Inexperience killed Mahao and his party

Inexperience killed Mahao and his party

Former United Kingdom Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, famously coined the phrase: “a week is a long time in politics.” This happens because the political landscape, the fortunes of a politician or political party can change drastically just in the course of a single week. If Wilson was alive today he would agree with Dan Rather that “overnight is a long time in politics; a week is forever.”

I wish to argue in this article that timing is everything in politics. Judging when it is the best moment to do things and, sometimes more importantly, when not to do them, is very important. When Professor Nqosa Mahao was first interviewed on radio he got tempted to give away too much information including the name of their new political movement.

We were made to understand that the name of the new establishment would be New Dawn. I was shocked that the new movement had failed to differentiate themselves from the party they were breaking away from, the All Basotho Convention’s (ABC) slogans “la chaba letsatsi” which literally means “let the sun rise.” Then a week later the new movement came up with a new and final name, the Basotho Action Party (BAP). Changing names in the space of one week did not reflect well on the new party. It gave the impression that they did not know what they wanted, that they were disorganised and lacked leadership.

While I was still shocked with the change of names, then came the programme on Harvest FM whereby Prof. Mahao rebuked Tefo Mapesela. Mapesela immediately released a new audio clip announcing that he had fired Mahao with immediate effect from his party. When one forms a political party, it is very important that they should identify potential stakeholders to the movement.

Mahao decided to prioritise Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, over Mapesela who is an MP. Indeed inexperience killed him. Mapesela was more important to the cause of forming a new movement than Molibeli. Mapesela caused him to move from his comfort zone and establish a political party.

Mapesela’s bravery, aggression and political prowess could have helped the BAP grow but unfortunately he lost such a great asset. I am just wondering how useful Commissioner Holomo will be in helping his political party. This was a miscalculation of note.

In politics, timing is everything. Mahao should have learned from sober political veterans such as Thomas Thabane, Pakalitha Mosisili and Monyane Moleleki. When it was time for them to start their own political formations they played their cards closer to their chests until they crossed in Parliament. It’s a matter of timing. Unfortunately Mahao failed to observe that the above mentioned leaders have been successful in large part because they knew how to time what they were doing. Order it. Decide priorities and what needs to be done at what time.

These leaders were in real, real trouble. They did not want to leave their political homes. But they had no choice. Though it came at a time when they were all unprepared but they all made an effort to exit in a manner that gave them a good start.
It was interesting if not unexpected to see the BAP holding a press conference before they could register the political party nor cross the floor in Parliament yet they made major announcements of the number of MPs who were going to depart from the ABC and join their new political movement. Now we know that move could not help the new formation, rather it was a hindrance to the party’s cause.

Rushing to hold press conferences where it was announced they had 20 MPs was a big mistake. Even worse they announced 20 members yet they only had 11 MPs who were present at that press conference. They said they will not mention the names of those MPs who were not present due to their current ministerial obligations.

I argue that it was a mistake because Mahao’s enemies (in the ABC) were also watching as the event was unfolding. It was easy to identify the MPs whose names were withheld due to ministerial duties and work on them. No wonder before the week ended they made another announcement that only 16 MPs will cross the floor with them in Parliament.

The enemy had the whole weekend to work on reducing the 16 MPs. The BAP was shocked to only cross with nine MPs on Tuesday. That’s the cost of inexperience and making announcements at the wrong time.
Mahao and his BAP team played to the gallery. I am not sure who they wanted to impress by jumping the gun. It was a display that was amateurish in nature. When Ntsu Mokhehle, the former Prime Minister crossed the floor from the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) to the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, he never made any announcements until the day him and his team crossed the floor in Parliament.

When Thabane, the leader of ABC and former Prime Minister crossed the floor from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, he never made any announcements until the day he and his team crossed the floor in Parliament. The same things can be said about Mosisili and Moleleki. So where did Mahao learn these tactics and strategies of shooting himself in the foot?

Mosisili once advised Tšeliso Mokhosi, “Fresher, sit down and learn.” Unfortunately Mahao as a fresher in this game does not have the luxury of sitting down and learning. I had hoped that he would have asked those who have been in the game for years at least for a few tips. I am not sure whether to blame the title for the arrogance. Surely he cannot profess to know it all in all fields, he is not a jack of all trades.

What is the lesson learned here? Inexperience coupled with arrogance kills. Those who will form political parties in future will learn from this painful and costly mistake committed by Prof. Mahao and his BAP. Warning, please do not reinvent the wheel, there are those who have gone before you, learn from them. Timing is everything in politics, period.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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