THE infighting which erupted within Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD) took another turn this week with the party’s spokesperson, Thuso Litjobo, alleging that there were rebels who they had placed under surveillance.
Mr Litjobo however, refused to be drawn into saying if his estranged party colleague, secretary general, Mahali Phamotse, was one of the rebels who was being monitored.
The outspoken Mr Litjobo, who has been on the warpath accusing Dr Phamotse of sabotaging the party and the governing coalition, this week fired another broadside at his rival, accusing her of “forcing herself on the leader” (Mr Moleleki) in her bid to eventually take over the leadership. He said she was bound to fail in her scheming because the AD leader was elected by party members and not the current leader.
His latest attacks on Dr Phamotse and his allegations of party rebels come against the background of claims by some party sources that Mr Litjobo and several other high ranking officials snubbed the weekend rally that was held in the Minister of Development Planning, Tlohelang Aumane’s Semena constituency in the Thaba Tseka district.
The AD is the second largest in the governing coalition whose major party, the Thomas Thabane-led All Basotho Convention (ABC) is also reeling from a power struggle that threatens to consume it as well as bring down the almost two year-old government. Other parties in the governing coalition are the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and these have not been spared the power struggles too.
Mr Litjobo and Dr Phamotse, who is also the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, appear to have had a cold war from the run-up to and the subsequent AD elective conference which was held in March 2018.
The duo had been billed to fight it out for the secretary general’s post along with former secretary general, Mokhele Moletsane, but Mr Litjobo withdrew at the eleventh hour after a directive from the party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki.
While accepting that all three were suitable for the post, Mr Moleleki directed them to withdraw from the contest, saying the election of any one of them would however, cause divisions among their supporters which could weaken the party.
Mr Litjobo heeded Mr Moleleki’s directive and withdrew from the race leaving Dr Phamotse and Mr Moletsane to slug it out for the post that was eventually won by Dr Phamotse.
It is not clear if at all the latest fight has anything to do with their previous clashes but this week, Mr Litjobo told the Lesotho Times that it could not really be said that the party had effectively split into factions as there were only a few rebels who had been identified and placed under surveillance.
“This party is very much intact even though we just have few individuals who have decided to turn into rebels. But the good thing is that they have been identified and we are monitoring them and we will very soon attend to their issue. I will not reveal their names at this stage.”
Mr Litjobo also rubbished claims by some AD members that Mr Moleleki was grooming Dr Phamotse to eventually succeed him. He instead accused the Gender minister of forcing herself on Mr Moleleki. Although he would not elaborate on how Dr Phamotse was forcing herself on Mr Moleleki, Mr Litjobo said Dr Phamotse’s scheming for the top party post was bound to fail because the AD leader was elected by party members and not the current leader.
“The leader of the AD leader will not be selected by the incumbent. Rather the election will be by AD members. The only thing that I can tell you and the people who think that our leader (Mr Moleleki) is grooming her (Dr Phamotse) is that she is just forcing herself on the leader and nothing more,” said Mr Litjobo.
Mr Litjobo is one of the senior AD officials who were conspicuous by their absence from the party’s weekend rally in the Semena constituency.
Only Mr Moleleki and Dr Phamotse, out of the AD’s nine members of parliament, attended the rally which was hosted by the party’s Semena legislator Tlohelang Aumane.
Also present were Senator Mokoto Hloaele who is also the Minister of Home Affairs and the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Tjoetsane Seoka and national executive committee member, Lefa Mapota.
While it is not clear why other AD legislators such as the Deputy Leader and Minister of Education and Training, Professor Ntoi Rapapa were absent, Mr Litjobo told the Lesotho Times that he did not attend the rally because of Dr Phamotse who he has been at loggerheads with in recent times.
“It is not true to say that I have been on the warpath against her (Dr Mahali) but then again she might be one of the reasons that I did not attend that rally in Semena,” Mr Litjobo said.
A fortnight ago, Mr Litjobo took to radio to accuse “the former minister of education and of Justice” of working against the AD leader (Mr Moleleki) and bringing the party into disrepute. Although Mr Litjobo did not mention her by name, his remarks were a clear reference to Dr Phamotse who has served in both portfolios and is currently the Gender minister.
The Education and Justice ministries have and are experiencing serious problems. Teachers only recently ended their strike as they await the outcome of talks with the government for higher salaries and improved working conditions. Dr Phamotse was at the helm of the judiciary when the government’s problems with the now suspended Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara started. The magistrates were also restive and have twice gone on a go-slow strike to press the government for higher salaries and improved working conditions.
And according to Mr Litjobo, “all the disturbances have erupted within ministries which are headed by AD ministers” and this could be the work of Dr Phamotse as she allegedly seeks to bring the AD into disrepute.
“I would like to enlighten all AD members and all coalition partners that there is a minister who is behind the teachers’ strike and the judiciary disturbances and this is an AD minister who is busy sowing unrest in all ministries headed by the same party.”
But Dr Phamotse recently shot back, saying she was aware of “these stupid allegations levelled against me and I have very cordial relations with my leader (Mr Moleleki) and I have no reason to fight him”.
“I don’t think this is about attacking me personally. There is a person (Mr Moleleki) I am protecting and it is my mandate as a secretary general to protect that person and the party. I am protecting the leader (Mr Moleleki) and the party and it is a duty that I wholeheartedly undertake day and night.
“If you deeply interrogate his (Mr Litjobo’s) statements, he is saying I am controlling many ministries but where are the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in all this? If this was a religious issue, we would definitely say this is blasphemous.
“But then again this is stupid. You cannot say that about my leader and your leader too in public. So I do not feel I’m being attacked. The AD members are not attacking me.
“Even when they are burning down offices (last year), they are not burning my office. They did not burn my office. I do not have an office. They are burning an AD office. They are burning the AD’s property and that of the leader, not mine. So how are they attacking me? Whoever is doing this (attacking Mr Moleleki) is very stupid,” Dr Phamotse said.