MASERU — The relentless pressure being exerted on Mothetjoa Metsing suggests that the end is nigh for the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party secretary general, analysts said this week.
LCD youths on Tuesday openly urged Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to fire Metsing from his post as communications minister.
The youths waved placards and sang derogatory songs telling Metsing to “leave the LCD and go home”.
“Lion of the Mountain (Mosisili), this is enough. Fire the minister of communications, science and technology. The LCD has to live,” read one of the placards held by the youths.
The protest at the Moshoeshoe I airport was unprecedented in the history of the LCD and suggested that the gloves are finally off against Metsing.
Metsing is said to be leading a faction of the LCD that is locked in a mortal fight against a rival faction said to be led by Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki. The two factions are said to be both angling to replace Mosisili when and if he steps down.
Metsing has come under serious pressure in recent weeks after whistle-blowing website Wikileaks reported that he told former United States ambassador Robert Nolan that he was concerned with Mosisili’s “dictatorial” behaviour.
Metsing told Nolan that he was not happy with Mosisili’s “decision not to retire at the end of his current term” and his “dictatorial behaviour in keeping a tight rein on party activities”, according to the website.
The candid remarks triggered a political earthquake within the ruling party.
This week the LCD youth league, a key cog in the ruling party machine, went on the offensive against Metsing.
The youth league’s national executive committee is said to be sympathetic to the Moleleki faction.
Analysts who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week said Metsing’s position within the cabinet had now become untenable.
“Metsing’s position has been compromised. His future is bleak,” Lira Theko, who is the President of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations said.
Political scientist from the National University of Lesotho (NUL), Dr Motlamelle Kapa, believes the effect of the pressure being exerted on Metsing might “ultimately push him out”.
“As things stand, it is obvious the conflict within the LCD is such that it cannot be resolved. The differences are not easy to settle hence the need for him to leave,” Kapa says.
He adds that Metsing’s quitting of the LCD might be a blessing in disguise as people might “actually sympathise with him and support him”.
“It may actually increase his power base in politics if he leaves the LCD. Working outside of the ruling party might make him stronger,” Kapa says.
Kapa, who is the author of the political text, The Politics of Coalition in Lesotho, says the blame lies with the LCD for failing to allow internal democracy.
He says this was probably the reason why Metsing had to seek audience with Nolan where he discussed internal LCD internal issues.
“There’s no internal democracy in the LCD, so much that Metsing ended up discussing party issues with outsiders,” Kapa says.
“But this does not happen only in the LCD. The culture of our politics is such that leaders are never challenged. If you do that, you are considered an enemy.”
But Nchafatso Sello, a political analyst and writer, says Metsing’s integrity has remained intact in spite of attacks on his person by the party youths.
“He has remained calm and has displayed a silent resilience. He seems to be a man of principle.
Nothing can taint his future,” Sello says.
“Metsing simply painted a picture of the kind of leadership the LCD has. He did nothing wrong.”
Sello says the LCD youths had seriously damaged the party’s brand by washing the party’s “dirty linen in public”.
“The youth compromised the credibility of the LCD and its government by going to the airport and acting out like they did. They embarrassed their leader and party, not Metsing,” he says.
NUL political science lecturer, Tlohang Letsie, says the ruling party had been looking for an excuse to get rid of Metsing.
“They’ve always wanted him out and tried all mechanisms including the legal route but lost,” Letsie says.
“They are simply trying to annoy him in the hope that he will eventually throw in the towel. Politically, he has always known that stormy times would come. He must be ready.”
Asked whether the youths’ protest was a threat to democracy, Letsie retorted that “there’s no democracy in the ruling party”.
“In an ideal situation, Metsing would be comfortable speaking his mind and expressing his views. But obviously in the LCD democracy is undermined,” Letsie says.
“Metsing is only being persecuted for speaking his mind. Raising issues pertaining to succession in the LCD renders people enemies of the leader.”