Thabane cracks whip on party critics

Thabane cracks whip on party critics

MASERU – Zip it or face the boot.
That is the message from Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to his internal party critics, whom he seems eager to silence before they do more damage.
Thabane has moved to muzzle dissent in his ABC party, and in a move that could be viewed by some as authoritarian, the 79-year-old said members who go on radio should zip their mouths if they have nothing good to say about the party.

Those who criticise the party on radio will be expelled, Thabane warned ominously at a rally on Sunday.
The 79-year-old rode to power on the back of a reformist agenda and once described himself as a “reformist by nature”, but his latest move could open him to attacks of impeding on party members’ right to freedom of expression.

Addressing a rally in Tšoana-Makhulo constituency last Sunday, Thabane said those who participate in radio programmes should know that the punishment for badmouthing the party on air is automatic expulsion.

He seems to be responding to growing dissent from within his party. Some party members identifying themselves as ABC members complained bitterly on air that they are unhappy about the way the party is being run.

Attempts at silencing critical voices were already underway before Thabane’s threats on Sunday.
His ABC party secretary-general, Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, went to one local station and instructed a guest to leave the studio right in the middle of the programme.
“After I delivered this speech, all of you should put a full stop on such actions (of complaining over radios)” Thabane told people at the Sunday rally.
“A member who will do that will be considered as having expelled himself,” he said.

This comes after Ntsekele last month said he could resign before the end of his tenure because of the vicious fights rocking the party.
Ntsekele then confirmed to thepost that there were two groups within the party that do not see eye-to-eye.
He described one of the groups as “uncaptured” and another as “captured”, without elaborating.

In the past six months, some party members have voiced concerns over what they see as the growing influence of First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane, whom they accuse of capturing the party.
Led by the now suspended party chairman, Motlohi Maliehe, the faction complained that the First Lady seemed to have too much power to the extent of controlling the appointment of ministers, which is the prerogative of her husband.

The ABC national executive committee has vehemently dismissed the allegations on various platforms and suspended Maliehe for making the allegations.
The fights in the ABC have gained momentum barely five weeks after Thabane was heckled in Quthing while attending the party’s retreat.
Some members refused to listen to Thabane’s speech because they wanted the suspended Maliehe to chair the meeting.
The commotion only ended after security marshals threw the protesters out of the hall.

Maliehe was suspended after he refused to appear before a disciplinary committee to answer charges of speaking ill of the First Lady.
He had earlier this year told people at a rally in Butha-Buthe that the First Lady was treating the party like a fiefdom. He also accused her of meddling in government affairs.

Maliehe further claimed that former Health Minister Nyapane Kaya was sacked because he resisted the First Lady’s attempts to influence the award of tenders in the ministry.
The ABC’s NEC then decided to suspend Maliehe and barred him from chairing any party meeting until the end of his six-month suspension.
Meanwhile, Thabane told the Tšoana-Makhulo constituency rally that the government is on the verge of reforming the laws of the country.

The reforms, he said, would encompass the Parliament, the security sector and media reforms.
“We just finished the multi-stakeholders’ dialogue meeting that made recommendations, then consultation with the nation will take place,” he said.
Thabane said all his party followers should attend the consultative public gatherings so that reforms are inclusive.

Nkheli Liphoto

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