‘Two year-curse’ strikes govt as Rantšo blasts coalition partners

  • says coalition govt principals sideline her in decision-making
  • but still faces rebellion in her own party

’Marafaele Mohloboli

TROUBLE is brewing in the two year-old governing coalition after Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader, Keketso Rantšo, openly declared this week she is unhappy with her coalition partners for sidelining her in decision-making.

Ms Rantšo, who is also labour and employment minister, charged that her fellow coalition principals undermined her by ignoring her submissions for key appointments. Whenever she complained about her sidelining, they would always remind her that she had only one parliamentary seat, she said.

But the beleaguered Ms Rantšo has more than just the snub by her coalition partners to contend with as her party is also in flames with some senior officials siding with  secretary general ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie in a vicious war for control of the party.

The RCL is one of four parties in the governing coalition which came to power in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 snap national elections. The others are Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD) and Communications minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP).

Over the years, governing coalitions have failed to last beyond two years into their five year terms. The first Thomas Thabane administration which featured the ABC alongside Mothejoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the BNP collapsed in 2014 after only two years.

Its demise was confirmed by the February 2015 snap elections which ushered in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition, which also fell by the wayside in March 2017.

This followed a breakdown in the relationship between Dr Mosisili and his then deputy leader in the Democratic Congress (DC), Monyane Moleleki, who had masterminded a vote of no confidence in his boss before walking away to form the AD, now in bed with Dr Thabane, Mr Maseribane and Mrs Rantso.

And now with the current coalition approaching its second anniversary in June, the signs of strife are manifesting. Ms Rantšo recently addressed a poorly attended party rally in Qoaling, Maseru, where she bemoaned her fellow coalition principals’ alleged tendency to sideline her in decision-making.

She said she was especially hurt by the fact that her co-principals were always quick to remind her that she brought only one seat into the governing coalition.

“I am a part of this government by choice and no one forced me into joining it,” Ms Rantšo told RCL supporters.

“We promised to be faithful to one another and each time I give a list of my people to be hired, they are removed and I am reminded that I have only one seat.

“When someone is quiet people tend to think that they are not hurting or they are mad. Your presence at this rally has filled me with strength and I shall soldier on towards the growth of this party,” added Ms Rantšo.

However, some RCL members are not showing the beleaguered minister any sympathy. Instead they accuse her of dictatorial tendencies which have caused serious divisions within the party.

There is a power struggle pitting Ms Rantšo against the party’s secretary general, ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie. Last year, Ms Rantšo attempted to suspend Ms Lemphane-Letsie but the latter, who is also principal secretary in the Home Affairs ministry, responded by filing a court application challenging Ms Rantšo’s moves. The case is still pending before the High Court.

Recently, Ms Rantšo fell out with her private secretary, Retšelisitsoe Lesane, who is also the RCL Youth League president. Ms Rantšo has begun moves to fire Mr Lesane for alleged incompetence.

“She (Ms Rantšo) is a dictator and a hypocrite,” charged the RCL chairperson for the Mabote constituency, Nyepetsi Mlongeni.

“Her utterances don’t equal her acts. She never consults anyone and now she is left all alone by herself. She doesn’t have time for anyone except herself. She is aware that in the next elections we are going to dump her.

“She is behaving as though she went into the coalition as an individual and not by virtue of being the RCL leader. She is supposed to be representing us and echoing our voices but she is not doing that.”

Mr Mlongeni’s sentiments were echoed by the party’s secretary for the Qeme # 43 constituency, ’Malesole Letsie. Ms Letsie accused Ms Rantšo of dictatorship and nepotism, saying the labour minister posted one of her daughters on a foreign mission in Geneva, Switzerland, ahead of more deserving candidates.

“She (Ms Rantšo) refuses to work with the RCL’s national executive committee (NEC) and she hates advice. One sure way of making her hate you is to try to advise her. She has even taken her daughter on a foreign mission and that is nepotism.

“As we speak, there are now two camps in the party but come elections next February, we will ensure that she will no longer be our leader. She promised us so much but she has never delivered.

She has failed us dismally. We voted for her because we liked her and shared her vision for the party but not anymore. Ms Lemphane-Letsie is the one who hears us out and we have opted to support her,” said Ms Letsie.

Ms Rantšo this week told the Lesotho Times that she would not comment on the allegations levelled against her as she was “busy growing the party”.

“I don’t mean to disrespect you but I would rather not comment on these issues and I hope you understand. Right now I am busy pondering on how best to grow the party,” Ms Rantšo said.

On her part, Ms Lemphane-Letsie said although she was “aware of the instability in the RCL, it’s not for me to comment” on the issue.

The infighting in the RCL means that all parties in the ruling coalition are experiencing internal strife.

The AD has been rocked by infighting pitting the party’s spokesperson Thuso Litjobo against the secretary general, Mahali Phamotse.

Mr Litjobo accuses Dr Phamotse of undermining the party leader Mr Moleleki as part of her alleged campaign to usurp power, allegations Dr Phamotse vehemently rejects. The BNP has had its fair share of problems pitting aspirants for the deputy leader’s post, Mr Machesetsa Mofomobe and Chief Joang Molapo.

The duo appear to have smoked the peace pipe after Mr Mofomobe apologised for attacking Mr Molapo.

Chief Molapo, who is the current BNP deputy leader, was the first to let rip at his campaign rally in Hlotse, Leribe, early this year, describing Mr Mofomobe as an immature and unpredictable politician who was given to posturing on social media and radio instead of focusing on his responsibilities as a party official and government official.

Chief Molapo said Dr Thabane was in fact “a merciful prime minister” for not having disciplined Mr Mofomobe, who is also the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, for his alleged errant behaviour.

Mr Mofomobe would not have any of this and subsequently hit back by ridiculing Chief Molapo as “an infidel” and lover of the congress parties and in particular Mr Metsing.  Mr Mofomobe said Mr Metsing was a personal friend of the outgoing BNP deputy leader.

Mr Mofomobe later apologised to Chief Molapo, saying his emotions had got the better of him when he attacked the latter.

Undoubtedly the worst infighting is within the ABC which has not known peace in the wake of its highly disputed 1-2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered Professor Nqosa Mahao into the party’s NEC as deputy leader against the expressed wishes of Dr Thabane and other senior party officials.

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