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ABC splits

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MASERU-THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has finally collapsed and might take the government down with it.
Deputy Leader Professor Nqosa Mahao is working with ABC functionaries, MPs and supporters to form a new party that he says might be registered by the end of next week.

He confirmed that the constitution is being drafted and he is one of the driving forces behind the break-away party.
The initial plan was to call it New Dawn but that has since changed because there is already a church by that name.
Prof Mahao said the decision to form the party is a culmination of what he described as a “chaotic situation” in the ABC.

He said relations in the party have been sour since last December when party leader and former prime minister Thomas Thabane ordered the executive committee to remove Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro.
“Since then we have been operating as factions,” Prof Mahao told thepost last night.
He said what broke the camel’s back was the discovery that Majoro had now joined Thabane’s camp and was part of the plot to expel him from the party.

“That came as a shock to me because this is the prime minister we have been protecting from Thabane who has been trying to instigate the party to remove him,” Prof Mahao said.
“You go and buy peace with the people who wanted to slaughter you and then you connive with them to slaughter the very people who were protecting you.”
“That just revealed that there is no honour among politicians. The betrayal is shocking.”

He said they were aware of initial meetings between Thabane and Majoro but they were not suspicious because “it is not unusual for a prime minister to meet his predecessor”.
He said they only discovered last month that there was something sinister about the meetings. Prof Mahao said by joining Thabane’s camp, Majoro is bringing back the same problem they fought against.

“It’s an attempt to resuscitate the old problem of having the party and the government being led by the former First Lady. This is the same issue that was the root of our fights for years.”
He said he is not afraid to lose his job as a minister.
“Whether I am fired or not depends on the support he has. But I am not afraid to lose my job.”
He also said he wasn’t sure if the government will survive the split because “the horse-trading has already started”.

Now that there is the ABC and the new party there are already suitors, he said.
“There is going to be a shifting of chairs. Everyone is potentially going to be affected by what happens in the next few weeks.”

Yesterday, Majoro put on a brave face when he met supporters who thronged the State House in a show of support after news of the new party started filtering in.
He told the crowd that he had earlier visited Thabane at his Makhoakhoeng home and that the party had cleaned itself “like an ocean’s currents driving unwanted debris out”.
He said the crowd filled him with the hope that the party will survive the storm.

“I know that yesterday you were all confused and surprised but it was nothing new in our party,” Majoro said, adding that some MPs are now tired of the endless factional wars in the party.
He pleaded with all the members to be united ahead of the 2022 elections.
“They used to say they are counting days before I leave the office, but 2022 is where we are going, nothing will change,” he said.

He described what is happening as “the will of God who does not need wars and fights”.
“Now I believe we have a chance to be united.”
Speaking on behalf of the supporters, Tšepang Phangoa, a member of the Stadium Area constituency, said they were there to support Majoro.
“Now they have been releasing a series of voice notes which we found inappropriate,” Phangoa said, without mentioning names.

He was probably referring to MP Tefo Mapesela who sent out several audio and video clips after he was fired as Agriculture Minister last week.
“If you have to fire one cabinet member do not hesitate to do so when valid reasons are there,” Phangoa said.
“We will not be stopped or discouraged by the voice clip makers who always find pride and comfort in attacking our leaders.”
The collapse of the ABC has shifted the power to the Democratic Congress (DC) which is now the obvious kingmaker.

None of the ABC factions has enough numbers in parliament to lead the next government. This leaves the DC leader Mathibile Mokhothu, which will have the majority of seats, with the leverage to choose the coalition partners he wants.
Given Majoro’s limited numbers, with 23 MPs at most, it would take some special kind of benevolence for Mokhothu to allow him to remain prime minister until the next election in September next year.

Staff Reporter

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Suspension was malicious, says Nko

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MASERU – A gunshot wound and an attempted murder charge have not stopped Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko from starting a new fight.

The suspended Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) boss is rolling up his sleeves for what promises to be an epic legal battle to be reinstated.

In an application filed in the High Court this week, Dr Nko argues that the LTDC’s decision to suspend him had a “glaring element of bad faith and malice”.

He says the suspension was procedurally flawed because there was no complainant to instigate it and he was not granted a hearing.

Dr Nko was suspended after he was involved in a shooting incident with guests at an event at a Hillsview guest house on December 27.

He is alleged to have rushed home to take his gun after an argument with some of the guests. Dr Nko and a guest sustained gunshot wounds in the scuffle that ensued.

Reports say the guests were trying to wrestle the gun from Dr Nko when the shots were fired.

The LTDC’s board suspended him two days later, alleging that he had failed to attend an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the incident.

The suspension letter was written by Nonkululeko Zaly who was the chairperson of the LTDC board by virtue of being the principal secretary in the Ministry of Trade.

Zaly, who has since been fired following corruption investigations, also approached the court to force the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to return the assets confiscated during a raid at her house.

Dr Nko, in his court papers, accuses Zaly of usurping the board’s powers to suspend him. He says there was never a board resolution to suspend him.

The extraordinary meeting, he alleges, was a “prearranged dishonest scheme between certain members of the board and social media personnel which were part of the ruse deliberately designed to compromise” his interests.

Dr Nko says the board called him to the 29 December meeting when he was on sick leave and then suspended him without hearing his reasons for failing to attend.

He complains that Zaly wrote his suspension letter on the basis of mere allegations even though she had remained principal secretary and chairperson of the board when the corruption investigations against her were in full swing.

He queries why he was being suspended when Zaly was allowed to hold on to her job.

Zaly appears to have been belligerent when Dr Nko’s lawyers contacted her to query the suspension.

She told the lawyers, in a letter, that their queries were based on misinformation. She also dismissed the lawyer’s request for a record of the board meeting that decided to suspend Dr Nko.

“We are therefore not going to honour any of your demands and if your client is not satisfied, he is free to approach any appropriate forums to pursue these baseless issues,” Zaly said in her letter.

The lawyers say that response shows that Zaly was hell-bent on suspending their client.

Dr Nko wants the High Court to order the LTDC board to reverse the suspension, stop his imminent disciplinary proceedings and release the records of its December 29 meeting.

He also says the board is already conducting investigations on the incident to use as evidence against him in the disciplinary hearing.

Staff Reporter

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thepost columnist wins award

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Maseru – Two scholars associated with the National University of Lesotho have been awarded the 2022 Thomas Pringle prize for the best literary article published the previous year.

Chris Dunton, who is a columnist for thepost, and Lerato Masiea have won the prize, which is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa, for their article “Between rocks and hard places: the controversial career of A.S. Mopeli-Paulus,” which was published by thepost.

Dunton was previously Professor and Dean of Humanities at the NUL and for some years cwrote a column for this newspaper titled “Left Side Story.” Masiea is a lecturer in the NUL’s Department of English and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of the Free State.

Their prize-winning article was published in the journal English in Africa (vol.48 no.3, 2021, pp47-64). In it the authors explore the writings and life of the South African Mosotho author Mopeli-Paulus.

As their title indicates, their subject was a controversial figure, who degenerated from being an opponent of the apartheid regime (he was, notably, one of the leaders of the Witzieshoek Cattle Rebellion, for which role he was incarcerated in the Pretoria Central Prison) to being a high-ranking accomplice in the Bantustan system.

He was a prolific writer in both English and Sesotho (at one point he referred to the compulsive desire to write as a kind of madness!), his best-known works being the poetry-collection Ho tsamaea ke he bona (from time to time a set-text in Lesotho schools), the novel Blanket Boy’s Moon and the autobiography The World and the Cattle.

Dunton and Masiea’s article covers all his writing, published and unpublished (his papers are freely accessible at the William Cullen Library, Wits University) and is especially concerned with the question of cross-border identity.

Mopeli-Paulus was born in Monontsa, South Africa, in the lost territories—much in the news recently—and remained a South African citizen all his life. The dust-jacket for his first novel, Blanket

Boy’s Moon — which was an international best-seller — carries his name with the tag “Chieftain of Basutoland”, but this was a mistake.

Nonetheless, Mopeli-Paulus identified very strongly with Lesotho and has much to say — some of it fanciful, even spurious — on concepts of Sotho identity.

Dunton and Masiea explore this issue in detail, as it remains a topic of crucial importance even today.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane to boot out PS

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MASERU – THE Sam Matekane government is getting ready to get rid of Principal Secretaries appointed by the previous administration.

First to be axed is Nonkululeko Zaly who Matekane fired as a PS for the Ministry of Trade on January 11.

Zaly, who is challenging the decision, suffered a blow yesterday when the High Court refused to hear her case on an urgent basis.

Her case will now have to join the long queue of hundreds of others pending in the High Court.

Lefu Manyokole has been replaced as the PS of the local government ministry.

The axe is also likely to fall on government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, and Foreign Affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko.

The four have been the subject of a graft investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

Their homes and offices have been raided and properties seized as the anti-corruption unit investigates allegations that they received millions in bribes from contractors. The four are likely to be the first to be shown the door.

Indications are however that Matekane could be readying to purge the government of principal secretaries inherited from the previous government. Matekane hints at that impending clean up in his dismissal letter to Zaly.

“You will agree with me that as a Principal Secretary, yours was a political appointment,” Matekane said in the letter that Zaly claimed not to have received in her court papers.

“It follows therefore that the working relationship between yourself and the person appointing you, the Prime Minister in this case, is mainly based on utmost trust and confidence.”

“The trust and confidence components become even more important under the obtaining circumstances where the new government, of which I am the head, has just been installed.”

Matekane told Zaly that his government came with new ideas and policies at the top of which is to fight corruption.

He said he was aware that the DCEO had seized certain documents in Zaly’s possession “evidencing a commission of crime and that you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your possession of those documents”.

“This has eroded all the trust and confidence I had in you as the Principal Secretary and there is no way I can continue with you at the helm of any government ministry,” Matekane said.

Highly placed sources in the government have told thepost that Zaly’s exit is just the beginning of a shake-up that will continue for the next three months as Matekane seeks to bring in new people he trusts and share his vision with.

Meanwhile, Moahloli Mphaka, the government’s special adviser in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission this week told the High Court that there is a plan to fire him and two other senior officials.

Mphaka made the allegations in an urgent application to force the commission to pay his salary and that of Thabang Thite, and Bahlakoana Manyanye who are also part of the lawsuit. Thite and Manyanye are assistant advisers in the commission.

Mphaka told the court in an affidavit that on December 22 last year, the Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko told them that his superiors had instructed him to terminate their contracts.

The reason, Mphaka said, is the fact that they are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) members hired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. He said the government’s delay to pay their December salary was meant to frustrate them into resigning.

Nkheli Liphoto

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