Party leadership reflects on free-fall while pledging to do better in 2020.
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing blames his party’s dismal performance in the 28 February 2015 snap elections on political rivals who launched a mudslinging campaign against him in the run-up to the poll.
“The last election was the LDC’s worst performance yet. There were many reasons why we were compromised. Those included my former coalition partners who peddled lies against me, and launched a campaign labeling me a thief and a murderer,” Mr Metsing said at his party’s elective conference held in Mohale’s Hoek last Saturday.
“I was accused of stealing public funds, was labeled a murderer, and persecuted for supporting the lawsuit against the Office of the King and many others. Some media houses were even used to advance this campaign against me.”
According to Mr Metsing, he was so shocked after receiving news that the LCD had only won two constituencies—his native Mahobong and Thabana-Morena.
Thabana-Morena was clinched by Energy Minister Selibe Mochoboroane, who landed the secretary general post during Saturday’s election, while Defence and National Security minister Tšeliso Mokhosi was elected deputy leader.
Mr Metsing’s post was not contested as the party’s constitution states the leader’s tenure is six years while the other executive posts are five years.
According to Mr Metsing, LCD diehards broke down after learning of the results.
“We got the shock of our lives when we received the results. We could not believe our ears, we were totally taken aback. Some of us even cried, some went crazy to the point of being hospitalised, while others lost their lives,” Mr. Metsing said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, LCD contestants in the last election had worked hard and done everything they could to win.
“…I was particularly shaken by the outcome; I was in denial. I just couldn’t believe it. Even to this day, I’m still not convinced that the giant that is the LCD, failed to bag the victory that we had anticipated. How is that possible? How did we lose by so many numbers?
“In all honesty, my heart refuses to let go; my heart just cannot be appeased,” Mr Metsing said.
For the election in question, in addition to the two constituencies, the LCD was subsequently allocated 10 Proportional Representation (PR) seats after 56 467 people voted for the party. This was a far cry from the 12 constituencies, 14 PR seats and 121 076 votes the party acquired in the 2012 polls.
After that poll, the LCD formed a coalition government with the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP). However, the alliance failed to last the prescribed five years due to a vicious power-struggled between ABC leader and then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Mr Metsing, who was deputy premier.
The bitter fallout resulted in February’s early election, with the LCD failing to build on its 2012 success.
Meanwhile, the LCD’s former coalition government partners, the ABC and BNP, enjoyed immense growth in the two years they were in power, with Dr Thabane’s party increasing its votes from 138 917 in 2012 to 215 022 in 2015, while the latter’s support rose from23, 788 in 2012 to 31, 508 votes this year.
However, Mr Metsing appears to suggest the sudden growth of both the ABC and BNP was suspicious.
“The issue of the numbers themselves is the mother of all surprises…that in such a short space of time, some parties could grow so fast while we lost by more or less the same numbers that they grew by,” Mr Metsing said.
But the LCD leader also urged his supporters not to dwell on their loss “because it is not only through being Members of Parliament (MPs) that you can serve your people.
“Yours now is to look after the LCD because the party will continue to look after your interests. Please do not allow this defeat to confuse you, especially those who quit their jobs to contest the elections,” Mr Metsing said.
“We need to stand up, dust ourselves and forge ahead so that we are in a position to perform better and retaliate at the 2020 elections. Let us defy the prophets of doom who had convinced themselves that it was over for the LCD.”
Meanwhile, the party’s newly elected deputy leader, Mr Mokhosi, on Monday told the Lesotho Times he was “humbled” by his election. Mr Mokhosi, who beat former deputy-leader Lesao Lehohla to the post on Saturday, also echoed Mr Metsing’s sentiments that “the LCD is beset by challenges”.
“I had never, in my wildest dreams, imagined myself being the deputy leader of a party as huge as the LCD. I was content holding any other position in the national executive committee,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“I am very humbled to be chosen to deputise my leader at a time the LCD is going through such trying times; a time when we are weak as a political party.
“They trust me to help our leader heal the wounds that have been inflicted on our party so that we can grow and secure stability for the LCD.”
Part of his mandate, Mr Mokhosi said, was helping LCD supporters understand the party was in a coalition government “with people with diverse opinions, hence the need to always find common ground”.
The LCD is now in a coalition government with the Democratic Congress (DC), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and National Independent Party (NIP).
According to Mr Mokhosi, his major concern was the rampant poverty ravaging Lesotho, and government’s lack of capacity to address unemployment.
“As we speak, there’s a queue of more than 8 000 youths awaiting job-openings at the Ministry of Public Service. We need to fight the scourge of unemployment,” Mr Mokhosi said.
Another challenge, which Mr Mokhosi said was a serious concern for government, was the level of HIV-infection among the youth.
“HIV is rife among the youth, particularly high school kids. An acquaintance of mine working for Kick4Life, told me that there are many youths in high schools infected with the virus,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“He told me the infections are worse among the girls, with seven out of 10 infected as opposed to three out of 10 among the boys.”
According to Mr Mokhosi, poverty was the main reason young girls used their bodies “to lure men in order to generate money to support their families.
“As such, girls are more prone to HIV-infections than any other group,” Mr. Mokhosi said.