Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention (ABC)leader, Thomas Thabane’s bitter face-off with five executive members has worsened and could soon result in a split of the ruling party.
The infighting escalated after a 26 June meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee which announced the decion-making body had ratified Thabane’s decision to expel the five for allegedly violating the ABC’s constitution.
The ABC’s NEC is constituted by thirty members made by: ten elected directly, two representing both youth and women’s leagues, ten representing district committees and eight others who represent developmental issues.
Ideally, a the thirty constitute the full committee, but the party’s usual practice has been that the twelve made of the elected ten and two representing youth and women’s leagues to be the ones to cast votes when necessary in the NEC.
The expelled members, who were elected into office in February this year, were deputy leader Nqosa Mahao, secretary-general Lebohang Hlaele, chairperson Samuel Rapapa, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and deputy spokesperson ‘Matebatso Doti who have since been dubbed the ‘big five’.
But in yet another twist to the squabbling, the ‘big-five’ announced soon after the ratification proclamation that they had also suspended Thabane, the ABC’s founding leader, for violating the party’s constitution.
They announced Thabane’s suspension following the high Court’s decion not to grant their application for an interim order staying their expulsion.
Instead, the court ordered that the feuding ABC factions should file papers and prepare for their case to be heard in July.
On 17 June, Thabane announced that he had fired the five portfolio-holders from the party for their “unbecoming behaviour of not respecting the party and its constitution”.
However, later the same day, the expelled members dismissed Thabane’s decision, saying it was against the party’s constitution. They said as party leader, Thabane did not have the constitutional powers to unilaterally fire them without the consent of the entire NEC.
The infighting then took a turn for the worst last Friday when Hlaele informed the media that the ‘BIG FIVE’, purporting it to be the ABC NEC, had suspended Thabane following his “dictatorial acts” and failure to abide by the party’s constitution. Hlaele added Thabane would soon appear before the party’s disciplinary committee.
“In the disciplinary hearing, he will have to start by explaining the meaning of ‘sekatana (useless rack)’ (which Thabane had said in reference to the Big five leader’s, ABC deputy leader Nqosa Mahao). Thereafter, he will account for being against the decision of the elective conference,” Hlaele indicated.
Supported by the other four members, Hlaele said Thabane was free to challenge his suspension in the courts as no one was above the law.
“Whether he accepts (the suspension) or not, it is besides the point. The fact is he has been suspended and he can only challenge that in the courts of law,” he said.
Hlaele added Thabane had divided the ABC into factions by calling for meetings and rallies without the consent of the NEC which was against the party’s constitution.
Also served with a suspension letter by the ‘big five’ was deputy secretary-general, Nkaku Kabi, for allegedly illegally using the party’s letterhead to issue official letters without the authorisation of the secretary-general.
“We have also agreed to suspend my deputy (Nkaku Kabi) for illegally using the party’s property without my authorisation as the law requires him to get my authorisation before attending to anything that requires the secretary-general’s attention,” Hlaele said.
He also indicated Kabi would also be hauled before a disciplinary committee.
Additionally, Hlaele also announced that the party would hold an emergency special conference on 6 July to discuss the infighting. He dismissed letters that recently went viral on social media which he said were written by Kabi trashing the conference.
“It is in this conference that the ABC membership will adopt or deny our decision to suspend the duo,” said Hlaele
Asked whether the suspension was aimed at pushing Thabane out of the ABC, Hlaele said they had no intention of doing so but only sought to see justice being served.
“Justice should be done as often as possible, not only to serve someone’s interest as this country is governed through democracy so the outcome of the February 1st and 2nd elections should be respected,” he said.
He further indicated there were signs they might not work together with Thabane again as there were no indications they could reconcile.
Hlale also said they were not fighting for the ABC as a brand anymore, but only seeking justice for party members who spent sleepless nights and also slept on the cold floors of Lehakoe during February’s NEC elections, which brought the suspended members to power—an outcome Thabane refused to recognise.
“No one owns the party. This party belongs to all who volunteer to be part of it and no member is a member of the leader as all members belong to the party,” Hlaele said.
Asked where they were working from as the party’s offices had since been locked, Rapapa chipped in and said they had their office elsewhere in town.
Hlaele added he met with the owner of the ABC office at Metcash Building who reportedly told him he had ordered the party to vacate the building due to the infighting which was damaging the property and that it also owed three months in rent.
Meanwhile, Nkaku told the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism that he received the suspension letter but would not recognise it.
“We have received those letters but we won’t comply with them as the people who wrote them are no longer members of the ABC,” said Kabi.