By Tsepang Moletsane
Since the ruling All Basotho Convention’s elective conference in February last year, from which the party emerged very divided and weaker, the lie has been peddled that unity will be good for the party and by extension, the country.
The logic behind the unity rhetoric was that the ABC will tear itself apart if it continued with bruising leadership battles between two factions, and that it was a good thing that the party’s national executive committee membership should smoke a peace pipe.
And yet, for about a year, the ABC leader, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, failed dismally or never bothered to restore the party’s warring factions to harmony.
Infighting and name-calling were an order of the day as the remnants of the faction aligned to Thabane battled to reclaim ground lost to them at the elective conference.
The party was broadly divided into two almost formal separate and contesting parties, the ABC of Thabane and the ABC of deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao.
These groups were barely held together by the colours and emblem – a split was inevitable.
Never in the history of the ABC has the party ended the year in quite so divided a state.
And as the new year, 2020, started, several incidents demonstrated exactly how far the party appeared to have wandered into the wilderness.
A faction of the ABC national executive committee aligned to Mahao, respectfully, but still strongly, criticised the party leader Thabane and called for him to step down.
This was after the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli linked Thabane to the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, in June 2017.
Alleged evidence that Thabane was involved in his wife’s murder surfaced from court documents filed by police commissioner Molibeli – who was challenging Thabane’s attempts to sack him.
In the face of the damning allegations, Thabane dug in his heels and refused to relinquish the top job despite mounting pressure from his own party. His determination to stay put was widely condemned by a range of voices.
Last Friday he bowed to the pressure and announced his intention to retire but indicated that he will remain the leader of the ABC pending a decision by party members on his future.
Not only did he announce his impending retirement, but he also announced that the warring factions in his party, which over the last year had been torn apart and driven into the ground, had smoked a peace pipe.
He said the two factions will work together to try to pick up and put together the pieces and rebuild the once mighty ABC.
He thanked those ABC supporters who had stayed within the party despite internal strife, and appealed to them to do away with differences that had wreaked havoc in the party.
“Please stop calling each other derogatory names,” he said.
He further appealed to the ‘reconciled factions’ to work towards the welfare of the nation, saying: “You should put Lesotho and the Basotho first.”
He said the country remained mired in hunger and poverty.
This was not the same tone Thabane had in the past.
For the 31 months he has been in power, he did everything in his power to ruin the country.
He allowed his wife ‘Maesaiah Thabane and his henchmen – and women –to run roughshod over Basotho, ruining hundreds of lives and robbing the country its future.
Police brutality, wool and mohair saga, teachers and doctors’ strike and high failure rates come to mind.
It never mattered to him that Basotho’s lives in the country he presided over were not getting better, and for most of them, were getting worse.
His few years in power brought in the worst enemy of human being’s spirit, hopelessness.
Basotho were waking up in the country Thabane and his wife were busy ruining, knowing their todays would not be better than their yesterdays and tomorrows were going to be equally hopeless too. He never cared.
He steadily eroded the very fundamentals of a modern democratic society. In his premiership, there was a generally tense relationship between the executive and the judiciary.
Attacks on the judiciary were a periodic feature of rule under Thabane, sometimes subdued, sometimes more clamorous.
He removed Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and replaced her with a pliant servant, Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase.
He ruined the ABC’s good name and crucial standing in the society and wreaked havoc and devastation on the party he founded and professed undying love for.
As he announces his imminent departure, ABC, the party he founded in October 2006, has been abandoned by thousands of voters.
One thing explains Thabane’s sudden change of attitude.
His extension of an olive branch to the Mahao faction coincides neatly with law enforcement agencies closing in on his wife, ‘Maesaiah, who is implicated in the murder of Lipolelo Thabane.
‘Maesaiah is on the run, after having failed to appear before police for questioning in connection with Lipolelo’s murder on January 10.
When she failed to report herself to the police, the court had issued a warrant for her arrest.
Police raided State House, but she was nowhere to be found.
Through her lawyer, ‘Maesaiah filed an urgent application in court to suspend the arrest warrant, but it was rejected.
Last Wednesday police launched manhunt for her.
The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has long been subject to political interference and its intended message of summoning the first lady and later raiding the state house was that those closest to Thabane, or even Thabane himself, could be next unless he acceded to Mahao-led faction’s request to quit.
Many observers believe Commissioner of Police Molibeli is sympathetic towards Mahao’s faction and used Lipolelo’s murder case to throw Thabane under the bus.
Lipolelo was shot dead by unknown assailants as she was about to drive into her Ha ‘Masana home on 14 June 2017. The incident occurred just two days before Thomas Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister.
While it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, there are suspicions that ‘Maesaiah, is the mastermind behind the assassination.
This is probably because in 2014, during Thabane’s first go-round as Prime Minister, the High Court ruled that first lady privileges should be bestowed on Lipolelo, and not ‘Maesaiah who was Thabane’s customary wife at the time.
The judgment was a major blow to ‘Maesaiah, as it effectively recognised Lipolelo as Thabane’s rightful wife and first lady, at least pending the finalization of a divorce case Thabane instituted against Lipolelo.
The judgment banned ‘Maesaiah from “performing any functions and exercising any rights vested in the applicant (Lipolelo) as the First Spouse in terms of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (Retirement and Spouses’ Benefits) Act, 2011 (Act No: 10 of 2011).
Hardly three months after Lipolelo’s death, on August 26, 2017, Thabane remarried ‘Maesaiah who then became first lady, officially.
‘Maesaiah has been likened Delilah – the central figure of Samson’s last love story in the Old Testament.
Delilah was a Philistine who, bribed to entrap Samson, coaxed him into revealing that the secret of his strength was his long hair, whereupon she took advantage of his confidence to betray him to his enemies.
Delilah’s name has since become synonymous with a voluptuous, treacherous woman.
In 2019, Thabane’s daughter, ‘Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, claimed publicly that ‘Maesaiah ordered Lipolelo’s hit.
Police know exactly what happened on the day Lipolelo died in 2017 but were unable to do anything as many people implicated in the murder are close to the prime minister and Molibeli was on good terms with Thabane before ABC was hit by the toxic power struggle.
Lipoleloi’s tragic death was used to push Mahao’s faction, which Thabane disregarded and insulted for the entire 2019, into the office.
This shows how this faction intended to gain control of the ABC by hook or crook.
Thabane’s call for peace and unity in his party, is a desperate move to fend off the police send out to do Mahao faction’s dirty work and arrest ‘Maesaiah.
The idea of the old proverb, honour amongst thieves, still holds good, thieves are never rogues amongst themselves.
Lipolelo’s murder case which was previously described as cold case, was revived to arm-twist Thabane into agreeing to work with ABC’s Mahao-led faction and now that he has agreed, the case docket will be left to gather dust again; if it does not disappear.
The so-called ABC unity will come at the expense of justice for Lipolelo as it is meant to shield ‘Maesaiah from answering to any crime that she is suspected to have committed. NW