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Thabane too old to lead ABC election campaign: Mapesela

  • outspoken minister says veteran ABC leader is “no longer marketable” to voters,
  • but the party’s NEC labels minister a “delinquent” over his comments.

 Pascalinah Kabi

OUTSPOKEN All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislator, Tefo Mapesela, has laughed off the party’s decision to have party leader Thomas Thabane lead its 2022 election campaign.

Mr Mapesela said the decision, which was communicated to all party structures by ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele a fortnight ago, was ill-advised because Mr Thabane was “too old” to lead a gruelling election campaign.

He said in any event, the 81-year-old Mr Thabane’s performance as prime minister from June 2017 until he was prematurely forced to make way for current premier Moeketsi Majoro in May 2020, had shown that he was no longer capable of making sound decisions.

He said the NEC’s insistence on Mr Thabane leading the party campaign was not a well-thought decision but only meant to advance the agenda of a faction within the fractious ruling party.

The party and the NEC are heavily divided with Mr Hlaele, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and deputy chairperson, Chalane Phori, said to be backing Mr Thabane to remain at the helm of the ABC.

They are pitted against erstwhile ally and deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao. Prof Mahao is said to be backed by chairperson, Samuel Rapapa, deputy secretary general, Nkaku Kabi and deputy spokesperson, ‘Matebatso Doti.

Although Mr Hlaele is currently backing his father-in-law, Mr Thabane, he is said to harbouring ambitions of taking over the party leadership.

The divisions have thus far played into Mr Thabane’s hands as none of the senior ABC officials appear willing to get rid of him for fear of handing the initiative to a rival.

In a 20 February 2021 circular to all party structures, Mr Hlaele said the NEC had resolved that Mr Thabane “will be the face of the party in the 2022 elections”.

Mr Hlaele also said the NEC would soon be meeting ABC legislators “to remind them of their responsibilities and mandate” in the National Assembly.

However, the circular has not gone down well with the outspoken Mr Mapesela. He subsequently released an audio clip saying Mr Thabane was too old to lead the party.

“We toppled the old man because of his own mistakes. How can this old man lead the party and be a prime minister again,” Mr Mapesela is heard saying in the audio.

“The talk that the old man can be a prime minister again or lead us into the elections is wrong and that can never happen. That old man will not lead our election campaign.

“He (Thabane) must sit down and raise his grandchildren. That old man, Ntate Tom, must stay at his house and live off his pension. He has been bragging about the numerous pensions that he qualifies for so let him stay at home and stop bothering us with ‘Malinkoana.” By ‘Malinkoana, Mr Mapesela was referring to Mr Thabane’s wife, ‘Maesaiah Thabane. There is no love lost between Mr Mapesela and Ms Thabane who hail from the same Mokhotlong district. Mr Mapesela is the ABC’s legislator for Mokhotlong but Ms Thabane has publicly stated her intention to challenge him for the right to represent the party in next year’s elections.

Mr Mapesela added, “there is no way we can go into the elections with Tom as the face of our party; he is no longer marketable. We elected him into office and he embarrassed us by ceding control of the government to ‘Malinkoana. He is not going to lead us. Whoever is aggrieved by my statement must go hang”.

Mr Mapesela is currently Agriculture and Food Security minister in the Moeketsi Majoro-led government. He served in various portfolios including as Trade and Industry minister under the previous Thabane administration. He however, said it was a “nightmare” serving under Mr Thabane because the latter was controlled by his wife.

“Some of us had terrible experiences under the old man. He could not even make a decision. Let him tell us which decisions he made when he was prime minister. “Ntsetse (‘Maesaiah) used to tell him what to do, he never made any decisions of his own. Ask him which decisions he made from 2017 when he became prime minister. There is none. What an embarrassment.

“I have never witnessed such embarrassment, I have never. The man must now go home. He is one man that I love but he must just go home. He must go home and watch as things unfold. Let him go home,” Mr Mapesela said.

However, ABC spokesperson Masoetsa described Mr Mapesela as a “delinquent” who should not be taken seriously by anyone.

“That one (Mapesela) thinks he is a role model. He thinks too highly of himself and considers himself as someone important in the ABC. He cannot go against the decisions of the NEC. We are a structure voted into power to lead the party yet he indicates that he is against the decisions of the party.

“Instead of following the right channels to raise his grievances, he just opens his mouth and says whatever he likes. That is a sign of delinquency by someone who does not understand the administrative procedures of the party. He is simply a disrespectful and silly man,” Mr Masoetsa said.

He said the NEC had decided that Mr Thabane should lead the party into the elections and people like Mr Mapesela who questioned those decisions were “simply in denial”.

Mr Mapesela was not reachable on his mobile phone yesterday to respond to Mr Masoetsa’s comments.

In a separate interview, Mr Rapapa said the NEC had indeed resolved that Mr Thabane should lead the party into next year’s elections.

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