MASERU — Prime Minister and Democratic Congress (DC) leader Pakalitha Mosisili was yesterday heckled by angry textile workers at a campaign rally in Maputsoe.
The rally was almost reduced to a circus as the textile workers disrupted Mosisili’s speech and demanded to know why he was now asking for their votes after neglecting them for the past 15 years.
The DC had scheduled the rally to coincide with the lunch hour at the factories.
Mosisili wanted to use the rally to shore up his support among textile workers, a group that delivered the Maputsoe constituency to Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention in the last election.
But he had barely started his speech when some factory workers descended on the venue and started singing.
In the rowdy group were Basotho National Party (BNP), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Lesotho Workers Party (LWP supporters who made it clear they were not at the rally for Mosisili’s speech.
Their regalia set them apart from the DC supporters whose focus was to listen to Mosisili’s speech.
They had come wearing BNP, LWP and LCD regalia.
They also had placards questioning Mosisili’s motive for coming to them “after 15 years in power”.
“When did you begin to realise that male and female factory workers earn a pittance?”
“Ntate Mosisili, what have you seen in factory workers after 15 years in power?”
“DC is government today, but who voted it into power?”
“Today you claim to know factory workers whom you have previously scorned for wrapping their waists with shawls?”
All these were placards directed at Mosisili and the DC.
So loud were their songs that Mosisili’s speech was barely audible.
When DC’s youth league chairman, Thuso Litjobo, tried to stop them they intensified their singing.
Instead of Mosisili the angry mob had become the centre of attraction at the rally.
But Mosisili seemed unfazed by the spectacle.
Instead, he told them he was not going to give up because “it is people like you whose support I need”.
“To you members of other political parties who are our guests today, you are the group I’m reaching out to. You are the people I want,” Mosisili said.
Mosisili said he was aware the government had previously abandoned the constituency of factory workers but “things will change if you vote the DC into power”.
“DC is a new political party with a different perspective and way of looking at issues. We’ve completely departed from where we once were.”
“You never saw the LCD coming to you to engage you in this manner. But DC has adopted a totally different approach. We realise that most of you are young people.”
Mosisili said the DC manifesto was targeting mostly women, workers and the youths.
“DC is sincere. (It) is coming to you in earnest and totally understands your plight,” Mosisili said.
But those promises could not mollify the workers.
“What I can tell you today is that although his promise of improving our wages and working conditions is good news, it comes a bit too late,” said a woman wearing BNP regalia.
The woman, who refused to be named, said she had voted for Mosisili since 1998 but he “failed to deliver”.
“He has had ample time to address us on critical issues and change our lives, but he never did. This is not the time to campaign, we’re going for elections and we already know who we’re going to vote into power.”
Five young men aged between 25 and 30 years old told this paper that they had been turned “into slaves of Chinese factory owners with consent from Mosisili’s government”.
“We’re not buying into what he is telling us. We have become slaves under his government. He never listens to us. He will just get our votes,” said one of them.
“If I were him, I would forget about winning elections in Maputsoe because we’re not part of his DC. He might as well go and govern elsewhere,” said another female factory worker who was standing close by.
DC secretary general Ralechate ’Mokose later said the supporters of the opposition had deliberately tried to sabotage the rally.
’Mokose said when he saw Thabang Kholumo, the deputy leader of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), he knew “something conspicuous would follow”.
“It’s a pity that things turned out the way they did because my belief is that we all have to adhere to the elections code of conduct and refrain from harassing each other,” ’Mokose said.
’Mokose added that neither Mosisili nor DC supporters were deterred by the outcome of the rally because “we did what we had gone to Maputsoe to do”.
“We have been able to convey our message as the DC. We will be going back to Maputsoe for a rally at constituency level,” ‘Mokose said.
“The DC leader is a very strong and seasoned politician who is very much aware that these things happen,” ’Mokose said.