Thabane still defiant as defections rock party

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PART ONE : ABC Leader says rebel MPs ignorant

ALL is not well in the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party. Over the past six months the party has lost three MPs.The MP for Maputsoe, Nkhetse Monyalotsa, crossed the floor to the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy last week.He accused the leadership of ABC of being “diabolical”.He said the leader Tom Thabane was destroying the party. The party’s deputy secretary for publicity and legislator for Mokhotlong Lehlohonolo Tsehlana left the party in October last year.He also accused Thabane of being dictatorial.He has since formed his Senkatana party.The MP for Lithoteng Eliabe Mokhanoi left the ABC earlier this year.His reasons were similar to those given by Monyalotsa and Tsehlana.The MPs say the party has lost its vision.They all say that Thabane is haunting out everyone who is a potential threat to his grip on power.Is this the beginning of the end for Lesotho’s largest opposition party? Is Thabane becoming a liability to the party that was formed in 2006?

To answer these crucial questions the Lesotho Times (LT) this week spoke to Thabane .

Below are excepts from the interview.

 LT: Last week Monyalotsa left the ABC to join the LCD. His defection brings to three the number of ABC MPs who have left the party. Could these be signs that the party is disintegrating?

Thabane: The party is not disintegrating at all. In fact it is growing. The numbers are coming in. We are making inroads into other areas. We are travelling the whole country to solicit for support and the strategy is working.

LT: But surely a party does not grow by losing the support of its MPs in parliament. The ABC’s numbers in parliament are decreasing.

Thabane: The problem is that people whom we had allowed to join the party to add value are now looking for something else. They got their positions as MPs but they now want more.

LT: By “more” you mean power?

Thabane: Yes it could be power and positions, I am not sure. What I know is that that “more” they want is not available. It’s just not there.

LT: But Monyalotsa never said he wanted power or position. He said he left the party because of your leadership style. He said you were running the party like your personal property?

Thabane: I knew Monyalotsa as a member of the Basotholand African Congress. When the elections came we had a candidate for Maputsoe who had come through the party structures. Monyalotsa was not the one who was supposed to stand in that constituency but one day he came to my office holding a court order. He said he was the one who was supposed to contest in the constituency. I phoned our lawyers who told me that they could not find a judge to deal with the matter. They told me to sign it. That is how he became the MP for the area. I then had to canvass for him in the area and he won the election. That was the last time I met him.

 LT: But Monyalotsa says you have never given him peace since he was elected in the constituency.
Thabane: I have never fought him. He has never been part of us. The man has been a rubble rouser for all I know. That man was trouble. I was wondering when he would leave the party.
LT: So instead of bringing him into the fold and make peace you decided to haunt him out?

Thabane: No. I was never his enemy. The truth is that instead of concentrating on growing the party the man has been pushing his own agenda. He has never contributed the little amount of money that we said MPs must contribute to the party. I have never seen his penny. Not a single cent. He was not attending parliamentary caucuses as required. So when he said he was leaving I said thank God. God is there.

LT: But he is not the only one who does not agree with your leadership style. Mokhanoi also gave you as his reason for leaving the party.

Thabane: Those two have the same mindset. They worked together at the same mine in South Africa. Mokhanoi also came in through the door that Monyalotsa used. He also came through a court order. That man was barely three days into the party when he decided that he must run on our (ABC) ticket. I have heard that he was invited into the party by his female friend.

LT: But there is also Tsehlana who complained about your leadership as well. Surely three people can’t be all wrong.

Thabane: Tsehlana was expelled from the party. This is not the first time that he has been expelled from a party. He was also expelled from the LCD. He came here after being expelled from the LCD. I must however say that I was not happy with the way he was expelled from the LDC so I was always sympathetic to his case. I did not know that by inviting him into the party I was inviting problems. When he was contesting in Mokhotlong I gave him my personal car to campaign for the party in four constituencies there but he failed. Out of four we won one.

LT: So you punished him for that?

Thabane: I have never punished him. I wanted people who would work for the party but some of them wanted to be leaders. There are no vacancies at leadership level. I formed this party and asked people to join it. It’s an idea that I am trying to sell to people. People must try to grow the party instead of concentrating on trying to bring problems from their previous parties into ABC. The previous parties have clearly failed. Its 40 years after independence but people are starving.

LT: Tsehlana said problems started when you tried to make yourself the life president of the party.

Thabane: There was nothing like that. When the party was writing the constitution a suggestion was made for the founder to remain as leader even after he retires. But this was not real power that was being suggested. It was an honorary thing.

LT: Are you trying to say that the discussion was misunderstood?

Thabane: I think you must also look at the schooling of those three people (Mokhanoi, Tsehlana and Monyalotsa). They have not been to school. I am not insulting them. All I am saying is that people must at least pass matric so that they don’t easily misunderstand issues. They must go to school so that they don’t mislead themselves with lies. If those three had gone to school they must have put an end to that propaganda informed by shameless lies.

LT: But that does not take away their right to raise issues.

Thabane: I am not insulting them. All I am saying is that they are misdirected. They are still young men who are experimenting.

LT: Let us talk about your history. You talk about the LCD having failed but you were part of the same government.

Thabane: I got ashamed and left. Maybe I was naïve. I have apologised to the people.

LT: You also have a long history in the government. You were a civil servant under different governments including the military regime. It’s true to say that you were part of the failure of the successive governments that you now accuse of failing the people.

Thabane: I was in the civil service for 25 years. I thought I would change things from within. I thought I would bring about change if I was part of the system.

LT: But 25 years is too long a time for anyone to realise that their efforts are misdirected. In your case it took even more years because you later became a minister.

Thabane: You must remember that in those 25 years there has been lots of derailing. When the military came in I did not leave but others left. Perhaps I was naïve but it’s important to note that eventually we worked for democracy.

LT: Military coups are bad. Why did you not leave like others?

Thabane: I was not responsible for what happened. I was not fired so I saw no reason to leave. I felt the pain and it hurts me that people who did not feel the pain are now messing this country.

LT: You will turn 70 very soon. Are you going to give others a chance to lead the party? You will agree that you will not be there forever.

Thabane: It’s true that I am no longer young. The party constitution says the leader can only be in power for two five-year terms. There will come a time when I will stay at home.

LT: But who will take over when people are leaving the party.

Thabane: We have a national executive committee that has people who have leadership qualities. LT: Who are those people? Thabane: I cannot give their names.

LT: But some people say you have your blue-eyed boys in the party. People like Macaefa Billy.

Thabane: Macaefa is not my blue-eyed boy but a partner. He brought the workers into the party and that is an important component.

LT: One word that has been used to describe you is “dictator”. Are you a dictator?

Thabane: I am not a dictator. In fact I normally bend backwards to accommodate people.

LT: But expelling people from the organisation and fighting them cannot be described as bending backward.

Thabane: I guard the principles of the party jealously. We cannot push a vision if there is no shared vision. Those who say I am a dictator are people with shoddy political records.

LT: Are you not worried about the reduced numbers in the parliament. Thabane: It does not worry me because it was never an issue. There is already an illegal majority in that parliament.

PART TWO:  Rebels say ABC founder is a dictator

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) MP for Maputsoe, Nkhetse Monyalotsa, crossed the floor to the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party last week. He accused the leadership of the ABC of being “diabolical” adding that the leader Tom Thabane was destroying the party.Monyalotsa is the third ABC MP to leave the party in the past six months. The party’s deputy secretary for publicity and legislator for Mokhotlong, Lehlohonolo Tsehlana, left in October last year. He also accused Thabane of being dictatorial. He has since formed his Senkatana party. The MP for Lithoteng Eliabe Mokhanoi left the ABC earlier this year.His reasons were similar to those given by Monyalotsa and Tsehlana.The MPs said the party had lost its vision.

After an earlier interview with Thabane the Lesotho Times (LT) spoke to Monyalotsa about his reasons for leaving the opposition party and his fight with the ABC founder.

 

LT: What were your specific reasons for leaving the party?

Monyalotsa: I told parliament and the media last week that I was leaving because there were serious management problems in the ABC. I was not happy with the way things were being done in the party. The leadership has lost direction.

LT: The national committee of the party was elected in December. Is it correct to say that by leadership you mean that Thabane is the problem?

Monyalotsa: Yes I mean him. He does not have democracy at heart. He is destroying the party. He is running the ABC like his farm. You know when a man has a farm he can order the workers around. He can give instructions and he will not tolerate any challenge. He is hostile to being questioned for his actions.

LT: But you speak like you discovered it last week that there were problems in the party. Why did it take you so long to leave the party?

Monyalotsa: I tried for a long time to make peace with Thabane but he does not listen. He has not given me a chance. I have tried to approach some people to help me deal with the issue but they have not been willing to intervene. I approached a lot of people to help me make peace. Some of them said they would come back to me but they never did.

LT: You have not addressed the question. At what point did you decide that it was time to leave the party.

Monyalotsa: When they organised a sham of a conference last year that is when I said I had had enough of the undemocratic practices in the party. I said this was the end. That conference did not have resolutions. It was unconstitutional. It was not democratic at all.

LT: Your departure does not seem to worry Thabane. He said it was good riddance.

Monyalotsa: I don’t care what he says about me now but what really irritates me is that he does not give the specific reason why I left the party. Why does he not talk about that? He refused me a chance to contest in the Maputsoe constituency until I had to resort to the courts.

LT: But he said you had no right to contest in the area because you had not been chosen. In fact he said you gate-crashed into the election and had to be imposed on the people by the courts.

Monyalotsa: That is not true at all. When I went to his office to collect the nomination papers he told me clearly that I was not welcome to contest in the area. When I protested Thabane told me that the ABC was his party and he had every right to do what he wants with it. He was saying this despite the well known fact that I had been elected by the people of Maputsoe. I had beaten his preferred candidate hands down.

LT: The ABC secretary general told this paper and other media outlets that you were only interested in fighting Thabane. He said the issue had turned personal.

Monyalotsa: This matter has never been about power. I never had ambitions of leading the party. I had a serious problem with Thabane. I was not in good books with him. I can understand if some people make such claims because they are close to Thabane. Maybe they want to curry favours. That is the system in the party.

LT: Are you sincere when you say you don’t have power ambitions? The general nature of politicians is that they want power.

Monyalotsa: I was elected by the people of Maputsoe. They are the people who gave me the power. They gave me the mandate. I have ambitions for any other positions of power. I don’t think I can ever be a leader of a political party.

LT: Thabane said the reason why you were always fighting him is because you are not educated enough to understand simple things.

Monyalotsa: Is that what he said or you are saying it yourself?

LT: Thabane said you did not reach matric that is why you were always arguing with him.

Monyalotsa: He is a man I respect and I don’t expect such insults from him. Does he know my qualifications? And what kind of education does he want to talk about. This is the same case in South Africa where people are criticising Zuma (Jacob) saying he is not educated. I have the people with me and therefore do not see how the issue of academic qualifications comes in?

LT: Does it bother you that Thabane is putting down your fights with him to lack of education?

Monyalotsa: I don’t worry about that. I have a solid background in politics. If there is anyone who should worry it is Thabane because of his tainted history. I went into exile to fight for this country while he remained in the government that had taken power from the people. He must tell the people where he was when others were fighting to liberate this country. These are issues that we don’t talk about but if Thabane wants to challenge me I will talk about it. He must not try to belittle me otherwise I will hit back and he will be embarrassed.

LT: Other people say you are a political turncoat. They say you are very quick to change your political orientation.

Monyalotsa: That is a lie. In 1967 I was a member of the Basotholand Congress Party (BCP). I remained there until the party split in 1997. That is when the LCD was formed. I remained in the BCP and did not change colours. The BCP however continued to fight until we left to form the Basotholand African Congress. When the ABC came I joined it.

LT: But clearly you changed. You left BCP to join BAC then you moved to ABC and now you are with LCD.

Monyalotsa: I have been fighting for what is right. I have been pushing for democracy.

LT: You also fought a bitter war against the LCD government. You have criticised it in the past. At what point did you decide they are good enough for you to join them.

Monyalotsa: I was fighting the idea because it was unconstitutional. I was also fighting against the underdevelopment in Maputsoe. The people in that area were suffering. They were struggling.

LT: Have things changed now?

Monyalotsa: Yes things are improving in the area. We are building roads and there is more development.

LT: Still you have not answered the question about what has changed in the LCD so that you can join them.

Monyalotsa: In politics there are no permanent enemies or friends. You take a situation as it comes.

LT: Do the people of Maputsoe support your move?

Monyalotsa: Yes they are with me all the way. They are in support of the move.

LT: How do you know this? Did you hold a referendum?

Monyalotsa: We held many meetings and the people said they wanted out of the ABC. They said we had actually delayed leaving the party. They said we should have left a long time ago.

LT: But those meetings could be limited in scope because they don’t give you a clear picture of the people supporting your move. How do you know that the majority are supporting your move?

Monyalotsa: I had inclusive meetings. I held many consultative meetings. I have no doubt that the people who supported me in 2007 support me on this issue. They say it is the right thing to do because they were tired of the problems in the ABC. The people in that party are always fighting.

LT: How does this move help them? I mean the constituency still belongs to the ABC.

Monyalotsa: Before the 2007 election the ABC only had 500 members on their books but when results came the party had 2 100 votes. This was due to the hard work of the people in the area during the campaign. The women worked hard to increase the numbers. You must realise that those people now consider themselves as LCD.

LT: So you are confident that their defection will show in the next election?

Monyalotsa: We will defeat the ABC in the election. We are going to win by a huge majority because I have no doubt that the people are with me all the way.

LT: Can you respond to suggestions that you could have been enticed to join the ruling party.

Monyalotsa: It’s a total fabrication. I was not promised anything. I was not persuaded. I am a free- thinking man. It was my decision. But if the leader of the party sees that I am fit to have a position then that is fine with me.

 

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