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Attempts to rescue LCD from collapse fall apart

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU — Frantic attempts to save the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party from splitting have collapsed.

The Sunday Express can reveal that a series of meetings including one organised by church leaders on Wednesday failed to break the impasse between the party’s warring factions.

Top party officials said after Wednesday’s meeting party leader and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is now convinced that the collapse of the LCD is unavoidable.

They said he is now forging ahead with plans to form a breakaway party that will challenge the LCD in the upcoming election.

Mosisili will this weekend meet constituency representatives to determine the level of support from the LCD’s grassroots on plans to form a new party.

The officials he is expected to meet have been on an assignment to prepare LCD rank and file members in the constituencies for a Mosisili-led splinter party.

Mosisili dispatched the officials to the constituencies on an opinion gathering mission after the party failed to hold a special conference in January following a dispute over delegates.

After this weekend’s meeting Mosisili is
expected to meet senior officials of his faction to map the way forward but senior party officials said he has already made up his mind to leave the ruling party.

They said they expect him to announce the formation of the new party within the next two weeks.

At the centre of the LCD’s crisis are two factions, one led by former communications minister Mothetjoa Metsing, and another led by Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki.

Metsing who is the party’s secretary general is said to have the support of the national executive committee.

Moleleki is said to be Mosisili’s man in the factional fight that has rocked the party for the past three years.

The fights have become the biggest threat to the LCD’s chances of retaining power after the election that is expected in mid-May.

Senior party officials said after the meeting with the church leaders on Wednesday Mosisili told top members of his faction “it was over”.

“The leader (Mosisili) told us that we should now look towards making the formation of a proposed new party a success because there was no turning back,” said an MP who is a member of Mosisili’s faction and attended his briefing.

He said Mosisili looked “broken” as he briefed the meeting.

The peace talks which were led by the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) were proposed by Mosisili following a suggestion from opposition leaders who said it was not ideal that Lesotho was being led by a party ravaged by internal conflicts.

The MP said Mosisili told them that the talks had failed because of Metsing’s
refusal to compromise.

“Ntate Mosisili told us that when the church leaders tried to encourage them to engage in dialogue, Metsing said it was a bit too late,” he said.

“Ntate Mosisili said Metsing told the church leaders that in Sesotho, when a person who has been ill for a long time dies people sigh with relief and say he should rest in peace.”

“The leader added that Metsing said what he meant was that the LCD had been ill for a long time and that people should let it die and rest in peace.”

Before Wednesday’s meeting there had been three other caucuses organised by LCD MPs who wanted to bring the warring factions together.

Those caucuses, senior party officials say, did not yield much because Metsing and other executive members did not show up.

Another MP who is aligned to Moleleki’s faction said at those caucuses some senior party officials strongly pushed for reconciliation.

Those that have been trying to push for reconciliation include Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla, chairman Thabang Pheko, Finance Minister Timothy Thahane, the Malimong constituency MP Lebohang Moeketsi and Matsieng MP, Mootsi Lehata.

In the meetings, the MP said, the five appealed to the faction behind the formation of the splinter party to reconsider their stance and give dialogue a chance.

Pheko is said to have gone as far as appealing to his LCD colleagues to adopt the approach used by Botswana’s ruling party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) when factionalism threatened to tear it apart some years ago.

The BDP appointed incumbent President Ian Khama as a compromise candidate to neutralise the factions.

“Pheko told the caucus that although the BDP factions did not see eye-to-eye, the compromise reached on Khama helped salvage the party,” the MP said.

According to the MP, Pheko was of the opinion that in the LCD case an executive committee comprising members of both factions could help unite the party.

“Ntate Pheko suggested that to achieve this unity, the party should appoint an executive committee leading the LCD to elections comprising of members from the two factions.”

The MP said when it was pointed out that Metsing was boycotting the meetings aimed at resolving the problems Lehohla was adamant that efforts to achieve peace should not be thwarted by Metsing’s absence.

“He asked us why we were giving in to Metsing and even offered that he would talk to Metsing himself and convince him to take part,” the MP said.

The source however said the pro-Moleleki faction was not interested in the effort at peace and bluntly told Lehohla that it was “a bit too late”.

“We were clear with our stance that they had left attempts at making peace a bit too late.”

The official told this paper that his faction would forge ahead with the formation of the new party.

He said they did not believe that those pushing for
reconciliation were sincere.
“They do not want peace.

“They simply want to use Ntate Mosisili’s popularity to win elections only to spit him out later,” the MP said.

He said the pro-Moleleki faction’s fear was that the Metsing faction would side with the opposition in parliament and “chuck Mosisili out”.

“We’ve looked at it from all corners and we’ve decided that they are not being sincere.

“They just want a ride on Mosisili’s back. We have to protect the leader.”

Another pro-Moleleki minister told this paper that “frankly we’re not interested”.

The minister added that even attempts by church leaders to halt the formation of the new party would not change their minds.

“The damage is beyond repair, we’re leaving.

“Do you think we should fall for their games?” the minister quipped.

When contacted for comment, Lehohla confirmed that the LCD had in its caucuses discussed the possibility of avoiding a split by coming up with a compromise strategy to save the ruling party.

“Yes, we did consider Botswana’s ruling party’s compromise in our caucuses as an option to bring to bed
the factionalism in the LCD,” Lehohla said.

“As a leader, it is my responsibility to keep the party together. It is our call as MPs to unite.”

On the question of the imminent split and talk about the formation of a new party, Lehohla said he did not want “to get into it”.

“I will not go into that one.

“I choose to ignore what’s being said but to simply focus on the outcome of our efforts,” Lehohla said.

Attempts to get comment from Metsing failed because he was said to have been out of the country on LCD business.

CCL spokesperson Peter Potjo Potjo confirmed that there was a meeting for the LCD top brass whose purpose was to discuss the forthcoming elections.

“It was a meeting where the CCL was engaging the ruling LCD on preparations for the 2012 elections,” Potjo said.

According to Potjo, there was nothing unusual about the meeting because the CCL had previously engaged other stakeholders such as the Independent Electoral Commission and opposition political leaders on election preparations.

“It was a closed meeting so I can’t reveal all the details,” Potjo said.

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