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‘I am just doing my job’

MASERU — The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) youth committee’s former chairman, Rorisang Mokoena (pictured right) takes no prisoners. He can be abrasive when things don’t go his way. He has openly supported the LCD’s national executive committee at a time when many in the ruling party want it out. He recently disrupted a conference called by the Stadium Area constituency’s youth committee to elect its leadership. But the pint-sized Mokoena says he means no harm and has never made out to make a name for himself as a “hothead”. The Sunday Express put him in the HOT SEAT this week to talk about himself and the party. Below are excerpts from the interview.

SE: You have become popular for disrupting LCD youth meetings and getting youths from your faction to rebel when things don’t go your way. Why do you do that?

MOKOENA: There are principles that we are obliged to abide by in the LCD. There are also constitutional regulations that need to be followed to the letter. Mine is to see to it that the constitution is not violated.

SE: But it seems your approach has earned you a bad name. Is it because maybe you go about it the wrong way?

MOKOENA: When you are a member of a huge political organisation such as the LCD, it is your duty to ensure that you raise objections when people get it wrong. There is no way that one can do party business while at the same time violating the constitution. As a young person, the onus is on me to voice my concerns from the onset when people get things wrong, to show them the way. I have to set an example and keep the LCD dignified.

SE: Why you? Some have even dubbed you the Julius Malema of the LCD.

MOKOENA: I have no idea why the focus is mainly on me. Like I said earlier on, I mean no harm. I just need to ensure that the constitution is followed. 

SE: The recent elective conference for the Stadium Area’s youth committee was aborted after you intervened. You and other members of your camp protested against the presence of two senior members of the national youth committee who had been invited to observe the elections. Was there a constitutional violation in that case?

MOKOENA: Yes, we wanted the constituency youth committee to justify why Ntate Thuso Litjobo (national youth chairman) and ‘M’e Mpaballeng Motjetjepa (national youth spokesperson) had been called to observe those elections. According to the constitution they were not supposed to be there. The only time the national youth committee can observe elections is when there are conflicts within the youth of a particular constituency. They were supposed to be at their own constituencies observing youth committee elections there because Stadium Area had no crisis. There was no way that we were going to let Litjobo address the conference when he had no jurisdiction to be there in the first place.

SE: You were a member of the national youth committee but lost out in the recent elections. Are you bitter about losing? Do you harbour a grudge against some members of the current youth committee?

MOKOENA: Not in the least. I have nothing personal against them. If anything I am totally in support of them. We are taught from an early age in the LCD that in elections you either win or lose. We are also taught losing elections does not mean you also lose your value in the party. There is more to a political party than winning committee elections.

SE: Litjobo said you spoilt the conference because you and your group were angry that you had lost the national youth committee elections and the fact that the ministers you are aligned to were recently axed. Is there any truth in that allegation?

MOKOENA: I told myself that it would be a futile exercise to respond to those things he said.

But I will have you know, again, that I am not angry. If we were angry about losing we would have protested the new committee’s victory in the form of petitions. The fact that we did not do that clearly shows that we accepted defeat.

SE: Why did youths from your camp convene at the LCD headquarters the day the cabinet reshuffle was announced?

MOKOENA: Ministers belong to the whole nation, not a specific group of people. The youth had gone there for the sole purpose of giving the ministers moral support and to make them understand that being fired does not make them any less valuable to the party. When people are removed from positions of power and they are angry they end up making misinformed decisions such as forming splinter political parties. We wanted to have them know that the prime minister had done what he thought needed to be done as he is the one with the prerogative to hire and fire ministers. We wanted to say to them they should take heart and work to build the party despite their disappointment.

SE: You are strongly opposed to the call to disband the national executive committee. Can you explain why you think the committee should not be disbanded?

MOKOENA: First and foremost, that committee was elected by an elective conference because people had confidence in its members. Therefore it defies logic why they want to disband it in this manner. Secondly, the constitution says the executive committee is legitimate when it has a leader, deputy leader, members of the other key positions, ordinary members as well as representatives of the women’s and youth leagues. But in this case you find that only certain people are the target of the petitions. It just doesn’t work like that.

SE: But the committee is said to be “inept, insubordinate and untrustworthy”. Some say a number of its members are hostile to the leader.

MOKOENA: Those are just baseless and malicious allegations. We are especially angry about the accusation that the committee failed the leader regarding the State House attacks. The executive committee held press briefings to inform the nation about the attacks. It also organised a march to the State House after the youth committee elections in May last year to show him support in his time of need. The committee also wrote a circular to constituencies informing them about the attacks. It still solves the party’s problems and internal conflicts as efficiently as any brilliant committee would. But most of all, it works hand-in-hand and cooperates fully with the leader and his deputy. Deputy leader Ntate Lesao Lehohla has even gone on record admitting that there are no problems between members of the committee. 

SE: Can you explain why on August 14 2010 you and five others launched a verbal attack against senator and Health Minister Mphu Ramatlapeng at a closed Stadium Area constituency meeting, calling for her to leave the meeting?

MOKOENA: It was not an attack on ‘M’e Mphu as a person. What we did was legitimate and based on the constitutional regulations of the LCD. We had no hidden agenda against her. We just needed certain clauses to be observed where a member of her status in the party is concerned. I am not one to hold grudges against other people as that is a waste of time and energy. I just wish those who have concerns would come to me to show me the mistakes so that we could resolve whatever problems we might have and forge a way forward for the LCD.

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