Thabane purges ‘enemies’

Thabane purges ‘enemies’

MASERU – THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) could be heading for a nasty split amid strong indications that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is purging opponents.
This week, Thabane abruptly fired two ministers who are members of the new committee whose victory is hotly disputed. In Law Minister Lebohang Hlaele and Social Development Minister ’Matebatso Doti, Thabane has fired two people who got some of the highest number of votes at the elective conference early this month.

Hlaele, who is Thabane’s son-in-law, was elected secretary general while Doti became deputy spokesperson. Doti is one of the most popular ministers in Thabane’s government.
Although Thabane can fire ministers without giving reasons, the timing of this decision feeds the suscipcion that he is going after perceived opponents.

Hlaele and Doti are said to belong to the faction that backed Professor Nqosa Mahao for the deputy leader position.
Last night senior sources in the ABC told thepost that there is also an attempt to fire Professor Mahao from the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

They said Professor Mahao’s dismissal letter has been dispatched to the King who is the chancellor of the university.
Professor Mahao was elected deputy leader after a bitter fight that went all the way to the Court of Appeal. He is seen as the leader of the faction that walloped the group that was viewed to be part of Thabane’s faction in the leadership battle.
Thabane does not have the legal authority to fire the NUL vice chancellor.
But thepost understands that this legal hurdle has not stopped the prime minister from trying to get rid of Professor Mahao, whose contract ends in November.

It is understood the letter was written on Friday and delivered on Monday. Since then, sources say, the NUL Council Chairman Tseko Bohloa has been making frantic efforts to establish if the letter does exist.
Bohloa said he had heard of the letter as a rumour. He said he spoke to Education Minister, Ntoi Rapapa, “but he too said he heard it as a rumour but could not confirm that the letter exists”.

“We (NUL council) are the only competent and authorized body that receives the performance of the vice chancellor,” Bohloa said.
“It is only on the basis of that process that we can decide to discipline or take any action against the vice chancellor. As things stand we have not reached that stage”.
Bohloa said he had briefed the chancellor about Professor Mahao’s issue a few days ago.

He revealed that the NUL council will meet next week to discuss Prof Mahao’s position.
“We will do that with an open mind.” Professor Mahao said he was “made aware” of the letter but could not vouch for its existence because he has not seen it.
Minister Rapapa refused to comment last night.

Speculation is rife that some senior party members were pushing for the purge to be extended to other ministers who are seen as loyal Professor Mahao’s group.
Those members are said to have pushed Thabane to open talks with the opposition with a view to form a government of national unity if some MPs rebel against him.

Last night Thabane told thepost that he is not prepared to say anything until he has something to say.
He said he has decided to remain silent until the right time comes.
“Some of you misinterpret me and when the news comes out I get in trouble. So I have decided to remain silent,” Thabane said.
“I am not saying it is you who misinterprets me but some of you. This is all I can say for now.”
The outgoing deputy spokesperson of the ABC, Major General Samuel Makoro, said things are normal in the party.
He said if there were some concerns they would have been informed formally through letters of complaint or a group of people coming to their office.

“We would comment if there was something tangible brought to the office. But so far there is nothing,” Maj Gen Makoro said.
He said ABC is still intact because they have their “leader in good shape”.
“We have not lost a single constituency. So we are still intact,” Makoro said.
The chairman of the outgoing committee, Motlohi Maliehe, said the fact that there is political instability within the party does not necessarily translate to instability in government.

He said the firing of ministers by Prime Minister Thabane does not mean there is a crack in the government or in the party.
“I was dismissed from my position as minister and I understood that the Prime Minister was doing his job and he had such powers conveyed to him by the constitution,” Maliehe said.

“It is his prerogative to hire and expel ministers and there is nothing sinister about that.”
Maliehe said in the ABC, just like any political party in the country, there are differences of opinions and the way of approaching issues but that does not mean a split.
“People should understand the objectives of their political party so that we maintain stability, instead of just coming to dance to the political songs and wear party regalia.”

Staff Reporter

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