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A ray of hope in split threatened ABC

As High Court orders talks among warrying factions

THUSO MOSABALA  

A High Court order directing negotiations between the two warring factions in the All Basotho Convention today, signals hope in the major ruling party that neared a split.

Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase has further limited powers of the ABC’s old national executive committee to “bare administrative decisions” in today’s order, until final settlement terms are set – either through negotiations or should they fail by March 19, then through court judgement on March 29.

The old committee had, after losing the election race early in February, refused to hand over the power to successors, arguing the polls were flawed.

But the new committee, which appeared to be backed by majority of the party members, stood ground they legitimate and sought to resume administration of the party.

The stalemate exposed sharp divisions that threatened a split within the major ruling ABC in Lesotho’s third coalition government.

The court has also thwarted efforts by outgoing ABC secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele to see his successor Lebohang Hlaele facing suspension for “unlawfully” using the party stamp.

“The outgoing NGC shall put in abeyance any anticipated disciplinary processes against the 17th Respondent (Hlaele) or any member of the incoming NEC pending finalisation of the present case,” Justice Mahase ordered.

The ABC two NECs are also ordered to hold negotiations immediately “and conclude such negotiations on or before March 19”. The negotiations are to be mediated by Assistant Registrar of the High Court, Realeboha Makamane.

Following weekend rallies in Lithabaneng and Qeme constituencies led by the two ABC divisions also seen as support assessment tools for the feuding factions, both NECs started this week with changed minds, eager to see their impasse resolved through out of court negotiations. 

This became evident yesterday as their court case did not proceed as scheduled with police officer at the High Court telling attendants that the Chief Justice had left for her home.

The Centre understands the talks that began on Monday were possibly the reason for the judge to leave early giving the two parties time to reconcile their differences and reach an agreement.

On February 1-2, ABC held its elective conference and its outcome has since been challenged before the courts of law by the trio of Habofanoe Lehana, Keketso Sello and Mohapi Mohapinyane who had also contested in the elective conference.

The aforementioned trio registered in their court application papers as a matter subject to investigation, some irregularities in the elections that produced among others, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Lebohang Hlaele and ‘Matebatso Doti as being elected to the portfolios of Deputy Leader, Secretary General and Deputy Publicity respectively. 

The case has since been dragging in court and encountering some postponements for various reasons. It is expected to be heard on March 20 should negotiations fail to produce an agreement.

Chief amongst issues alleged to have been on table in the negotiations that started on Monday are that Mahao and Hlaele should resign from the NEC, that any irregularities committed by the outgoing NEC should not be exploited for prosecution, and that the ministerial set up as it stands, should be tempered with.

But talking to the Centre, Ntsekele rubbished these allegations labelling them a mere propaganda. “There is nothing like that. In fact, we have not even communicated our bargaining position to anybody,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mahao has alluded attempts to block him and members of the new NEC from assuming administrative duties of the party to his slain brother Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao while addressing ABC Lithabaneng constituency rally on Sunday.

Mahao told scores of ABC followers that June 25, 2015 demise of his brother “that brought pain to us as the family, ABC and Basotho, is the death that is haunting me today”.

He claims that his brother’s death “was a turning point for ABC that resulted in it overtaking other political parties in as far as support at the constituencies is concerned”.

But Mahao says it is due to his brother’s death that “today, the national executive committee that you have elected on February 1-2 is being precluded to assume the administration of the party. 

“Now there are some people who say if Mahao is allowed into the national executive committee of the ABC, he is going to revenge, therefore we must do what whatever is necessary to make sure that he does not assume that position.

“I do not have any interest as long as these issues are before the courts of law administered by those mandated to work on them by the laws of Lesotho. In fact, two leaders if my memory serves me well, have also suffered the pain of losing someone, I have not seen or heard of them revenging, is it because I am stupid that they think I will revenge?” he rhetorically questioned.

He concluded by warning people “making these unfounded allegations as their scapegoat” to stop.

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