MASERU — An emotionally charged Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leadership conference agreed on Sunday to convene a special conference to decide the fate of the party’s national executive committee.
That special conference, the delegates agreed, will decide how the party should react to 26 petitions from the constituencies calling for the dissolution of the national executive committee.
The constituencies accuse the committee of “insubordination”, “ineptness” and “dishonesty”.
The committee which is said to be backing a faction led by the party’s secretary-general, Mothetjoa Metsing, has come under a barrage of attacks since earlier this year.
Party insiders have said the ongoing effort to topple the committee is part of a broader factional fight that has rocked the ruling party since 2007.
In one corner of the ring is the Litima-Mollo (Fire Extinguishers) faction believed to be led by Metsing and in the other corner is the Lija-Mollo (Fire Eaters) faction which is allegedly led by Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki.
Evidence that the LCD is ravaged by a factional war was laid bare at the leadership conference held at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre.
Even party leader Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili admitted as much in his opening speech.
The conference started at around 7:30pm on Saturday and continued until around 6am on Sunday.
Although earlier proceedings were quiet, real drama at the conference started shortly after midnight.
Mosisili had delivered his speech at around 10pm.
Metsing was about to present his annual report when the MP for Tele constituency, Ndiwuhleli Ndlomose, raised a motion that the conference should discuss the 26 petitions before any other business on the programme.
He said the petitions were far more important than any other business on the agenda.
There was a roar of applause from the floor when Ndlomose’s motion was seconded and approved by the delegates.
There were murmurs of disapproval from other delegates though.
Deputy chairman Mohlabi Tsekoa then told delegates that Metsing was now going to address the petitions.
Members of the committee except Mosisili, who remained seated, convened for a short consultation.
After that Metsing took the floor, ready to talk about the petitions.
But before he could go any further Moleleki jumped up and pointed out that “this issue cannot be discussed in this forum”.
“Even section 5 (2) of the LCD constitution dictates that a matter of this nature should be dealt with in a special conference called exclusively for the purpose,” Moleleki argued.
He was seconded by a delegate who suggested that the special conference should be held on December 11.
At that moment former LCD secretary general and current chairman of the party’s elders’ committee Mpho Malie — who is allegedly linked to the Metsing faction — interjected with a point of order on Moleleki’s assertion.
“That section of the constitution you are quoting Ntate Moleleki says the executive committee may call a special conference,” Malie said.
“This conference can make recommendations but cannot go as far as dictating when such a conference should convene.”
Party chairman Thabang Pheko also reasoned that it would be difficult for the committee to organise a conference “at such short notice”.
The 11th of December is just too close for comfort, Pheko said.
Pheko’s explanation seemed to gall Agriculture Minister Ralechate ‘Mokose. ‘Mokose, who is normally guarded, accused the national committee of “dragging its feet”.
“The executive committee has been wasting time despite constituencies having made their stance clear a long time ago,” ‘Mokose said.
“The constituencies wrote those letters a long time ago,” said Public Service Minister Semano Sekatle.
“It defies logic therefore how the committee can’t organise the conference when it has 21 days from today to do so,” Sekatle added.
Deputy party leader Lesao Lehohla intervened to call for calm.
He said there was no need for delegates to argue because the conference had already agreed that there will be a special conference to discuss the petitions.
“But we also have to be patient and go about this issue the right way. As the committee has said already, time is not on our side,” said Lehohla as he tried to cool down the tempers.
With emotions threatening to boil over Mosisili then took the floor.
He promised that the executive committee would call a special conference “because it seems it is highly imperative that we do so”.
“It is clear that a special conference is needed to deal with this matter. However, we cannot rush the conference due to time constraints,” Mosisili warned.
“We need time for careful preparations and the proper organisation of delegates from all our constituencies. Please leave the matter in the hands of the executive committee to work on.”
Although no date was set for the special conference some delegates told the Lesotho Times that it was likely to be held in early January.
An LCD official who requested anonymity but is also pushing for the dissolution of the executive committee on Tuesday told this paper that the national executive committee’s days were numbered.
“We are winning the race,” he said.
“The fact that we did not allow Metsing to discuss the petitions was actually a move in the right direction and it strengthened our strategy,” he added.
“Had we allowed him (Metsing) to discuss the 26 petitions then, it would have given the executive committee reason to argue that a special conference was no longer required.”