THE Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) is mediating in the infighting threatening to destroy the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), the Lesotho Times has learnt.
While TRC Director Tšoeu Petlane could neither confirm nor deny the development in an interview with this paper yesterday, impeccable sources have said the civil society organisation had intervened in a bid to resolve the escalating feud.
The year-old RCL is part of the tripartite opposition bloc that also includes the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP). All three parties have been rocked by infighting which threatens the strength of the alliance against the seven party governing coalition.
Mr Petlane said they agreed with RCL officials on a media black-out regarding the mediation efforts to ensure they ironed out their differences internally.
“We are not in a position to confirm or deny whether we have been talking to RCL about their problems. But as usual, TRC has been in conversation with parties across the political spectrum, including trying to understand and assist where there are such problems,” Mr Petlane said.
“We have agreed on a media black-out and therefore I won’t say anything on this issue because I might be forced to go into detail on the processes taking place.
He added: “So I can’t comment on this at all until we have agreed otherwise. I will not even say whether there is an on-going process or not.
“There are other parties also facing problems which we are looking into, but I will not tell you which ones they are.”
The infighting became apparent after members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) issued conflicting statements about the status of the RCL’s exiled leader Keketso Rantšo and her deputy Dr Motloheloa Phooko.
On Wednesday last week, RCL Secretary-General Mamolula Ntabe announced Ms Rantšo and Dr Phooko had resigned from their positions. However, Ms Rantšo and Dr Phooko denied the claim, saying it was meant to cause divisions in the RCL which is an offshoot of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.
Two factions have emerged in the party, with Ms Rantšo, Dr Phooko and RCL youth league leader Retšelisitsoe Lesane pitted against Ms Ntabe and other NEC members.
The turf war has been blamed for the arson attack on the house and vehicle of RCL member and former Public Service ministry principal secretary (PS) ‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie who was working towards resolving the dispute.
Ms Lemphane-Letsie’s Ha-Motloheloa, Mazenod house and vehicle were set on fire by unknown assailants in the wee hours of last Friday. While the former PS and her family were not harmed by the blaze, the house and car were extensively damaged.
Ms Lemphane-Letsie told the Lesotho Times’ sister paper Sunday Express she suspected the people behind the attack were party members irked by her decision to mediate between the two camps.
The RCL’s spokesperson Moshe Kopanye told this paper Ms Ntabe had no intention to unseat Ms Rantšo and Dr Phooko as claimed by some party officials.
Mr Kopanye said the infighting was precipitated by Ms Rantšo’s attempt to impose her ally for the party treasurer position.
“The truth of the matter is that we want our party to be as transparent and democratic as possible,” he said.
“The leader (Ms Rantšo) wanted to impose a candidate for the position of treasurer to remove the one that had been voted by the majority in a conference held to fill that position.
“She wanted us to elect one Thulo Bataung who is said to be paying her rent in South Africa, and instead, the party cadres voted for Khauta Kolobe. This decision did not sit well with her and those who sided with her.”
Mr Kopanye said after the elective conference, which was held on 3 September 2016 in Khubetsoana, party supporters who wanted Mr Bataung to assume the treasurer position complained to Dr Phooko who is acting party leader since Ms Rantšo is exiled in South Africa.
Ms Rantšo, ABC leader Thomas Thabane and BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane sought refuge in South Africa in May 2015 saying they feared for their lives after being alerted of a plot to kill them by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). However, the LDF has vehemently denied the allegations.
Mr Kopanye said the disgruntled party supporters were told by Dr Phooko to relay their frustrations to Ms Rantšo in Ladybrand. He said representatives of 10 constituencies in the party had already written “no confidence” letters on the NEC, with members of the youth league also writing a similar letter on their executive committee.
“She (Ms Rantšo) then called all of us for a meeting on 11 September, in which we were also supposed to give a report on the elective conference,” he said.
“Rantšo told us she was disappointed with the result of the election and wanted us to render its proceedings null and void. She told us to appoint Bataung to the treasurer’s position and we refused.”
Mr Kopanye further claimed Ms Rantšo asked Dr Phooko to “talk some sense” into the NEC members, but the deputy leader said he had already tried but failed.
Thereafter, he said, Ms Rantšo declared that she would not lead people who did not listen to her and would rather resign.
“Rantšo said she was not going to lead people who did not do as she said and therefore she was resigning. She also told us to go and find someone who was ready to work with us, and it is then that the deputy leader followed suit.
“This is where their resignation emanates from. If, for some reason, they resigned in the heat of the moment or as a slip of the tongue, we are ready to take them back as our leaders if they confess to it because all that we need for our party is peace and stability. We are not power hungry at all and don’t even know who could take over as our next leader,” said Mr Kopanye, adding it was ironic that Dr Phooko was the one who announced Mr Kolobe as the newly-elected treasurer at the conference.
Contacted for comment, Ms Rantšo would not be drawn to respond to the allegations saying she was not ready to talk.
“I am not going to say anything until I have met my secretary-general (Ms Ntabe) to discuss the party’s issues. It is still premature to say anything, but once she comes I surely will have something to say.”
For his part, Dr Phooko told this reporter he wanted to be left alone to sort out his party’s issues.
“Please have mercy on me and let me sort the party’s issues first with the people concerned. As you know, I am now the RCL leader in Lesotho,” he said.