MASERU — The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s Sunday rally in Maseru turned into somewhat of a circus when the infighting in the party was paraded for all and sundry.
The rally held at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre was the youth’s first ever public display of discontent.
At the centre of the chaos were two youth groups: one that is in support of the current LCD national executive committee and the other that wants it dissolved.
The LCD national executive, whose secretary-general is Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, has come under a barrage of attacks from several constituencies that are now calling for its immediate ouster.
Over the past few weeks petitions calling for the dissolution of the LCD national executive committee have been streaming in from constituencies.
Although he vehemently denied it, Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki is said to be the man behind the faction that wants Metsing’s executive out.
The drama at the rally showed how the infighting in the ruling party has reached crisis levels.
The two factions did not hide their contempt for each other.
They did not hide their allegiance or distaste for the LCD national executive committee.
Drama started when Metsing presented himself to the crowd.
As he walked to the podium only the youth group seated in the middle of the crowd cheered.
The group seemed to be dancing to the tune of one Moliehi Thipe, a tall and fair young woman from Taung constituency in Mohale’s Hoek.
‘Mantsane Motumi from the Motimposo constituency was Thipe’s “supporting act”.
The other group, which was seated on the extreme left end of the ground, displayed a rare indifference towards the secretary-general.
When it was time for Forestry Minister Ralechate ‘Mokose to introduce himself, things took a twist.
The youths who were standing at the extreme left end of the ground whistled and cheered.
Thipe’s group at this point went quiet except for a few hushed tones.
‘Mokose is said to belong to the faction led by Moleleki, although he vehemently denied it every time he was asked about it. Soon a pattern was established.
As each minister introduced themselves to the rally, the cheering was controlled from different parts of the crowd depending on which faction the minister belonged to.
When the new youth committee was introduced, one could hear the cheering coming from the other group while Thipe’s group remained silent.
Meanwhile, senior party officials in the VIP tent seemed amused by the drama.
And they could not resist joining in the stage game, it would seem.
They too whistled and ululated depending on which faction they supported.
Youth league president Mosala Mojakisane looked a worried man when he took the podium.
He urged the youth and all party members to uphold the decision made by the youth conference last month to “re-elect me the youth president”.
“I therefore appeal to the LCD youth as its league’s president, to make our party proud through our actions and what we utter with our mouths. We have to be a good and dignified reflection of the LCD.
“Let us not give our adversaries the opportunity to mock and criticise us. Let us make sure the saying that a blazing coal results in ash does not apply to us.”
Mojakisane’s speech seemed to only infuriate Thipe’s group more and they showed their contempt when it was time to break into song.
That new scene of the drama started when the youth members were invited to the podium to sing to welcome National Independent Party (NIP) deputy secretary-general Ntja Thoola.
The groups could just not agree on which song they should sing.
Eventually the two groups broke into two different songs, much to the embarrassment of the party leaders in the tent.
The youth league’s spokesperson Mpaballeng Motjetjepa started a song which Thipe’s group refused to join in.
Motjetjepa tried to teach the youth the lyrics of the song and her side warmed up to the song.
But Thipe’s group was not swayed and instead they started their own song.
For a while the two groups were singing different songs on one stage, at the same time.
As the drama continued, party chairman Thabang Pheko tried to call the two youth groups to order by asking them to stop singing.
Motjetjepa’s group immediately obliged but Thipe’s group was in no mood to stop.
Pheko reprimanded them thrice, but all in vain.
Eventually the LCD chairman lost his cool.
“I am tired of saying the same thing to you over and over again,” said a visibly irate Pheko.
“You are not the ones in control of the LCD but your elders are and you will do as you are told,” he said.
Pheko then called out to Mojakisane to try and bring the groups to order.
Minutes later the youths presented a united front as they all responded to a song started by Mojakisane.
In his speech LCD deputy leader Lesao Lehohla, who was the most senior party member at the rally, warned the supporters against succumbing to factionalism.
“We need each other. Not one person in the LCD is better than the other. If we allow ourselves to be divided then all our accomplishments will have been for nothing,” Lehohla said.
“We have achieved so much and persevered even during those times when the odds were stacked high against us. What have we learnt during those times? What would you say has been the nature of our journey?”
LCD leader Pakalitha Mosisili was not at the rally.
After the rally Thipe’s group continued singing insult-laden songs that seemed to have been targeted at the other group.
When contacted for comment on Tuesday, the youth league secretary-general Lebaka Bulane described the Sunday drama as “democracy at play”.
“As the LCD we believe in upholding all principles of democracy, which include among others accepting our committees and respecting them based on what the majority’s vote dictates,” Bulane said.
“My opinion is that the other group was just expressing the hurt and pain of losing the youth committee elections as the defeat came when they least expected it.
“They had been at the helm of the youth committee and were sure that we posed no threat to them. They were convinced that we were down and out. It was a shock.”
Bulane added that Lehohla’s message at the rally should not be taken lightly “because it was apparent he did not like that kind of behaviour.
“The essence of his message was that we should all rise above that which divides us because succumbing to it would be at the detriment of the LCD.”
Pheko played down the drama and blamed it on youthful delinquency.
“The youth always behave like that,” Pheko said.
“Their behaviour should therefore not be blown out of context.
“They were just fighting over the mic (microphone). That is why I instructed Mojakisane to lead them in song. They eventually listened because you could see them singing in unison later on.
“But I also had to be firm with them because when a child does not listen, you have to be harsh to be kind. We are bound by the constitution in the LCD and that is the way it is.”