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ABC peace talks doomed

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Newly elected All Basotho Convention (ABC) spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa says on-going secret talks between warring factions are doomed to failure because of insincerity on both sides.

Masoetsa said the negotiations aimed to end noxious internal strife that is slowly tilting the already shaky coalition government towards the abyss, hardly two years after it assumed office were not being held in good faith.

He also complained about the alleged purging of politicians linked to the new National Executive Committee (NEC) by the camp backing the old committee.

“The talks will not be fruitful because after they were initiated, I was sucked from the Letšend Diamond Mine’s board by the same person who went to court to challenge my election to the ABC’s national executive committee. I do not expect any major outcomes from the talks, which could even stall,” Masoetsa said.

He warned of continued friction in the party if supporters of the old NEC continued driving those who support or are linked to the newly elected committee out of government jobs.

Masoetsa together with Moeko Maboee were sacked from the Letšeng Board by Mining Minister Keketso Sello this week.

He said he had received a terse dismissal letter that did not state any reasons for his removal from Sello.

Both Letšeng mine and the ministry of mining did not reply to Public Eye’s emailed questions. Attempts to reach Sello on his mobile phone were unsuccessful.

According to Masoetsa, the ongoing top-level talks were initiated by the new deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao, whose first three attempts for a dialogue failed.

Mahao, Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho (NUL), was elected deputy leader despite resistance from party leader Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and the old NEC.

The NEC turned down his nomination by the Koro-Koro constituency and subsequently suspended and then expelled the Koro-Koro constituency committee from the party.

The NEC decisions were upheld by the High Court but the Appeal Court reversed them on the eve of the party’s elections allowing Mahao to contest.

His victory places him in pole position for higher office after the country’s next election in 2022.

However, the outgoing party’s spokesperson Tefo Mapesela has publicly declared that they will not allow Mahao to be deputy leader of ABC as he is new to the party.

Government spokesperson Pheello Selinyane also shocked many in March when he said “the establishment, the party …shoots down” anyone who wants to be Thabane’s deputy.

Even Thabane has not made his dislike for Mahao a secret. At a rally in Ha Abia in January, Thabane dismissed Mahao as a rag and non-entity who did not belong in the ABC, but later apologized and withdrew the statement.

At a rally in Mafeteng last month, he warned Mahao and his colleagues to stop holding rallies across the country pretending they were the party’s leadership.

Masoetsa yesterday said: “This was the fourth time Professor Mahao had asked to have a meeting with the leader following the conference. They eventually met this time and the leader has assigned Samonyane Ntsekele to the talks with Professor Mahao. They will meet either today (Thursday) or tomorrow and after then they will proceed to meet with the leader on Sunday morning.”

Ntsekele was not immediately available for comment yesterday. His phone rang unanswered.

Mahao referred questions to Masoetsa. He said he had briefed Masoetsa about the ongoing talks and the latter was in a position to respond to enquiries by the media.

While a cacophony had been fermenting for some time in the ABC, matters came to a head in February when the NEC voted out at an elective conference, refused to hand over power citing a court case challenging the outcome of the elective conference.

The lawsuit was launched by Trade and Industry Minister Habofanoe Lehana, Mining Minister Sello and Mohapi Mohapinyane – ABC Member of Parliament for Rothe.

The trio wanted the court to nullify the results and order fresh polls on the grounds there were serious irregularities which affected the credibility of the elections.

The high court interdicted in the interim, the incoming NEC from exercising its authority.

The dispute has effectively split the party into two factions, the incoming committee’s partisans, and outgoing committee’s sympathizers. The split forced the party into a stalemate.

After a few postponements, the High Court last month ordered that the opposing factions hold settlement negotiations immediately and conclude such negotiations on or before March 19.

The court appointed Assistant Registrar of the High Court to mediate such negotiations.

The negotiations failed.

The old NEC is under growing pressure from members of the party to vacate office.

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