MASERU – The divisions within the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) have spilled into its election partner, the National Independent Party (NIP).
The development could threaten the alliance’s hold on power in the long run.
NIP leader Serame Khampepe confirmed to the Lesotho Times yesterday that his party was split through the middle.
So deep is the factionalism that on Sunday a group of NIP members marched on a private residence used as the party offices in Maputsoe to demand the removal of party secretary general Letuka Nkole.
The group led by party MP Thapelo Mokone wants immediate elections because it claims the national executive committee in power since 2007 has overstayed.
The protesters however failed to present their grievances after the owner of the property indicated that his premises were not official NIP offices.
Nkole said there was nobody to receive the protesters’ grievances at the Maputsoe office because the national executive committee was not informed of the march in advance.
The disgruntled group accuses Nkole of sidelining them by refusing to renew Mokone and other members’ membership.
Nkole on the other hand has described the rival group as “people with no standards”, while dismissing their march as “of no effect”.
Divisions in the NIP have been simmering since the LCD began having problems in 2009.
Significantly, the rift in NIP is fashioning itself along the cracks affecting Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s LCD, which has been in power since 1997.
Sources within the party say NIP factions are identifying themselves with the camps that have emerged in the LCD.
Two distinct factions, dubbed the Lija-mollo and Litima-mollo, have appeared in the LCD.
In an interview, Khampepe said he was grappling to contain the split within his executive committee.
“I have been telling committee members that we should convene a general meeting but they refused saying we are protected by the recently approved amendments to the constitution to be in office for three years,” he said.
“I can confirm that the issue of the general-secretary’s refusal to renew membership of some party members was reported to me when we were at the special meeting on January 25 this year.”
Khampepe said he delegated a committee member to deal with the matter “but it seems he failed”.
“How could we not renew membership of our members when we want to see the NIP grow and contribute meaningfully in the national politics?”
Khampepe said he was embarrassed by his secretary-general Nkole’s statements dismissing other party members as people of no standards.
He fell short of confirming that the LCD factionalism was eating into his party.
“Perhaps our general-secretary by saying such things about the people he is leading was confirming that there is prototypical factionalism of the LCD in our party,” Khampepe said.
“As for me I cannot confirm it. I work with the LCD at a party level and I am not involved in its internal squabbles,” he said.
According to NIP sources, Mokone’s group sympathises with the Litima-mollo camp, which is reportedly led by Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.
Nkole on the other hand is allegedly aligned to the Lija-mollo faction reportedly led by Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki.
Both Moleleki and Metsing have in the past denied leading the LCD factions.
Sources say Nkole’s faction was hesitant to give in to the demands for an election because it feared that the Litima-mollo faction sympathisers were angling to replace Lija-mollo allies.
Repeated efforts to get comment from Mokone failed last night.
The call to remove Nkole as NIP’s general-secretary as well as replacing the entire executive committee through elections come at a time when the LCD is mired in its own leadership struggles that have seen some officials calling for leadership renewal.
At least 17 constituencies believed to be aligned to the Lija-mollo camp in February wrote to the party’s national executive committee calling for a special conference to remove Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s national committee.
The national committee has refused to accept the demand.
Problems in NIP and LCD are not peculiar to the two parties.
Opposition party, the Basotho National Party is also battling to contain factionalism that has torn the party apart.
The main opposition All Basotho Convention suffered break-aways between 2008 and last year.