Wikileaks hit Lesotho

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MASERU — Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing is unhappy about Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s decision to remain in power, according to the latest Wikileaks cables released on August 30.

The cable reveals that Metsing, who is also the secretary general of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), told former US Ambassador to Lesotho Robert Nolan that he was concerned with Mosisili’s “dictatorial” behaviour.

The cable was filed in December 2009 by Elizabeth Power, the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission.

It said Metsing expressed concerns about Mosisili’s “decision not to retire at the end of his current term and his ‘dictatorial’ behaviour in keeping a tight rein on party activities”.

Mosisili’s term ends in 2012 but he has not indicated whether he will seek another term or not.

Debate within the LCD over his succession has not been encouraged.

According to the cable Metsing sought the meeting with Nolan on November 12, 2009.

“Metsing stated that despite his position as LCD secretary general, he has never been consulted by Mosisili about party policy or activities.

“Instead, Mosisili appears to receive guidance and support from hardliners in the party such as Minister of Local Government Pontso Sekatle,” the cable said.

“This reliance on Sekatle and others who encourage the Prime Minister’s distance from the opposition parties has caused factions within the cabinet, and Metsing feels that he is being sidelined.”

“He claims that he and others would like to seek some means of dialogue and rapprochement with the opposition, and that he has also sought some collaboration from contacts within South Africa’s African National Congress on party leadership development, but these efforts have been stymied”.

“Metsing described Mosisili’s unwillingness to consider any discussion with the opposition, whether it be over the disputed allocation of proportional representation seats in the 2007 elections or over any other issue.”

It said Metsing is “viewed as a rising star within the LCD, and the young, energetic politician seems to have a solid base of public support”.

“His discontent,” the cable said, “may be motivated in part by his own political interest, but his comments about the Prime Minister taking a hard line with the opposition coincide with those of Foreign Minister, Kenneth Tsekoa, during the
August 2009 stay away, and are therefore quite credible”.

Metsing could not be reached for comment last night as his two mobile phones were not available.

Nor was it possible to get through to his home landline.

Sekatle said she could not comment on the issue.

The cable also reveals that South Africa’s High Commissioner to Lesotho, Happy Mahlangu, told Ambassador Nolan on December 1, 2009 that Mosisili was “too authoritarian”.

“Mahlangu stated that Mosisili is too authoritarian, noting that his unwillingness to engage and compromise with the political opposition has raised the South African government’s (SAG) concerns about increased potential for political violence; the SAG now feels that such violence is a matter of ‘when, not if’”.

It also said Mosisili had sought a state visit from South African President Jacob Zuma in 2009 “but the South Africans decided that Mosisili had to resolve the internal dispute with the opposition over the 2007 elections first”.

Zuma later visited Lesotho in 2010.

“Mahlangu said that South Africa will intervene militarily in Lesotho if it has to, but this time, South Africa will not take sides and will simply act to restore civil order.”

South Africa sent soldiers to restore peace in Lesotho during the 1998 political violence.

“Mahlangu’s comments about South Africa’s perceptions of Lesotho are concerning, as on the surface, the local political situation currently appears quite calm.

“South Africa’s willingness to take a firm stance against Mosisili if necessary is only highlighted by the recent issue of SADC’s AU presidency nomination going to Malawi instead of Lesotho, as had been originally planned,” the cable said.

Mahlangu was not available for comment despite that one of the officials at the High Commission had told him that the Lesotho Times wanted to talk to him.

The official said he gave Mahlangu a message to call the Lesotho Times.

The LCD has been torn apart by factionalism since 2007.

At the core of the intraparty fight are two factions, one of which is believed to be led by Metsing. Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki is believed to be leading the other.

Both Metsing and Moleleki have in the past vehemently denied the allegations, claiming that they are not linked to the factions in any way.

Mosisili has also acknowledged that his party is split and has warned that this might have ruinous effects on the party’s 13-year hold onto power.

Wikileaks, a whistle blowing website formed by Julian Assange, started releasing the US’ classified diplomatic cables in February last year.

The cables, which cover the period between December 1966 and February 2010, have been released gradually since then.

But after a series of events compromised the security of a WikiLeaks file containing the cables the website decided to release all the remaining documents.

The US government has refused to comment on the cables saying they are “stolen information”.

It has however gone on a diplomatic charm offensive to mitigate the fallout that has resulted from the release of the cable.Public opinion on whether Wikileaks’ decision to release the cables was correct or wrong is divided.

Some say Wikileaks is forcing governments to become more transparent while others say the website is endangering lives, national security and the economic welfare of countries.

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