…LCD leader in bitter fallout with party bigwigs
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, allegedly threatened to fire his deputy, Motloheloa Phooko, for refusing to preside over the party’s press conference held in Maseru on Monday this week.
Highly-placed LCD sources yesterday told the Lesotho Times that Mr Metsing had to issue the threat after Dr Phooko, who is also the Minister of Public Service, had expressed reservations over the press briefing.
The sources further said that was why Dr Phooko arrived 45 minutes late for the media briefing held at Black Swan Lodge, during which the party condemned Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for making “unilateral” decisions regarding “key government decisions”.
The Lesotho Times understands Mr Metsing and his Political Advisor, Mpho Malie, had travelled to Leribe on Monday, and failed to make it back in time for the press conference.
Mr Metsing, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, had then asked Dr Phooko to stand in for him, the sources further alleged.
“The problem was Dr Phooko was not interested in going to the press conference and made this clear to Mr Metsing. That was when he was told if he did not go to Black Swan, he would be expelled from the LCD National Executive Committee (NEC) for insubordination. He had no choice but to go and arrived almost an hour late,” one of the sources said.
Asked what could have led to the fallout between the two LCD leaders, the source alleged the relationship soured after Keketso Rantšo was expelled as the party’s secretary-general two months ago. Ms Rantšo was fired after a protracted power-struggle with Mr Metsing, which later prompted him to write a letter asking her to justify why she should not be expelled from the NEC for dereliction of duty.
However, the response from Ms Rantšo, who is the Minister of Labour and Employment, was curt, prompting Mr Metsing to issue her with a dismissal letter.
“The situation is tense in the LCD, and there are now factions in the NEC, with Ntate Phooko openly supporting ‘M’e Keketso and making his dislike of her dismissal known,” the source said.
“Right now, there are allegations in the party that Dr Phooko, who is close friends with ‘M’e Keketso, has been leaking information about NEC resolutions to her as a strategy to destabilise the LCD.
“I think by threatening Dr Phooko, he was trying to assert himself and showing people that he is the boss.
“However, he is so full of power these days it might end up leading him into making decisions he could live to regret and I think he needs to tone down, much as I admire him.”
The source also claimed Ms Rantšo had the backing of other LCD heavyweights, who include Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa.
Mr Tsekoa is tipped to replace Mr Metsing as LCD leader, and then deputised by Rantšo and Public Works Principal Secretary Lebohang Phooko, should there be a boardroom coup in the party.
“The faction is already putting together the names of individuals who will be competing for posts in the LCD NEC early next year,” the source said.
“They hope to remove Ntate Metsing via a vote-of-no-confidence.”
Contacted for comment last night, Dr Phooko was brief in his response.
“This is total imagination, and very far-fetched. This is something that was created by people who don’t know what they are taking about,” Dr Phooko said.
On the other hand, the LCD chairman, Thabang Pheko, dismissed the allegations, adding “people would always say anything to capitalise on existing tensions”.
“It is very unfortunate that people will say and do anything to create a wedge where there are tensions, to eventually bring destruction,” Mr Pheko said.
“Even if Mr Phooko was not happy that ‘M’e Rantšo was no longer a member of the LCD executive, like the adult that he is, he never acted improperly or expressed dissatisfaction.”
Mr Pheko also denied Dr Phooko “ever questioning our executive committee’s resolutions”.
The LCD Spokesperson, Selibe Mochoboroane could not be reached for comment last night as his mobile phone was on voice mail.