Don’t write off DC just yet: Analysts

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Pascalinah Kabi

THE main opposition party Democratic Congress was this week left licking its wounds after its secretary general, Semano Sekatle, jumped ship and joined the All Basotho Convention (ABC) where he was immediately rewarded with the post of Tourism Minister.

This is the third major upheaval in the DC in two years after former deputy leader Monyane Moleleki left the party with scores of disgruntled legislators and other members to form the Alliance of Democrats (AD) in December 2016. Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane and Deputy Minister of Education Mothepu Mahapa left the DC last year to join Deputy Prime Minister Moleleki’s AD.

While there are indications that some DC legislators and other members will soon follow Mr Sekatle to the ABC, analysts however, say it is still too early to begin writing the epitaph on the DC’s political tombstone.

They say it is not uncommon for parties to experience splits especially during the time of leadership contests and such splits do not necessarily spell the end as parties can still re-group with new personnel and even emerge stronger than before.

Mr Sekatle jumped ship at a time when the DC is experiencing serious internal squabbles over who should succeed the outgoing party leader Pakalitha Mosisili.

Dr Mosisili who has led the party since its formation has announced that he will not be seeking re-election at next month’s elective conference. Many party bigwigs are reportedly unhappy with his decision to handpick Mathibeli Mokhothu to replace Mr Moleleki after the latter left the DC in 2016.

The party heavyweights say even now, Dr Mosisili wants Mr Mokhothu to take over the reins despite his perceived political inexperience when compared to some party veterans including Mr Sekatle and Deputy Secretary General Tlohang Sekhamane, who has thrown his hat into the contest to succeed Dr Mosisili.

Deputy Secretary General Tlohang Sekhamane has since announced that he is going to challenge Mr Mokhothu at next month’s elective conference.

While Mr Sekhamane has chosen to stay put and slug it out with Mr Mokhothu, Mr Sekatle says he had to leave because Dr Mosisili and some members of the national executive (NEC) had conspired to make his stay in the DC “a living hell”.

“The DC especially the NEC, made my stay in the party a living hell. That made me realise that they didn’t need me in the party and as soon as the National Assembly reopens, I will cross the floor from the DC to ABC,” Mr Sekatle said this week.

“During a recent leadership conference, it was said that I and other legislators were causing commotion within the party because we wanted to join Ntate (Monyane) Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats. It was painful when the leader (Dr Mosisili) was also believing those allegations. People who were mostly accused were Dr Pontšo ‘Matumelo Sekatle, Tlohang Sekhamane, ‘Mamphono Khaketla and myself.

“I noticed there were plans to bury me alive and soon I would be a nobody, not only in the DC but politically. I can say Ntate Thabane approached me at the right time and snatched me from the lion’s claws.”

By the DC’s own admission, the loss of Mr Sekatle is a big one and it is not difficult to see why.

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 Dr Thabane, who stood in the Ha Abia constituency, had more votes than him.

He held different cabinet portfolios in the previous government led by Dr Mosisili and is the third high-profile DC member to dump the party to join one of the parties in the ruling coalition.

Messrs Aumane and Mahapa left the DC last year to join Deputy Prime Minister Moleleki’s AD.

Mr Sekatle said there were many more disgruntled members who could also leave the party. Senior ABC officials also say they expect more defections when parliament reconvenes next month.

Former DC youth league president, Fusi Ramantai, this week told the Lesotho Times that he and other DC youths have already followed in Mr Sekatle’s footsteps to join the ABC.

“Negotiations are at an advanced stage with other members of the (DC) party to join the ABC. I can tell you that it’s not a few but huge numbers are behind Ntate Sekatle and we are going to the ABC to support him,” Mr Ramantai said.

Does this spell doom for the DC?  National University of Lesotho Associate Professor Motlamelle Kapa is one of many analysts who think that the departure of Mr Sekatle and other party stalwarts does not necessarily mark the end of the party.

Professor Kapa this week told the Lesotho Times that it was still too early to consign the DC to the dustbins of political history as the upheavals the party was experiencing were not new to the DC and local politics.

“We need to be careful and we cannot condemn the DC just yet. What we see happening is not new at all. We have seen parties facing difficulties regrouping and coming back stronger. But the DC has suffered a huge blow by losing three of its legislators in the space of two years, including a senior member holding a position of a secretary general (Mr Sekatle),” Prof Kapa said.

He blamed the DC fiasco on the outgoing party leader Dr Mosisili, saying his lack of impartiality in the leadership issue precipitated the fallout that was avoidable.

He said it was too early to immediately tell the implications of Mr Sekatle’s departure and possibly that of his wife. The couple have always shared a political home since they ventured into politics some two decades ago.

His sentiments were echoed by another analysist, Lehlohonolo Tšehlana, who is a former ABC legislator.

Mr Tšehlana said Mr Sekatle had never been an appealing politician in his own right and his departure was not likely to have a significant impact on the DC.

He further argued that Mr Sekatle was introduced to the Lebakeng constituency by Dr Mosisili and his departure from the DC would work against him.

“I have never regarded Ntate Sekatle as a powerhouse in his own right. He doesn’t have a strong political background and his departure will not shake the DC. What will shake DC is Ntate Mosisili’s retirement. Ntate Sekatle’s leaving does not necessarily mean there are people following him. He does not the voters’ loyalty and therefore the DC electorate will not follow him to the ABC.

“Again, he has not done anything for the Lebakeng electorate both as a legislator and former minister. As a former legislator myself, I know that legislators need to frequent their constituencies to cement their loyalty to the people but Ntate Sekatle never did that on his own. Whenever he did that, he was accompanied by Ntate Mosisili,” Mr Tšehlana said.

Another analyst Sofonea Shale differed with Mr Tšehlana, arguing that the latest developments would negatively affect the DC. He said it would be wrong for the DC to think that Mr Sekatle’s departure would leave the party unscathed.

“It is only a fallacy to claim and think that this will not affect them (DC) but the extent to which they are affected will depend on how the DC deals with this matter. For now, they are still focused on attacking the Sekatles. They are focused on the cheap politics of calling the Sekatles political prostitutes and opportunists. They are not dealing with the situation at hand,” Mr Shale said.

He said it was wrong for the DC to accuse the Sekatles of political prostitution and opportunism because politicians generally politicians defected to other parties for opportunities.

He said after all the DC was a splinter party which had emerged from the infighting in the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

“When the DC split from the LCD, the Sekatles were seen as heroes and Ntate Mosisili’s and other DC members’ favourites. And for that reason, the DC cannot say they will prevent other party members from following the Sekatles out of the party. It would actually be in the best interest of the DC if they took a different approach because people like Ramantai and other members have already pronounced themselves.

“So, I suspect that this (the departure of the Sekatles) will have a huge impact on the DC and it will also leave a huge impact on the political persona of Ntate Mosisili because it happened at the end of his political career,” Mr Shale said.

Time will tell whether or not the DC will recover the loss of the Sekatles and other members who are likely to jump ship.

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