‘Congress parties’ reunion a marriage of convenience’

Bongiwe Zihlangu

THE highly publicised rapprochement between congress parties ahead of the 28 February 2015 plebiscite is merely a marriage of convenience occasioned by the current corruption charges against several high ranking congress officials, political analysts have said.
The analysts who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week said the congress parties are coalescing around defeating their common enemy, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, only because of the premier’s anti-corruption crusade which has seen charges levelled against the parties’ top brass.
Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, who formed a coalition government with Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Basotho National Party (BNP) in June 2012, was caught in the anti-corruption dragnet last year after allegations that he took bribes in exchange for a major roads tender awarded to a company without the requisite capacity.
Mr Metsing was asked by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to explain the source of nearly one million maloti which flowed into his accounts. He has since taken the case to the constitutional court alleging that the request infringes upon his rights to privacy.
The coalition government has since collapsed, with Mr Metsing accusing Dr Thabane of failing to consult his fellow coalition leaders when making crucial decisions, prompting the 28 February 2015 snap poll.
Fired Communications, Science and Technology Minister and deputy LCD spokesperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, also faced sedition charges though he was not prosecuted.
Democratic Congress deputy leader, former Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki, still faces three counts of contravening the Mines and Minerals Act for allegedly abusing his office to facilitate the issuance of licences to prospect for diamonds in the Qacha’s Nek district during his time in government.
Last year, Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader Jeremane Ramathebane was also charged with fraud and false representation of members of his political party established in December 2006.
As a result of the seeming onslaught against them, the congress parties, together with their smaller counterparts, the Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and BBDP have been closing ranks to retake power.
However, analysts said should the parties garner enough votes to form a coalition government, they might still encounter the same problems that led to the demise of the Thabane-led coalition government because “their union will not have been founded on principle”.
According to Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) Director, Seabata Motsamai, although there is nothing wrong with the parties reuniting, “it is as good as building a house on sand”.
“They are only getting back together because they see the ABC and BNP as their common enemy, whose agenda is to victimise them,” said Mr Motsamai.
“It is like they are saying ‘we are coming together as congress parties to gang up on you (the ABC and BNP) because that’s the only way we can defeat you.”
“They also see their allies, who occupy strategic or statutory positions, as major targets of their enemies.”
Mr Motsamai, however, warns that if the congress parties do succeed in ousting Dr Thabane and attaining power, they would turn against each other.
“This is just a marriage of convenience. They will eventually turn against each other when they get to the other side,” he said.
“This is an alliance built solely on sand and can collapse any day.”
Testimony to the shaky relationship, Mr Motsamai asserts, is that unlike the united front the congress parties displayed when they were seeking to oust Dr Thabane through a no-confidence motion in parliament last year, each party is now campaigning on its own.
“When they campaign for elections, they do not support each other. It’s a case of every man for himself,” said Mr Motsamai.
“If the reunion was genuine, they would support each other’s election campaigns to boost the prospects of the smaller parties to win constituencies.
“They have not learnt from their mistakes and will quarrel because of their hunger for power. Even if they get back into government, they will fight over ministerial posts, leading to the demise of their coalition administration.”
However, Mr Motsamai also said the congress movement’s adversaries should not just use the anti-corruption drive as their only draw-card “since it is not a sustainable agenda because corruption is found across the board”.
Transformation Resource Centre (TRC)’s Democracy Education and Election Coordinator, Tsikoane Peshoane, echoes Mr Motsamai’s sentiments, describing the much-hyped unification of congress parties as “superficial”.
“As far as I’m concerned, it (unification) is an intricate issue and the congress parties may not even be aware of its complexities,” Mr Peshoane said.
The reunion, he said, is spurred mainly by the two major congress parties, the DC and LCD, which have a common interest in wanting to depose their common enemy; the ABC – BNP alliance.
“It’s a window-dressing of sorts used to amass votes from the scattered congress supporters and an attempt to convince the electorate to vote only for parties that associate themselves with the congress ideology or its founder, the late Dr Ntsu Mokhehle,” he said.
“The now infamous statement by DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili, that nationalists and congress supporters are like oil and water, is now a reality because he has succeeded in dividing the nation.”
If the reunion was genuine, Mr Peshoane said, the DC would dissolve itself and return to the LCD, with the LCD following suit and returning to the BCP “and come out under one umbrella”.
The LCD broke away from the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) in 1997, which in turn splintered to give birth to the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) in 2001, the ABC in October 2006, DC in February 2012 and the recently-launched Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
“They are still going to fight over the allocation of elite posts such as ministerial and other statutory positions, and even the premiership,” Mr Peshoane said.
“For instance, in an effort to avoid being swallowed by the DC, the LCD would not want to be overshadowed in any way.
“As a result, sparks would definitely fly as the parties try to secure benefits for their members.”
Head of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), Motlamelle Kapa, said nothing differentiates congress parties from the rest of the parties in the country.
“The so-called reunion of congress parties is only a concept, and there’s nothing specific setting them apart from other political parties. It’s just a convenient way of gaining political support,” said Dr Kapa.
“Even their election manifestos are not any different from those of political parties not founded on the congress ideology since they don’t address any unique issues.”
He also cast doubt on the sustainability of a congress coalition government, adding that “they would be on each other’s throats”.
“If they could not stick together since 1993 when the BCP assumed power, what guarantee do we have they will this time around?” asked Dr Kapa.
“What they have in common now is that they do not have government power, but if they get it, they will be haunted by similar incidents that resulted in the downfall of the Thabane-led coalition administration.”

Comments are closed.