THE Democratic Congress (DC)—the major shareholder in the seven-party government—held a national conference in Ha Foso last weekend where it elected its first National Executive Committee (NEC) among other issues.
’Maboiketlo Maliehe, who retained her position as chairperson, spoke with Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, about the conference—the DC’s first since the party was established in 2011.
LT: The DC held a national conference at the weekend, where the party elected its first NEC for a three-year term. Could you please first tell us the outcome of the election and how the new NEC looks?
Maliehe: It is important to mention that we were electing from the position of deputy leader downwards as per the party’s constitution. However, the deputy leader, Ntate Monyane Moleleki, was unchallenged, which means he remains in that position. The next position is that of secretary general, which was won by Ntate Ralechate ’Mokose. The next position is that of treasurer which went to Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla. Then, still in descending order of hierarchy, we have the position of chairperson, and I was unchallenged for that post. The position of deputy secretary general was filled by Ntate Refiloe Litjobo, while the deputy chairperson post went to Ntate Motlalentoa Letsosa. The spokesperson is Ntate Serialong Qoo, while his deputy is Ntate Liphapang Rapontšo. The publicist is Ntate Tsukutlane Au, and his deputy is Ntate Retšelisitsoe Masenyetse. Then we have four members, namely Ms ’Malebaka Bulane, Ntate Ndiwudlile Ndlomose, Ms ’Mathabo Shao and Ntate Motseki Nkaleche.
LT: The Prime Minister, who is also the DC leader, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili, said in his opening speech that it had come to his attention that there were some DC members who had approached the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC), with a view to form another coalition government with the party. Does this now confirm what had always been denied by the DC—that there were factions within the party—one supporting the leader and the other his deputy, Mr Moleleki?
Maliehe: I will not comment on the leader’s opening speech for the simple reason that the conference agreed that Ntate Mosisili’s statement, because he is the leader, had been clear to us and should be adopted. The conference further reached a decision that no member of the party would talk about the statement beyond the conference. In one of the clauses, the DC constitution stipulates that it is a serious offence for one not to abide by decisions made in the national conference. It is an offence so serious that a member should be expelled from the party or face an alternative serious punishment for breaching this rule. Based on these regulations, I cannot respond to this particular question.
LT: The conference itself; Why is it so important to the party?
Maliehe: It is very significant for us to have held the NEC elections because these are the people that DC members have delegated to drive the mandate of their party; who will be the difference between the success and failure of the party. It is equally important to remember that these are the people carefully selected by party members to assist the leader, who is the main driver of the DC mandate. They are the working hands of the leader, and each of them has his or her own area of administration, acting on behalf of the leader, for the benefit of the general membership of the party. It is important also to mention that these people are sent on a three-year mission to administer the party, hence after this period, they have to account to the membership at a national conference. The growth and weaknesses of the party are highlighted in a report compiled and presented by the secretary general during the national conference at the end of the NEC’s term. The party’s growth is determined mainly by increasing membership.
The secretary general should say in the report how the party membership was affected; if the membership was affected negatively, he or she should be in a position to say what the weaknesses were and what could be the solution. The report should also include issues of both the women’s and youth leagues. It also covers issues from constituency level. These entire issues in the report will determine whether or not the party is in the right direction of growth. Other than the secretary general’s report, we will also have that of the treasurer which relates to the party’s funds and assets. These two reports are pivotal during the national conference. The national conference is further important in that it is where the owners of the party, being members even from branch level, meet to assess and determine the way forward.
LT: How does this happen?
Maliehe: We have three officials from each of the 80 constituencies across the country. These officials, namely secretary general, treasurer and chairperson, lead the party’s representatives at branch level. In other words, the national conference is mainly a meeting of members at branch level. Remember, constituencies are established by a number of branches. Constituencies have a different number of branches depending on their size. So we have a large number of representatives from branches this way; the ratio is for every 500 members at our branches, one person is elected to represent them at the conference. Where we would have 501 or more, but not more than 1000 members in a branch, then two representatives are elected to attend the conference. For this national conference, we had expected over 2000 people to officially attend and cast their vote, but we ended up with 1 944. So you will notice that a large number comes from the branches. I should also mention that in the case of the three officials from each constituency, if that particular official, say chairperson for instance, cannot attend the conference for whatever reason, no substitute is allowed to represent them in the conference. This is one of the factors why we had 1944 people instead of over 2000. The constitution requires that those officials should come in person.
LT: What does the party’s constitution say about the position of the leader in terms of when he or she should be elected?
Maliehe: The constitution is very clear that the leader is elected once every six years. That is why we held the first national conference to elect the NEC save for the position of party leader which will be contested in three years’ time.
LT: What were some of the resolutions made at the conference?
Maliehe: If I can quote our leader, Ntate Pakalitha Mosisili, in his closing speech at the conference, he said: “Here is the party constitution which guided members to electing you (NEC). Your positions are offices in which you should know very well the tasks of your office. Every office should perform its tasks aligned with the constitution”.
Having said that, it means now when the NEC meets for the first time, it should develop a strategy in view of the secretary general’s report and others, and the discussions made at the conference, to strengthen the party. That NEC strategy should enable the party to address these issues during its three-year term.
LT: When is the first NEC meeting?
Maliehe: The last NEC used to have its meetings every first Wednesday of the month. If that is going to continue in the new committee, then we can expect the first meeting to be held on Wednesday (yesterday). But this will depend on the decision of the secretary general in consultation with the leader.
LT: What are the challenges facing the DC, in your view?
Maliehe: To me, the biggest challenge we have is that of building the party and growing its membership. And to achieve this, we need to educate our members about the party’s constitution. If members are clear on what the constitution requires of them, they will become one and they will be unshakable no matter the challenges. Like I said, my deepest concern is for party members to receive enough knowledge about what the constitution requires of them. If you may come across a real congress person who is well-trained and clear about the constitution, you will notice that you cannot change his or her mind no matter what you say. Real congress people stick with congress principles and are unshakable and resistant to any external forces. When we first joined the congress movement with the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) ages ago, there was this famous statement that ‘if you cook the head of a congress person together with a granite stone, the latter will get cooked first’. This is simply because a real congress person cannot be deterred from congress principle. He or she is clear what the constitution says. He or she is clear on the fundamentals of a congress person. This is what I am going to ask from the NEC that we should consider to deepen the training of party members about the fundamental principles of the congress movement enshrined in the party’s constitution. The DC is the only diamond we have. We should protect it by refusing to be misled by our enemies. We should be unified and solid against external forces. Ntate Ntsu (Mokhehle) (the founder of the BCP and the congress movement in Lesotho) used to conduct these trainings regularly and that strengthened the membership of the party.
LT: Could these trainings also be a solution in terms of preventing the splits that have been so prevalent in the congress parties?
Maliehe: According to how I see it, it’s a definite yes. Where members are not well-trained about the constitution, they will have divisions because they are not at the same level of understanding of the principles of the party. They are easily influenced by the enemy because they have no solid tool to rely on. They can hardly identify a wrong from a right. In this situation, the only right tool to rely on is the constitution. It will not let you down if you stick to its stipulations.
LT: What is your take on the alleged recommendation by some party members that Dr Mosisili should retire from active politics at the end of his term and make way for some young blood?
Maliehe: Like I said, I joined the congress movement ages ago. We used to live by the principle that our leader is a trendsetter. He always has a way of leading the party in the right direction. The congress philosophy says what the leader speaks is the right direction for the party. So if you don’t follow what the leader says, you are going astray. My point is, let us not challenge our leader as party members. Let him voluntarily pass his leadership to the next candidate when the time is right for him to do so. Our leader is a very humble man. He is a unifying factor. Playing a leadership role in politics is not easy. It requires one to be humble and not rush into a decision. An ideal politician is smart enough to take his or her time to polish an idea, but once he or she is satisfied that the idea is good, he or she is quick to implement it.