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Thomas Thabane: the end of an error



THE decision by Thomas Thabane to step down as All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader is coming way too late after he inflicted terrible damage on his own party and legacy in the last two years. Thabane told a hastily arranged press conference in Maseru last Thursday that he was stepping down as the ABC leader in what should have been a welcome announcement for party loyalists. The ABC is now set to elect a new party leader at an elective conference scheduled for January 28, 2022. With less than nine months before the next election, the new party leader might have very little time to consolidate his grip on the party and mount a meaningful campaign to retain power. That the ABC finds itself in this mess is all Thabane’s fault. After Thabane was charged with the brutal murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, it should have been clear to him then that the game was up. But true to form, Thabane decided to ignore the tremendous pressure from his own party and the looming court case and hung on to power. He did so at a time when it had become increasingly clear that his tenure as party leader was now untenable. By hanging on to power, Thabane merely delayed the inevitable, a decision that severely weakened his own party. This was a party that had dismally failed to deal with its own succession issue. Deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao, was hounded out of the party. Mahao, who was one of the brightest brains in the ABC was pushed out for daring to challenge Thabane. Without Mahao and many other key party functionaries, the ABC was severely weakened. After Thabane’s ouster in May last year, the ABC picked Moeketsi Majoro, who is now among the horses in the race for the ABC leadership, as a compromise candidate for the leadership of the party. But when Majoro refused to dance to Thabane’s tune, the hawks within the ABC went for him too. What was clear was that Thabane, despite relinquishing the premiership, remained the power behind the throne, pulling the strings behind the scenes. Any individuals who dared to challenge his decisions were quickly labelled rebels. In our opinion, all the problems the ABC faced over the last two years can be traced back to Thabane and his meddlesome wife, ’Maesiah. It is precisely for this reason that we would argue that Thabane should now retire quietly in Makhoakhoeng. This time, he must retire for real and stop trying to pull the strings from behind the curtain. Thabane must not seek political relevance by attempting to prop up his wife’s political career. If ’Maesiah harbours any political ambitions of her own, she must stand on her own and fight it out without seeking to ride on the back of her husband. At 82, we believe Thabane has run his race and must now pass on the baton. But Thabane could have carefully played his part in the selection of a successor who is amenable to his cause. But he squandered that opportunity. The process is now out of his hands, come January 28. The new party leader will take over a party bitterly divided along factional lines. He must work at the speed of light to unify the party and prepare for “the mother-of-all-battles” as the party seeks to retain power in the next elections scheduled for this year. Without the many factions coalescing around a single candidate, the ABC can kiss its chances of becoming the next government goodbye.  

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