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ABC Saga: Battle lines drawn

THUSO MOSABALA

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s daughter, ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, has attributed failure of talks in the All Basotho Convention to non-compliance by a faction led by her father to facilitate the negotiations as directed by the High Court earlier this month.

Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase, on March 6, ordered amicable deliberations between the two warring factions in the major ruling ABC, following a controversial elective conference early February.

The old National Executive Committee of the party has, since announcement of the election results on March 10, refused to vacate office and hand over administration to the newly elected NEC that ushered Professor Nqosa Mahao as the new deputy leader.

The shenanigans in the Lesotho’s biggest party have since exposed rooted divisions pitting two factions led by Thabane, for the old NEC, and Mahao for the new one. The stand-off has culminated in the courts of law where the disgruntled losers in February polls argue the elections were rigged.

But there were chances of a lasting solution in the split threatened ABC when Justice Mahase ordered internal talks on March 6, and limited powers of the old NEC to “bare administrative decisions” until final settlement terms are set.

The judge gave the rivalling parties until Tuesday March 19 to agree terms, or should they fail to reach consensus by then, the High Court will make its judgment on March 29.

Advocate Hlaele, formerly Nkoea Thabane, told the court yesterday (March 20), following collapse of the talks, that applicants in the matter, namely Trade and Industry Minister Habofanoe Lehana, Mining Minister Keketso Sello and Rothe legislator Mohapi Mohapinyane, had snubbed meetings scheduled for the talks.

The trio wants the court to invalidate the election results on grounds the total number voters per the outcome does not tally with the total number of party delegates that were present to cast vote at the conference. They warn of “chaos and bloodshed” if the court cannot cancel the results and order fresh elections to be conducted in a space of three months.

Lehana and Sello have lost the elections in positions of deputy secretary and treasurer to Health Minister Nkaku Kabi and one Tlali Mohapi, respectively. Together with Mohapinyane, they fall under Thabane’s faction.

Hlaele, on the other hand, represents some of the 44 respondents in the matter, who fall under the Mahao faction.

She is the wife of the beleaguered former law and constitutional affairs minister Lebohang Hlaele, who has been elected secretary general in the new NEC. The couple supports Mahao’s faction against that of Thabane.

Lebohang was dismissed alongside his social development counterpart, ’Matebatso Doti, from their ministerial positions by Thabane on February 18. Their sin, as currently speculated, was their being elected into the new committee and supporting the Mahao team.

Lesotho’s prime minister reserves a constitutional right to appoint and fire ministers as he pleases, and without having to explain the decision to anyone.

In her opening statement before the court yesterday, Advocate Hlaele said efforts were made by “democratically elected national executive committee of ABC to ensure that settlement was reached, however, every effort that was made was frustrated every step of the way by non-attendance of the applicants”.

However, the old NEC’s Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele has told the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism in an interview that the negotiations had had taken place, but refused to provide details.

The Center has learnt that the issue of failure of the negotiations to see light of the day was promulgated by the High Court Deputy Registrar Advocate Makamane, who was instructed by the court to mediate between the two factions.

The case has been postponed to March 25 on account one of the lawyers representing the respondents was on sick leave.

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