There is a renewed onslaught against Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro amid indications that at least 26 legislators from his governing coalition are still pursuing a plot to bring down his government.
Well-placed sources say 20 of these MPs are from Dr Majoro’s own All Basotho Convention (ABC) while the other six are from other coalition parties.
The sources said some of the MPs bluntly told last week’s caucus meeting of ABC legislators and the party’s national executive committee (NEC) that they were unhappy with the Majoro government’s “systematic purging” of ABC leader and ex-premier Thomas Thabane’s appointees from the government.
Since taking over on 20 May 2020, Dr Majoro angered some ABC members by excluding them from his cabinet. He has sacked some Thabane-era principal secretaries like ‘Mabotle Damane (Communications, Science and Technology ministry) and ‘Maseithati Mabeleng (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation).
The duo is now fighting the decision in the courts of law. Dr Majoro has also fallen out with Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka who he accuses of “unilaterally” and “fraudulently” renewing the contracts of Ms Damane, Mabeleng and six other PSs.
Mr Mphaka is currently on leave and some sources say Dr Majoro wants to get rid of him because of his closeness to Mr Thabane and his controversial wife ‘Maesaiah. Mr Thabane is also said to be working furiously behind the scenes to undermine Dr Majoro.
The purges of Thabane appointees and the disgruntlement over the cabinet appointments, according to sources, are behind the renewed moves by some disgruntled ABC MPs to bring down the government.
Nine of the 26 MPs are said to be well-known Thabane loyalists. They are Leshoboro Mohlajoa (Malimong constituency), Chalane Phori (Qoaling), Mahala Molapo (Thaba-Phatšoa), Litšoane Litšoane (Bela-Bela), Lehlohonolo Moramotse (Lithoteng), Temeki Tšolo (Mafeteng), Thabang Mafojane (Motimposo), Tšehlo Ramarou (Leribe) and Samonyane Ntsekele (Tsikoane).
According to sources, the nine told the NEC that they had begun mobilising support from other ABC MPs to bring down the government due to their anger over the alleged ill-treatment of Mr Thabane and his appointees.
Dr Majoro, the ABC MP for Thetsane and former finance minister, rose to power on 20 May 2020 after the collapse of the ABC’s coalition with the Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). The ABC then formed a new coalition with the then main opposition DC and several other parties including the BNP, RCL.
While Dr Majoro’s rise was made easy by a majority of ABC MPs, who backed their party’s new coalition with the DC, However, he has not had it easy since replacing Mr Thabane. Shortly after assuming the reins, he faced a serious backlash from ABC MPs who expressed their anger over the inclusion of the BNP and RCL leaders in the new cabinet at their expense.
The ABC legislators, who included former Local Government and Chieftainship Minister Mr Molapo and former ABC parliamentary caucus chairperson Fako Moshoeshoe, were aggrieved with the inclusion of BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, his deputy Machesetsa Mofomobe and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo in the new cabinet.
They vowed to start a political war to bring down the Majoro coalition if their grievances were not addressed. One of the aggrieved MPs, Tšoana-Makhulo legislator Tšoeu Molise, even claimed that the disgruntled MPs numbered 26, a very significant figure if it is accurate.
Barely a month later, two ABC MPs, Mokherane Tsatsanyane (Stadium Area constituency) and Sello Mooki (Bobatsi constituency), dumped the ABC for the opposition AD in protest over the inclusion of the BNP and RCL in cabinet. They also expressed their anger at the alleged ill-treatment of Mr Thabane by the party.
They were among ABC MPs who had demanded that Dr Majoro orders the state to stop the prosecution of Mr Thabane after he was named by the police alongside his wife, ‘Maesaiah as one of the key suspects in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo.
Several meetings between the MPs and the ABC’s NEC have failed to resolve the infighting in the party.
According to party and government sources, the disgruntled ABC legislators told last Wednesday’s caucus meeting with the party’s NEC of their intentions of mobilising more MPs to bring down the government over its “campaign” to purge government and the civil service of Mr Thabane’s appointees.
“There was a caucus meeting between the NEC and the MPs on Wednesday (5 August) at the Mine Workers’ premises (in Khubetsoana),” an NEC member told the Lesotho Times on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to disclose internal party issues.
“The purpose of the meeting was to give ABC ministers the opportunity to table their ministries’ service delivery plans so that they could be discussed with the party’s MPs.
“However, some disgruntled legislators raised disturbing issues. They said they were on a charm offensive to convince other ABC MPs to join their cause to topple this government.
“Those leading that faction bluntly told us that they were selling their proposal to topple this government to other ABC MPs.
“We suspect there are at least 20 ABC MPs against this government. From our (NEC)’s calculations, we can only be sure of the support of 30 ABC legislators for this government.”
The ABC has 50 MPs after the defection of Messrs Tsatsanyane and Sello to the AD and the death of its Makhoroana legislator, Lefu Hlomelang, in December 2019.
Another ABC MP this week told the Lesotho Times that Mr Leshoboro Mohlajoa, popularly known as Magents, spoke on behalf of the disgruntled MPs.
“Magents (Mr Mohlajoa) said that he and other MPs were unhappy with this government going after Thabane’s appointees. He gave the example of (Mr Thabane’s former spokesperson Thabo) Thakalekoala who was sacked soon after Ntate Majoro took over.
“He (Magents) also said that they were on a charm offensive to convince other ABC MPs to join them to topple this government. We suspect that at least 20 ABC MPs have joined this cause.”
However, the ABC MPs are not the only ones as there are also MPs from the other parties backing the governing coalition who are also disgruntled, the MP added.
Mr Mohlajoa confirmed attending the caucus meeting but refused to disclose what was discussed saying they were confidential party issues.
“I attended that meeting but it is not true that I spoke on behalf of the disgruntled MPs. I cannot tell you what we discussed because it was a confidential caucus meeting between the NEC and the MPs,” Mr Mohlajoa said.
Mr Molapo also confirmed attending the meeting. Like Mr Leshoboro, he refused to comment further.
“Yes, I was part of that meeting. It was a closed ABC caucus meeting and no one is allowed to publish issues that were discussed in the caucus.
“Asking me to divulge details of the meeting is as good as asking a minister to divulge cabinet discussions. Those are confidential issues that will never be published until a policy decision has been made.
“However, you can talk to party authorities like the secretary general or any of the NEC members,” Mr Molapo said.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa denied that the NEC and MPs met last week despite confirmations by several MPs that the caucus meeting indeed took place.
He was immediately contradicted by ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele who confirmed that the meeting indeed took place.
However, Mr Hlaele said he did not attend the meeting. He nonetheless dismissed claims that at least 20 party MPs were unhappy with the government, saying this was all “old news and propaganda” being peddled by individuals he did not name.
“Yes, they (NEC and ABC MPs) met to discuss service delivery issues. I didn’t receive any report regarding this matter (of toppling government). But these are the same old stories that we know. There is nothing new there. It is old news.
“You are a media practitioner and you should know that there is an animal called propaganda and this is it. It is meant to instill fear in us and make sure that we forever remain shaken but there is nothing to worry about. It is a non-issue,” Mr Hlaele said.
Meanwhile, well-placed sources within the governing parties this week told the Lesotho Times that apart from the ABC legislators, there were also MPs from the DC, BNP and MEC who were unhappy with Dr Majoro’s government.
The DC’s Moyeni MP, Khati Rapitso is said to be unhappy with his exclusion by his party from Dr Majoro’s cabinet.
“Moyeni (Rapitso) is not happy that he did not make the cut in the cabinet. The DC’s NEC is busy trying to persuade him to drop this issue for the stability of the party,” a DC source said.
Mr Rapitso’s mobile phone rang unanswered when this publication called him for comment yesterday.
DC spokesperson Serialong Qoo said, “as far as I know, there is no bad blood between us and Moyeni”.
“Everything is in order. He is still making a meaningful contribution to the party as an MP and we were working well with him before parliament was closed (for the winter break). But I may not know (his current position) because parliament is closed,” Mr Qoo said.
Another source said that other MPs including the MEC’s Thabo Ramatla and the BNP duo of Joang Molapo and ‘Mapulumo Hlao were siding with the ABC rebels. In fact, Mr Molapo has since announced his defection to the AD.
In an interview this week, Mr Ramatla said it was wrong for anyone to say he was still an MEC MP. He said the party expelled him last year.
“I am no longer an MEC member. They expelled me a long time ago. Yes, I went to parliament on a MEC ticket but I now remain there as His Majesty’s lawmaker. I can vote with the MEC if I feel the need to but I am now an independent legislator who votes for what he believes in,” Mr Ramatla said.
Asked if he supported the government, Mr Ramatla burst out laughing and asked “which government are you referring to?”
“There is a Sesotho saying that ‘mala oa motho o ka mpeng (one’s innermost thoughts remain unknown) so I will not respond to your question. You are asking about something I cannot disclose but you will see when parliament reconvenes,” Mr Ramatla said.
Chief Molapo dumped the BNP for the AD last month. He cited incessant infighting in the BNP as the reason for his move. He is already in the opposition and it is unlikely that he would still support the government.
Ms Hlao was not reachable for comment on the issue.