- We’ve kissed and made up with Mr Sekhamane
- Lesotho must get back its conquered land and have access to the sea
THE newly-elected leader of the opposition Democratic Congress (DC), Mathibeli Mokhothu, has blamed “arrogance and the greed for power” for the party’s fall from power in 2017.
Mr Mokhothu, who formally took over the DC leadership from founding leader and former prime minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, over the weekend, said the party needed to reconnect with the electorate, align its programmes with the latter’s interests and embark on a massive recruitment drive to win new followers.
He also said that he would soon push an aggressive foreign policy to “get our conquered land back and ensure Lesotho has access to the sea”.
Mr Mokhothu said all this in an interview with the Lesotho Times which was conducted via email this week. The Lesotho Times’ efforts to obtain clarification on the issue of the “conquered land” were not successful as Mr Mokhothu had not responded to further questions on the issue.
Lesotho is a landlocked country that is completely surrounded by South Africa.
Last year in June, a group of Basotho calling themselves the ‘Basotho Petitioners’, handed over a petition to the British embassy in Pretoria demanding the return of land they said was taken away from Basotho when former colonial power Britain entered into an agreement with the Afrikaners in 1854.
The 1854 agreement, known as the Orange River Convention, led to the creation of the independent Afrikaner republic known as the Orange Free State. The Basotho Petitioners said the agreement led to the loss of their ancestral lands in the areas that are now in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.
And this week, Mr Mokhothu said that, “As a party we are going to work on bettering our bilateral relations with South Africa and advocate fiercely to get back our conquered land and get a strip to the sea”.
Mr Mokhothu’s elevation to the DC leadership came at its elective conference in Ha Foso, Berea.
He polled 1681 votes to trounce his opponent, Tlohang Sekhamane, who polled a paltry 84 votes in the leadership contest.
He dispelled notions that at 41 years of age, he was inexperienced and he had only been catapulted to the helm of the party by Dr Mosisili who hand-held him and promoted his candidature ahead of more seasoned politicians like Mr Sekhamane.
He said he was more than capable of holding his own and he would not struggle after the departure of Dr Mosisili.
“No one is too young to lead and my age is not the right tool to use in measuring my ability to lead,” he said, adding, “graying hair doesn’t mean experience”.
“I come from a congress family and I know a lot more about politics than many people might think. Graying hair is not a prerequisite to effect change anywhere. That is why Jesus started preaching when he was only 12 years old. He (Jesus) wasn’t an old man but he still managed to lead.
“Everyone is entitled to have an opinion but an opinion is not a fact. I would advise my critics to just sit back and watch this space.”
The DC was in charge of government under the leadership of Dr Mosisili from 2015 to 2017 when it lost the snap elections held in the aftermath of the 1 March 2017 parliamentary vote of no confidence against Dr Mosisili’s government.
An All Basotho Convention (ABC) led coalition took over power after the June 3 snap elections.
The vote of no confidence and the subsequent snap elections were the outcomes of the disenchantment with the DC government under Dr Mosisili. His tenure as premier, particularly from 2015 to 2017 was characterised by reports of widespread human rights violations by the police and army as well as corruption in government.
And this week, Mr Mokhothu said the DC’s fall from grace could be attributed to the arrogance and greed among its officials.
“The main problems which dented our party were arrogance and the greed for power within the party and the government as well.
“We didn’t have tolerance for one another and our heads became too big, everyone suddenly became an expert in one way or the other.
“We also had a total disregard for the people who put us in power forgetting that we were just mere messengers. Politics is a game for the people and directed by the people. Everyone was too thirsty and we behaved like we were more deserving than all the other people.”
He said the only way to bounce back into power was “through respect for one another and the rest will be secondary”.
“We need to get into the recruiting game and revive our party by being a good example to everyone we come across so as to get numbers because a party’s growth is determined by numbers. But the quality of those recruited will also be an added advantage to build a strong party.”
Mr Mokhothu also extended the hand of reconciliation to Mr Sekhamane, saying they should put behind them the acrimony that characterised the run-up to the elections and work together for the good of the party.
“Just because I defeated him (Mr Sekhamane) doesn’t mean I am smarter than him and he is therefore rendered useless.
“We are not enemies and it would be naïve of me not to work with him and everyone else who is not part of the national executive committee.
“He is not a threat to me and neither am I a threat to him. Ntate Sekhamane is an asset to this party hence we have made up and forgiven one another. A lot was said in the heat of the moment hence I publicly asked for forgiveness from him as I have also forgiven him where he wronged me.
“We all need one another at some point and alone I can’t make it. But together we can because we are stronger,” Mr Mokhothu said.
He reserved special praise for Dr Mosisili, saying the former leader should enjoy his retirement in the knowledge that “the party that he loves so dearly is in safe hands and I promise that I will not disappoint”.
“He (Dr Mosisili) did his part by mentoring me and I am convinced that I have what it takes to take this party to the next level. He won’t be sorry nor regret it that he ever retired.
“Ntate Mosisili needs to retire because he has done so much to shape Lesotho’s political landscape. He deserves to take a back seat and watch his legacy grow. We will be consulting him from time to time as and when the need arises,” Mr Mokhothu said.