.
“I don’t know how to respond because there has been a court order to (stop the conference) but I am not aware that we have been suspended again.
“I think they were quite smart because they (Mahao faction) dodged the court order by dispersing the conference and maybe it will legally work to their advantage. This is a political game and we are beating each other at our own political game,” Mr Kabi said yesterday.
Yesterday evening, Mr Rapapa said they had still not been served with the court order. He said they had played their cards well and even avoided going to their homes to ensure they were not served with the court order.
Prior to the decisions to suspend Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi, Prof Mahao addressed the conference comprising of 1170 delegates from 75 local ABC constituencies and three party provinces from neighbouring South Africa.
Prof Mahao chronicled the infighting that has plagued the ABC since the February 2019 elective conference.
“The ABC’s troubles started at the February 2019 conference. When you elected the NEC, you were clear on what you wanted and this was based on the principles of good governance in a democratic dispensation.
“The expectation was for the NEC to implement the ABC manifesto of eradicating poverty and sadly upon announcement of the results, there were those who wanted to seize the ballot boxes so as to disrupt the elections.
“I would like to pass my gratitude to you for standing for truth, justice and the rule of law, and also thank our legal team which has always been there for our battles,” Prof Mahao said.
He castigated their party rivals for fuelling the infighting, saying the instability had sacred away investors.
“We have the responsibility to oversee peace and this party’s unity. The instability within the ABC impacts directly on the economy and the stability of the whole country. Investors are holding onto their plans and some are even leaving the country while the local suppliers are not being paid for their services.”
He said their love for the party and the country was the only reason they had insisted on the failed talks with their rivals.
“But it’s obvious that the intentions of these people (ABC rivals) is to dampen the spirits of those who are following us and frustrate them until they leave for other parties.
“There are men and women who think they have made it in life. They think they have reached their destination and made it to Canaan and therefore they no longer care about the needs of the people. It’s surprising how the ABC has suddenly forgotten about the grievances of the police, teachers and wool and mohair farmers, which we thought would be addressed by now.
“The ABC is like a person who climbs on a roof top and then kicks the ladder he used. It is high time we started preparing for a policy conference.
“Bad governance, corruption and arrogance soil the ABC. I therefore appeal to this conference to adhere to the party constitution and use it as a guiding tool,” Prof Mahao said.
On his part, Mr Hlaele said all decisions made by the conference were binding “on each and every one of us”.