…blames party leader for the sensational departure
Veteran politician and Public Service minister, Dr Motloheloa Phooko, has quit the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) amid sensational claims of a bitter fallout with party leader Mothetjoa Metsing and some members of the National Executive Committee.
Dr Phooko (75), who was elected LCD deputy leader in 2012, yesterday told the Lesotho Times he had decided to quit the party due to a complete breakdown of trust with Mr Metsing and some unnamed NEC members.
The minister revealed he had since joined the newly formed Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), alongside several other disgruntled LCD members. Mr Metsing, he added, showed him such disrespect he would not even bother to inform him and the rest of the party’s NEC about his decision to leave the LCD.
“I have decided to leave the LCD and have not told Metsing and the NEC about this, and I don’t think there is any need to anyway, considering the way I was being treated of late,” Dr Phooko told the Lesotho Times.
“My main reason for leaving the LCD was Ntate Metsing. I was his deputy, so I expected to work with him closely for the growth of the party. But because he was extremely selfish and pompous, he would side-line me in everything, and I would hear about certain party activities from other members of the NEC or even ordinary LCD supporters.
“I felt he no longer considered me a colleague, let alone his deputy, as he would openly refuse to take any advice from me. This was a clear indication that he no longer trusted me, hence my decision to leave and be with the RCL.”
Dr Phooko would not say in what capacity he was joining the RCL—a party which is allegedly led by another former LCD NEC member, Keketso Rantšo. Ms Rantšo, who is also Labour and Employment minister and was suspended as LCD secretary general early this year after falling out with Mr Metsing, has persistently denied any links with the RCL although she attended the party’s election campaigns in Thaba-Bosiu and Machache constituencies on Sunday.
“The LCD is this divided today because of Ntate Metsing’s selfishness. He forgets that this is an organisation with a membership and proper structure, and only wants things to be done his way. He does not tolerate any opposing views, hence the discontent within the party.
“What is surprising is that he is already a leader of the LCD, but remains power-hungry. One wonders what other power he wants because on top of that, he is also the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs. So why can’t he be content with all this?”
Asked when he realised that his days in the LCD could be numbered, Dr Phooko said: “It all started around September this year, during one of our NEC meetings when I pleaded with Ntate Metsing to stop holding secret meetings, popularly known as ‘Linakeli’, at constituency level. I told him the supporters were complaining about the meetings and that they were tarnishing his image as he was supposed to be the leader of the party and encouraging these secret meetings was not proper for someone of his stature. I advised him to ask NEC members to organise him proper meetings in the constituencies if he had something to say to the supporters.
“He never listened and openly told me that he was going to continue holding the secret meetings. And to my surprise, he even held one in my own constituency of Lithabaneng, without even informing me about it.
“This was a clear indication that he did not trust me to be present when he addressed these meetings.”
Another “shocker”, according to Dr Phooko, was on 10 October this year when the Lithabaneng constituency committee, youth and women’s leagues were elected without his knowledge. The sitting committees at the time were also not aware that they were being replaced, he added.
“Ntate Metsing just gathered his supporters from Lithabaneng constituency and made them elect people of his choice to fill-up those positions. This was dictatorship of the worst kind, but it never bothered him that this had not gone down well with many members of the party.”
However, Dr Phooko said because of the love he had for the LCD, he approached the chairman of the LCD Veterans Committee, Mr Lesao Lehohla, a week after this development, for intervention.
“I asked Ntate Lehohla to intervene and arrange a meeting where he could speak with me and Ntate Metsing about these disturbing developments. However, Mr Metsing never showed up for the meeting, and later claimed he could not come because he was sick.
“Ntate Lehohla arranged another meeting the same month but again, Ntate Metsing cancelled it without any explanation. The meeting was supposed to be at 9am on a Tuesday, but he decided not to come. Surprisingly, he attended Parliament the same afternoon, and when I approached him and asked why he had cancelled the meeting, he said he would call me and Ntate Lehohla later but he never did.”
Dr Phooko also said the LCD NEC has been preparing for the 28 February 2015 snap election, and also meeting for other important party issues, but he had never been invited despite being deputy leader.
“By so doing, the NEC had literally dismissed me as deputy leader of the party, and so I decided to oblige them their wish. I should make it clear that I am now a ‘Bolekana’, a member of the RCL. I should also make it clear that most of the people Metsing hated are now ‘Bolekana’.”
Dr Phooko further lamented the RCL’s late registration with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), although he insisted the party, whose NEC is yet to be revealed, would contest the 28 February 2015 parliamentary poll. He also claimed some LCD members had gone to the Law Office to check if his name was on the list of the RCL leadership.
“My name was not on the list, but I was part of the establishment of that party. I was just smart enough to realise that they would go there and check and decided to withhold my name,” he said.
“However, I was ready to go and sign the Electoral Pledge for a peaceful election that other party leaders signed before SADC Facilitator (to Lesotho’s political and security crisis), Cyril Ramaphosa last week, after it became clear that I no longer had a place in the LCD.”
Contacted yesterday for comment regarding Dr Phooko’s resignation, LCD Acting Secretary General, Tšeliso Mokhosi said he was not aware of it.
“There was rumour going on that he was a member of the RCL but since we had no proof about this, there was nothing the party could do about it. We believed these were mere allegations meant to discredit him.
“But if it is true that Ntate Phooko has left the LCD for the RCL without officially notifying our NEC or the leader, Ntate Metsing, the LCD takes it as unfair and an embarrassing move because we trusted him as our leader, and senior citizen of this country,” Mr Mokhosi said.
Asked if allegations raised by Dr Phooko were true, Mr Mokhosi said: “Ntate Phooko is supposed to be a respected minister of His Majesty’s government and also a senior citizen who is expected to live for the truth, but unfortunately, his allegations against Ntate Metsing and the NEC prove otherwise.
“We never received any complaints from our Lithabaneng constituency committee, the NEC or our leader about Dr Phooko. This only means the LCD put its trust in someone unworthy of being a leader. It is a shame because the membership of the party trusted him to be the next in line to lead the LCD.
“Anyway, Dr Phooko is free to make his own decisions as provided in our national constitution. We are definitely going to miss his skills, intelligence and determination as the LCD,” said Mr Mokhosi, who is also Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs minister .
However, Mr Mokhosi pleaded with Dr Phooko to officially inform the LCD NEC of his decision to leave the party.
“It is really unfair that he has not told us that he is leaving because the party’s NEC had been working hand-in-hand with him, contrary to what he has told you,” Mr Mokhosi said.