MASERU — The leader of the opposition Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) party, Lekhetho Rakuoane, last Friday quit parliament to focus on party business ahead of the 2012 general elections.
Rakuoane has been an MP since 2002. He retained his parliamentary seat under the proportional representation (PR) system in 2007.
Rakuoane will be replaced in parliament by his deputy, Thabang Kholumo, who was second on the party’s PR list.
Kholumo stood for the PFD in the 2007 general elections in the Qalo constituency in Butha-Buthe.
He is a teacher by profession and a strong trade unionist who has long fought for the advancement of teachers’ working conditions.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Rakuoane, 50, said he was not retiring from politics but was merely quitting parliament to devote more time to the party.
He said he would devote more time for the PFD to garner more support in the constituencies ahead of next year’s local government elections as well as the general elections in 2012.
He also said he would retain the leadership of the opposition party.
“I am also not retiring from the leadership of the PFD,” Rakuoane said.
“If the PFD still wants me to be in its leadership I am ready to accept. I just quit parliament to help build the party in the constituencies.”
Rakuoane said the PFD was targeting to win at least 20 seats in the next general elections to increase the party’s impact in parliament.
Rakuoane, who was a member of various portfolio committees in parliament, said he has up to end of July to wind up his business in parliament.
The PDF leader was heading the parliamentary reform committee and was also a member of the Pan African Parliament.
He was also a member of the portfolio committee for the prime minister’s department for governance, information and foreign policy.
He was also a member of two committees — for the code of conduct for MPs and the National Assembly standing orders.
“I have unfinished business in those committees which I have to wind up before leaving parliament,” he said.
Rakuoane told the Lesotho Times this week that he was disappointed that he was the only PFD member in parliament.
“It is true that I fought hard for the enactment of laws and made some changes in parliament.
“But I need more PFD members who will push for needed changes in the parliament,” Rakuoane said.
“Our impact as a party cannot be felt if we have only one member in parliament.”
Rakuoane said his target was to win at least 20 constituencies in the 2012 general elections so that there can be a hung parliament.
“In a hung parliament, even if the LCD (ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy party) can have many MPs it will not have a majority to form a government and it will be compelled to form a coalition with another party,” he said.
The PFD chief said the party would be targeting constituencies in the northern part of the country where it enjoys relatively more support.
The PFD garnered 5 096 votes in the 20 northern constituencies in the 2007 general election.
Countrywide, the party won 16 000 votes indicating the party enjoyed massive support in the northern constituencies.
Rakuoane said he decided to quit parliament after realising that it was very difficult to push for change while working with other opposition parties.
He had no kind words for his colleagues in opposition.
“They are not principled,” Rakuoane said.
“You agree on a certain thing today and the following day they turn their backs against it,” he said.
“They could be eloquent speakers and they could be highly experienced and educated but they cannot be relied upon.”
Rakuoane said the opposition’s joint caucus in parliament had never worked because opposition MPs were highly unreliable.
All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane chairs the opposition caucus while Rakuoane was its secretary.
Speaking at the same press conference Kholumo said he was ready to take over from the much experienced Rakuoane.
“I am ready to meet the challenge although it is not going to be easy to enter into the shoes of Mr Rakuoane who accomplished much during his time as an MP,” Kholumo said.