ABC, AD, DC fight as 2022 elections campaign gets underway
…parties accuse each other of dirty tricks to win votes
DEPUTY Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) has come under a withering attack from a faction of the main governing All Basotho Convention (ABC) loyal to ABC leader Thomas Thabane as well as the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) for using underhand tactics to lure the two parties’ supporters as campaigning gets underway for the 2022 elections.
Just over a year remains before the 2022 polls and despite the ban imposed on rallies and large political gatherings as part of the fight against Covid-19, some of the parties, especially the ABC and DC have started campaigning.
The parties have found a way of circumventing the ban by either organising much smaller constituency gatherings as exemplified by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s constituency meeting in his Abia, Maseru, constituency last weekend.
They have also been organising functions ostensibly to donate to the needy. At such gatherings, open canvassing for votes takes place as shown by Mr Thabane’s wife, ‘Maesaiah’s activities. She has traversed her rural Mokhotlong district and other parts of the country donating and appealing for votes at the same time.
The Thabane loyalists and the AD however, complain that the DC is abusing its position in the current governing coalition alongside the ABC to poach the latter’s members and supporters of other parties with promises of jobs in the ministries under its belt.
They have also been angered by the fact that over the past weeks the DC has been donating beans and other food packages to vulnerable people which are specially branded with the party logo and images of Mr Mokhothu.
The DC is the second biggest party in the governing coalition with the ABC as the main partner. The current government led by the ABC’s Thetsane constituency legislator Moeketsi Majoro was formed in May this year. This after Mr Thabane was forced to step down by his own party’s national executive committee (NEC). Most of the NEC members are loyal to ABC deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao who has been involved in a bitter struggle with Mr Thabane for control of the party for more than a year now.
The previous Thabane government comprised of the ABC, AD, Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). The AD is the only party which was barred from joining the current government by the ABC’s NEC as punishment for sticking with Mr Thabane when the ABC’s NEC wanted him out.
Although the ABC’s NEC’s coalition pact with the DC remains strong, this has not stopped the Thabane loyalists and their AD allies from speaking out against what they regard as underhand tactics by the DC to ultimately win the 2022 polls by luring their members through food donations and promises of jobs in ministries under its control.
Among others, the DC controls the Home Affairs ministry which has invited applications from jobseekers throughout the country to apply for posts at the ministry’s livestock registration and national identity and civil registration departments.
Over the past two weeks thousands of desperate jobseekers thronged the ministry’s offices in Maseru and other districts hoping to secure employment.
However, it is not the only ministry which has been inviting applications for jobs. Jobseekers were observed queuing at the ABC controlled health ministry’s headquarters this week. There were even bigger crowds at the Police Training College in Maseru and in the districts as hopefuls sought jobs in the police force. Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane is an ABC member.
ABC deputy chairperson and staunch Thabane loyalist, Chalane Phori, accused the DC of using the promise of jobs to lure its members to join it. He said the ABC should therefore abandon the governing coalition and form a new one with the AD and other parties.
His sentiments were echoed by AD Senator Mokoto Hloaele who also accused the DC of corruptly handing out posts at the home affairs ministry to its supporters.
Speaking at an ABC constituency gathering at Mr Thabane’s Abia constituency last weekend, Senator Hloaele alleged that the DC had already dished out jobs by the time Home Affairs Minister and DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa invited applications to fill up the posts a fortnight ago.
“I learnt that people were invited to apply for those positions when they had already been filled,” Mr Hloaele said.
“Inviting applications was just a pretence that the positions were available when they had already been filled by the privileged ones.
“We are surprised that the party doing this is in a coalition with the ABC. I have since learnt that you (Thabane loyalists) are unhappy with this (coalition) arrangement. However, the fact of the matter is that you are part of these embarrassing things they are doing. I trust that the Good Lord will intervene and win the fight on our behalf,” Mr Hloaele said.
AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo expressed similar sentiments yesterday, accusing the DC of “corruptly” awarding positions at the home affairs ministry to its supporters.
“Corruptly dishing out positions to DC members is one of the reasons why we left the DC,” Mr Litjobo said. The AD was formed after senior DC members including then deputy leader Monyane Moleleki broke away from the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led party in December 2016 over a plethora of issues including alleged corruption in the recruitment of people to the civil service.
Mr Moleleki, who had served as Police and Public Safety minister in the Mosisili-led government, later told an AD rally that during their time in the DC, they recruited people to the security agencies on the basis of party affiliation. He expressed regret over those practices.
It was against this background that Mr Litjobo accused the DC of using the underhand tactics to entrench its position and lure more supporters.
“Based on our experience of how the DC operates when it is in power, we know that those posts were filled way before applications were invited from suitable candidates.
“Those who were corruptly awarded the jobs never queued. The thousands of young people you see queuing for jobs are those who have no connections. It is heartbreaking to see hungry and thirsty young people queuing when the minister knows that the posts have already been filled.
“The DC is using those job vacancies to campaign for the upcoming elections. They are not going into the communities to deliver services but they are using these underhand tactics…
“The DC leader is even donating beans whose packaging has his picture. The election campaign has started,” Mr Litjobo said.
The claims have been dismissed as “rubbish” by Mr Letsosa.
He said the vacancies had not been filled by DC supporters as alleged by the AD officials. He challenged them to prove their claims.
DC secretary general Tšitso Cheba also dismissed the accusations, saying they were part of the AD’s agenda to topple the governing coalition.
“Those are baseless accusations. The DC merely invited applications for those posts in the home affairs ministry and that is procedural. As part of the recruitment process, we expect the shortlisted candidates to be called for interviews next week and the successful ones to sign employment contracts the week after that.
“The AD is trying to create problems between the DC and its partner, the ABC. The truth of the matter is that these accusations are part of a project to topple this government. They know that the only way they can topple this government is to cause trouble between the DC and ABC,” Mr Cheba said.
He added: “The DC sourced beans from Basotho and packaged them in a manner that promotes our brand. We put Smart Man (Mr Mokhothu)’s image on those beans because we want to promote our brand. If that will help attract a strong support base for us, so be it.”
ABC spokesperson and Prof Mahao loyalist, Montoeli Masoetsa, also dismissed the AD’s allegations and instead accused the opposition party of attempting to influence the ABC to engage in corrupt activities.
“The AD wants us to involve ourselves in corrupt activities that will embarrass and force us to later regret our decisions the same way Moleleki did. They (AD) were part of a system that corruptly hired party members. Our dealings in this coalition are transparent. We have invited people to compete for these positions.
“It is unfortunate that awarding jobs to political supporters has been normalised in this country. It should not be like this. People must be given an equal opportunity to compete for these positions,” Mr Masoetsa said.