. . . forges pact to field one candidate in Tsoelike and Mahobong constituencies
LERIBE – FOUR opposition parties have patched up cracks in their loose alliance by joining forces to field one candidate in constituencies contested by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing in the 3 June parliamentary election.
The bloc, which consists of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), has also agreed to withdraw candidates for constituencies being contested by the party leaders as a show of unity.
However, Dr Mosisili’s Political and Economic Adviser, Dr Fako Likoti, has scoffed at the electoral pact, saying the electoral pact would not wrest the constituencies won by the congress parties in the 2015 election because they were won by huge margins.
Under the agreement, the four parties will all vote for the AD’s candidate, Mosira Thahali, against Dr Mosisili in Tsoelike constituency.
In Mahobong constituency, the bloc will vote for the ABC’s candidate, Fonane Sello, against Mr Metsing.
The quartet will also vote for ABC leader and former prime minister Thomas Thabane in Abia constituency, AD leader Monyane Moleleki in Machache, BNP leader Thesele ’Maseribane in Mount Moorosi and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo in Taung.
Dr Mosisili, who is also Democratic Congress (DC) leader, won the Tsoelike constituency with 4 581 votes in the 28 February 2015 election, trouncing the runner-up ABC which had 325 votes.
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mr Metsing also won the Mahobong constituency with 3 501 votes, followed by the ABC with 2 449 votes in the 2015 poll.
Dr Thabane, on the other hand, won Abia with 5 918 votes in 2015, followed by the DC with 1 195 votes.
Mr Moleleki won Machache with 4 864 votes under the DC banner, followed by the ABC with 2 358 votes. Mr Moleleki was the DC’s deputy leader until December 2016 when he jumped ship after failing to wrest control of the party from Dr Mosisili.
Chief ’Maseribane won Mount Moorosi with a small margin of 2 390 votes against the first runner-up, DC, which notched 2 279 votes.
For her part, Ms Rantšo only managed third position in Taung with 484 votes after second-placed ABC, which garnered 1 773 votes, and the DC which won the constituency with 2 127 votes.
The DC, LCD and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) recently forged a pact to field one candidate for each of the country’s 80 constituencies citing a need to avoid vote splitting.
Under the pact, the DC will contest in 54 constituencies while the LCD was allocated 25. The three parties will vote for PFD deputy leader, Thabang Kholumo, in his Qalo stronghold in Butha-Buthe.
The decision to join forces comes in the wake of simmering discontent in the bloc with some of the parties accusing the ABC of not regarding them as equals in the loose alliance.
The parties forged an alliance last November to oust Dr Mosisili’s seven-party coalition government through a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
Under the agreement, AD leader Monyane Moleleki would have been prime minister for the first 18 months upon forming government, with ABC leader Thomas Thabane deputising him.
Dr Thabane would have swapped places with the AD leader in the remaining 18 months of the deal.
The parties successfully engineered the no-confidence motion on 1 March 2017, prematurely ending the five-year tenure of the seven-party coalition government which was established in March 2015. However, Dr Mosisili resorted to a constitutional provision that empowers a sitting prime minister to advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for elections.
King Letsie III acquiesced to the premier’s advice and duly dissolved parliament on 6 March 2017 and eventually proclaimed 3 June 2017 as election-day.
The dissolution of parliament put paid to the alliance, with Dr Thabane eventually ruling out forging an electoral pact with the four parties, saying the ABC was aiming to win all the country’s 80 constituency seats.
Dr Thabane had said he would only consider a coalition arrangement with the other parties if the ABC failed to muster enough seats to form government on its own.
The ABC’s stance did not go down well with the other parties, culminating in the AD and BNP last Wednesday pulling out of a joint opposition rally scheduled for Mahobong constituency in Leribe last Saturday.
The AD and BNP reversed their decision after the parties held an emergency meeting last Friday to iron out their differences.
The joint Mahobong constituency rally was held on Saturday as initially scheduled and attended by thousands of the parties’ supporters.
In his address, Dr Thabane said the four parties’ leaders met and agreed on the new arrangement to join forces in the six constituencies.
“As the ABC, AD, RCL and BNP leaders, we stand here before you with a new pledge that will bind us to work hand-in-hand and remain friends,” the former premier said.
“I assure you that we value the unity that we have. Together, we are fighting one enemy (congress movement) which continues to destroy our country.”
Dr Thabane said they were determined to ensure Dr Mosisili and Mr Metsing would not be elected into the National Assembly.
“We don’t see a reason why we cannot come together and vote against the enemy,” he said.
“We have agreed on this arrangement because we value the friendship that we have. We want to make sure that both Ntate Mosisili and Ntate Metsing can only get into the next parliament though proportional representation.”
Dr Thabane said he and Mr Moleleki had “borne the brunt” of Dr Mosisili’s “misrule” as government ministers before deciding to form their own parties.
Dr Thabane left the Dr Mosisili-led LCD government in 2006 to form the ABC while Mr Moleleki resigned as a minister in December last year to establish the AD.
“When I left Ntate Mosisili and his regime, I asked Mokola (as Mr Moleleki is affectionately known) to join me but he was hesitant saying he was trying to fix the troubled congress movement from within,” Dr Thabane said.
“He (Mr Moleleki) recently realised that he won’t be able to fix anything with Ntate Mosisili still at the helm. So he also left. People leave Ntate Mosisili one by one once they realise what kind of a person he is.”
The former premier also indicated that it was under Dr Mosisili and Mr Metsing’s watch that criminality “escalated” in the country.
“When we form government after next month’s elections, I don’t want to see any thieves and rapists doing as they please to innocent and vulnerable Basotho. That should end together with Ntate Mosisili and Ntate Metsing’s regime,” Dr Thabane added.
Mr Moleleki echoed the sentiments, saying: “On 3 June, we are going to repeat what we did to Ntate Mosisili and his partners in March this year. “We toppled Ntate Mosisili in parliament through a no-confidence vote against him and his government. Next month, we are sealing his fate of going home by winning the elections as the opposition bloc.”
Chief ’Maseribane directed his ire at Mr Metsing whom he described as a “rabble-rouser”. The BNP leader accused the deputy premier of catalysing the collapse of the Dr Thabane led coalition government in 2014 and the outgoing seven-party governing coalition.
The ABC, LCD and BNP formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 general election had resulted in a hung parliament. However, the coalition government collapsed in 2014 after Mr Metsing accused Dr Thabane of not consulting him on key governance decisions.
“He (Mr Metsing) has continuously caused instability in successive governments,” Chief ’Maseribane charged.
“Ntate Metsing caused our first coalition government to collapse in 2014. Again, he caused divisions between Ntate Mosisili and Ntate Moleleki resulting in the collapse of the current government. He is a rabble-rouser.”
Ms Rantšo also chipped in saying the lives of innocent Basotho were lost and endangered by people who supported Dr Mosisili and Mr Metsing.
“The lives of innocent people, including the former army commander Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko and many others, were lost through brutal attacks by the army and other security agencies,” she said.
“It is time the nation voted out Ntate Mosisili and Ntate Metsing because they have hurt and failed Basotho.”
Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was killed in an army raid of Police Headquarters on 30 August 2014 in what the military said was a special operation.
However, Dr Thabane – who was premier at the time — called the assaults an attempted coup.
Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead on 25 June 2015 outside Maseru by his fellow soldiers who claimed they had come to arrest him for alleged mutiny. However, the Mahao family has accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.
The ABC and AD’s secretary-generals, Samonyane Ntsekele and Mokhele Moletsane respectively, this week confirmed the opposition parties’ agreement to join forces in separate interviews with the Lesotho Times.
The duo also revealed that the candidates who were initially scheduled to contest in the six constituencies had already been informed of the new arrangement.
“It is a supreme decision reached by the party leaders and no one should challenge it within the ranks of the parties,” Mr Mokhele said.
BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo also confirmed to the Lesotho Times that the agreement was “genuine”.
Commenting on the development, Dr Likoti said the electoral pact was an “ill-fated alliance of convenience which was not based on principle”.
“For the opposition parties to come up with an arrangement now to vote together is simply a joke because they already had candidates for the six constituencies,” he said.
“This move is going to confuse and disenfranchise their voters. This is clearly an alliance of convenience which is not based on principles.”
Dr Likoti said the parties would not be able to wrest the constituencies won by the congress parties in the 2015 election because they were won by huge margins.
“Even if we may assume that they will vote together, their objective to defeat the congress alliance would not be achieved based on the outcome of the 2015 elections.
“If you look at the results of the 2015 elections, you realise that the combination of the LCD and DC will result in more votes than the four parties combined. They may win Abia only because that is where the ABC proved it still commanded a lot of support as I observed during the announcement of the party candidates by the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) on 19 April 2017. As for Machache, we have a mixed bag. Ntate Moleleki cannot say for certain that he will win that constituency even if the four parties combine votes,” Dr Likoti said, adding that the congress alliance was sure to win to win the bulk of the 80 elected seats in contention.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata proved fruitless as his phone kept ringing unanswered.