Nthakeng Pheello Selinyane
I HAVE been following with keen interest the recent goings-on in the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC), among others the departure of my long-time comrade Tlali Khasu from that party to form his own party, as he later exclusively told this paper.
What I didn’t know until his radio announcement was that before joining or co-founding the ABC in 2006 he had earlier joined the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), well after jumping its parent Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) – and co-founding the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) with some of us in 1991 – for its mistreatment of him and his Lesotho Liberation Army comrades and many other cadres in the service of apartheid while pretending to liberate Lesotho. The next ABC quitter was Pitso Maisa, who had earlier boasted a life-and-death inseparability with Mr Khasu in radio interviews rejecting charges of their joint disloyalty to the party. Messrs Khasu and Maisa are now notorious as the “former ABC” parliamentarians for the Peka and Motimposo constituencies respectively.
These two cases have something in common with distant forerunners, and those of former Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader Monyane Moleleki and LCD Secretary-General Selibe Mochoboroane, from the first and second ruling parties of current coalition government. Messrs Khasu and Moleleki announced their departures after they were variously suspended. Both had been believed to be seeking the seat of their leaders just as Mr Moleleki’s boss Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had abandoned Mr Khasu’s boss Thomas Thabane to his own devices when Mr Moleleki, Mpho Malie, etc. sought his head (politically) in 2006 LCD, forcing the escape-route formation of the now ever-irksome ABC. Dr Thabane Thabane as easily abandoned Mr Khasu until the latter foolhardily delivered himself to his clutches with that cry-baby radio whining and whimpering about Dr Thabane somersaulting on, and single-handedly overturning, the NEC’s naming of him for official leader of parliamentary opposition. Fascinating was Mr Khasu’s claim that he, as deputy party leader, was hounded in the party for being an offspring of an eminent leader of “Congress” (BCP), which fate he said he unfortunately couldn’t change.
Mr Khasu had travelled far and fast from these obsessions when I met and worked politics with him 26 years ago. His father had already parted ways with his leader and BCP founder Ntsu Mokhehle, and formed his Ha-re-eeng Basotho Party (HBP) with his BCP heavyweight cousin Phoka Chaolana back then. The LCD was born of the rot that ate the BCP, and had gone on to officialise and institutionalize the robbing of national treasury when Mr Khasu joined it. I found it intriguing that he hadn’t done anything about his “persecution”, despite being acting party leader for more than one year at the time of his suspension for those leader-of-opposition claims. Ironically, his side-kick Mr Maisa was more known for pestering elected constituency committees and labeling them “National” (from Basotho National Party) offspring in execution of his project of self-aggrandizement.
Forget about Mr Maisa’s self-confessed limited education, which transmutes being a parliamentarian into a desperate project for gaining minimal recognition, not serving community, and therefore slugging it out with committees for pedestrian village-level prestige; he was always a spoilt blued-eyed boy of the Great Leader who remained untouchable and boastful of the Leader’s affection, defying all official interventions that didn’t go his way. In 2015, the party’s constituency primaries were conducted up to three times in order for him to return, with a little help from headquarters pretending to be feeble-handed or ignorant of ground-level developments. Dr Thabane could easily admit back Mr Maisa and tell questioners to form their own party mind their business, the way he almost schizophrenically realigned party followers in respect of MoAfrika FM during the life of seventh parliament.
The problem with politicians is that they can tell you plain untruths with a straight face, and even attribute such to most venerable authorities. Mr Moleleki, for example, told the media, in the face of a raging current of contrary truth of the text he was holding in his hand, that SADC “explicitly” advised or allowed Lesotho government to “delete” the amnesty recommendation in the Phumaphi Commission report; and to” keep” Lt-Gen. Tlali Kamoli after they said he was a loyal, competent and diligent soldier. Using only the “common cause” facts, though, we note universal irregularities in the handling of these cases. Insiders leaked that the suspension of ABC public rallies last year was prompted less by security concerns than anxiety that as acting leader Mr Khasu would use them as platform and launching pad to draw away a sizeable chunk of membership and defect to a Congress party with them. Mr Mochoboroane was restrained (party publicists objected to use of the word suspension) because the leader and his (side of the) committee thought he wanted to similarly exploit the LCD in favour of a new youth party.
The vintage Dr Thabane told his rallies on the 2007 campaign trail that he was more in observance of
Mokhehleism than Dr Mosisili, which makes it doubtful his worshippers would pillory Mr Khasu on anti-Congress pedestal. Ironically, it was the DC and LCD propagandists who composed lines of Mr Khasu’s persecution for his Congress parentage. Indeed the Congress ideologues and imitators started out “teaching” Mr Metsing he was hated in the first coalition government for his Congress parentage, as though it was anything ordained and chosen by God, an illusion akin to Israel of today vis-à-vis its neighbours, then felled his government using him. The ABC constitution is substantially a clone of the LCD constitution. I don’t quite agree with the court ruling that a person (Khasu) should be condemned unheard on first occasion of being absent from a scheduled disciplinary hearing. Nor do I embrace the “Congress” concept of self-expulsion (boitebelo), where if you don’t vote party line in parliament, or you stand outside it in elections, or take it to court, you are presumed to have expelled yourself from the party – where the last of these isn’t even written anywhere yet it has been bandied about in Mr Khasu’s case, while the first two are in both LCD and ABC constitutions.
A situation where a supposed first among equals, the party leader, should be given to single-handedly dispense with any of his comrades including his deputy, even if such has to be on the “advice” of a tribunal, is simply untenable. Mr Moleleki and Mr Mochoboroane incurred the wrath of their leaders for absenting themselves from that “I-love-my-prime-minister” charade organized by sycophants and hangers-on to offend everyone who was not themselves; Mr Khasu for outing his leader’s “selfish” keeping of two packages of perks (of former premier and opposition leader) at party’s expense. There should be standing disciplinary committees, preferably elected together with the executive committee at the same conference, for the tenure of its life; not ad hoc committees that can be stacked with the accused’s adversaries, and they must recommend to a collective, not a one-man “apex” (sehlohlolo). It could administer a comprehensive code which is adopted after rigorous consultations, grassroots input, circulation and adoption by conference, incorporating global best practices; where penalties are known in advance for listed and discretely described transgressions, not where a handful of arbitrarily picked individuals mete out arbitrary and inconsistent punishment for comparable or disparate offences as they temperamentally see it. Such a committee could be a conduct and ethics committee, with the prerogative of initiative to kick-start debriefings and investigations where in its fair consideration the conduct of members leaves something to desire. Such a committee could be called a conduct and ethics committee, with prerogative to initiate debriefings and investigations by summoning persons regarding conduct that is suspected to leave something to desire. The opposite is what has brought all the main parties where they are today.