Opposition party future threatened by defections

MASERU — The main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party is battling a battery of defections that could weaken the party further in the run-up to the 2012 polls, a political analyst has said.

The ABC, which posed the greatest threat to the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s 11-year grip on power, has been hit by a wave of defections over the past eight months.

Among those who have left the party over the past seven months are former deputy publicity secretary, Lehlohonolo Ts’ehlana, Eliabe Mokhanoi and Nkhetse Monyalotsa.

The list of disgruntled ABC officials ballooned two weeks ago after the party’s former women’s league boss, Mookho Mathibeli, and several other party officials threw in the towel and rejoined the LCD.

Political observers said while it could be premature to start penning an obituary for the ABC the recent defections had left the opposition party badly shaken.

They said the recent defections were a telling blow on an already weakened ABC.

A political analyst and dean of the faculty of social sciences at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), Professor Kopano Makoa, said the ABC was a victim of a crisis of expectations.

Makoa said the opposition party had dismally failed to meet people’s expectations.

“People’s expectations were not met within ABC,” says Makoa.

Makoa said the ABC had attracted huge support across the country at its formation in 2006 but supporters were left in despair when the party failed to wrest power after the 2007 general elections.

Makoa criticised the ABC saying the party had not opened itself up to allow supporters to participate fully in determining the destiny of the party.

He also said people join political parties because they want to participate fully in the politics of their country but get frustrated when they do not get a chance to determine their political destiny.

“People become frustrated when their participation is limited or when they do not get the opportunity to have their voices heard,” said Makoa.

Most of the defectors who have left the ABC have bitterly complained about the leadership style of Thomas Thabane.

They have accused Thabane of being a ruthless dictator, a charge he has however denied.

Karabo Thloeli, who is the secretary general of Senkatana party, said it would be wrong for the LCD to start gloating over the “collapse of the ABC.”

He said it was “only opportunists who were leaving the ABC because they joined the party without noble intentions.”

“They invaded ABC because they were using it as a platform to secure material gains. They are now flooding LCD because they hope to get a piece of the pie,” said Thloeli.

LCD secretary general, Mothetjoa Metsing, rejected charges that the ruling party was enticing opposition officials with promises of material gain if they rejoined the party.

“It is a misinformed perception that LCD entices people with money,” Metsing said.

He cited the recent defection of Nkhetsé Monyalotsa who dumped the ABC last month to rejoin the LCD.

“No one can justify how we could have enticed him. He is an MP who already earns a lot of money. He came of his own accord to LCD,” said Metsing.

Metsing said the fact that people were returning to the LCD was a clear testimony that the party was better than its adversaries.

“Our way of doing things sets us apart from the rest. As LCD we swear by our constitution, which is our Bible.

“Unlike other political parties here in Lesotho, we do not impose our personal views and feelings on others. That is why this party keeps on growing from strength to strength,” Metsing said.

Metsing blamed the LCD’s loss of 17 mostly urban seats to the ABC in the 2007 election on a “momentary lapse of judgment.”

He said people deserted the LCD in favour of the ABC because of “attractive yet unattainable” promises made by the opposition party.

“They promised that they (ABC) would attain office and rule. However, they failed. People became frustrated when they realised that the promises would never materialise.

“Like the prodigal son who repented and returned to his father’s house, the majority of people who left LCD during the height of ABC’s popularity have resolved to rejoin LCD,” said Metsing.

“The defections that rocked LCD taught us a great lesson as a party that we are only human and are bound to err every now and then. We learn from our mistakes,” said Metsing.

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