HOME Affairs Minister who is also former Alliance of Democrats secretary general, Mokhele Moletsane’s name has been mentioned among those angling to succeed AD leader and Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki when he eventually decides to step down from his party post. His name has been mentioned along with that of party secretary general and Gender and Sports Minister, Mahali Phamotse. Dr Phamotse wrested the secretary general from Mr Moletsane at the party’s 2018 elective conference which saw the duo defy Mr Moleleki’s order for them not to contest as their rivalry risked dividing the party. More than a year later, the two are still said to be locked in a fierce and potentially divisive rivalry in their quest to succeed Mr Moleleki. The Sunday Express’ (SE) Senior Report Pascalinah Kabi recently sat down with Mr Moletsane (MM) to discuss this and other issues including his controversial November 2016 resignation from cabinet just 24 hours after then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili appointed him to the Law and Constitutional Affairs portfolio. He subsequently dumped Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) to form the AD along with Mr Moleleki and others. Below are excerpts of the interview.
SE: You will live in an environment where politicians are only regarded as powerful influencers when they are part of the national executive committee (NEC) of their own political party. But you are not in the NEC of the party you helped to form. Are you comfortable with this situation and how did you feel when you lost the secretary general’s post?
MM: It is a non-issue that does not make me lose sleep at night. I have never really felt some pressure to serve in the executive committees of the youth or NEC.
All my political career, I have never been elected into office. In the AD, the first position I held was that of interim secretary general. The way it happened was that we were sitting in a room and it was decided that Ntate Moleleki is the leader, Ntate Kabelo Mafura, deputy leader and I become secretary general. I was never voted in and when we went for the NEC elections, people campaigned vigorously to ensure that I do not bounce back into that position. Those who nominated for that position did so because they have known me since I was a youth and they know what kind of a person I am. But even when I lost to ‘M’e Mahali, I did not feel any pressure because I know my foundation is not in the NEC.
So when I lost the position, I said we should support the new leadership of the party. Some people thought I would be angry and rebel but I did not do that. I enjoy being an ordinary member of the party.
Influence should not come from holding a certain position but it has to come from the principles and ideas that you inject into the movement. Influence should not come from positions. Positions destroy people because they always get there after they have fought too much and when some people fight for NEC positions, they recklessly step on any toes just to get there but fail to deliver when they get there.
So I am relaxed. I have no pressure. I am a member of the Matsieng Constituency Committee in my capacity as a member of parliament. I am number eight in that committee. I have my leader and an executive committee that governs me and I have no pressure at all.
SE: But you surely have aspirations to lead the party?
MM: I am an aspiring leader. I have been in active politics for almost 20 years and that says I have ambitions. If people can develop ambitions to be a leader of party a week after joining it, what more about me? I have seen people who have joined a movement becoming leaders overnight. I been in active politics for 18 years so why would I not aspire and have ambitions to one day be a leader?
It is only natural to want to lead but I believe that ambitions must be guided by principles. You should not jump any steps but grow in all steps because over-ambition can be very dangerous. You must even leave room for disappointment so that if somebody else is voted leader, deputy leader, secretary general or treasurer, you do not get frustrated and start thinking of forming your own party or fighting people to get there. You have to be patient.
I am not over-ambitious to an extent of engaging in activities that would destabilise the movement or anybody in the party. Some people can do any or everything just to get to the top but my upbringing and experience in politics have taught me to gradually grow and not skip any stages.
I am not under pressure to be a leader and anyway I am still young. I was born on 11 June 1981. I am really just like any other child in Lesotho from very humble beginnings. I went to Masianokeng High School and studied for a Bachelor of Education degree at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
I began to seriously engage in politics at home and at the university. I was fortunate to study for an MSC in International Business at the University of Nottingham campus in China.
I am a married man I have the unwavering support of my wife, children and everybody around me. I also have my mother’s support.
Some of them people I introduced to politics have formed their own parties. Ntate (Selibe) Mochoboroane (Movement for Economic Change leader) used to come to my office after being introduced to me by former Qeme legislator, Ntate Kali Seitlheko in 2007. They used to teach together. He did not know anything about politics but had the energy now he has formed his own party.
I did not even know Ntate Mathibeli Mokhothu (Democratic Congress leader) when we were in the Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) youth league. I only heard of him in 2008 after I had left NUL. He had an ambition to lead the DC and today he is the leader. So why would I not have an ambition? But my ambitious are not going to compromise the AD. There is no reason to do that.
SE: Local politics dictates that any successful politician should be a member of parliament and you lost your Matsieng Constituency in the last elections. What is your plan to win back the Matsieng Constituency?
MM: I am no longer the Matsieng legislator but you will remember that the first time I stood for elections was in 2012. It was a highly charged atmosphere and we lost the election to the All Basotho Convention (ABC) by a mere 39 votes. But we had a comeback that shocked many people in 2015 when I won the constituency from ‘M’e Matšepo Ramakoae who I had also competed against in 2012.
I know that I won the constituency because the electorate believed in me. I was voted in as DC member by people who believed that I could bring change. Going into the 2017 elections, the political landscape had changed. We had formed a new party called the AD. We had had our own battles in the DC and we did not do well in the last elections.
One of the things that compromised me as an individual, which I really do not regret, is that the DC members in the Matsieng did not like what I did. They thought I was sick in the head to turn down a full cabinet position.
Even when we formed the AD we did not do well. The ABC also came back with full force riding on the political atmosphere which favoured them. They were then able to win back the constituency despite that we worked very hard.
However, we are doing spade work on the ground to make people understand what the AD is all about. We are a new political party and we still have to work hard. I am going to work hard within the constituency structures to strengthen, popularise and grow the AD’s membership. So I will not rest but continue to work hard to ensure that we develop the AD and hopefully Matsieng will be an AD stronghold.
LT: Why did you sacrifice a cabinet post to join a new party?
MM: I was an LCD member and later became a DC member. People do not know how instrumental I was in the formation of the DC. They probably look at my age and think I am not capable but I know everything that happened at that time.
We broke away from the LCD when the majority’s voice was being disrespected. The majority wanted a special conference and when it was eventually held, it was a disgrace and stopped people from exercising their democratic right to remove the leaders they were unhappy with.
We then formed the DC to give people a voice but when we got there, we realised that this was not happening. Things were still dictated by the leader alone and one of the dangerous things that I picked was that there were people around the leader and these people had been taught the superficial politics of protecting the leader.
But this was just a disguise to protect their own interests. Yes, at times they said we were Moleleki’s lapdogs, pushing his interests. But he had been in the party (DC) and supporting Ntate Mosisili. It was not wrong for him to have ambitions. But these people were attacking Ntate Moleleki. Ntate Moleleki was a very loyal member of the DC and he was even senior to Ntate Mosisili in congress politics.
I witnessed a smear campaign unfolding against Ntate Moleleki. I had worked with him from 2006 as his secretary and I was very close to him but I do not recall a single day when he asked me to badmouth Ntate Mosisili or anybody else in the party (DC). The only thing that he taught me was to work hard in my constituency and to be a people’s person. He taught me to attend rallies so that my constituents would appreciate me.
We stood by him (Moleleki) the things that he advocated for were things that we believed were progressive in politics and as a person I really believed in him. I witnessed him being victimised. Some of the people who fought him left, right and centre were people who I did not even know in the DC.
Growing up in politics, I came to realise that we had some wrong practices and Mokola (Moleleki) advocated for education, empowerment of women and other things that many people do not know. For example, women were not allowed to wear trousers in the LCD. They only wore dresses and when we started wearing our LCD colours and allowing women to wear trousers, it was really a pain to most people.
It was a struggle for the LCD to become a progressive party and the ABC overtook us along the way. So we understood that our party must change with times. Even in the DC a lot of things happened. I realised that he (Mosisili) decided to make me a full cabinet minister, not because he realised my potential and qualifications but because he was fighting his own political battles in the party and decided to lure Moletsane with a ministerial position. It was not honourable to me.
I felt I was being used. I must tell you that it did not start there. They came to me when the (DC) youth league elections were looming. They wanted me to contest against Thuso Litjobo. They wanted me in the faction of ‘M’e Mamonare (Senqu legislator Likeleli Tampane), Ntate Mojakisane (DC Chairperson Mosala Mojakisane) and Ntate Mosisili.
But because I am a principled person, I decided to totally withdraw from those elections because I had realised that I was being compromised. It went on until I realised that the full cabinet position was not genuine. You cannot remove Ntate Moleleki from his post as a full cabinet minister (of Police and Public Safety), post him to the Prime Minister’s Office and promote Moletsane.
When he (Mosisili) called me and said I want to advise His Majesty to reshuffle the cabinet, I engaged him at length – one on one – and asked him if he seriously thought that was a wise move.
He said that we were fighting with him but I told him I didn’t think the cabinet reshuffle was a good move. But instead of taking my advice, he asked me to go and work as a full cabinet minister. But I was not convinced that I was being appointed on merit. I realised that there were internal political maneuvers and that the appointment was not in good faith.
Nobody forced me to resign. I made my own decision because I did not want to be bought with a ministerial position and so I decided to resign. I left the ministerial post on principle but unfortunately the majority of people in my constituency did not understand that. You cannot make me a full cabinet minister to fight your own internal battles. I engaged ntate Mosisili and told him it was not a wise decision to demote Moleleki) especially when all his coalition partners had requested him to allow them to talk to Ntate Moleleki to achieve peace and stability in the DC.
He (Mosisili) did not take that route and he had his own reasons for sidelining his deputy at the time and working directly with the then Deputy Prime Minister (LCD leader, Mothetjoa Metsing).
Not that we were contesting that Ntate Metsing was the deputy prime minister, we understood that he (Metsing) had to be deputy prime minister but he was not in our party. We had fought with these people in the LCD and left those people behind and there was no way we could allow Ntate Mosisili to operate as if we had formed a united party with those (LCD) people. We formed government with them and not a party. The very same distasteful issues that caused us to leave the LCD had spilled into the DC.