…Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention leader accused of unilaterally violating the party’s constitution as he expels ‘rebels’ NEC members in violation of a High Court order
All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane’s decision to “unilaterally” expel key members of the party’s newly-elected National Executive Committee (NEC) has since been scoffed at as façade to circumvent the will of the ruling party’s membership.
Thabane, on Monday this week, told journalists outside the party’s offices that he had fired five members of the newly-elected NEC following a long-running court battle to nullify their election in February this year.
The ABC leader had to address the press conference in the open after failing to access the party’s offices as the door-locks had been changed by Secretary General Lebohang Hlaele.
But in the latest twist to the drama in the battle for the soul of the ruling party, the expelled members also held a press briefing on the same day and scoffed at Thabane’s move, saying it was not only in contempt of a court order that confirmed their election and was therefore illegal, but also showed his “dictatorial” tendencies. They also said the dismissal was in violation of the ABC constitution.
The expelled members were deputy leader Nqosa Mahao, chairperson Sam Rapapa, secretary-general Lebohang Hlaele, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and his deputy ’Matebatso Doti.
However, Thabane, who was in the company of other members of the NEC as he announced the dismissals, insisted the five were no longer members of the ABC and called them rebels in the party.
Initially, Thabane had written letters to the five members asking them to “show cause why they cannot be dismissed from the party” for their “unbecoming behaviour”.
Thabane told the press conference: “In line with my duties and responsibilities that have been invested in me as the leader of the party, according to section B (5) (g) of the party constitution, I did write the letters on 13 June 2019 to the following members. In those letters, I asked them to explain why they cannot be expelled from the committee as a result of their unbecoming behaviour of not respecting the party and its constitution.
“These five members are Professor Nqosa Mahao, Samuel Rapapa, Lebohang Hlaele, Montoeli Masoetsa and ’Matebatso Doti. I have now expelled them after their failure to provide reasons why they should not be expelled from the party.”
But the expelled members argued at their own press briefing also held at the ABC offices that Thabane only had the powers to suspend and not expel members without the blessing of the National Executive, hence they were calling the move unilateral.
“The leader does not have the right to wake up one day and expel members of the party with the powers vested in him by section B (5) (g).
“Section B (5) (h) provides that the leader can only suspend members while he is waiting for a conclusion from members of the executive committee,” said Hlaele, who is also Thabane’s son-in-law.
Hlaele also said he was surprised to receive letters bearing party’s letter-head when Thabane did not have the right or authority to write letters on party business without his knowledge as secretary-general.
He added after receiving their dismissal letters, they met as a committee and decided to suspend the party’s former secretary-general, Samonyane Ntsekele, for alleged misuse of the ABC’s stationery.
“We take Ntate Thabane’s decisions not to be aligned or in accordance with the laws of the party. Our take of what Ntate Thabane did this morning is a clear disrespect of the courts of Lesotho,” Hlaele said.
Meanwhile, some of the reasons cited by Thabane for expelling the five were that they “called off a special conference which was supposed to be convened on 14June 2019; secondly for intervening and changing the door-locks of the party’s office; again for belittling the decisions conveyed to them in the ‘show cause letters’”.
Thabane also directed Hlaele’s deputy to act as secretary-general until June 26 when the former NEC members and the new committee are supposed to meet for a hand-over meeting.
But in open defiance of their dismissal, Mahao said Thabane’s actions were nothing but just a smokescreen intended to circumvent the will of the ABC membership expressed in the 1-2 February elective conference that put them into office.
“It is clear to us that there are people who use Ntate Thabane to push their hidden agendas in the committee,” Mahao said.
Doti, who was Social Development minister until she was fired early this year by Thabane, added it had come to their realisation that the ABC infighting had spilled into the seven-party coalition government.
She said they had held several meetings with the ABC’s coalition partners to help them bring order into the embattled party.
“We are also in talks that are led by the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) to help us deal with the situation that is in the party, peacefully,” said Doti.