ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy chairperson Chalane Phori says it is wrong to refer to Professor Nqosa Mahao and four other national executive committee (NEC) officials as members of the ABC.
Mr Phori said Prof Mahao and his four allies ceased to be members of the party on 17 June 2019 when they were fired by ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Express over the weekend, Mr Phori, who is also Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing minister, said they will only grudgingly accept Prof Mahao and his allies back into the ABC if they win their High Court application challenging their expulsion from the party by Dr Thabane.
He however, said Dr Thabane and his allies will not dump the ABC to form a new party even if Prof Mahao wins the case against his expulsion.
The ABC has not known peace ever since its February 2019 elective conference which ushered Prof Mahao and others into the party’s NEC.
Prof Mahao clinched the deputy leader’s post ahead of seasoned party stalwarts including Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe. As deputy leader, Prof Mahao is the frontrunner to succeed Dr Thabane in both party and government when the veteran leader eventually calls it a day.
Prof Mahao’s victory was achieved despite the fierce resistance by Dr Thabane and other senior ABC officials, including Mr Phori, who insisted that the former National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor was a political greenhorn who should not be parachuted to the top post ahead of more seasoned party stalwarts. The resistance to Prof Mahao has continued even in the aftermath of a 12 June 2019 High Court ruling which recognised him and others as the legitimate NEC of the party.
Talks between Dr Thabane and Prof Mahao have failed to resolve the impasse. On 17 June 2019, Dr Thabane addressed an open air press conference in Maseru where he announced that he had expelled Prof Mahao and his allies, Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson) for alleged insubordination. The quintet have however, resisted the move and in turn suspended Dr Thabane from the party.
Prof Mahao and his allies followed this up by launching an urgent High Court application on 26 June 2019 for an order revoking their expulsion. They want the court to find Dr Thabane to be in contempt of court for purporting to expel them despite the court’s 12 June 2019 verdict declaring that they had been properly elected into the ABC’s NEC at the party’s February 2019 elective conference.
Prof Mahao and his allies also want an order barring Dr Thabane from making unilateral decisions and interfering with the work of the NEC.
The High Court bench comprising of Justices of presiding judge Thamsanqa Nomngcongo and Justices Sakoane Sakoane and Moroke Mokhesi are expected to deliver the judgement in the application anytime from now after receiving the written heads of arguments from lawyers of both parties to the dispute.
It was against this background of the anticipated ruling in the matter that Mr Phori, who has thrown his weight behind Dr Thabane in the power struggle, spoke to the Sunday Express.
Mr Phori said Prof Mahao and his allies ceased to be ABC officials and members the day they were “expelled” by Dr Thabane and they were just ordinary Basotho men and women without a political home.
“Right now, Ntate Mahao is not a member of the ABC. The five of them were expelled from the party, not suspended. He (Prof Mahao) is not a member of the ABC nor is he the deputy leader. This is why he went to court to ask that the court revoke the leader (Dr Thabane)’s decision,” Mr Phori said.
“Ntate Mahao’s ABC membership stopped the day the leader expelled him and five others. The leader was supported by our constitution. The same sections were used to expel (former ABC deputy leader) Ntate Tlali Khasu. He (Prof Mahao) is just an ordinary Mosotho man who does not belong to any party and he is seeking court interventions to be reinstated into the ABC.”
Mr Phori said while they had not discussed what would happen in the event that Prof Mahao and his allies won the case against their expulsion, they were however, law-abiding and would respect the court decision.
“I cannot comment as a member of the NEC on what would happen after the court decides on the case because that has not been discussed yet. I would not want to cause any confusion.
“However, as a faithful member of the party, I can safely say that the ABC is a party that respects the courts’ decisions. We have compiled with the courts’ rulings before and we will always do. We are not anything like them (Prof Mahao’s faction) who continue to call rallies even though they have been ordered to stop.”
He said they had sought to disqualify Prof Mahao from contesting because failing to act against him set a bad precedent where other ineligible ABC members would be emboldened to contest for NEC posts. Prof Mahao was disqualified from contesting the NEC elections but he successfully appealed against his disqualification on 1 February 2019.
He also said that Dr Thabane and his allies would not dump the ABC to form a new party even if Prof Mahao wins the case against his expulsion.
“I am an ABC member and I have been a member since its formation (in 2006). I am a member of the NEC and I am a minister. This means I have access to all the party forums and there has never been talk about forming a new party,” Mr Phori said.