. . . as parties pull out of weekend joint rally
AN infighting storm is brewing in the four-party opposition bloc that threatens to scuttle their bid to join forces in forming the next government amid allegations the All Basotho Convention (ABC) no longer regarded the other parties as equals in the loose alliance.
So intense is the discord among the parties that the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) yesterday pulled out of a joint opposition rally scheduled for Mahobong constituency in Leribe on Saturday.
The opposition bloc consists of the ABC, AD, BNP and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). The parties forged an alliance last November to oust Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s seven-party coalition government through a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
Under the agreement, AD leader Monyane Moleleki would have been prime minister for the first 18 months upon forming government, with ABC leader Thomas Thabane deputising him.
Dr Thabane would have swapped places with the AD leader in the remaining 18 months of the deal.
The parties successfully engineered the no-confidence motion on 1 March 2017, prematurely ending the five-year tenure of the seven-party coalition government which was established in March 2015. However, Dr Mosisili resorted to a constitutional provision that empowers a sitting prime minister to advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for elections.
King Letsie III acquiesced to the premier’s advice and duly dissolved parliament on 6 March 2017 and eventually proclaimed 3 June 2017 as election-day.
After the poll date was set, Dr Thabane ruled out forging an electoral pact with other opposition parties, saying the ABC was aiming to win all the country’s 80 constituency seats.
Dr Thabane said he would only consider a coalition arrangement with the other parties if the ABC failed to muster enough seats to form government on its own.
The former premier said he was upbeat of the ABC’s electoral chances since it won 46 of the 120 parliamentary seats on offer in the 28 February 2015 snap polls. This was a significant improvement from the 30 seats the party won during the 2012 general election.
However, Dr Thabane’s stance has not gone down well with the other parties who accuse the ABC of arrogance and regarding them as inferior.
The parties have pointed to the electoral pact forged by the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) as the way to go to avoid vote splitting.
Under the pact, the DC will contest in 54 constituencies while the LCD was allocated 25. The PFD will field a single candidate in its Qalo stronghold in Butha-Buthe.
The parties’ frustrations boiled over this week, with the AD and BNP pulling out of a joint rally scheduled for Mahobong constituency in Leribe on Saturday.
AD Secretary-General Mokhele Moletsane told the Lesotho Times yesterday they pulled out of the rally after learning that some ABC National Executive Committee (NEC) members were not happy with sharing the stage with the “smaller parties”.
Mr Moletsane said the AD decided to pull out of the joint rally after the party’s NEC debated on the matter yesterday.
“As you may recall, when we were at a rally in Hlotse, our leader (Mr Moleleki) announced that there would be a joint solidarity rally in Mahobong on 6 May, as our leaders had agreed,” he said.
“Even though I cannot say how we got to know of this information, we as the AD learnt that the ABC NEC was not happy with that decision. That is why we pulled out of the event and opted for other plans.”
The AD yesterday issued a statement notifying supporters that instead of the Mahobong rally, they were now heading to Peka for a rally to be addressed by Mr Moleleki.
BNP spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe, confirmed his party’s decision to pull out of the joint rally yesterday, saying “some parties now think they are self-sufficient” without elaborating.
“It’s true that we pulled out of the party because some parties now think they are self-sufficient and did not need our support,” he said, promising to furnish this reporter with more details.
However, efforts to contact Mr Mofomobe minutes later did not bear fruit as both his phones were not reachable.
ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela expressed ignorance of the rally and the cancellations, promising to phone back with more information.
“I am not sure where the rally will be held since I won’t be attending it myself. I will be holding my own rally in Mokhotlong,” he said.
ABC Secretary-General (SG) Samonyane Ntsekele would not be drawn to comment on the issue, saying he was yet to hear confirmations of the cancellations when contacted last night.
“I am travelling at the moment and don’t have information regarding this matter,” he said.
“But since you already have this kind of information, I can’t comment on it until I have confirmed it. However, the ABC has not cancelled its rally scheduled for Mahobong.”
For her part, RCL SG ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie said the party’s NEC was yet to decide on whether they would participate or not in the joint rally.
“It is quite difficult for me to say what our stand point is since we have just heard about these new developments (pulling out of the AD and BNP),” Ms Lemphane-Letsie said.
“However, this was an issue that was never discussed at length but was only suggested by our leaders pending finalisation by our respective NECs.”
Meanwhile, the discord between in the alliance was also apparent on social media networks with supporters of the parties criticising each other.