THE curtain will finally come down on the tenure of the long-serving Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, when the main opposition party holds its elective conference this Friday and Saturday.
While all positions are up for grabs, the spotlight is on the contest for the leader’s position pitting deputy secretary Tlohang Sekhamane against deputy leader Mathibeli Mokhothu.
Whoever wins will succeed Dr Mosisili who is retiring after a long career.
It remains to be seen who will eventually prevail in a contest some party members say pits the youthful exuberance of Mr Mokhothu against the experienced Mr Sekhamane.
If experience and academic qualifications alone were the criteria for choosing a party leader, Mr Sekhamane would be a shoe-in to succeed Dr Mosisili. His academic qualifications that include a Master’s degree in economics are impeccable. He also has extensive government experience having served as a principal secretary, government secretary and as minister in the key portfolios of finance and foreign affairs. He has an extensive book of international contacts. But there are so many variables at play in this leadership contest which could well tilt the scales in favour of the so-called ‘greenhorn’ Mr Mokhothu. The latter is already the second most senior politician in the party by virtue of being deputy leader and the prevailing discourse is that he enjoys the full support of Dr Mosisili who had handpicked him to deputise him after the departure of former deputy leader Monyane Moleleki in December 2016.
And in this wide-ranging interview with the Lesotho Times’ (LT) Senior Reporter ’Marafaele Mohloboli, Mr Sekhamane (TS) explains why he believes he is the right man for the top job and should be selected ahead of his rival.
LT: So much has been made by your backers about your experience and longevity in politics. How long have you been in politics?
TS: I have been involved in politics since 1962. I was a very small boy then but I got involved because of my father who was a die-hard Basutoland Congress follower. He would take me along with him wherever he went to political functions.
I grew up in a congress-supporting family and have never left the congress movement.
My greatest inspiration came from the political songs of the congress parties. I happen to be a very good singer and I have never found more peace and solace in anything else than singing.
I even produced some of the songs. From the age of nine I was an already renowned lead singer in many political groups. I didn’t even know what some of the songs meant but I sang them because I just loved the rhymes.
LT: It is common knowledge that you worked with Dr Mosisili for a long time in the party and in government. What may be less known however, are the capacities you served in.
TS: I worked under the direct supervision of Ntate Mosisili as the principal secretary in the Ministry of Education from 1999.
I am the one who implemented the free primary education system in 2000 in fulfilment of Ntate Mosisili’s dream. I also saw to the success of the school feeding programme. I am the best remembered government secretary after I succeeded Ntate Mohlabi Tsekoa who excelled at what he did. I had big shoes to fill and I didn’t disappoint.
I established the business council to enhance cooperation among the business sector, the prime minister and the cabinet ministers. I am the first and last Mosotho to be president of the African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) representing the whole of Africa.
No one believed in Ntate Mosisili’s vision of free primary education and he had to rope me in to implement it. And I managed to do in a very short space of time.
I first contested the elections in 2012 in the Mokhotlong constituency. Even though I was born in Senqu I contested in Mokhotlong because Ntate Mohlabi Tsekoa was the DC legislator and I did not want to compete with him. And so I chose Mokhotlong which I snatched from my rival Lehlohonolo Tšehlana of the All Basotho Convention.
LT: Are you satisfied with the campaigning process so far?
TS: I am not satisfied at all. There is a practice in our party that one may not canvass in the media and it has become a rule.
There is also the fact that one should be nominated by others and yet another rule that says one may not go to other candidates’ constituencies to campaign.
How then, will people see and know about you if you are confined to your constituency?
This is the main factor that is causing noise and slander because people now resort to all means including holding secret meetings.
LT: Why do you think you are the best candidate for the DC leadership ahead of your rival? Some people say Mr Mokhothu has been handpicked by Dr Mosisili and has been working very closely with him, making him an ideal successor.
TS: People may talk about their love for a certain person, but truth be told I have never left the congress movement and have always been loyal to it.
We may all be contestants but I am the one with the most experience. I worked under the direct supervision of Ntate Mosisili from 2000 to 2017 and no other candidate ever worked that long with him. I know him (Dr Mosisili) like the back of my hand, his strengths and his shortcomings, thus I have learnt a lot from him.
I also have leadership skills and have a vision for the nation as a whole not just my party. If things were to be weighed objectively, I am the most qualified member of the DC, a Master’s degree holder in economics. I have been a congress member for the longest time and I don’t think anyone has served longer than I have in the congress movement.
I believe I am eligible and can be the next leader of the DC because I am qualified and am a born leader, I have leadership skills and I have a vision for the nation as a whole not just my party.
Being leader of DC alone is not enough. Actually, this is just a stepping stone to my bigger dream. I want to be the prime minister of Lesotho.
I see the DC as an instrument for the development of the nation and I want to be DC leader because it has a chance of forming the next government. That way my dream of becoming prime minister shall be fulfilled.
LT: What qualities should a leader possess?
TS: A leader should be someone who has convinced the followers that they have qualities and have money to run their own campaigns.
A poor person should not be elected because there is likelihood that they could embezzle party monies. If one doesn’t have money to run their campaign they should just sit down and let those who have it run the show.
The leader should also be someone with international exposure, who is eloquent in both Sesotho and English.
LT: What is your vision and what changes would you implement if elected leader of DC?
TS: The first thing I would do is to change the governance structures of the DC and establish various committees to deal with various issues.
As of now the national executive committee (NEC) is running everything. I will put in place different committees to deal with issues that need to be addressed. For instance, there would be a conflict resolutions committee, an income generation committee, propaganda committee, law and legal affairs committee, industrial development committee and a policy committee.
I will also put in place ad hoc committees when the need arises and these will be dismantled after they have finished their tasks.
Establishing such committees will not only get the job done but also help everyone get exposure and the needed experience in the running of the party. This way the NEC would only need to meet once in three months because the party business will be allocated to the relevant committees.
LT: You have also spoken about your ambition to be prime minister. What should Basotho expect should that become reality?
TS: Lesotho is blighted by high levels of poverty and unemployment which have resulted in high rates of divorce.
If only those in power could help solve the problem of poverty instead of worsening it by promising youths jobs which they fail to deliver, then we would be a better country.
In the event that I become premier, my first task would be to tackle the scourge of corruption as it has negatively affected socio-economic development.
As prime minister, I would eradicate corruption within five years of being in power. The day I take over, anyone who engages in corruption shall have a long jail term.
Corruption is the diametrical opposite of development and severe deterrent sentences would have to be put in place for those who engage in corruption. I would also consider giving incentives to those who report corruption.
LT: Dr Mosisili is finally stepping down after having enjoyed a long stay in power. But recent research results by the Afrobarometer Institute show that most Basotho want the tenure of the prime minister to be limited to just two terms. What are your thoughts on the issue?
TS: A prime minister should only serve for two terms as this is long enough for them to implement their developmental vision for the country.
Every leader should be able to fulfil their vision within two terms and failing to do so, they should just go.
The main problem that is holding this country back in terms of development is the lack of accountability. We need to be accountable as political parties to make the government accountable as well.
But if a leader stays in power for too long they will no longer see the need to be accountable.