MASERU – The fissures threatening the popular All Basotho Convention (ABC) party widened this week when suspended national chairperson Motlohi Maliehe insisted he was not going anywhere and would preside at party functions.
Maliehe’s stance however met a spirited push back from party bigwigs who said the maverick politician had no mandate to lead the party while he is serving suspension.
The beleaguered Maliehe is digging in his heels and refusing to relinquish his position despite mounting pressure from the ABC leadership, sending the party into a tailspin.
The very public leadership fallout has cascaded down to the membership, ranging the faithful into distinct factions and resulting in party leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane being heckled at a recent party function.
Maliehe told Public Eye that he would not step aside because he believed the “purported suspension” was part of a grand conspiracy against him.
He said: “I am still the party’s chairperson” further indicating that he was still serving the party selflessly and with “distinction”.
Maliehe who seems to have insulated himself from the wrath of the party’s youth league which has labelled him a rebel, is adamant that he will preside over the next ABC conference or rally if “I am present at such a conference or rally”.
“I do not go to all party rallies, that is not normal. But if I am present at any rally, I will chair it. I have said this many times that I am the ABC chairperson elected to that position by this party’s members,” he said.
The youth league is determined to beat into submission members critical of the party’s leadership, especially Thabane.
The youth league’s spokesperson has said Maliehe declared himself a leader while the party still had Thabane as its legitimate leader.
Party secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele on Wednesday maintained that Maliehe was suspended from the national executive committee and indicated that he was unfazed by Maliehe’s remarks.
“He is suspended. I have lost count of how many times the party has said this. Even today I still say it, he is suspended,” Ntsekele said.
But Maliehe never minces his words even though he seems to ruffle his colleagues’ feathers and has on different occasions found himself in hot water over his comments about the way the ABC was managed.
He has also alleged corruption in government.
A former minister of tourism who was axed from cabinet in August, he also told this paper that the current financial crisis government was grappling with, was the worst since he first became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2002.
“I have never seen a government as broke as this one ever since I was elected to parliament in 2002,” he said.
“Just shortly before I was dismissed from cabinet, government owed service providers around M900 million, almost M1 billion,” he added and further indicated that government needed to take immediate, concrete and bold steps to lift the nation out of the its current financial crunch.
These remarks were corroborated by the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) chief executive officer Thabo Qhesi who said the ministry of finance admitted earlier this year that government owed suppliers an estimated M800 million.
Ministry of Public Works’ Principal Secretary has also that admitted that: “We owe many contractors. Mounting unpaid accounts stand at over M350 million.”
Qhesi told Public Eye that: “Government’s failure to pay suppliers kills their businesses. When businesses cannot collect money owed to them by government, they become unable to service their loans. The interest on their loans accumulate and when government eventually pays, the money goes towards paying the interests and they cannot make profits.”
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Mr. Joseph Thornton, visited Maseru from August 23 to September 5, 2018 to discuss “the authorities’ economic and financial programme and possible financial support by the IMF”.
Thornton said at the end of the visit: “Lesotho has been experiencing an economic shock resulting from a decline in revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).
“Public expenditures increased rapidly while SACU revenues were buoyant but have not been reined in as SACU revenues fell after 2015, despite the lack of growth in other revenues sources.”
He said the resulting fiscal and external imbalances, if not addressed promptly, would put pressure on international reserves and result in the build-up of government payment arrears.
This is the latest in a long list of disparaging criticisms Maliehe has levelled at the government, Thabane and his first lady ‘Maesaiah.
He first shot a salvo at Thabane, his wife and government on May 6, at a political rally in Butha Buthe, dropping bombs all over the place.
He expressed his displeasure with how Thabane had allegedly allowed the First Lady to conflate the bedroom and the state arguing the Prime Minister’s spouse was meddling in government processes, systems and functions.
The ABC leadership served him a “show cause” letter asking him to explain why he should not be disciplined for accusing the First Lady of exerting undue interference in party and government affairs.
He duly responded but was suspended from the party’s NEC in August.
The recommendation for his suspension was made by the ruling party’s national disciplinary committee after he was summoned to the committee but failed to show up.
Last month, at a national conference held in Quthing, ABC members who sympathise with him tried in vain to have a motion tabled to the party’s delegates to have his suspension nullified. Instead, the conference descended into chaos as some of the delegates heckled and booed Thabane.
The ushers had a tough time trying to control the aggrieved delegates.
Following the conference, Maliehe told Public Eye that under Ntsekele’s administration, the ABC had fallen down the rabbit hole.
The secretary general is the chief administrative officer of the ABC.
He indicated that Ntsekele had never served in any of the ABC’s lower executive structures – a constitutional prerequisite – before he was elected to the NEC.
He said: “Ntsekele has served in neither his branch nor constituency committees. He did not qualify for election into the NEC but he used money to buy votes.”
But Ntsekele questioned Maliehe’s motives for speaking out four years after the 2014 elective conference at which both swept into office.
“His rants are beyond me. He was part of the same conference that elected me to this position. Why did he not lodge a dispute against my election then, in that conference! He had a right to do so.
“The fact that he has kept quiet since then and has decided to speak now shows that he has a hidden motive. I suspect something is not right with him. He sounds angry,” Ntsekele said.