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THE Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) split for the fifth time last week after its erstwhile secretary-general Selibe Mochoboroane jumped ship and announced his leadership of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC).
Formed in 1997 by the late congress movement stalwart Dr Ntsu Mokhehle, the LCD first split in 2001 when then deputy leader, Advocate Kelebone Maope, formed the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC).
In 2006, then LCD legislator Thomas Thabane parted ways with the party to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC). The LCD’s then leader and Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, in 2012 responded to internecine party strife by forming the Democratic Congress (DC).
As if those splits were not enough, the LCD broke up again in 2014 with a faction aligned to hitherto secretary general, Keketso Rantšo, formed the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
Mr Mochoboroane’s exit from the LCD was long in coming after rumours swirled of his association with the MEC culminating in a provisional suspension by party leader and deputy premier Mothetjoa Metsing last month.
The Thabana-Morena constituency legislator was suspended for allegedly sabotaging the LCD to prop up his fledgling political party, meaning it was no longer a matter of if but when he would leave the LCD.
In this interview, Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, speaks with LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata on the party’s perennial splits and other related issues.
LT: How has the formation of the MEC by Mr Mochoboroane affected the LCD?
Sekata: We were prepared for it because we knew in advance that something like that would happen. When we realised that something was fishy about the activities of our former secretary-general (Mr Mochoboroane), we provisionally suspended him from office and began to investigate him. We perused our records and indeed found out he was engaged in some activities not beneficial to the party. We then served the former secretary-general with a letter requesting he explain himself within a week. He was faithful enough to respond within seven days to confirm our findings. He admitted that what appeared on the records was exactly what he did.
LT: What exactly was in those records?
Sekata: The records revealed that he was already canvassing for his new party using the LCD’s resources. For instance, he would invite people to a gathering under the pretext it was an LCD rally. During the rally, he would tell the gathering about his new party. It should be clear that we are not against anyone forming his or her own party. We have a problem when such a person uses the LCD’s resources to form a new party. Section 3.1 of our party constitution prohibits us from forming parties at the expense of the LCD. When we were convinced he violated this section, we procedurally used section 12.4 which provides powers to the party leader to suspend any member of National Executive Committee (NEC). Our leader used that section to suspend Ntate Mochoboroane and the suspension was endorsed by the NEC. The NEC has powers to approve or disapprove the leader’s decisions. In this case, the NEC endorsed the leader’s decision particularly because Ntate Mochoboroane admitted guilt and he was unapologetic about it.
It should be clear, however, that he was not suspended from the party. The NEC does not yield powers to dismiss Ntate Mochoboroane from the party. Only the Disciplinary Committee could suspend him from the party. We were still in the process of writing a letter to the Disciplinary Committee to inform it about Ntate Mochoboroane’s behaviour when suddenly he announced his new party. Nonetheless, even where Ntate Mochoboroane would be suspended from the party by the Disciplinary Committee, he could appeal such a decision at the party’s general conference. The general conference is the highest body of the party. Its decisions supersede those of any committee in the party structures. The general conference could find him not guilty but Ntate Mochoboroane could not wait for all these to be exhausted because his intention was clear that he wanted to form his party.
LT: But hasn’t Mr Mochoboroane’s exit, along with other LCD members who jumped ship to join forces with him, crippled your party?
Sekata: We are not worried by his exit. It gives us a chance to realise who our real people are. The LCD is not paralysed by Ntate Mochoboroane’s exit. He only left with two people from our NEC, him being the third one. All in all, we have 14 NEC members. So if he only managed to reduce that by three, we are left with 11 people which is not a big deal. In other committees, he managed to take one member from the Women’s League out of 14 members. Coming to the Youth League, he managed to take four people out of 14 youths. These numbers are quite small to say he paralysed us. And from five Elders Committee members, he only managed to leave with one member. Although we don’t have proof as yet, but we know quite well that Ntate Mpho Malie, from the Elders Committee, is leaving with Ntate Mochoboroane.
LT: At one point, Mr Malie was believed to be a major funder of the LCD, especially during the party campaigns, and that he allegedly influenced Mr Metsing on what direction the LCD should take. What happened?
Sekata: Personally, I am quite happy that the old man is finally leaving us. He has been one of the people who brought trouble into the congress movement. It’s good riddance. We thank God that he is finally leaving us. I can guarantee you that after Ntate Malie’s departure from the LCD, you are going to see good things come our way in the entire congress movement. He is one person who sowed seeds of confusion within the congress movement.
LT: Can you elaborate on how Mr Malie has been troublesome in the congress movement?
Sekata: From as way back as 1993, when we were all still members of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP), there was what was called the Pressure Group. Let me tell you how the Pressure Group came into being; Mahata-’Moho (as the congress people are affectionately known) complained mainly about three people in the party, namely Messrs Malie, Monyane Moleleki and Thomas Thabane. The Pressure Group is the ultimate reason for the formation of the LCD around 1997. Ntate Thabane later left to form the ABC in 2006, while Ntate Moleleki recently left the Democratic Congress (DC) to form his Alliance of Democrats (AD). So now, we were left with this one old man (Mr Malie) in our midst. Even when Advocate Kelebone Maope formed the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) around 2002, he had complained about these three people. Messrs Malie and Moleleki were behind the DC formation in 2011, breaking away from the LCD. The DC formation was instigated by a deep factionalism within the LDC at the time. Ntate Malie led the Litima-Mollo faction and Ntate Moleleki led Lija-Mollo, and the latter eventually went to the DC. We are grateful to God that the men have finally all left us.
LT: There’s general perception that because Mr Mochoboroane is regarded a powerful politician, his exit from the LCD spells doom for the party. This view is buttressed by the fact that he was the only LCD legislator who won his Thabana-Morena constituency other than Mr Metsing. What do you say to that?
Sekata: In the first place, I personally don’t think Ntate Mochoboroane was powerful in the LCD. Ahead of the 2015 elections, from which we only managed to win two constituencies like you said, our nationwide campaign team was led by Ntate Mochoboroane. This is where he ought to have proved himself as the powerful politician he is perceived to be. We were not putting him to a test when we appointed him to lead our campaign, but it was because we were also made to believe he was powerful. Quite unfortunately, out of 80 national constituencies, Ntate Mochoboroane, through his campaign leadership, managed to win us only two constituencies losing 78 constituencies. Is that a powerful man? I categorically disagree. Ntate Mochoboroane might have been powerful out there as an individual and a minister, but definitely he was a loser within our party structures. I want to make another example of Ntate Mochoboroane’s predecessor, Mme Keketso Rantšo, who, during her tenure as our secretary-general managed to win us 12 constituencies in the 2012 elections. That gave us 26 seats in parliament. But with Ntate Mochoboroane, we now only have 12 parliamentary seats. If I were to give him the benefit of the doubt on the 78 constituencies we lost in 2015, at least he should have retained the 10 constituencies of the 12 Mme Keke won in 2012?
LT: In addition to the committee members you mentioned, Mr Mochoboroane has said he is leaving with “4+1” LCD members of parliament in the National Assembly. What do you say about that?
Sekata: To me, what he meant by that was that he is leaving with four LCD MPs, him being the fifth. Even on this one, we cannot say he is powerful yet he only manages to get away with four MPs out of 12 members we have in parliament. This means we still have seven MPs on our side. That is not serious damage to the LCD. But having said that, we only know about one MP who is leaving with him, and that is Tšoanelo Ramakeoane. As the NEC, we are not aware of any other MP leaving us as yet. At one point, Ntate Mochoboroane even said I support him too! So don’t take his claims seriously.
LT: Have you initiated any disciplinary measures against Mr Ramakeoane the same way you did with Mr Mochoboroane?
Sekata: We haven’t taken any action as yet because we wanted to have solid evidence first. It was only very recently that he announced on radio that he supports Mr Mochoboroane’s MEC and invited people to join the party. So now we are talking about solid evidence from that radio recording. We are going to use the same section 3.1 to discipline him. Additionally, with Ntate Ramakeoane, we will also refer to the electoral law which, among others, provides that a proportional representative (PR) MP loses his or her seat when he or she leaves his or her original party and joins another one. Our parliamentary caucus will write to the speaker quoting Standing Order No. 27(2) to dismiss Ntate Ramakeoane from the house. We will replace him on our PR list.
LT: Now that Messrs Malie, Moleleki and Thabane have left the congress movement, as you state, what progress can we expect in your congress parties?
Sekata: Something big is going to happen soon. We may refer to it as the congress renaissance. We are going to sit down as congress parties and map out how we can remerge. You will see that in the coming local government elections, which will be held in September 2017.