THE Democratic Congress Youth League (DCYL) has launched a withering attack on the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), escalating a feud that threatens to collapse the seven-party governing coalition.
The influential DCYL, which is part of a faction holding talks with the opposition to form a new government, has accused the LCD of “peddling falsehoods” that DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki is pushing for army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli’s ouster.
The youth wing has also accused the second largest party in the governing coalition of fomenting strife in the DC with a view to subsume the party led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
However, the LCD has also hit back, saying the DC was getting a taste of its own “bitter medicine” for also seeking to destabilise them.
Addressing a press conference in Maseru this week, outspoken DCYL President Thuso Litjobo said the LCD had been “peddling falsehoods” Mr Moleleki was agitating for Lt-Gen Kamoli’s ouster to ensure Lesotho does not forfeit donor and preferential trade support.
Lt-Gen Kamoli’s removal from the helm of the Lesotho Defence Force was among the recommendations of the Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi-led Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s instability. The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended Lt-Gen Kamoli’s dismissal to “restore credibility and trust of the army by the generality of Basotho”.
Lesotho’s major benefactor, the United States, has insisted the Mountain Kingdom would only continue to benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) after taking “concrete actions” that address concerns about “impunity and the rule of law” as well as implementing recommendations made by the SADC Commission of Inquiry.
AGOA gives duty-free and quota-free access to the US market to eligible Sub-Saharan African countries including Lesotho.
Mr Litjobo said the “lies” about Mr Moleleki, who is also Police and Public Safety minister, were meant to sour his relations with Lt-Gen Kamoli.
Mr Moleleki recently admitted being part of the DC faction dubbed Lirurubele (butterflies) and that talks towards forming a new government with former premier and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane were ongoing.
The approval of the army, which holds a lot of sway in Lesotho’s body politic, is seen as an essential element to attaining and retaining power. However it remains to be seem if the exiled Dr Thabane, who has repeatedly insisted he would only return to Lesotho after Lt-Gen Kamoli’s ouster, would acquiesce to an arrangement to accommodate the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander.
Dr Thabane, Basotho National Party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 saying they feared for their lives after being alerted of a plot to kill them by the LDF. However, the LDF has consistently denied the allegations.
“There are allegations that our party’s deputy leader is demanding that Lt-Gen Kamoli be fired. That is not true,” said Mr Litjobo.
“The army commander’s bosses are the ones who have been haggling over who will give Lt-Gen Kamoli his dismissal letter.”
He added: “We know about such intentions and the indecisiveness on their part, and we are exposing this because we have learnt that the blame is now being put on someone’s innocent child (Mr Moleleki).
“All of you know that it has been said this country will not receive donor funding if Ntate Kamoli remains the army commander.”
Mr Litjobo said the cabinet “under the influence of the LCD leader”, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing agreed Lt-Gen Kamoli should step down in line with the SADC Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations.
“That was a decision made by the cabinet, they talked about it and agreed that he (Lt-Gen Kamoli) should be approached on the matter with caution. It was the LCD leader who proposed dismissal as the best way to deal with Ntate Kamoli.”
The DCYL leader further alleged Mr Metsing dispatched Lesotho People’s Congress official Bokang Ramatšella to “lie about Ntate Moleleki” in the media.
“He (Mr Metsing) sent Bokang Ramatšella to radio stations to claim that it is Ntate Moleleki who suggested Ntate Kamoli’s removal,” Mr Litjobo said.
“We also know that an envoy was sent to the LCD National Executive Committee to inform the party it had been decided that Ntate Kamoli should vacate office because aid and funding would not be coming to Lesotho.
“I am saying this to set the record straight and cast away all suspicious against Ntate Moleleki to ensure this issue is associated with its rightful architects in the LCD.”
When asked if Dr Thabane was aggregable to Mr Moleleki’s posture on Lt-Gen Kamoli, Mr Litjobo said: “There will be a (coalition) agreement, but we are not in a position to make any pronouncements as yet. If such an agreement for a new government is made, it will not be announced by us as the DC youth league but by the two parties’ National Executive Committees.”
DCYL Chairperson Lekhotla Matšaba chipped in by accusing the LCD of meddling in their party’s internal affairs and driving a wedge between the two warring factions in the party. The other DC faction, dubbed Lithope (loosely translated to girlfriends), is linked to Dr Mosisili.
Mr Matšaba said it was in the LCD’s nature to meddle in other political parties’ internal affairs.
“The LCD’s behaviour is so appalling that even where there are divisions in churches, it will also be involved,” he said.
“It is a party that mostly operates under the cover of darkness through clandestine meetings. We have several audio recordings of their meetings.”
The sentiment was also echoed by DCYL Secretary-General Letuka Chafotsa who said the LCD had gone on the warpath against the DC.
“Just recently a senior LCD official implored party members to attack a certain faction of the DC. That is clear evidence of the LCD’s meddling in our internal affairs,” he said.
“Not too long ago, LCD Youth League Secretary Potso Shao was seen at a DC rally. Coincidentally some people attacked my colleague Tlhabeli Mojapela.
“When we tried to establish the identity of the people behind the attack on Mojapela, we learnt that they escaped using a vehicle driven by Shao.”
Mr Chafotsa added: “Shao also attacked our Lirurubele faction on radio stations, yet we wrote a letter to demand that they should address any issues they have with us formally.”
He said LCD Secretary-General Selibe Mochoboroane denounced his party’s participation in a march organised by Mr Ramatšella in September this year to show “full solidarity” with the coalition government because “he had realised the march fuelled divisions within the DC”.
Commenting on the DCYL’s attacks, LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata told the Lesotho Times they were “not only shocking but unfounded”.
He said claims the LCD was to blame for the collapse of the Dr Thabane-led coalition government were not factual as the ABC had lost two of its Members of Parliament, Mophato Monyake and Thabiso Litšiba, in 2014 thereby losing their majority.
Mr Sekata said it was noteworthy Mr Litšiba, who is also Small Businesses minister, defected to the DC “and remains part of the Lirurubele faction”.
“Not only did the DC poach Litšiba from the ABC, we also learnt from the then Qoaling constituency legislator Chalane Phori in a radio interview in 2014 that he was being approached by the DC to join the party and leave the ABC,” said Mr Sekata.
“Is it not then safe to say that the collapse of that first coalition was architected by these people in the Lirurubele faction of the DC? They are now trying to destroy the current coalition government.”
Responding to the allegations of meddling, Mr Sekata said they never complained when LCD members defected to the DC during a rally held last year.
“We never complained because we understood that in politics anything can happen. In the Matlekeng constituency, the DC had many people defecting to the DC even though we had already entered into a coalition with them,” he said.
“The DC members are getting a taste of their own bitter medicine and not liking it hence their unfounded claims that the LCD had been meddling in their internal affairs.”
On the DCYL’s claims the LCD had decided to push for Lt-Gen Kamoli’s ouster, Mr Sekata said his party was “the first, if not the only party” in the coalition government to “stand by the army commander and that stance has not changed”.
“We have not changed our position when it comes to supporting the army commander. The DC never came out like we did to openly support the army commander in the face of calls for his dismissal,” he said.
“We have not changed in our position, and remain loyally committed to supporting him as the preferred army commander until the end of his tenure in office.”
Mr Sekata added: “It’s clear that the prime minister whom they continually mock, remains the sole bearer of the powers to appoint and remove from office an army commander in Lesotho.”