MASERU – “I have accepted your support of me,” said Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Sunday as he welcomed a crowd of about 5 000 that marched to State House to shore up his waning political star.
The crowd was supposed to boost Mosisili’s image as he battles to keep control of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, torn apart by high level factionalism.
Analysts say with less than a year before the country holds a crucial general election, Mosisili needs nothing short of a Houdini act to retain his position both within the party and the government.
The omens don’t seem auspicious at all.
Bitter factional fights have driven the LCD on the brink of a split that could put paid to its chances of retaining power in early next year’s polls.
The economy is staggering from a recession and the government’s austerity measures have fed discontent.
A group which is a medley of discontented LCD members and other elements of the opposition will today meet to put final touches to its plan to protest against the government’s job freeze.
The All Basotho Convention, Lesotho’s biggest opposition party by way of parliamentary seats, is now hoping the problems engulfing the ruling party could help them at the polls.
That hope is not without reason.
A split LCD could sure lose the election and will not be able to muster enough parliamentary seats to elect Mosisili as the prime minister.
Yet even without an official split Mosisili could still struggle to retain his position if he remains as isolated as he is.
He might find it difficult to get enough support from his MPs who are already divided along factional lines that are not necessarily pro the prime minister.
The crowds on Sunday were supposed to show a man still in charge.
But, events starkly betrayed how the man at the helm of Lesotho’s politics for the past 13 years has been deserted by his comrades and left vulnerable.
He cut a lone figure among the multitudes.
Most members of the national executive committee, his inner ruling elite, were notable by their absence.
Even his second-in-charge, Deputy Prime Minister and LCD deputy leader Lesao Lehohla, a man always by Mosisili’s side, stayed away although he says he had other commitments on that day.
This was the first in a long time that Lehohla failed to appear before the crowds with Mosisili, except for when he has been out of the country on official duty.
The ecstatic crowd mainly comprising bussed youths from areas such as Machache, Hololo, Malingoaneng, Qeme, Koro-Koro, Kolonyama, Taung, Sebapala, ‘Maliepetsane, Mohobollo, Pulane, Likhoele constituencies crooned praise songs.
But such is the hazard that Mosisili has become to the party that executive members fear any public gestures at showing support for him could worsen the LCD’s situation.
He admitted as much.
“Members of the executive committee maintained that agreeing to the march would be tantamount to pouring paraffin on already raging flames. I still remember those words vividly,” Mosisili told the crowd of the LCD national executive committee’s decision to stop the march on Friday.
“The executive committee knew of plans by the national youth and women’s committees to hold a march of this nature but was opposed to it,” Mosisili said.
“I decided to let it continue anyway,” he said of his decision to override the national executive committee’s decision.