THE Lesotho Congress for Democracy’s (LCD) elders committee has stepped into the fray pitting Secretary-General Selibe Mochoboroane and deputy leader Tšeliso Mokhosi as a last ditch effort to prevent another party split.
The LCD’s infighting has bigger ramifications than the party’s wellbeing, as it risks dealing a fatal blow to the already wobbly governing coalition.
The divisions compound the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-led government’s battle to remain in power ahead of a looming no-confidence motion by the opposition when the National Assembly reconvenes next February.
The seven-party coalition has been reeling after the alliance’s major partner, Democratic Congress (DC) split earlier this month following a protracted internecine turf war between Dr Mosisili and his former deputy Monyane Moleleki.
The DC faction led by Dr Mosisili managed to retained control of the party, while Mr Moleleki earlier this month formed a party called Alliance of Democrats (AD).
Another split in the LCD – the coalition’s second largest party – would all but collapse the government barely two years after assuming power after the 28 February snap elections.
In a frantic bid to quiet the storm, the elders committee yesterday hauled Mr Mochoboroane and Mr Mokhosi to a closed-door hearing convened to establish the root causes of the escalating feud at the party headquarters in Maseru.
Chaired by former deputy prime minister, Lesao Lehohla, the committee is expected to compile its findings and recommendations and submit the report before the LCD’s National Executive Committee (NEC) “soon” for further action.
LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata yesterday told the Lesotho Times the committee summoned both men “to hear their sides of the story”.
The tussle in the LCD has resulted in the emergence of two factions, Ma-Egepeta (Egyptians) aligned to party leader Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Ma-Israele (Israelites) supporting Mr Mochoboroane.
Mr Metsing’s detractors in the party have nicknamed him “Pharaoh”, accusing the deputy premier of authoritarianism and refusing to relinquish power. For his part, Mr Mochoboroane’s supporters call him “Moses” whom they say would take the LCD to a figurative “promised land” analogous to the Biblical characters.
Mr Mokhosi, who is linked to the Ma-Egepeta faction, has personally clashed with Mr Mochoboroane who has been accused of trying to take away the limelight from Mr Metsing.
Sources told this publication Mr Mochoboroane’s recent reshuffling from the influential Energy ministry to the Small Business Development portfolio was part of a strategy to “contain” the charismatic and energetic minister.
The sources said Mr Mochoboroane, who has also hit the ground running in his new portfolio, was perceived as trying to “score political points” against Mr Metsing with his strong work ethic.
The infighting in the LCD has also intersected with the turf war in the DC which culminated in Mr Moleleki’s Lirurubele (butterflies) faction jumping ship after losing a court battle for the ownership of the party to Dr Mosisili’s Lithope (girlfriends).
During the peak of the DC’s internecine wrangle, Mr Mochoboroane broke ranks with the LCD’s hierarchy by denouncing his party’s participation in a contentious 18 September 2016 march organised ostensibly to support the coalition government.
This was after opponents of the march – who included Mr Moleleki and his supporters – had argued it was meant to prop up Dr Mosisili’s faction.
Mr Mochoboroane, who snubbed the march, echoed the sentiment, saying it fuelled the infighting in the DC.
However, his posture did not go down well with the LCD hierarchy which has been accused by Mr Moleleki’s followers of fostering divisions in the DC to gain an upper hand in the coalition. The DC splintered from the LCD in 2012.
Meanwhile, speculation has been rife Mr Mochoboroane’s Ma-Israele were on the verge of splitting from the LCD to form a new party after the party’s former spokesperson and musician, Mahlomola Makhube, resigned this week.
Sources privy to the matter said Mr Makhube’s resignation was a harbinger of the expected departure by Mr Mochoboroane from the LCD to form his own party.
“There is a strategy already in place by Ma-Israele to leave the LCD and form their new party led by Ntate Mochoboroane,” said the sources, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation.
“Initially, Ntate Mochoboroane was advised to join Ntate Monyane Moleleki’s newly-formed Alliance of Democrats. But the new plan is for Ntate Mochoboroane to lead his own party and part ways with the current government.”
The sources said the Ma-Israele faction decided to form their own party to give themselves leverage in coalition talks with the AD and other parties in light of the “almost certain” elections.
Prior to leaving the DC, last month, Mr Moleleki inked an alliance pact with the tripartite opposition bloc to oust the government through a parliamentary no-confidence motion.
Apart from Mr Makhube, Trade Minister Joshua Setipa as well as the LCD’s losing candidate for the Qoaling constituency during the 2015 general elections, Makhetha Thaele, have been linked with the Ma-Israele faction.
However, Mr Sekata dismissed assertions the LCD was heading for a split saying: “People are quick to say whatever they like even when there is no proof of what they are saying. The elders committee is only making deliberations today (yesterday).
“It has not made any findings and recommendations, but people are already making all sorts of claims that the party is facing a split.”
He said rumours Mr Mochoboroane would be suspended and even fired as a government minister were “ridiculous”.
“Some people have tried to pre-empt issues by saying the NEC is going to suspend Ntate Mochoboroane from the committee and dismiss him from his ministerial post. That is ridiculous!
“Ntate Mochoboroane, as per the constitution of this country, was appointed minister by the King at the advice of the prime minister. If he were to be dismissed, Ntate Mochoboroane would be fired by those authorities and not the NEC.”
Mr Sekata said the feud was between Mr Mochoboroane and Mr Mokhosi and “not the party as a whole”.
“This matter is purely an issue concerning two people in the party – the deputy leader and the secretary-general. It doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the party. This is why even the elders committee summoned just two people,” he said, adding the committee was expected to submit its report “soon” after yesterday’s deliberations. Other than Mr Lehohla, the LCD elders committee among others consists of party stalwarts and former cabinet ministers Mohlabi Tsekoa and Mpho Malie, with Mookho Mathibeli the committee secretary.
Efforts to contact both Messrs Mochoboroane and Mokhosi were unsuccessful yesterday.