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Tséhlana faces stern test

by Lesotho Times
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MASERU – Lehlohonolo Tséhlana’s grip on Mokhotlong faces an acid test on Sunday when he launches his Senkatana party at a time when the All Basotho Convention (ABC) will be having a rally in the same constituency.
The Mokhotlong legislator split from the ABC late last year accusing the leadership of lacking vision and personalising the party.
How he left the party is still a matter of debate: ABC claims they booted him out but he insists that it was his decision to leave.
He has claimed that he was mandated to from a new party by the people of his constituency, Mokhotlong, who said they wanted him out of the ABC.
He has obliged and will launch the party in Mokhotlong on Sunday.
The problem however is that the ABC, the party he said the people of Mokhotlong had rejected, will have a rally on the same day.
Just how many people he has in his corner will be revealed on Sunday.
Whatever happens on Sunday will prove whether Mokhotlong’s loyalty lies with a personality or party.
Tsehlana and the ABC have somewhat an equal claim to the constituency. At one level Mokhotlong is an ABC constituency because Tsehlana was elected on the party’s ticket.
On another it could be Tsehlana’s constituency because he is the one who rallied the people to move with him from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to the ABC two years ago.  
But the verdict will lie with the people.
The numbers at the two gatherings will tell the story.
In the end it might turn out to be a story of an MP who mistook his familiarity for popularity or a party that has failed to realise that it won the seat not because of its policies but the charisma of its candidate.
It’s not clear who is taking the battle to whom.
It’s not clear whose dominance is being challenged because there have not been any polls.
Unless something dramatic happens to justify a by-election in the constituency before the elections in 2013 it might never be known who is more popular. 
As early as December Tsehlana had February 1 as the launch date.
The ABC says the rally in Mokhotlong has always been on the cards.
They insist that the rally is not targeted at Tsehlana’s Senkatana.
ABC secretary general Billy Macaefa said there was nothing sinister about holding a rally in Mokhotlong.
“We are not targeting anyone. The rally has always been in the pipeline,” Macaefa said.
He said Mokhotlong did not belong to Tsehlana.
“He (Ts’ehlana) did not stand as an independent candidate, he was elected on an ABC ticket and the constituency belongs to the ABC,” he said.
“We have always planned to have a rally there whether Tsehlana chooses to launch or not.”
Macaefa said he was confident that they will attract a huge crowd because the party structures in the constituency are strong.
“All is well and both the committee and branches are still functioning to advance the cause of the party.”
But the ABC might be facing a real challenge from Senkatana.
Tsehlana has a considerable grip on the constituency.
The constituency has willingly followed him to every party that he has joined.
When he decided to join the LCD in 1998 the constituency followed him. He left the LCD with them.
He joined ABC with them.
The question is whether they will follow him to Senkatana as he said they will.
Professor Kopano Makoa, head of political and administrative studies at the National University of Lesotho said local politics revolves around personalities.
But he believes there could be a problem for Tsehlana this time around.
“He said when he joined the ABC, Ts’ehlana was coming into the party with his followers but this time its different because he is asking them to join his own party,” Makoa said. 
“The prospects of Tsehlana returning the support of the people of Mokhotlong are bleak because he had handed them over to the ABC of which he was a member.”
He said Tsehlana might have difficulties in stopping the momentum that the ABC has created in the constituency.
The other question is whether the people in the constituency share his concerns and grievances against the ABC.
The other key issue is whether Senkatana is indeed the brain-child of the people of Mokhotlong or his.
Interesting though is the fact that Tsehlana believes that it’s him who is following the people of Mokhotlong and not the other way round. 
There are fears that there could be some clashes between the party supporters.
“The people of Mokhotlong are politically mature,” Tsehlana said in a recent interview.
Well, Sunday is coming and his statement will be proven true or false.

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