Lesotho opposition in turmoil

THE dramatic collapse of the alliance between the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and the Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) is the most vivid illustration that the opposition in Lesotho is in turmoil.

The alliance which was formed ahead of the 2007 general elections had promised so much and yet delivered so little for opposition supporters.

The collapse of the alliance last Thursday has left opposition supporters on both sides of the alliance thoroughly disillusioned.

With a general election looming in the next 24 months the opposition faces a herculean task of reorganising itself if it intends to make any significant impact at the polls.

Failure to reorganise will confine the opposition movement to the dustbin of history.

That would be tragic for Lesotho which has a troubled post-independence history.

It has since emerged that the “divorce” between the ABC and the LWP has not been accepted by the parties’ rank and file.

This is clearly evident from the skirmishes that we saw last weekend.

The intra-party violence is the clearest evidence that all is not well within the opposition forces.

The violent reaction would seem to suggest that the split was engineered from the top with no input from the general membership of the alliance.

If this was so, this was a grave miscalculation.

Grassroots supporters of the ABC-LWP alliance appear viscerally opposed to the split and believe the decision was simply an act of political suicide.

We agree.

In fact we are of the firm conviction that the ABC, which posed the biggest threat to the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s 12-year grip on power, shot itself in the foot.

The party has allowed itself to make a serious tactical miscalculation hardly 24 months before the country goes for a general election.

The tragedy is that this miscalculation was totally of its own making.

Instead of consolidating the gains the alliance scored in 2007, the leaders of the alliance are busy tearing each other.

The reality is that the bitter infighting within the opposition forces will derail and take backwards the push for a democratic Lesotho.

We prefer to see a strong and vibrant opposition that can advance Lesotho’s democratisation agenda.

A divided opposition that is too weak to press for change is a disservice to the electorate.

We think the biggest losers in the split are the citizens of this country who expect ABC leader Tom Thabane and his LWP counterpart Macaefa Billy to keep the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on its toes.

We all know that incumbent governments in Africa are notorious for exploiting splits within political parties to play one faction against another in a bid to hang on to power even when it is clear that they are past their sell-by date.

It would be tragic for Thabane and Billy if they were to allow themselves to go into the next election divided.

The alliance had struggled to win votes as a united entity and it would be folly on their part if they were to think they can win elections when they are divided.

Now that they are split the two parties will certainly struggle more to make an impact during elections.

If any of the opposition leaders cannot see this simple reality then they have no business in politics.

Politicians may not like each other but they often have no option but to strike deals even with the devil for expediency’s sake.

It takes coalitions and alliances, especially in Africa, to wrest power from incumbent governments.

Thabane and his cohorts within the ABC must also admit that they bungled in the manner they handled the split.

This was one big public relations disaster.

The rank and file supporters are not happy because they were never consulted in the first place.

This was a decision made at the top which is being forced down upon those at the lower rungs of the party.

And there is resistance.

Thabane must salvage the party that he formed.

His legacy is certainly at stake.

We would like to assume Thabane cares about his legacy and would not want to be remembered as a man who gave the LCD a big fright at the polls only to wreck the party that he formed a few years later.

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