Thabane admits party problems

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…PM in rare public apology

…says infighting will be dealt with to avoid derailing coalition govt

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, has deplored the infighting within the ruling   All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and issued a public apology for his government’s shortcomings with regards to service delivery.

He said the ABC was working to rectify its problems and vowed that they would not allow the intense bickering to derail the government and prevent it from lasting its full five year term.

Dr Thabane said this while addressing a weekend rally at ’Maliepetsane in the Mafeteng district.

It had been widely expected that Dr Thabane would use the rally to chastise and/or even announce the sacking of ABC chair and Tourism minister, Motlohi Maliehe, after the latter’s blistering attack on First Lady Maesaiah Thabane in which he accused her of exerting undue interference in party and government affairs.

Mr Maliehe said Ms Thabane was fomenting chaos in the party and in the government through “constant meddling” in the work of ministers and officials. He demanded that the First Lady stops meddling in state affairs forthwith or risk derailing the government.

Mr Maliehe launched the unprecedented scathing attack against the First Lady while addressing a rally in his Butha-Buthe constituency last week.

The ABC chairman accused the First Lady of derailing the government by seeking to control ministers and how they should perform their duties. He further accused Ms Thabane of violating the constitution and “abetting corruption” by instigating the removal of ministers who refused to comply with her demands.

The fire spitting Mr Maliehe said he had decided to speak out regardless of the consequences to himself.  He said he did not care if his utterances would land him in trouble. His interest was in safeguarding the founding values of the party he said he had helped form.

Dr Thabane reportedly responded to Mr Maliehe’s attack by telling the minister to “pack and go” as he had effectively fired himself from the party and government with his utterances.

When Dr Thabane, who only returned on Wednesday from an official trip to Sudan, announced that he would hold a rally over the weekend in Mafeteng, there was intense speculation that he would use the occasion to denounce and even announce the departure of Mr Maliehe and his backers.

However, Dr Thabane chose a surprisingly conciliatory approach.

Without mentioning any names, he conceded that there was infighting in the ABC and issued an impassioned plea for unity.

He also lauded all those who had openly voiced their dissatisfaction, saying this proved that the ABC was a platform for healthy debates.

He acknowledged his own mistakes and said he too was not immune to censure as evidenced by the criticism he said had been directed at him by party supporters in his Ha Abia constituency.

There have been reports that party supporters in Ha Abia criticised Dr Thabane for failing to effectively address the challenges within the party which had led to factionalism and infighting.

Without revealing how he had been chastised by the party faithful, Dr Thabane said that, “My people from Abia actually lashed out at me two weeks ago because they felt that I had some issues to answer to”.

He said that party and government officials must self-introspect and re-direct their energies to addressing their shortcomings in terms of service delivery to the nation.

He warned that the infighting within his party could destabilise the coalition government if it went unchecked.

The ABC is in a coalition with Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD), Labour Minister Keke Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP).

“Our disorder can impact negatively on the integrity of the government, shatter its foundations and allow our enemies to take advantage as was the case with the first coalition (which lasted from 2012 to 2015),” Dr Thabane said on Sunday.

He said the failure to resolve the internal contradictions would amount to a betrayal of the nation which had entrusted the coalition partners with the huge responsibility of getting the country out of the violence, stagnation and instability which was a legacy of the previous seven parties’ government.

“The many challenges that we are faced with are not surprising although they come prematurely just after we left behind a regime that was characterised by hatred, killings, corruption and lack of services. That regime turned our people into wild animals and our independence into mockery.

“The voice of the people is the voice of God. We bore witness when the people overthrew the past regime through their dissatisfaction.

“Basotho know where they come from, where they are headed to and how they will get there. And we cannot lie to them. We are all witnesses that no one can stand in the way of the people even if we are in power.”

Dr Thabane admitted that despite being entrusted with rectifying the wrongs of the previous administration by spearheading development, his government had however been found wanting in terms of service delivery.

“However, it is embarrassing that we seem so frustrated already. But we should not paint this picture and let it grow in the eyes of our people and all those who are watching us.

“We have also noted with grave concern the dissatisfaction and appeal from the people concerning the maladministration within our party and the government, especially on issues of unemployment and lack of service delivery.

“There is no smoke without fire and all issues that have been raised are very solid and evident. It is on this note that we take this opportunity to apologise for all our wrongs and overlooking issues. We are sorry and we regret.”

He said the government’s deficiencies were exacerbated by the infighting within the ABC, adding that there was need for self-examination to regain the trust of the nation. He said without elaborating that the ABC Secretary General, Samonyane Ntsekele, had already started working to resolve the internal challenges.

“We need to look at ourselves in the mirror in all honesty and judge ourselves without lying to ourselves. We need to re-trace our footsteps and see where we have erred.

“To err is only human. The exchange of angry words on radio by the (party) leadership is a clear sign that we have lost the plot even though we have been entrusted with leading the government.”

Dr Thabane also expressed gratitude to the coalition partners for their patience while the ABC addressed its challenges. He said the infighting would not be allowed to derail the government and prevent it from lasting the distance.

“Under my stewardship, I solemnly promise that the national executive committee of the ABC and all the parties in this matter (infighting) have already started working to mend our ways.

“We also thank our partners in government for bearing with us and giving us an opportunity to put our house in order. It is only when we do things together that we will be sure to complete our full tenure of five years,” Dr Thabane said.

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