Judgment has worsened crisis

Judgment has worsened crisis

LAST week’s judgment by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase might have compounded the bitter leadership wrangle that has been engulfing the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.
Instead of dousing the flames, Justice Mahase’s judgment appears to have added more fuel to the fire.
And true to our fears, we have now seen an escalation in the fight with party leaders tearing each other to pieces. The war drums are beating faster. The gloves are off and the language has unfortunately become more belligerent.

Judging by reports from the rival rallies held by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his newly elected deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao, it has become patently evident that the two sides are now miles apart.
Only a miracle will save the ABC from implosion.
Instead of resolving the leadership wrangle, Justice Mahase’s judgement appears to have created more problems for the party.

The party’s old National Executive Committee, which refused to accept Mahao’s election victory in February, appears to have been emboldened by the court order.
The Mahase judgment has given them a veneer of legitimacy after they dismally lost the electoral battle in February. That faction will likely dig in henceforth. They might even spurn any overtures to engage in talks after the judge effectively threw them a political lifeline.
The old NEC might have won a legal battle but still have lots of legwork to win the political battle.
They will find it hard to shake off the tag that they were sore losers who stubbornly refused to relinquish power after they lost internal elections in February.

Our biggest fear though is that the Mahao-led faction, feeling hard-done by the Mahase judgment, might decide to walk away. That would be a huge blow to the ABC and the coalition government.
There is no disputing that Mahao commands support from a huge chunk of ABC MPs. He therefore poses the biggest threat to the ABC’s political hegemony.
That is why it is critical that Thabane uses his political skills of negotiation to strike some kind of amicable deal with the Mahao group. He cannot simply wish away the Mahao problem. Thabane, whose decision to back the old NEC antagonised his party, might need to sideline the hawks within his own camp if he is to find a solution to the crisis engulfing the party.

As we have argued in previous editorials, the solution to the crisis within the ABC will not be found within the courts. Our courts have proven time and time again that they are incapable of resolving political disputes to the satisfaction of all.
Whatever judgment the court will eventually deliver, it will not bring the two factions anywhere closer. What the ABC therefore needs is a political solution negotiated away from the glare of the media.
The party will need a neutral arbiter, perhaps in the form of the church, to help the warring factions find each other. Any other route will be a guarantee for a severe thrashing at the next polls.

We were also seriously perturbed that Justice Mahase decided to hear the dispute without hearing from the Mahao camp. Our courts have been emphatic in the past that interested parties must be heard before an order is granted.
The Mahao camp had stock in this case. The fairest thing was to hear their side, which was not done. Unfortunately, this has fed a perception that Justice Mahase has allowed herself to be entangled in this case.
She must now prove that she is not beholden to any of these warring factions.

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