The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) holds a special conference this weekend to elect a new National Executive Committee (NEC). The conference comes at a time the party has been rocked by infighting, which threatens the very survival of the organization. The LPC formed a coalition government alongside the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and National Independent Party (NIP) after the 28 February 2015 snap election had resulted in a hung parliament.
LPC spokesperson Bokang Ramatšella speaks with Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, about the conference and recent events in the party.
LT: The LPC is holding a national conference at Lesotho Co-op College this weekend amid a bitter fallout within the NEC. Could you take us through what has been happening in the LPC and also explain what is supposed to happen at the upcoming conference?
Ramatšella: I would like to start by setting the record straight. Ntate Letlotlo (party leader and Social Development Minister Molahlehi Letlotlo) made a statement in the Lesotho Times issue of 18 February 2016, in which he said his faction left the LPC office to open their own somewhere because we, the remaining faction, are fighting them. He added we had also expelled members of the Lesotho Liberation Army Veterans Association (LLAVetA) from the office we had allocated them at our premises. He said we had locked the doors so that they would not gain entry to the office. Our answer, as the LPC, is that Ntate Letlotlo’s statement is not true at all. His statement shows he is someone disgruntled and stranded, so he is looking for sympathy from the public. He knows very well that the war veterans are very important people to the Congress parties, and if he can advance his lie that we had expelled them, all the Congress followers are going to hate us and sympathise with him. But the truth of the matter is that the veterans have not been dismissed from the LPC offices. (This reporter spoke with LLAVetA Secretary General, Khotso Morojele, who was with two members of the association at the same LPC office. Mr Morojele confirmed they had not been dismissed from the LPC office as alleged by the minister).
LT: So could you please explain why Mr Letlotlo and his faction, as you put it, left the LPC office yet he is supposed to be party leader?
Ramatšella: Let me explain that the current LPC National Executive Committee is made up of 14 members. However, the party’s constitution stipulates that there should be 16 members in the NEC. The two additional members are leaders of the youth and women’s leagues, who are therefore, not directly elected into the NEC. We only have 14 NEC members because we have not elected both the youth and women’s leagues. Our constitution further stipulates that decisions can only be taken by a quorum of eight NEC members, who must include the national chairperson or his or her deputy, and secretary general or the deputy. The LPC constitution also stipulates that where the party leader may not be present in that meeting, the eight members can choose a provisional leader among themselves.
So this 14-member committee has split into two factions. On the side of the leader (Mr Letlotlo) there are six people; him, national chairperson Mabala Maqelepo, treasurer ’Mapaballo Molibeli, editor Tseko Koantle and committee members ’Maleseli Leseli and ’Makopano Sekhobo. In our faction, we have eight NEC members, namely myself, deputy leader Mabusetsa Makharilele, deputy chairperson Sefako Phosisi, secretary general Moipone Piet and her deputy Maphoma Sejanamane, deputy publicity secretary Matla Sepitla and two ordinary NEC members Mafereka Tšukulu and ’Mantja Makhakhe. These are 14 members of the LPC NEC officially registered with the Law Office. So according to the constitution, if you talk of LPC NEC members who can make decisions, you can only refer to my faction.
It cannot, therefore, make sense that Ntate Letlotlo and his team can claim to have dismissed us (eight members) from the LPC through a decision reached by six members. We constitute a quorum and they do not. This is why you find us in this office of the LPC because the decision by Ntate Letlotlo and his team to dismiss us is unconstitutional. In fact, there is no effective decision that Ntate Letlotlo and his team can make concerning the LPC. They left not because we expelled them, but because they were frustrated after realising they had lost the fight. Ntate Letlotlo is no longer in control of the LPC. After all, he left the LPC office.
LT: So what should the public make of this development?
Ramatšella: From 27 to 28 February, the LPC is holding a national conference where a decision is going to be made about the leader of the party. As we speak, we don’t consider Ntate Letlotlo as the leader of this party. We have reached a decision to suspend him due to his misconduct. It is wrong for him to claim he is still in control of the party. We are the ones in control. In other words, deputy leader Ntate Makharilele has replaced Ntate Letlotlo until the national conference to be held at Lesotho Co-op College. The conference is also going to elect a new NEC.
LT: Is it correct then to say the LPC has officially split?
Ramatšella: What we have realised is that there is a plan by Ntate Letlotlo’s team to form a new party. But before they finalise their plan, they want to confuse the public as though they remain LPC members. We know quite well how a breakaway political party is formed. We were once members of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) before we split to form the LPC. We know the signs. Ntate Letlotlo and his team are going to deny that they intend to form a new party until they have formalised it. The LPC symbol bears the head of Dr Ntsu Mokhehle (founder of the Congress movement in Lesotho). We have realised with shock that Ntate Letlotlo and his team are using a new symbol bearing his (Mr Letlotlo) head. Although it has not been formalised, Ntate Letlotlo and his team have a new party. They already have shirts bearing the new symbol. When we were about to form the LPC from the LCD in 2001, we were named Lesiba (feather). The same way, we have heard through the grapevine that Ntate Letlotlo’s new party is called Hlooho-ea-’Mankokone (insect head). This has been the trend of how Congress parties split from the time of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP). They have opened a new office and we don’t have a problem with that.
LT: How is this going to affect Ntate Letlotlo’s ministerial position since he was appointed to the post because he was leader of the LPC?
Ramatšella: There are two scenarios here. Firstly, as the LPC NEC, we have since written to the Prime Minister and recommended the removal of Ntate Letlotlo as minister. We are going for a national conference which would decide whether or not the NEC was right in recommending his removal. If Ntate Letlotlo has indeed formed his party and is not going to attend our conference, it means then that it should be easier for the Prime Minister to effect his dismissal from cabinet as per our recommendation. Remember the reason why Ntate Letlotlo is a minister was because he was LPC leader. The new LPC leader is going to emerge from the conference and will replace Ntate Letlotlo as minister. Ntate Letlotlo will continue being a Member of Parliament if he remains in the LPC. The second scenario is whereby he will declare that he has formed his new party and is no longer with the LPC. This means he will lose not only his ministerial position but also parliamentary seat. The LPC will have to replace him with someone in the National Assembly.
LT: What happened to government’s intervention in the LPC dispute? We heard that the government was trying to help the LPC resolve its differences…
Ramatšella: Actually, in the first leg, the six parties in government intervened by establishing a committee to deal with LPC issues. That committee was chaired by Senator and Basotho-Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader Ntate Jeremane Ramathebane. That committee has long submitted a report to cabinet, about the issue. Although a copy of the report has not been given to us as yet, we have been informed by the committee about their findings that Ntate Letlotlo abused his powers as LPC leader. We have also noticed that there are some people in the coalition government who sympathise with Ntate Letlotlo. They are the ones delaying the report because it exposes Ntate Letlotlo. Other leaders are afraid that if that report is published it will open the eyes of their party supporters to follow the same route.
LT: But what exactly is your dispute about?
Ramatšella: Ntate Letlotlo, as LPC leader, does not comply with the party’s constitution at all. He abuses powers. For instance, the NEC will make certain decisions for him to follow, but Ntate Letlotlo will defy them and do as he pleases. The NEC gave him the names of people he was supposed to submit to cabinet for employment, but he submitted different names of his choice. Ntate Letlotlo has brought the LPC to where it is today.
LT: Are you considering becoming the next LPC leader yourself?
Ramatšella: Well, in the long run, yes. I qualify to be the LPC leader in many aspects. But at the moment, I don’t want to be the leader because the party is going through some rough patch and needs people like me to fight. If I am elected leader, I will not be able to fight the way I am doing now. I know our dispute is being exaggerated by some people accusing me of fighting Ntate Letlotlo because they think I want to be the leader, but they are wrong. Actually, more party members recommended myself over Ntate Letlotlo for the leadership of the party at the time Advocate Kelebone Maope (former leader) left, but I withdrew my name to allow him the leadership. He sees me as his threat because of that. I am comfortable in the current position of party spokesperson because it’s easier for me to fight for LPC interests in that position.
LT: Who are the contestants in the coming NEC elections?
Ramatšella: I am not in a position to reveal the names at the moment lest I am accused of being out of bounds.