. . . as top executive trade insults

ABC internal squabbles spill into the open

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Tensions in the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), which for weeks have been bubbling under the surface, this week erupted into the open when two top executives traded insults. The party’s suspended National Chairperson Motlohi Maliehe and Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele accused each other of “grave incompetence” and committing fraud.

In an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday this week, Maliehe said Ntsekele was elected secretary general of the party in 2014 only because prior to the elective conference Ntsekele went on a secret countrywide campaign and used “money to buy loyalty from ABC members”.

But Ntsekele on Wednesday hit back at Maliehe saying he needed to be educated that “money does not buy either power or loyalty”. “Let me school him as it seems he thinks power can be bought. No one can buy power in this party; it is bestowed by members of this party on anyone they wish to confer it to. Those who want it must outwit or out-compete each other to the throne,” he said.

Fresh from publicly rebuking the First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane in May at a controversial rally which laid bare fissures in the ABC Maliehe, who was also expelled from cabinet earlier this month, said under Ntsekele’s administration, the ABC had fallen down the rabbit hole. The secretary general is the chief administrative officer of the 12-year-old party.

“To say Ntsekele is a political novice or is unripe would be an exaggeration. He is not even a foetus. He is yet to reach the conception stage, the inception of pregnancy stage,” Maliehe said. He indicated Ntsekele had never served in any of the ABC’s lower executive structures – a constitutional prerequisite – before he was elected to the National Executive Committee (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.” According to Maliehe, Ntsekele did not become what he was today because of his political capability. “It was out of money and manipulation, nothing else,” he said. He noted that the people who were bought by Ntsekele should hang their heads in shame for giving the party Ntsekele, “They betrayed this glorious organisation”.

“The NEC is the highest organ of the ABC between national conferences and has the authority to lead the organisation. You can just imagine for yourself what happens to the whole party when the NEC is composed of raw people like Ntsekele,” Maliehe said. Ntsekele questioned Maliehe’s motives for only speaking out now, four years after the 2014 elective conference.

“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.

This spat was sparked by the national youth league leadership which on Tuesday lashed out at Maliehe accusing him of “staging a coup” against the party’s leader Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. The youths said Maliehe declared himself leader of ABC during his May outburst in Buthe-Buthe.

“Mr Maliehe has declared himself a leader whilst we still have a leader (Thabane) who was elected democratically by the party’s membership in 2014,” the youth league’s national spokesperson Mphonyane Lebesa said. Lebesa further said that “two bulls cannot sleep in one kraal because they can fight each other unto death, causing the destruction of the kraal.” Maliehe, who vehemently denies these accusations, was suspended from the party’s NEC last week.

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 weekend at a national conference held in Quthing, ABC members who sympathise with Maliehe 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 who broke into song whenever Thabane tried to speak. The conference – the highest decision-making body of the party – has power to overrule the decisions of the lower structures. Indications, however, are that while support is evident for Maliehe among some ABC members, the faction supporting him would struggle to garner enough numbers to have his suspension overturned.

The youth league said the people who heckled Thabane were “a small clique” which was thrown out of the conference hall effortlessly and the summit proceeded smoothly. “His suspension was emphatically within the confines of the party’s constitution,” the youth league said in a statement on Tuesday. But Maliehe told this paper that the youth league was out of order for making unfounded statements about him as the member of the NEC. Its existence, he said, derived from the constitution of the ABC and is governed by and should adhere to the policies of the party.“The youth league is the organisation of the youth.

Their mandate is to strive to achieve fundamental social change for the benefit of all young people. They are so far failing spectacularly to realise their mission yet they have the guts to make baseless statements about members of the NEC,” he said. He added: “The fact that they held a press conference about a member of the NEC shows that they are out of order or they were allowed by Ntsekele to do so. They are as immature as Ntsekele who allowed them to run rampant.”

But the youth league did not take Maliehe’s remarks lying down, it also hit back saying Maliehe pretended to have all the knowledge in the party. “Nobody has monopoly of knowledge of this party’s process. We are all equal members guided by the same constitution. Nobody knows everything and nobody knows nothing,” Lebesa said on Wednesday. He acknowledged that their press conference “was endorsed by the office of the secretary general”.

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