WITH factionalism continuing to wreak havoc in the main governing coalition partner, Democratic Congress (DC), party officials aligned to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili have been linked with a plot to oust the National Executive Committee (NEC) and youth league.
According to highly placed sources within the DC, the party’s former deputy secretary-general Semano Sekatle, spokesperson Serialong Qoo, Qaqatu constituency legislator Lethusang Kompi and Tourism Minister Likeleli Tampane have been lobbying constituencies to issue no-confidence petitions on the NEC and youth league as well as to call for a special conference to elect new leaders.
The DC’s internecine squabbles have reached fever pitch mainly over a leadership succession fight and a controversial government fleet tender.
As a result, the DC is divided into two factions, namely Lithope (loosely translated to girlfriends) linked to party leader Dr Mosisili and Lirurubele (butterflies) linked to deputy leader and Police Minister Monyane Moleleki.
The NEC last month broke ranks with the government over its decision to award a vehicle fleet contract to Bidvest Fleet Company, calling for its termination so it can be awarded to a joint venture company, Lebelonyane.
Along with the party’s youth league, the NEC also accused DC treasurer and Finance Minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla of impropriety in awarding the contract in June this year to Bidvest even though the South African firm had not submitted a competitive bid.
Lebelonyane is now seeking a reversal of the government’s decision in the courts, arguing it should have been awarded the tender after getting hold of a revised tender evaluation report that recommended them as the recipients of the tender.
The sources said Mr Sekatle, who is the Lebakeng constituency legislator, Mr Qoo (Malingoaneng constituency), Mr Kompi and Ms Tampane (Senqu constituency) were linked to the Lithope faction and holding clandestine meetings with various DC constituency committees to canvass for the NEC’s ouster.
Messrs Sekatle and Qoo, the sources said, visited both the Maputsoe and the Leribe constituencies, while Ms Tampane visited the Thaba-Phatšoa constituency. Mr Kompi allegedly visited the Mphosong constituency.
“They want to ensure that more than 10 constituencies submit to the secretary-general’s (Ralechate ’Mokose) office no-confidence petitions in the party’s NEC and youth league and also call for a special conference,” said the sources.
“There is a clear attempt to oust the NEC and youth league from office because the Lithope faction believes it is advancing the Lirurubele faction’s agenda.”
However, sources within the Lithope faction, who also declined to be named for fear of reprisals, accused the NEC of ignoring “more than 40” no-confidence petitions from the constituencies.
The sources said the petitions were issued ahead of the DC’s leadership conference on 8 October 2016. While the indaba did not have the authority to discuss the infighting rocking the party, delegates could have called for a special conference to elect new leadership.
“By ignoring the petitions, the Lirurubele faction effectively blocked the possibility of a special conference even though the petitions were delivered before the leadership conference,” said the sources.
“More than 40 no-confidence petitions in the DC youth league were submitted to the party’s headquarters on the same dates with those passing a no-confidence vote in the NEC, but nothing has happened to date.”
Contacted for comment, Mr Sekatle scoffed at the allegations of a plot to oust the NEC saying he recently went to Qoqolosing in Ha Chafo only to attend a funeral and not to lobby constituency committees.
“I was told by a man with whom I went to a funeral in Qoqolosing that there are some frivolous accusations made against me,” he said.
“I drove straight back to Maseru after the funeral. My accusers claim that I went to Leribe and Maputsoe with Qoo. Their allegations are shocking because I haven’t gone anywhere with Qoo.”
Mr Sekatle said the allegations were meant to foment divisions in the party.
“These claims are lies peddled by people with their own fears and they are spreading lies to divert people’s attention from real issues within the party. Those who have been making the claims don’t have any idea where I have been, they should stop spreading lies,” Mr Sekatle said, adding he had no intention to influence the decisions of DC constituency committees since “they are well equipped to act on their own without being persuaded by anybody”.
Mr Qoo also denied the allegations, in an interview with the Lesotho Times, saying he remained an active member of the DC NEC.
“Any suggestion that I would influence constituencies to turn against a committee I am part and parcel of is absurd to say the least,” he said.
“The only thing I did recently was to address factory workers who were worried that the coalition government was facing collapse. I allayed their fears during the time speculation was rife there would be floor crossing in parliament.
“The leadership conference was very successful and I have always been relaying that message during radio programmes and to newspapers.”
Mr Qoo took a swipe at Mr Moleleki’s Machache constituency committee, accusing it of speaking ill of Dr Mosisili after his speech at the indaba.
“It is shocking is that there is a Machache constituency committee that has been hosted on radio programmes making claims that its delegates were angered by my leader, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s speech at the opening of our leadership conference,” said Mr Qoo.
“They clearly told the public they did not appreciate our leader’s speech at the conference.”
He also said the leadership conference elected an appeals committee to deal with any issues DC members felt the NEC failed to address to their satisfaction.
In his speech, the DC leader said he was ready to step down to ensure the party remained united. Dr Mosisili said he was aware factions in the party were conspiring with the opposition to forge new alliances to engineer his ouster. However, Dr Mosisili warned his foes mulling a no-confidence vote against him saying it would be easier said than done.
Mr Moleleki has been linked with a coalition pact to oust Dr Mosisili with former premier and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane. However, it appears to have stalled over a disagreement about who between them becomes prime minister.
For his part, DC Deputy Secretary-General, Refiloe Litjobo, said Lithope members were secretly visiting constituencies in a bid to garner support for a campaign to oust the NEC and youth league.
He also accused Mr Qoo of contradicting the NEC’s resolutions.
“Qoo has been operating in a way contrary to the NEC’s mandate. He is doing some funny stuff and appears to be getting his mandate from somewhere else and not from the DC NEC,” charged Mr Litjobo.
On allegations the NEC ignored no-confidence petitions and calls for a special conference from constituencies, Mr Litjobo said: “We have not received such petitions, but if they were there, they would have been written by irate people who felt the party’s stance on the fleet tender agreement with Bidvest Bank Limited by the seven parties coalition government was not in the interests of Lesotho and is corrupt.”
He also took aim at Mr Sekatle by accusing the former DC deputy secretary-general of abusing his position as a trustee in the Maputsoe constituency for “personal interests”.
“We have learnt that Sekatle has not been utilising the party’s official structures to deal with party matters in that constituency but using backchannels to influence the constituency to petition the NEC,” said Mr Litjobo.
“It is unfortunate that such a highly respected DC official would be linked to plots to overthrow party structures, especially the NEC.”
He further claimed Mr Sekatle’s “divisive” behaviour was in keeping with his character.
“We gave Sekatle our unwavering support during his tenure as deputy secretary-general and he was not overthrown even when he had failed to work harmoniously with the secretary-general (Mr ‘Mokose),” Mr Litjobo said.
“He could not serve the party or work under ‘Mokose because he wanted to oust him and take over his position. We didn’t plot against him despite his divisive behaviour.”
He added: “We wonder if he has done his job in the Maputsoe constituency or not. What we seem to hear are rumours of him attracting very negative energy. He should be supporting the work of the NEC and not plotting its ouster.”
Mr Litjobo also threatened to “expose” people “corruptly” benefiting from the vehicle fleet saga.
“The time will come for us to expose those who benefit from the corrupt Bidvest deal and who is in and out of this corruption saga,” he said.
“We cannot be associated with corrupt deals as a party. As we enter the next 50 years of independence, we want to leave a legacy of principled leadership. We won’t stand for or support corruption.”