THIS week, the National Assembly has been the centre of attention for most Basotho after Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader Monyane Moleleki, Secretary-General Ralechate ’Mokose, former Law Minister Mokhele Moletsane and former Local Government Deputy Minister Kotiti Liholo moved to the crossbench to signify their withdrawal from the government.
This was after the DC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) pulled out of the coalition government citing corruption, nepotism and deteriorating relations with development partners among other reasons.
In light of these unprecedented events, Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, speaks with political analyst, Nthakeng Pheello Selinyane, of the National University of Lesotho about the likely scenarios going forward.
LT: Following the DC NEC’s announcement it was withdrawing from government, a lot of issues have been discussed in relation to the state of affairs in parliament and the structure of government. What is your view on these issues?
Selinyane: Shortly after winning the 2007 elections, Ntate (Pakalitha) Mosisili said the people who defected from the then ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC) “were last seen descending into the river with a mission of crossing it, but they never emerged on the other side of the river”. He was referring to 17 MPs who defected from the LCD in 2006 to form ABC with the hope of forming the next government. Today, we have people who have announced themselves to have crossed the floor and withdrew themselves from the government. However, they have not adopted a new identity in terms forming a new party. In other words, they are like a white barrier line in a highway. What they are proposing, which is a self-resolution of a difficult situation, will not come to pass as such. The reason why I say it is a self-resolution is that Ntate Moleleki uses statements like “we are not going to pass a motion of no confidence, we will just wait there until the prime minister does the right thing.” The “right thing” would seem to be that the prime minister admits he has lost numbers in parliament and resigns.
But simultaneously Ntate Moleleki is also saying explicitly that they will wait patiently until this minority government will be forced to come back to them for the budget. This is because the government can avoid all sorts of things in parliament, but not the budget allocation among other emergencies. What is certain is that at least once a year, government will have to go back to parliament to get a budget. This is why Ntate Moleleki says they might wait for them to come to parliament for budget and then they will refuse to give them the budget.
Ntate Moleleki has further suggested an inclusive government or Government of National Unity (GNU). But he cannot do that with people who don’t want to enter into any partnership with him. These are very fascinating scenarios because suppose they were able to cobble some sort of government of that complexion, who is going to be the head of government?
LT: But what exactly led to this?
Selinyane: We know that what has brought us here is not so much the hiccups in terms of public finance management activities, corruption, divisionism and nepotistic things as Ntate Moleleki and his followers put it. We know that the cardinal point that has brought us here is succession. And this succession issue goes back to between 2002 and 2007. At that time, some people wanted Ntate Moleleki to go home and others were already seeing the hand of Ntate Mpho Malie behind the curtain with Ntate (Mothetjoa) Metsing seen as his puppet. Ntate Malie was seen as competing with Ntate Moleleki for the succession in the Sixth Parliament between 2002 and 2007. But Ntate Malie volunteered to go on retirement eventually. These people were fighting for succession simply because of the prestige the position holds. For instance, because Ntate (Thomas) Thabane is a former prime minister, he has benefits that are almost similar to someone currently holding the position. Both Ntate Thabane and his spouse still get 80 percent of the salary they earned while they were in office. They still have other benefits like chauffeurs and government vehicles. This is what has brought us here. But in our situation, when somebody is in power, and that is while he is still in office, he has control over the national treasury. Because our accountability structures are still very much dysfunctional, when someone is in power, he owns the national treasury as if it is his personal asset. You begin to see their families benefiting more from that. They will then direct favours to their friends. In my view, Ntate Moleleki is not trying to cure the issue of corruption in government. Ntate Moleleki, and some of his followers in his Lirurubele faction, might not be the most qualified to speak so much against corruption. In other words, they cannot claim they are not corrupt themselves.
LT: Can you substantiate your argument about succession being the major issue here?
Selinyane: The immediate background to this remains that barrage of accusations by the DC youth league president, Ntate Thuso Litjobo, against the party’s women’s league president, Dr Pontšo ’Matumelo Sekatle, over her statement that when the prime minister, Dr Mosisili, is not available, the deputy prime minister, Ntate Metsing, automatically takes over. And Dr Sekatle was correct. I don’t see why this had to boggle Mr Litjobo so much. Simple logic dictates that immediately when Dr Mosisili absents himself from office, Ntate Metsing takes over. If Dr Mosisili may absent himself from office for good, still Ntate Metsing will stay in that office until such time a bigger party in the coalition, which in the case remains DC, has identified someone to substantively replace Dr Mosisili, as per the coalition agreement. I don’t know why Mr Litjobo and his people confused Dr Sekatle’s statement to mean she was betting for Ntate Metsing in the succession.
The time Ntate Mosisili started saying there were people in the party courting nationalists and conspiring to form another was around the same time the new DC youth league executive committee was elected. In fact, the entire committee was already believed to be more aligned to Ntate Moleleki than to Ntate Mosisili.
During the youth elective conference, Ntate Mosisili said there were people who undermined him and called him an old horse who should retire. He definitely had some people in mind because he even said some of them were ministers who failed to win their constituencies, nonetheless.
Remember LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata’s leaked audio recording in which he revealed that Ntate Thabane and Ntate Moleleki were holding talks to form a new government. He said Ntate Moleleki had few MPs supporting him who could cross the floor in parliament. By this, he meant that most MPs who followed Ntate Moleleki held proportional representation (PR) seats and therefore were unable to cross the floor unless they were ready to be dismissed from parliament. The DC has 47 seats. Out of that, 10 are PR seats. Now what Mr Sekata implied was that Ntate Moleleki was being followed by probably only the 10 MPs in PR seats.
LT: From what you are saying, it looks like Dr Mosisili knew from way back the DC was divided with some people conspiring to oust him. What has he done to address the problem?
Selinyane: Ntate Mosisili failed to hold a reconciliation conference which was supposed to bring together all the party’s executive committees. Instead, he climbed to the top of the mountain and started rolling down rocks, which is something he was not supposed to be doing. He repeatedly failed to bring together the two factions, Lirurubele and Lithope, together as one party. As the leader, Ntate Mosisili should be a glue that binds the party together. He failed because he always puts himself above others. This is evident in his statements where he says: “You (referring to party members) will suffer… I will survive… You will be ruled by your enemies, while I stay afloat.”
He sees himself as a separate entity from the DC members. That is how he fails to be a binding figure – his fortunes are not aligned to theirs. Ntate Mosisili does not even pretend that he has the means of reining in everybody and shepherding them to the common stream.
LT: What’s your take on the way the DC NEC has dealt with this matter? Do you think the committee will succeed in its mission to form a new government?
Selinyane: For Ntate Moleleki and his followers to succeed, they would have to be declared as the custodians of the DC’s persona. Although they might not move to force the hand of those who are not supporting them in the party, they will have to fight to be declared by a court of law as the custodians of the DC brand.
LT: Ntate Moleleki has said they already have over 20 MPs on their side.
Selinyane: If they have numbers, why have we only seen four people crossing so far? A critical question remains to be answered; is the chairperson of the NEC who is also the party leader, Ntate Mosisili, aware and concurring with the meeting that decided to withdraw the party from government? Did he convene that meeting or did he give sanction to the meeting to proceed without him? When it had proceeded without him did he accede to its outcomes? Even in the most democratic organisations, leaders are supposed to be imbued with a certain mystical status. The leader’s voice matters a lot. A leader can dispense with any member, even his deputy. The ABC deputy leader, Ntate Tlali Khasu, is a typical example. He has been suspended from the party by the leader. It is like that. The leader holds everyone’s fate except himself. This is why even where the NEC can institute a disciplinary action against any member, the culmination of that is to submit its recommendation before the leader to approve or disapprove. That, in itself, says if Ntate Mosisili was not part of the meeting, that meeting is likely to be declared ill-constituted. The present debacle in the DC suggests that the leader and his deputy are miles apart. The question is who, between the two of them, represents the DC in parliament? The deputy prime minister, Ntate Metsing, has tossed a very interesting scenario, where he says the motion of no confidence, if it comes, could be frustrated until the end of the life of this parliament through a court challenge.
LT: What about National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai; can’t she make a ruling over this stalemate?
Selinyane: It is within her powers to do so. She could have done it but she doesn’t want to do it promptly. She has not read the letter from the DC. Had she read it, she would have request the DC MPs to then cross the floor. It’s not for her to inquire whether the letter is legitimately from the DC or not.