Why Lehohla chickened out

MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister, Lesao Lehohla, says he withdrew from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s leadership race on Saturday because he feared defeat.

The former LCD deputy leader pulled out of the race hours before the election on Saturday night in a move that surprised some delegates especially after he had earlier literally begged to be elected.

Earlier in the day Lehohla, who had been holding fort since February when Pakalitha Mosisili left to form the Democratic Congress (DC) had implored the delegates to elect him as the new leader.

But hours before the race that pitted him against former Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing   and Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa, Lehohla suddenly chickened out.

His withdrawal left former secretary general Metsing to battle it out with former chairman Tsekoa. Metsing, 45, prevailed by 1 201 to 95 votes.

Lehohla told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday he had no choice but to pull out of the race because the outcome had been “pre-determined”.

It was clear that the scale had been tilted in Metsing’s favour, he said.

“I withdrew from the race because of my assessment of the mood of the conference.  It seemed my pleas before the conference to be elected as LCD leader were not heeded,” Lehohla said.

“The majority of delegates seemed to have predetermined ideas as to what the outcome of the conference should be.”

Lehohla said he had no regrets about his decision to openly solicit for votes at the conference although he was aware that this was not usual in the LCD.

“Definitely, I’ve no regrets. I was very much aware that change was upon us. I also had to reach out to the people to make a change.”

He said he had pleaded with the delegates because the “circumstances were abnormal”.

“Normal procedure could therefore not be followed. But it does not mean what I’ve done has set a bad precedence for the future.  Things will still be done the way they’ve always been done.”

Although he has reservations about the elections he has accepted Metsing as the new leader.

“The conference has made a decision, which I’m very much aware was pre-determined. But it’s time to prepare for elections instead of dwelling on what happened.”

It’s time to move on, he added.

After Lehohla’s withdrawal was announced delegates from Mafeteng, ’Maliepetsane and Matelile constituencies also pulled out of the conference in solidarity.

Lehohla comes from Mafeteng.

The conference almost failed to proceed after two senior LCD officials, Deputy Parliament Speaker Sephiri Motanyane and Justice Minister Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, approached the High Court seeking an order to declare the indaba unconstitutional.

They argued that procedure was not followed when the conference was organised.

They were particularly unhappy that the constituencies had not been notified three months before the conference as required by the constitution.

The court ruled that the election should continue because the application had come late.

Lehohla said he believed the applicants were correct because the “conference was abnormal and not well constituted”.

“The validity of delegates has been questioned because of its composition and that leaves one with questions,” Lehohla said.

He said the split which led to the formation of the DC had left some of the party’s committees paralysed and that made it “virtually impossible to send delegations” to the conference.

“But we will not be pursing the application anymore because it is no longer a priority. We now have to forge ahead with preparations for elections.”

Lehohla says he is prepared to work with Metsing because he believes in the “power of the youths”.

“Change has to come. Youth are in the majority and we have to pass over the reins of leadership to them. Ours is to guide and teach them about the responsibility that goes with leadership”.

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