THE recent departure of Democratic Congress (DC) secretary general Semano Sekatle to join the All Basotho Convention (ABC) is just the beginning of several such defections amid indications that at least nine more legislators could dump the opposition for the ruling party when parliament reconvenes in January next year.
Some senior ABC officials who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week welcomed the “prized capture” of Mr Sekatle and said more DC legislators would cross the floor to join them when parliament reconvenes.
They said the defection of Mr Sekatle and the impending defection of other DC legislators was the outcome of lengthy negotiations which were underpinned by the ABC’s determination to increase its majority in parliament.
The ABC currently has 51 seats and it is the largest party in the ruling coalition. It combined its seats with the Alliance of Democrats’ nine, the Basotho National Party’s five and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s one, enabling them to pass the 61-seat threshold required to form government in the 120-seat National Assembly.
Mr Sekatle was on Monday unveiled as the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture, filling the vacancy that was created by the sacking of ABC chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe, in August this year.
Mr Sekatle is the member of parliament for the Lebakeng constituency and he received the second highest votes in last year’s national elections. Only Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who stood in the Ha Abia constituency, had more votes than him.
Mr Sekatle, who held different cabinet portfolios in the previous government led by the outgoing DC leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, is the third high-profile DC member to dump the party to join one of the parties in the ruling coalition.
Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane and Deputy Minister of Education Mothepu Mahapa left the DC last year to join Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s AD.
Immediately after being sworn-in at the Royal Palace in Maseru on Monday, Mr Sekatle announced that he had ditched the DC to join Dr Thabane’s ABC.
He said his decision was prompted by the “fact that the DC’s national executive committee (NEC) had made his stay in the party a living hell”.
He said that he chose to join the ABC because “its leader (Dr Thabane) approached him and pulled him out of the hellhole that the DC members were digging for him”.
And yesterday, some senior ABC officials said they expected more DC legislators to join their party.
“We are happy with the capture of Mr Sekatle and this follows lengthy negotiations,” One ABC official said.
“But it doesn’t end with Mr Sekatle and his wife (Dr Pontšo ‘Matumelo Sekatle). We have also negotiated and agreed with some DC legislators to join us. When parliament reconvenes as expected sometime next month to discuss some issues pertaining to the multi-sector reforms process, we expect that nine more DC legislators will cross the floor to join us.”
Another ABC official concurred, adding that the party took advantage of the infighting within the DC to lure disgruntled opposition legislators to join them. The DC has been experiencing high levels of factionalism stemming from several senior members’ disgruntlement with outgoing leader, Pakalitha Mosisili’s perceived preference for the relatively inexperienced Mathibeli Mokhothu to succeed him as party leader.
Ahead of its elective conference next month which will choose Dr Mosisili’s replacement, the DC has been split into two main camps. One faction, known as Melele, is said to favour deputy secretary Tlohang Sekhamane who is set to battle with current DC deputy leader Mokhothu for the DC leader’s post.
Mr Sekhamane is a former finance minister and former member of parliament for the Mokhotlong #79 constituency.
The other faction, known as Liphakoe, is said to have thrown its weight behind Mr Mokhothu in his quest to succeed Dr Mosisili. Mr Mokhothu is the official leader of the opposition in parliament and he is the member of parliament for the Qhoali #68 constituency.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times yesterday, one ABC official said “the ABC was taking advantage of the infighting in the DC to lure some of its disgruntled MPs”.
“We have always been looking at ways to strengthen the party and the infighting in the DC presented us with an opportunity to successfully negotiate with their members,” the ABC official said.
ABC Spokesperson Tefo Mapesela was coy on the claims that more DC MPs and other party members would be crossing over to his party.
“A person’s floor crossing remains a secret until he has finally crossed to another party. Parliamentarians often say they are crossing but that does not materialise every time therefore I will not say anything about the DC members defecting to the ABC until it happens. There are problems in the DC but I cannot go into detail about the negotiations with their MPs,” Mr Mapesela said yesterday.