IN March this year, the High Court brought to an end a long-running Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) leadership battle by ruling in favour of a faction led by party leader Mabusetsa Makharilele.
Mr Makharilele’s camp had been at loggerheads with former LPC leader Molahlehi Letlotlo over control of the party since 2015.
The LPC’s troubles started when Mr Letlotlo expelled the party’s then secretary-general Moipone Piti and erstwhile publicity secretary Bokang Ramatšella in October 2015.
A conference convened by Mr Makharilele’s faction to elect the LPC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) then ousted the committee led by Mr Letlotlo.
During the conference, Mr Makharilele – who was then deputy leader – was elected as LPC leader with Mr Ramatšella elected as the secretary-general of the party.
However, Mr Letlotlo and his faction have since challenged the conference’s outcomes in the High Court with an application seeking to nullify the new NEC.
Mr Letlotlo, who was last month fired by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili as Social Development minister after losing the case, has also joined forces with the Lesotho Worker’s Party (LWP) in campaigning for the 3 June 2017 elections.
In this wide-ranging interview, Mr Ramatšella speaks to Lesotho Times (LT) Reporter Pascalinah Kabi on, among other issues, the party’s prospects in the elections given that they only managed to garner two proportional representation (PR) seats in the 2015 general elections .
LT: What does the March court ruling, which gave your faction absolute powers over the running of the party mean for the LPC going into the snap elections?
Ramatšella: First of all it means that all the lies uttered by the faction we were fighting against have been dispelled. It shows that those people are power hungry individuals who were abusing their positions to seize control of things that did not belong to them. The LPC is a political party belonging to its members and not anyone’s personal farm. The ruling also proved the point that the LPC was, is and will never be anyone’s personal property and must not be run as such.
The LPC is a vibrant political party which will continue to contribute immensely to this country’s national issues. At this point, we are working tirelessly preparing for the snap elections set for next month.
But I must point out that going into this election, the LPC’s preparations were negatively affected because of that infighting. When other parties started their election preparations soon after the 2015 elections, we spent a lot of time working hard to dispel lies that were making the rounds regarding the LPC’s leadership.
Because of these lies, we were unable to continue with plans intended to grow the LPC and make sure that it stayed relevant. However, I must state that even though we are late, we have made tremendous progress in ensuring that the LPC garners more votes in the coming elections.
We have achieved this through various radio programmes that I have been featuring in, making sure people understood that we are the rightful leadership and that the LPC was not someone’s personal property. So we are going into these elections knowing very well that we will garner more votes and be represented in parliament.
Secondly, the court ruling is a big win for us as it proved that Ramatšella has been telling the truth the whole time when he fought for the congress movement and defended the government. This has given us more of an advantage to garner more votes this time around.
LT: What is the LPC’s take on the court challenge that has been lodged by the rival faction led by Mr Letlotlo?
Ramatšella: What court case? Ok, I understand what you are talking about, but I must tell you that we don’t recognise that there is an ongoing court case pertaining to the issue of the LPC leadership. After winning the court case, Mr Letlotlo and his followers went to court asking that the court case be returned to court for fresh arguments which might lead to a new judgement.
The case was filed as an urgent matter. And after listening to Mr Letlotlo and his followers’ arguments, the court ruled that it was not an urgent matter and we don’t know when this case will be back in court; it may be next year or any other time.
There were simply no valid reasons brought forward by Mr Letlotlo on why this case must be taken back to court. So this is just a cruel move taken by Mr Letlotlo to ensure that the LPC does not contest in this coming elections but they have failed on this one.
LT: What is going to happen in the coming elections given that Mr Letlotlo said the LPC has forged an alliance with the LWP? Mr Letlotlo has also urged LPC members to vote for the LWP.
Ramatšella: Mr Letlotlo and his followers have dismally failed to win control of the LPC. Going around saying the LPC is part of the LWP is simply seeking trouble and we will not allow it. I must tell you that I have already written to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and there is an ongoing case against Mr Letlotlo for trying to sow divisions and cause confusion for LPC members going into these elections. The case will be heard by the IEC’s code of conduct ethics committee.
But this particularly depicts the kind of people Mr Letlotlo and his followers are; sore losers who will stop at nothing to ensure that the LPC dies a natural death. Only a failed leader would go around making up lies and conniving with other parties to kill the party which they failed to lead.
This is an unfortunate incident which will follow him to his grave. This is also an indication that Mr Letlotlo is a nationalist. The LWP does not subscribe to the congress ideology and trying so hard to merge the LPC with nationalists is an indication that Mr Letlotlo’s loyalties have always lied with the nationalists. In Lesotho’s political landscape, you are either a congress or nationalist ideology supporter; nothing else.
This also indicates that for the longest time, the nationalists have arrested our state leadership by holding higher positions in government, hence congress parties have been struggling to grow. Putting nationalists in power, who are troublemakers, has brought negative results in Lesotho’s political landscape.
It is not true that the LPC is going into these elections under another party’s banner. I am glad that our followers know very well that the LPC is going into these elections on its own. In the last election, we contested for elections in 49 constituencies and this time around we are eyeing 65 constituencies; an indication that we are growing.
LT: What is the different between nationalist and congress ideologies?
Ramatšella: The difference is that we subscribe to different political ideologies. I can only make you understand this by giving you an example.
Our understanding is that people elected for leadership positions must be send by the public to these leadership positions. Leaders must strictly come from their different constituencies having been chosen and sent by the people and that’s the difference between us and the nationalists.
Secondly, we have African ideologies that we believe in such as being revolutionary and fighting for independence from colonialism. Given that the national party was founded by the British colonialists themselves, it shows that fighting for independence from the British government has never been on the nationalists’ agenda. While the British colonialists might have left, it is a known fact that the nationalists are bringing back the colonialist government into our backyard; this time around using a black person’s face.
This is why you see them subscribing to capitalism, making sure that the rich get richer while the poor remain poorer; something which we do not believe in. You will also realise that in Lesotho, a national party is so discriminatory and solely belongs to the royals with only a few individuals trying to squeeze themselves in.
For instance, the Basotho National Party (BNP) has been led by royals from Chief Leabua Jonathan’s era, who was deputised by Chief Retšelisitsoe Sekonyana to date. Now it is being led by Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane and Chief Joang Molapo. The only time the BNP was not led by a chief was during Major-General Lekhanya Metsing’s tenure and he was overthrown by Chief Thesele simply because he was a commoner.
History tells us that we have always had sour relations with chiefs. By virtue of being royals, nationalists impose themselves on people while the congress leadership is democratically-elected.
LT: As the LPC, do you believe there is a place for nationalists and congress politics in this modern society?
Ramatšella: Yes. One cannot be able to deal with Lesotho’s politics unless they know their roots. Like I said, politics entirely depend on ideological beliefs. Working hard to ensure that we do away with nationalists and congress ideologies is simply an indication that the person pushing for this wants us to help them hide the truth that the nationalists were used by the white people to inflict pain on black persons.
Like I said, politics is an ideology. Lesotho is Christian country with many different churches and it will not make sense to say that in this modern day we don’t need the Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa, Roman Catholic Church or the Dutch Reformed Church but just one church. It is the same in politics. Nationalists and congress ideologies are needed in local politics.
LT: Is there any future for the LPC in local politics should it not perform well in the coming elections?
Ramatšella: I wouldn’t say the LPC is not going to perform well. I can assure you that we are still going to be in parliament after the 3 June snap elections and this time around I think our parliamentary representation will be higher.
Our advantage is that my active involvement in defending the congress government has earned us more support and there are other congress parties’ followers who believe in Ramatšella as a person; and when Ramatšella tells them to vote for a certain party, they know Ramatšella cannot go wrong.
As much as we were a small party in the coalition government, our influence was way better than the bigger parties’ participation or influence.
But I need to address your question now; should the LPC not perform well, it will remain a political party legally registered in Lesotho and we will assess what went wrong and work harder to ensure that we perform better. We are not here for the sake of being here but to serve Basotho whether in parliament or not.
LT: You appear on the fifth position on your party’s PR List. Given that in 2015 the party only managed to garner two PR lists, are you happy with the fifth position? Do you think you will make it to the 10th parliament?
Ramatšella: Well, you must understand that the LPC is a political party owned by its members, not leaders. I subscribe to the party leadership’s decisions. When the LPC leadership met, they decided on which position each person must be put on the PR list and I was put on the fifth position. If I am a true congress supporter, I must abide by the party’s decision whether I am happy nor not. But I must tell you that I am happy with that position. Have you realised that the party leader is not the first on the PR list? One would have thought it was a given that a leader must be in first position but the party’s decision has chosen otherwise. You would ask the same question to our leader and I will tell you that he is very happy with that decision; a decision that was not imposed on us. We deliberated on it and came to an agreement. This is for the benefit of the LPC, not individuals.
LT: Do you see life beyond politics?
Ramatšella: Well, when God created man, He created man with purpose. Most people who take the wrong pathway in life would not be aware of God’s intention for their lives. Even the most educated ones fail to make it in life simply because they failed to identity God’s purpose for their lives. Fortunately enough for me, God helped to identity my power and my strengths dictate that I can be a politician.
For example, most people do not know that I wrote my first book – Conflict of My Deepest Soul – when I was doing Form C. If you were to read that book, it will give you God’s intended direction for my life and I am living as per God’s purpose for my life. I am a politician by birth, not by choice.
I take it that God said that I will make a living within politics and other things that I may do outside politics like businesses are just income generation projects for me but I am a politician first and foremost.