- uproar over selection of 10 Matekane allies to represent RFP without holding primaries,
- criteria for aspiring candidates in other 69 constituencies includes interviews by Matekane,
- dissatisfied members vow to challenge party leader in court.
Bongiwe Zihlangu/’Marafaele Mohloboli
BUSINESSMAN-CUM-POLITICIAN, Sam Matekane, has sparked a huge uproar within his fledgling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party with a directive that 10 of his closest allies should automatically represent the party in their respective constituencies without the rigours of undergoing primary elections.
Mr Matekane will himself represent the party in his native, Mantsónyane, Thaba-Tseka, constituency in general elections due in October.
Aspiring candidates in the remaining 69 constituencies will nonetheless have to undergo primary elections, in addition to fulfilling other rigorous criteria including checks on their educational backgrounds and, being interviewed by Mr Matekane himself to assess their fitness to represent the party.
These decisions sparked a protest at the party’s Maseru headquarters this week by dissatisfied members led by the Maseru Central youth chairperson, Relebohile Mosamane.
Mr Mosamane and his placard-waving band of protestors were particularly incensed by what they said was a dictatorial move by Mr Matekane to foist deputy leader and former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara as the candidate for the Maseru Central constituency. Mr Mosamane said they would file a court application to reverse Mr Matekane’s decision.
This despite senior RFP officials including chairperson, Teboho Kobeli, and former cabinet minister, Tlohang Sekhamane’s explanation at a Tuesday’s media briefing that the 10 had been chosen to represent the party because they were an “embodiment of the RFP’s founding principles of meritocracy”.
Ordinarily, aspiring candidates in political parties are subjected to a process of internal primary elections before they are chosen to represent their parties.
However, Mr Matekane has chosen to buck this trend to ensure that his main allies, including Ms Majara and former Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) Governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, automatically represent the RFP in this year’s highly anticipated polls.
Ms Matlanyane will stand in Qalabane while secretary general, Nthati Moorosi will stand in the Thetsane constituency whose current legislator is Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).
Others who have been immunised from primary elections are Executive Transport proprietor, Lebona Lephema (Teyateyaneng), spokesperson Mokhethi Shelile (Lithabaneng), businessman Cloete Mdlokovana (Mohale’s Hoek), deputy spokesperson Thabo Maretlane (Thaba-Phatšoa), Lejone Mpotjoane (Hololo), Thabo Mofosi (Moyeni) and Ntšeuoa Sekete (Lebakeng constituency).
All these are prominent members of Mr Matekane’s inner circle. Party insiders said they were regarded as the elite squad who founded the party alongside the business mogul in March this year.
Party chairperson Kobeli, Mr Sekhamane and businessman, Telang Takane, defended Mr Matekane’s directives at a press conference this week.
According to Mr Sekhamane, three officials from the 11 affected RFP constituency committees were consulted before it was agreed that Mr Matekane and 10 others should represent the party in the upcoming polls.
He said the chairperson, secretary and treasurer of each of the 11 constituencies including Mr Matekane’s own Mantsónyane constituency were consulted at a recent meeting at the party headquarters. At that meeting, Mr Matekane reasoned with them to “allow him to appoint these (10) individuals to contest the elections under the RFP banner in their respective constituencies”.
“Ours is not a common approach to issues but that doesn’t mean that we have taken the wrong approach,” Mr Sekhamane said of the decision to forego primaries and declare the 11 automatic party candidates in their constituencies.
“We are doing what needs to be done. We acknowledge that there are complaints. But the leader made a request, and it was accepted. When a revolution occurs, some will not be comfortable with it. Besides, there’s nowhere in the world where people won’t complain about decisions that have been made,” Mr Sekhamane added.
Mr Kobeli concurred, saying the other 10 candidates were specifically chosen by Mr Matekane himself. He said besides working closely with Mr Matekane at the inception of RFP, the 10 were selected because “they are the embodiment of meritocracy and success in their chosen fields”.
“Matekane’s intention is to free Lesotho from the clutches of poverty and hopelessness. People who are sad today will be happy tomorrow. They will be okay. We will soothe them.
“Matekane has made a lifetime commitment to transform Lesotho. If Basotho decide to vote for us, we will turn their lives around. If they don’t, then we are all doomed,” Mr Kobeli said.
Not only has the RFP imposed candidates in the 11 constituencies including Mr Matekane’s Mantsónyane, the party has also issued a circular outlining the requirements for members wishing to represent the party in the remaining 69 constituencies.
The remaining 69 constituencies are expected to hold primary elections at branch and constituency levels, then produce four prospective candidates who will be interviewed and vetted by Mr Matekane himself.
This- according to Mr Kobeli- is in keeping with the RFP’s founding principles of choosing candidates on the basis of meritocracy.
He said meritocracy was a broad concept hence the need for follow-up interviews to enable Mr Matekane to acquaint himself with the prospective candidates before a final decision is made as to who should represent the party.
“We need to sit down with candidates and talk to them because we need people with different sets of skills, and each will be selected based on the needs of their constituency. For instance, the needs of Maseru constituencies differ from those in the rural and highlands regions.
“We must clarify that we are not looking for CVs. We are not going to subject people to interviews that will exert pressure on them. We just want to identify the right people based on the needs of their constituencies. Every person has a special quality or set of skills that set him apart and make people trust them,” Mr Kobeli said.
Mr Sekhamane chipped, adding that “we simply need people to detail their career journeys, their backgrounds, skills and achievements”.
“There are educated people without skills then there are uneducated people who are knowledgeable. It’s not about one’s level of education but their skills and accomplishments,” he said.
However, the move to field Mr Matekane’s 10 allies without subjecting them to internal primaries has been met with fierce resistance which could not be appeased by Tuesday’s press conference at the party’s Mpilo Boutique offices.
Even as the press conference was being held, scores of party members demonstrated against the directive to shield the 10 from primary elections and to prescribe criteria for prospective candidates in the remaining 69 constituencies.
Led by Mr Mosamane, the protestors accused Mr Matekane and his national executive committee (NEC) of imposing candidates “instead of affording us our democratic right to choose our preferred candidates”.
In a subsequent interview, Mr Mosamane said they were particularly incensed by the decision to impose Ms Majara as the party candidate for Thetsane. He said they were not consulted and this was done as “an order from the top”.
They would soon challenge Mr Matekane in court, he said.
“There was no consultation at all. When I started asking questions, I was referred to Ntate Sekhamane. He in turn told me that he could not talk to me because doing so would land him in trouble with the RFP secretary-general (Moorosi). But we intend to take the matter up with the courts of law. We will sue,” Mr Mosamane said.
Although controversial, the decisions to select the 10 unopposed candidates and thoroughly vet the remaining ones could actually save the party from chancers. Lesotho’s politics are notorious for opportunists who often defect to other parties as soon as they sense an opportunity to further their own interests.
Already many high-profile people, including some former cabinet ministers have dumped their parties in the hope of riding on the RFP bandwagon to either resuscitate or prolong their political careers.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD) is the hardest hit after four of its senior NEC members, including secretary general Mahali Phamotse, and her deputy Batlokoa ‘Makong, ditched the party to join the RFP barely a month after it was formed.
AD treasurer and former Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane, and former Deputy Minister of Health, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, are some of those who opted to dump the AD. Ms Phohleli was the AD women’s league president.