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Beware the Ides of March

Two events scheduled for end of this month have the potential to transform the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP).

Unless the courts instruct otherwise the ruling LCD will have its special conference on March 19 to decide the fate of the national executive committee.

A week later the BNP will elect a new leader at a conference scheduled for March 25.

Both parties are therefore at the crossroads: the decisions they will make could either make or break them.

The future of both parties is at stake.

After booting out Major General Metsing Lekhanya last December, the BNP has a chance to elect a leader who will revive the party.

That leader must be able to rise above the party squabbles that have rocked BNP over the past 10 years.

The choice that the BNP makes should be one that fits the current political demands. 

The leader should not only be able to read the political signs of the times but must also able to interact with the rank and file of the party. 

This combination is important because if the BNP is to make any change in the politics of Lesotho, it has to speak to the global economic and political trends in the language that Basotho would relate to their practical problems. 

The party must elect a leader who goes beyond rhetoric about Leabua Jonathan.

For years the BNP has been a party caught up in olden times.

It has not transformed itself from the party that Jonathan left.

Forsaken by the electorate, the BNP has resorted to challenging election results that don’t go their way.

BNP supporters are not taking part in elections because they have lost confidence in the electoral process. 

The next leader of the BNP should be able to undo the damage the party has made by demonising electoral processes.  

If the BNP makes a proper choice this month, it will most probably determine the next government. 

Certainly this may not be by winning elections but by garnering sufficient support that can make it a determining factor in the potential coalition government.

The ruling LCD is at a crossroads as well.

This month the LCD is supposed to have a special conference to decide on a “no confidence” motion on the executive committee. 

The simple equation here is that Monyane Moleleki is the prime beneficiary of this ploy as it is mooted by the faction which wants him as an heir to the LCD leadership throne. 

If Moleleki is strategically positioned after 2012 General Elections then he will ascend to the throne through any scheme that will, of course, be within the party’s constitutional framework. 

In recognition of this strategy, Mothetjoa Metsing’s camp is now gathering the support of the LCD members to stand by his committee to dash Moleleki’s hope of getting into the committee at least before 2012. 

This explains the rationale behind the court case challenging the legitimacy of the decision of the LCD Leadership Conference which decided that the Special Conference be held in March to discuss the motion.

It also explains why the executive committee is instituting disciplinary action against those who wrote letters calling for its ouster.

If the LCD loses the court case, the conference will not be held to discuss the matter.

But if the party wins the case, then the conference will go ahead and that will be the real test of who really holds sway in the party. 

Given the record of the Congress in handling disputes, it looks like the two factions have reached a point of no return, so this may actually be leading to another split this month.

It is quite difficult to see how any of the two factions will live with the loss. 

While the court case and the conference are equally divisive, there is still hope that the tension might be diffused.

What the leader of the LCD, Pakalitha Mosisili, should do to save the situation is to first declare his intention to leave.

He needs to recognise that at the end of the day the two factions in the party are fighting because they all want someone to replace him.

They are probably frustrated that they don’t know when he will leave.

To save the situation Mosisili must have a frank discussion with these factions.

He cannot afford to take sides with either of the factions.

He has many strategies at his disposal.

He could summon the leaders of the factions and tell them that he is backing neither of them. 

He would then formally announce that the contest for the leadership position is open.

If he fails to do this he would actually be an “accomplice” in the effort to split the party.

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