LCD to go it alone at the polls

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  • as Metsing abandons electoral pact with Mokhothu

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) says its election alliance with the Democratic Congress (DC) is dead in the water and the two parties will separately contest the next elections whenever they are held.

The move, which was announced by LCD stalwart, Mamello Morrison, on behalf of the LCD’s Resolutions Committee this week, brings to an end a cordial working relationship between the two parties which began when former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was at the helm of the DC. The decision to terminate the electoral pact was reached at the LCD’s weekend elective conference in Hlotse, Leribe.

“The 6th to 8th December 2019 conference has reached the decision not to partner with the DC in elections,” Ms Morrison said, adding, “The LCD will stand alone in all elections”.

The DC was formed in 2012 by then LCD leader Dr Mosisili who opted out of the party after falling out with the LCD’s national executive committee (NEC) which he accused of undermining his leadership.

From 2012 to 2015, the LCD, now led by Mr Metsing entered into a coalition government with then and current Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC).

But the LCD and the DC found each other again after a fallout between Mr Metsing and Dr Thabane led to the February 2015 polls which ushered in a seven party coalition with Dr Mosisili as prime minister and Mr Metsing as his deputy.

When that government was toppled in a no confidence vote on 1 March 2017, Dr Mosisili, Mr Metsing and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane, inked a deal not to field candidates against each other in the ensuing 3 June 2017 polls.

Under that agreement, the DC fielded candidates in 54 out of a total 80 electoral constituencies nationwide while the LCD fielded candidates in 25 constituencies. The PFD fielded only one candidate, Adv Rakuoane, in his Qalo stronghold in Butha-Buthe.

This week, the LCD announced the collapse of the election pact in a move some party sources say is the product of the breakdown of relations between the two parties ever since Mr Mathibeli Mokhothu succeeded Dr Mosisili at the helm of the DC after the latter stepped down in January 2019.

The sources said that Messrs Mokhothu and Metsing were fighting over who is the greatest in the ranks of the opposition and congress movement.

The sources said that while Mr Metsing was happy to defer to Dr Mosisili, he now feels the latter’s retirement has opened the door for him to assume that mantle. “As one who served as deputy prime minister and is much older than Ntate Mokhothu, Ntate Metsing is not willing to play second fiddle and he feels the mantle of congress leader has passed to him from Ntate Mosisili,” one source said of the sour relations between the 52 year-old Mr Metsing and the 41 year-old Mr Mokhothu.

However, the newly appointed LCD spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele, this week told the Lesotho Times that said the decision to end the electoral pact “was not based on a fallout or malice but it was reached after realising that the agreement failed to achieve its aim of ensuring the LCD got more seats in the last elections”.

Mr Ratšele said despite inking the deal, the LCD only won one seat in the 2017 elections whereas it had own two without the pact in the 2015 elections. He said this was a clear indication that the electoral pact with the DC and PFD was not helpful to the LCD.

“Voters did not agree with the pact because they did not understand it so they did not vote for other parties’ candidates even where it was agreed that they should vote for other parties’ candidates. The aim of the electoral pact was to help each of the three parties (DC, LCD and PFD) to win more constituencies and ultimately the election. But that failed and we have had to reconsider the pact,” Mr Ratšele said.

He said another reason for abandoning the alliance was to enable the LCD to gauge itself to determine its strengths and weakness without being overshadowed by another party.

“We want to see if we are growing or declining as a party. We can only do that by going for elections on our own so that we can work harder if we are declining.”

He said in any event, the DC had already stated its desire to end the partnership and all that the LCD had done was to confirm an accomplished fact by announcing the termination of the electoral pact.

On his part, the DC leader Mr Mokhothu yesterday told the Lesotho Times that the electoral pact ended after the 2017 polls and it had failed to achieve its objectives of ensuring the parties own more seats in the elections.

“It is not that there is any clash between us and we can still work together on other issues. But the two sides have to acknowledge that the electoral pact didn’t work for both of us,” Mr Mokhothu said.

The LCD’s termination of the electoral pact comes barely a month after fellow opposition parties which are represented in parliament brokered talks between Messrs Mokhothu and Metsing to reconcile the parties which have been feuding ever since the advent of Mr Mokhothu in January 2019.

The talks were also aimed at forging a broad opposition coalition to topple Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

A united opposition in combination with the Professor Nqosa Mahao faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) would garner enough votes to topple Dr Thabane in a no confidence vote in parliament.

The embattled premier faces a tough battle to remain in power after disgruntled ABC legislators loyal to his estranged party deputy, Prof Mahao, filed a no confidence motion against him in parliament in June 2019.

The motion, which is yet to be tabled and voted on after it was recently thrown out by the Speaker of Parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, on the grounds that it did not have “any basis in both the constitution and in the practice of parliament”.

The shock ruling is despite that Mr Motanyane sought Attorney General, Haae Phoofolo’s legal opinion on the issue and the latter advised that the Mahao faction were within their rights to file the motion against the embattled premier who has only been at the helm of government for two years following the ABC’s victory in the 3 June 2017 snap elections.

The no confidence motion is the culmination of several months of infighting stemming from Dr Thabane’s refusal to accept the February 2019 election of Prof Mahao as deputy leader on the grounds that the latter is a relative newcomer who should not have been elected ahead of more seasoned party stalwarts.

It was filed by the ABC’s Koro-Koro constituency legislator, Motebang Koma, and he was seconded by the DC’s deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa.

Although the motion is supported by all other opposition parties, a vote against Dr Thabane is unlikely to succeed without the support of the LCD which has been holding out for a possible coalition deal with whichever ABC faction is prepared to accept its demands for a government of national unity (GNU) and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC).

The LCD is also demanding the release of murder-accused former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and other detained soldiers. Mr Metsing has even held talks with Dr Thabane in June 2019 but so far no deal has been reached. His well-publicised fallout with Mr Mokhothu has militated against a broad opposition front to possibly bring down Dr Thabane’s government.

The rest of the opposition consider the ABC ripe for the taking due to the bitter Mahao-Thabane feud and the consequent no confidence motion, hence the move to bring Messrs Mokhothu and Metsing to the negotiating table.

Commenting on the fate of last month’s talks between the DC and LCD, Mr Mokhothu said the only they had agreed was for their supporters to be urged to refrain from attacking each other on social media over the parties’ differing positions on the no confidence motion  against Dr Thabane.

He said they were still to discuss a deal for the LCD to support the motion.

“Our talks were about the no confidence vote. We held differing views about the motion because while the DC was saying the government should be voted out of office, the LCD appeared reluctant to adopt that view hence we differed. But we (DC) were saying although we differ we should still talk to each other to see how we can resolve the issue. So far we only agreed to stop our supporters from attacking each other but we were never actually discussed the core issue of the no confidence motion and we still need to deliberate on it,” Mr Mokhothu said.

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