MASERU — If the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is to survive the internal succession battle party leader Pakalitha Mosisili should come up with a clear exit strategy, analysts say.
The analysts say the LCD’s top brass needs to openly admit that there is a fierce succession battle which has paralysed the party.
They warn that if Mosisili does not manage the succession battle it could swallow him.
The analysts say there is a real danger that the LCD might experience a crippling split if the leadership does not rise above internal squabbles that have dogged the party since 2007.
Their comments follow last Friday’s High Court judgment in a case in which 17 LCD constituencies were seeking an order to compel the party’s executive committee to organise a special conference.
The constituencies wanted to use the conference to remove the executive committee as well as Mosisili and his deputy, Lesao Lehohla, but the plan faltered when Justice Kelello Guni dismissed the application.
Yet, instead of bringing the intra-party fights to an end Justice Guni’s judgment added paraffin to the raging fire which is now threatening to consume the LCD.
Soon after, the ruling party youth members sympathetic to the 17 constituencies’ agenda rallied at the party offices, chased out workers and confiscated the office keys.
They then marched to the State House where they tried to hand over the keys to Mosisili saying he was the only one they could trust.
Mosisili refused to take the keys.
The 17 constituencies and the youths who rallied to the party offices are alleged to be linked to Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki who is seen as very ambitious, charismatic and shrewd.
Moleleki is said to be the brains behind a faction that has been trying to topple the executive committee since 2009.
Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who is also the party secretary general, leads the other faction.
He is seen a moderate and a rising star in the party although some doubt that he has the necessary grassroots support to win the battle against Moleleki who has been in the party longer and has gained considerable support over the years.
Both men are said to have ambitions to eventually lead the LCD but they have in the past strenuously denied links to any of the factions.
Analysts who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week said Justice Guni’s judgment is a victory for the Metsing-linked faction which has been under pressure to leave office since last year when it was accused of incompetence, disloyalty and insubordination.
But they caution that the ruling could also have a negative impact on prospects of Mosisili maintaining a tight grip on the LCD leadership.
Sofonea Shale, Director of Development for Peace Education (DPE), a civic organisation, says to deal with the crisis Mosisili should openly “tell the LCD when he’s leaving”.
“If he is to get things right, he should openly say when he’s leaving and who he wishes to leave the baton of the LCD leadership with,” Shale said.
“If it’s Moleleki or Metsing, he should say so openly. He should allow the membership to elect its favourite leader for the sake of the unity of the party.”
If that comes from him now, Shale says, the fighting LCD members will lay down their arms.
But Shale also questions Mosisili’s readiness to come up with a timetable for his exit.
He also doubts that the factions at the centre of the LCD succession battle are ready “to let go of the fight”.
“And is Mosisili capable of designing this outward strategy? If he does not do that, then we’ll likely see a split in the LCD,” he says.
Shale is also of the view that the Moleleki-linked faction might capitalise on the fact that there are members of the LCD still fiercely loyal to Mosisili and might “encourage him to form a new party”.
“On the basis that ordinary members of the LCD are sympathetic to Mosisili, the Moleleki-led faction might exploit that by encouraging him to form a party.”
On the outcome of the court application, Shale is of the view that “it is some kind of a setback for the Moleleki faction”.
“They were the ones appealing to the courts to allow them to call an earlier-than-usual conference. On the basis of the perception that Mosisili supports the Moleleki faction the loss has just frustrated his dreams for his favourite side but will not affect him adversely,” Shale says.
Author and National University of Lesotho (NUL) political science lecturer, Motlamelle Kapa, believes there is no better time than now for Mosisili “to leave the LCD”.
“It seems he might have lost popularity within the LCD but not necessarily with the masses out there. We’re likely to see him go out, which is the only thing that can save him,” Kapa says.
“It would be politically useful for him to leave now instead of staying on. He should go out there and canvass for support from the LCD support base in the rural areas.”
Kapa warns that the situation was different from that of the 1997 scenario when the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) split and was unlikely to play itself out because “Mosisili is not the LCD founder Ntsu Mokhehle”.
“We’re talking about different times, context and individuals. Mosisili is not Mokhehle,” Kapa says.
On the outcome of the court application, Kapa says it has actually been a blow on Mosisili as it has enhanced the Metsing-led faction’s chances “of being stronger and gaining more control”.
Tlohang Letsie who also teaches political science at NUL says contrary to popular belief that Mosisili will leave the LCD “he will not”.
“They think Mosisili will leave the LCD, but I don’t think he’s that brave. He lacks Mokhehle’s charisma. In the BCP Mokhehle was the brand. Currently the brand is the LCD, not Mosisili,” Letsie says.
“There will not be a split because neither faction can survive on its own. They will push to the elections as one. I don’t see either of the factions abandoning the party.”
However, Letsie adds that the outcome of the court application has rattled the Moleleki-led faction while giving power to the Metsing-led faction.
“Without doubt it has strengthened the Metsing side and given them the power they need,” Letsie says. He is also of the view that the High Court’s Friday judgment will have an impact on Mosisili “who is already not comfortable in the executive committee”.
“There’s no doubt there are uncertainties, more so when you work with people with whom you don’t see eye to eye,” Letsie submits.