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Betrayed, Belittled, Bitter: Rapapa dumps ABC for RFP

’Marafaele Mohloboli

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) chairperson, Sam Rapapa, has wasted no time in dumping the beleaguered former ruling party for Prime Minister-in-waiting, Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP).

The move comes barely a week after the ABC, which won 48 seats in the 2017 polls, bombed spectacularly in the 7 October polls where it lost all constituencies. The party has the controversial proportional representation (PR) system to thank for the eight seats that it will occupy in the soon to be inaugurated 11th parliament. Had it not been for the PR system, the Nkaku Kabi-led party would have been completely wiped off Lesotho’s political landscape.

Mr Rapapa himself flopped spectacularly to surrender the Mosalemane constituency to his younger brother, Ntoi Rapapa, of the Alliance of Democrats (AD). This time around, Mr Rapapa, who had beaten his brother in 2017, could only muster 387 votes to his sibling’s 2345 votes.

The ABC’s spectacular collapse was not all surprising considering that the party has been riddled by infighting ever since former leader, Thomas Thabane, rejected the election of former deputy leader, Nqosa Mahao, Mr Rapapa and others to the national executive committee (NEC) in February 2019.

In addition, the party failed to deliver on its 2017 promises to tackle endemic corruption, food insecurity, high unemployment, poverty and crime among others. When they were not fighting among themselves, ABC leaders were often implicated in corruption. During the campaign period, party leader Kabi alienated a huge section of the electorate by publicly flaunting his close ties with Famo gangs accused of rampant killings and other serious crimes within Lesotho and in neighbouring South Africa.

Mr Rapapa alluded to his personal and the intra-party feuding in his weekend press conference in Maseru to announce his defection to the RFP.

Betrayed, belittled and bitter is how he described himself during his time in the ABC which he joined at its inception in 2006.

If anything, his departure was long overdue as he was constantly “sidelined and overlooked” by the ABC NEC and party members over the years.

He said what was supposed to be a rewarding and fulfilling experience when he acted as secretary general quickly turned into a nightmare as he was “insulted day in, day out” by some party officials.

“No one ever protected me,” Mr Rapapa said of that experience.

“No one came to my rescue. Not even the national executive committee. Since then, mine has been a life of belittlement and insults at the hands of party members. Things got worse over the years.

“In 2019 when the ABC held its elective conference, I and others who were elected were barred from accessing the party office for a whole year, it was a fight.”

Mr Rapapa said earlier this year when outgoing Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro faced a parliamentary no confidence vote which was supported by Mr Kabi who wanted to take over, he (Rapapa) put his head on the block and fought tooth and nail to save Dr Majoro.

“Due to this (support for Majoro against the NEC’s directive), I was barred from running the affairs of the party. A circular was even issued to that effect. Surprisingly, when the suspension was lifted, no circular was ever issued to communicate that decision,” Mr Rapapa said.

Over the years, the outgoing Communications, Science and Technology minister never hid his ambitions to take over the ABC leadership and become prime minister. His moment almost came in 2019 when the ABC NEC proposed to oust its then leader and Prime Minister Thabane in a parliamentary no confidence vote.

Eventually when the party pushed through with its plans and forced Mr Thabane to resign in May 2020, it was not Mr Rapapa they chose to replace him. The matter was subjected to a vote and Mr Rapapa polled 18 votes to Dr Majoro’s 26.

Referencing this ‘so-near-yet-so-far’ experience over the weekend, Mr Rapapa said, “The ABC has always chosen others over me.”

“Again in the recent elections, as party chairperson, I ought to have been third on the party’s PR list but I was placed on number 13 without my knowledge. The leader (Kabi) and the secretary general (Lebohang Hlaele) submitted the PR list to IEC without anyone’s knowledge. I only got to know about it on Tuesday via the NEC’s WhatsApp group.

“This is how I, Tšoinyane Rapapa, have always been treated. I’ve decided that enough is enough. I’ve decided to leave the ABC for the RFP. I will work on winning back the Mosalemane constituency which I lost to my brother.

“I could have left earlier but I still believed there was hope for me. Hence I fought in all the party’s fights. But today I’m convinced that there is nothing left for me in the ABC. I’ve no political future in the ABC. I feel betrayed,” Mr Rapapa said.

However, Mr Hlaele denied ever tampering with the ABC’s PR list to ensure that Mr Rapapa would not be among eight senior officials who would go to parliament.

He said he had done his best to persuade Mr Rapapa to stay but the latter’s mind was already made up.

The former ABC chairperson has always had the sense of the dramatic. Back in 2019 when he and other NEC members were holding countrywide rallies to drum up support for the ouster of Mr Thabane, he would hold books including one titled The Graceless Fall of Mugabe by veteran Zimbabwean journalist, Geoff Nyarota. The book was about the fall of former Zimbabwean dictator, whose overthrow by the army and his own party was caused by his wife, Grace’s meddling in party and government affairs. Hoisting the book, Mr Rapapa would say that Mr Thabane would suffer a similar fate due to his meddlesome and quarrelsome wife.

Mr Rapapa was just as dramatic at his weekend press conference. Shortly after announcing his decision to join the RFP, the former ABC chairperson, who had been clad in the party’s regalia, briefly left the room and returned in a green RFP golf shirt and jacket. He said he had only bought the outfit that morning.

“I only bought this regalia in the morning and they (RFP) don’t even know that I’m joining them. I’m not joining them for any benefits; I’m not eyeing a ministerial or principal secretary’s post. I’ve been a PS before and I wouldn’t want to go back there. I don’t want to be an ambassador because I can’t handle speaking English from dawn to night; my tongue would get twisted. I don’t want anything but that doesn’t mean that if they give me a job I won’t take it.”

He however, thanked Mr Thabane for allowing him to contest elections under the ABC’s banner and appointing him to government posts.

In a subsequent interview with the Sunday Express, he said ABC members had begun abusing him over his decision to leave but “that won’t dampen my spirits and deter me from living my life the way I see fit”.

Meanwhile, the RFP has welcomed Mr Rapapa into the party fold as an ordinary member.

RFP deputy spokesperson, Thabo Maretlane, yesterday said Mr Rapapa had exercised his democratic rights by joining the RFP and that “needs to be respected”.

“He joined out of his goodwill and he joins as any other member. Others are also welcome to join; the RFP is a home for everyone and every single vote counts,” Mr Maretlane said in an interview.