AFTER a successful conference over the weekend the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has a chance to start on a clean slate.
The former ruling party split after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili left to form the Democratic Congress (DC) in February.
The jury is still out on what damage the split has done to the LCD’s support base.
What is clear is that the LCD is not the same after the split.
Years of factional clashes, unending court battles and succession fights have shaken the party.
It has been kicked out of government and its structures in the villages, the very foundation of the party, have been compromised by the DC.
Out of time and desperate to cling on to power, the DC has sought to build itself on the structures of the LCD.
Mosisili, the man who has become synonymous with the LCD brand for the past 15 years, has become a political opponent.
For the first time in 15 years the LCD goes into an election without the head-start that comes with being the incumbent government.
All these are challenges the new LCD leadership, led by Mothetjoa Metsing, has to overcome if the party is to return to power on May 26.
The burden of achieving this weighs heavily on the young shoulders of Metsing.
At 45, Metsing can be considered a greenhorn in a political landscape dominated by grey haired men. He has a task of leading the LCD against some parties whose leaders are old enough to be his fathers.
He doesn’t have much by way of experience.
Yet all these supposed shortcomings should not discourage him.
Those perceived disadvantages might actually be the very strengths he can use to help the LCD win the next election.
As a fairly young leader he is well positioned to argue that he relates better with the youths who have been clamouring for jobs, better education and business opportunities.
He can argue that he knows their story better.
Metsing must never underestimate the goodwill the LCD still has in the villages.
Mosisili might have left the LCD but that does not mean he had gone with its 15-year legacy.
Metsing can argue that all the good things that Mosisili is now claiming to have done for this country were actually the results of the LCD’s policies.
The old age pension, free primary education, the school feeding programme and the access to Aids medicine were implemented by the LDC government under Mosisili.
The same goes for the new roads, schools and clinics.
The mere fact that it was the LCD government that implemented these policies and projects must count in Metsing’s favour.
But before he starts pointing out these successes to garner votes he must prove that he can unite the LCD.
He must realise that the departure of Mosisili and his supporters does not necessarily mean the end of factional fights in the LCD.
The power battles that ravaged the party are likely to persist.
To avoid another split Metsing must allow people to openly debate issues.
Mosisili tried to keep the lid firmly on the succession debate until he alienated himself from the party and left to form his own.
The turmoil that hit the party until its split must have taught Metsing to avoid the pitfalls of trying to hang on to power or anoint a successor.
In the meantime the new LCD leadership must quickly get to the business of campaigning for the next election.
Mosisili, the man they have accused of leading the party astray, has left so they have no one but themselves to blame if they fail to put their house in order.
Their focus should be on rebuilding the party instead of mourning about a leader long gone.
This is their chance to show that the LCD is not defined by personalities that lead it but people-driven policies.
If they continue pointing fingers at Mosisili, as they have already started doing during the campaign trail, they will only be entrenching the perception that the LCD is nothing without him.
And only the DC can benefit from that perception.
The new LCD leadership has a chance to show that it can heal the wounds of the vicious fights, unite the party and win this election on the bases of policies.
What becomes of the LCD in the next few years depends on the way the new leaderships conducts itself.