Defections hit established parties

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  • as prominent politicians flock to Matekane’s party
  • AD hardest hit after defection of four top officials
  • Even PM Majoro said to be on his way to RPF

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE floodgates seem to have opened for the Revolution for Prosperity (RPF) with prominent politicians from well-established parties this week defecting to the new political formation of business tycoon Sam Matekane.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD) is the hardest hit after four of its senior national executive committee (NEC) members, including secretary general Mahali Phamotse, and her deputy Batlokoa ‘Makong, ditched the party to join what is increasingly looking like a great trek to the RFP.

AD treasurer and former Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane, and former Deputy Minister of Health, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, have also opted to dump the AD. Ms Phohleli was the AD women’s league president. The departures mean the AD is basically crumbling as the two heads of its secretariat – the most vital department of any political party – have abandoned ship. It’s difficult to see how the party can survive the defections of its highly influential leaders.

There is also swirling speculation that embattled Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and his allies in the ruling but fractious All Basotho Convention (ABC) are only bidding their time before joining the RFP. Some ABC sources alleged that Dr Majoro and Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Matšepo Ramakoae, had even been to Mr Matekane’s rural home in Mantšonyane, Thaba Tseka for clandestine meetings with him barely a few days after the launch of the RFP at the business tycoon’s Mpilo Boutique Hotel in Maseru.  Dr Majoro has been rendered an outlier in the ABC after he lost the party’s leadership race to Mr Kabi and subsequently quit its NEC.  His political career will effectively end at the next elections unless he forms his own party or defects to another, owing to the bad blood between him and Mr Kabi as well as other top ABC officials.

Dr Majoro, through his spokesman Buta Moseme, and Ms Ramakoae denied they were planning to defect to the RFP. They said their trip to Mantšonyane had nothing to do with Mr Matekane and his RFP.

They said they had only gone there to support the acting Agriculture, Food Security and Marketing Minister, Letsitsi Mokoma, who was handing over some classroom bocks he had built in the area. Mr Mokoma is the ABC’s Mantšonyane MP.

Ms Ramakoae nonetheless did not rule out the possibility of jumping ship.

“I’m still a member of the ABC and I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon. It was just a coincidence that we were seen in Mantšonyane on the said day. We were supporting Minister Mokoma who was handing over some schools that he had built in his area.

“However, if my (Matsieng constituency) people lead the way and tell me to join the RFP, I will not hesitate to do so. Even if they tell me to go jump into the deep end, I will oblige because they have given me the mandate. Over the years, they have respected me and now it is my turn to heed what they tell me to do,” Ms Ramakoae said in an interview yesterday.

Asked about Dr Majoro’s plans, Mr Moseme said, “Prime Minister Majoro will not be leaving the ABC”.

He said it was “a blue lie” that Dr Majoro’s Mantšonyane visit had anything to do with Mr Matekane’s new party.

“On that particular Friday, the acting minister of agriculture, Mantšonyane legislator Mokoma, had invited the prime minister and cabinet ministers to witness the handover of two school buildings. He (Majoro) just went there to grace that event and the pictures and videos are on his Facebook page.

“So that allegation falls off. His being in Mantšonyane had nothing to do with the formation of the new party. Dr Majoro therefore reiterates that he remains an honourable member of the ABC,” Mr Moseme said.

Dr Majoro quit the NEC of the ABC after he lost his bid for the party’s leadership to Nkaku Kabi in January, becoming just an ordinary member of the party.

While questions continue to swirl around Dr Majoro, Ms Ramakoae and other senior ABC officials’ intentions, no such doubts exist about Dr Phamotse, Messrs Aumane, ‘Makong and Ms Phohleli.

And if AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo is to be believed then more AD bigwigs are on their way to Mr Matekane’s party.

Dr Phamotse handed in her resignation letter to AD leader Moleleki on Tuesday morning at his Qoatsaneng, Maseru residence.

The Lesotho Times crew that had been invited by Mr Moleleki for an early morning interview, found Dr Phamotse in the living room of her former leader’s residence. She was in the company of the AD leader’s wife, Malimpho Moleleki, and the couple’s eldest daughter, Limpho.

A day earlier, this publication had sought her out to shed light on the reasons for dumping the party she helped found in 2016.

Dr Phamotse said “things had not been good for a while in the AD but I had stuck it out for my leader because I had hoped he would eventually become Lesotho’s Prime Minister”.

She did not say what had caused her to think this was no longer possible. She however, said while the AD had sound policies, it was a “small party” without the clout of the mega-rich RFP.

In an apparent dig at Mr Moleleki who had nothing but praise for her in his interview with this publication, Dr Phamotse said although the AD preached the same gospel as the RFP on job creation, national unity and fighting corruption, the difference between the two parties was that “the RFP leader (Matekane) has a reputation for being an implementer”. (See story on page 4).

In her 4 April 2022 resignation letter, Dr Phamotse says, “with this letter and under immense pressure, I resign from the office of Alliance of Democrats secretary general due to circumstances beyond my control.

“I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the conference that entrusted me with the important role of being one of the party custodians. I am very grateful for the cooperation and support that I have been rendered by the NEC, other committees and the membership at large,” Dr Phamotse states.

Mr Aumane also confirmed his departure from the AD, saying he had been left without a choice after his Semenya constituents told him to join the RFP.

“I discussed this at length with my leader Ntate Moleleki and he gave me his blessings to go ahead (and join the RFP). He advised to always do as the electorate sees fit. So, yes, it’s true that I have left though I was still comfortable being a part of the AD. I have no other reason to leave besides respecting the electorate’s wishes. I have not in any way betrayed my leader and the AD. I’m now an RFP member and I think Ntate Moleleki saw value in the new party,” Mr Aumane said this week.

Meanwhile, Ms Phohleli said although she had not yet formally resigned, she was considering doing so because her husband had already jumped onto the RFP bandwagon.

“I have not yet left but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if I leave because my husband has already left. It is my obligation to support my partner in all his endeavours. I’m packing my stuff and it’s just a matter of time. It’s just that I need to make sure that I leave things in order because I don’t want any stories after my departure,” Ms Phohleli said.

Advocate ’Makong was not reachable on his mobile phone for comment.

AD spokesperson Litjobo said more defections from the AD to the RFP were looming.

He said all AD MPs and NEC members had been given a clear directive to attend the party’s recent rally in Mosalemane but those who did not attend were seen at the RFP’s weekend rally in Mantšonyane.

Those who attended the RFP rally included Dr Phamotse and Mr Aumane.

“They should know that they will endure some problems in their new political home but if they come back, we will welcome them back,” Mr Litjobo said.

Yesterday, the AD NEC called a press conference to dispel rumours that the party was considering merging with the RFP.

Speaking at the press briefing, AD deputy chairperson, Kose Makoa, conceded that there was an exodus from the party to the RFP.

“However, we are not the only party that’s losing members to the RFP. Other parties are also affected. We are also gaining members from other parties as well,” Mr Makoa said.

Others who are said to have joined the RFP include the Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL) leader and only MP, Limpho Tau.

Despite leading a very small and little-known party, Mr Tau has played an active role in parliament.

In 2019, he was part of the parliamentary ad hoc committee which persuaded the government to amend its controversial 2018 wool and mohair regulations which had barred farmers from selling their produce through external brokers as they had always done.  Mr Tau was not reachable for comment on his mobile phone yesterday.

Dr Phamotse, Messrs Tau, Aumane and others’ defection to the RFP means that the new party already has representation in parliament.

It has already had widespread visibility due to the fact that it has attracted prominent Basotho who had previously shied away from politics.

They include former Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane; former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and Moshoeshoe Walk organiser, Thabo Maretlane. Former Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) head of investment promotion, Mokhethi Shelile, prominent businessman Lephema Lebona and former Accountant General, Sam Mphaka, are also part of Mr Matekane’s team.

Well-known businessmen, Jacob Makhalanyane and Motlomelo Motlomelo, have also joined the RFP from the AD and ABC respectively.

Many more stalwarts from established parties could be lured to the new party in the months before the elections expected in October this year.

The DC has already lost former government secretary and finance minister Tlohang Sekhamane to the RFP. In the case of the DC however, Mr Sekhamane’s departure can be seen as being good for that party as he was accused of sulking and destabilizing it after his defeat to Mathibeli Mokhothu for the party leadership position in 2019.

 

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