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We’ll be back, says Kabi



There was a time when Nkaku Kabi appeared only a mere millimetre away from becoming Lesotho’s next Prime Minister.
With then Prime Minister Majoro on the ropes, Kabi, backed by a coterie of hawks in the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, was itching to take over the country’s biggest job.
At one point, it appeared as if he would have his way and that Majoro would be quickly shoved aside.
But Majoro, who was largely seen as a dove in party circles, surprisingly dug in and defied the party’s call for him to step down to pave way for Kabi.

Without a majority in parliament nor willing partners to oust Majoro through a vote-of-no-confidence, Kabi was forced to patch a “ceasefire deal” with the premier to allow the ABC to go into the October 7 polls as a united front.

It was an uneasy pact that eventually boomeranged for the ABC.

That was because the damage had already been done. Years of bitter infighting over the succession issue had left the ABC bitterly divided.
The ABC was soon to pay a heavy price for that infighting.

And so when the results of the elections were finally announced, the ABC which had projected itself as the darling of the urban masses under its charismatic leader Thomas Thabane was in for a massive shock.

The big loss inflicted serious damage on the ABC brand. The party, which held 51 seats prior to the polls, lost all of them, which was a major embarrassment.

All it had to pick up were the crumbs that were allocated to it under Lesotho’s generous compensatory proportional representation electoral system.

With the massive loss, political analysts quickly and gleefully began to pen the ABC’s obituary. For them, the ABC was dead, with no prospect of a “Lazarus moment” – not now nor in the near future.

The epitaph on the ABC’s tombstone read: “Here lies a party that had painfully euthanized itself”.

That was the verdict that quickly caught fire on social media platforms, that this was party that had hurt itself through infighting.

Speaking during a candid post-mortem of the elections with thepost last week, Kabi said such an assessment was wrong from several fronts.

For a start, the ABC is not dead, Kabi thundered.

Instead, we are seeing a resurgence in the party with those who had left for left for Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) and others who left after the Majoro fallout slowly trooping back home, he says.

“They are definitely coming back, even yesterday (at a rally) in Butha-Buthe they did. Their home is the ABC and they are coming back.”

“Our people are coming back and are re-registering with the party. We have gone on a massive recruitment programme for new members, more like starting afresh,” he says.

But Kabi also humbly admits that neither he nor his party saw last October’s stunning defeat coming. He remembers the eerie silence that befell his Qeme constituency when the election results were announced.

“There was a sense of frustration that you cannot fully explain,” he says. “It was as if there was a funeral with people mourning with you.”
“We simply said Basotho had spoken and we had to embrace it.”

“I really felt bad,” he says. “We never thought that we would move from 51 seats to zero. We did not want to call what had happened masela-a-mose (an act of witchcraft). I took a deep breath myself and said, ‘Maybe the people really needed change’”.

What made his defeat especially painful was that Kabi felt that he had done so much for the people in his constituency installing clean water and connecting villages to the national electricity grid.

But all that came to naught.

Come voting day, the people simply dumped the ABC and went for the RFP’s candidate Sello Hakane, a virtually unknown and inexperienced fellow.

“I realised that my people were so depressed (after the results) and I had to go out and do interviews, and make short audios to share with the constituencies telling them that this was not the end; this was just the beginning.”

Kabi says he remains alive as to what needs to be done to rebuild the ABC after the great disappointment of last October.
He wants party members to bury the hatchet and embrace those who had left, an issue Kabi says is proving a big challenge for those who had remained loyal to the party.

“It is a challenge that we are working hard to resolve,” he says.

To accommodate the “prodigals”, Kabi says the ABC has had to bend the rules so they feel welcome and are not antagonised.

Under the ABC’s constitution, when a member leaves the party and later decides to come back, he has to start afresh from the grassroots.

“The constitution is very clear, you moved away and when you come back, you have to start afresh,” he says.

“You can’t stand for local government elections because you have to be a member for 12 months. But we are trying to be a little more lenient to avoid discouraging those who have come back,” he says.

He says the ABC doesn’t want these “prodigals” to come back and be idle.

“We have to accommodate them and convince them that (this time) we will do better.”

He insists the ABC is alive and kicking.

“The ABC is back – to reflect, to introspect and be given another chance to work on its own pitfalls. We have had challenges, which we have admitted and are working on.”

Even those that have returned can see that the infighting is gone, that this is a new party with a renewed sense of direction, Kabi says.

There is a school of thought, however, that says Kabi is seeking to resuscitate a dead donkey. They say he also blew his chance when he failed to push out Majoro when factionalism was at its highest in the ABC.

They say the final nail came through when he presided over what was the worst performance by the ABC in an election since the party was formed in 2006.

With the two missed opportunities, they say Kabi’s chances of ascending to the throne are gone.

Kabi says that too is a simplistic reading of Lesotho’s complex politics.

“If I feel that my chances are zero, there would be no need for me to continue hanging around, meeting the constituencies,” he says.
“I would say let me go back to my small farm and (quit) politics.”

He says the abject poverty that he sees around Lesotho is the reason why he continues to dream.

“The more Basotho are suffering, the more I feel I still have a chance.”

That sounds like a wry sense of politics; that he wants to capitalise when Basotho are suffering; the more Basotho suffer, the higher his chances of a political comeback.

But Kabi says all he wants is to make a difference in the lives of Basotho. It was with that sense of urgency and duty that he says he begged Matekane to give him a ministerial post after the elections so that he could fight crime.

The ministry Kabi begged for was that of police.

He says he wanted the police ministry so badly so that he could “simply serve” Basotho.

“I remember telling Matekane to “borrow me” (sic) the Ministry of Police. I won’t talk, just borrow me and I will serve. I told him that yes, you have won the elections but I just want to serve. He laughed it off,” Kabi says.

“I had a dream of how I wanted to see Lesotho during my first five years in power,” he says.

He says Lesotho blows M14 billion on food imports every year, a situation he says is totally unacceptable.

Kabi says he had big dreams for Lesotho which he wanted to implement if he had won the elections.

He wants Lesotho to produce enough food for its own people. Agriculture can create jobs for unemployed Basotho youths and be an engine for economic growth, he says.

The current “government of the rich”, a sarcastic dig at Matekane’s administration, is failing to empower the rural majority through agricultural projects, Kabi says.

“Basotho eat chicken every day but there is no place we can get chicks. We have to go across the border to South Africa.”

“How I wish Matekane’s government would just get it right as I had wished for Lesotho! I had great hopes for Lesotho and all the things that I thought were possible for the country and my people.”

Kabi says although he would have wanted to give Matekane the space to govern, he is disappointed to realise that there appears to be no real plan to make Lesotho work again.

“Yes, they are only nine months old (as a government) but we have to see a plan,” he says.

Kabi says so far he has not seen a “master plan” to fix Lesotho, apart from small projects like the launch of the microchip programme to combat stock-theft.

“When you listen to those stories it is as if you are listening to folktales for young children.”

He is equally unhappy with how Lesotho’s mineral resources, particularly diamonds, have been “mismanaged”.

“When you take out a diamond, it doesn’t come back. It is not like a peach tree that will grow again next year. We are depleting our precious resources for somebody else without really getting anything in return.”

Kabi is scathing about the new government saying it has no clue how to fix Lesotho.

“They got the shock of their lives. They thought running government was as simple as running a construction company, where you are a CEO and you just instruct someone to do things.”

Matekane’s government promised milk and honey but they still can’t deliver, he says.

The result is that people are now more frustrated in the villages, Kabi says.

“We don’t blame people for voting for the RFP; they did a good thing. They really wanted to see serious changes. But sadly they are seeing people who are accumulating more at their expense.”

While Basotho had great hopes in Matekane, Kabi says he still does not see anything good coming from the Prime Minister for the people in the villages which will soon lead to massive disillusionment.

There is absolute misery in the villages, he says.

Critics will likely object to Kabi’s vile criticism of Matekane’s government, calling it a case of sour grapes after his own ABC was accused of similar bungling when it was in power.

The ABC was in power as a dominant force under Thabane between 2012 and 2015. It also came back into office after the 2017 elections only to be booted out after the elections last year.

Kabi was at pains to paint the ABC as saints saying although they had their rough patches, they “still tried their best to deliver”.

If he were to have a chance to speak to Matekane, Kabi says he would tell the Prime Minister to fix Lesotho’s ailing health delivery system. He wants his government to create jobs for the hordes of unemployed youths. He also wants Lesotho to benefit from its natural resources such as water.

“Our people are dying in silence because we have no specialists to treat cancer and kidney problems at our hospitals. They are now being told to just wait for your day,” he says.

“We are dying every day.”

“People are battling depression because of problems. They are in big debts. We have youths who haven’t worked all their life. All they need are solutions.”

Kabi says the government must also give incentives to the police so that they can step up the fight against crime.

They need incentives to work, he says.

“One can no longer walk at the bus stop area in Maseru at night. Every day, people are losing their phones and wallets. If you resist, you die.”

As the interview progresses, what was clear from the discussion was that Kabi is still nursing a big wound following his loss. He is still to heal nine months after the polls.

He also acknowledges the devastating impact the split with Professor Nqosa Mahao’s Basotho Action Party (BAP) had on the ABC.

He says he regrets the split “because we are stronger together”.

“When you look back and see those fights, you realise they were not necessary. They have cost us. But I also don’t regret what happened,” he says.

“Everyone has their own journey. That was how it was meant to be.”

With the ABC now out in the cold, Kabi says he now has the unenviable task of rebuilding the party back to its former glory. That is no small task.

He traces the ABC’s problems back to the Lehakoe elective conference that saw the party reject Prof Mahao’s election as deputy leader.

Mahao was to later walk away to form the Basotho Action Party (BAP) taking with him a large chunk of the party’s support base.

“The infighting has been with us since 2019, which we won’t deny,” he says.

“We have had factions within the party. I cannot confidently say they are now dead. Factions are part of a culture of our politics. But I am trying with my team to work hard to dissolve the factions. That has been one of the biggest problems of our party.”

“We had cultivated that culture since 2019 and it became so deep that even when we tried to root it out, it became a little bit of a challenge.”

Abel Chapatarongo


MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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