…former premier begs the nation to forgive him for the mistakes during his tenure
THE outgoing leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), Pakalitha Mosisili, has apologised for all his shortcomings during his time as prime minister and leader of the congress parties.
The former premier, whose tenure was blighted by allegations of human rights violations and corruption, said it was never his intention to commit any mistakes. He said such mistakes were committed in his pursuit of the betterment of the country and the parties that he led.
Dr Mosisili said this on Friday at the DC elective conference in Ha Foso, Berea while delivering his final address as party leader. He will be stepping down after the conference which ends today to make way for his successor. Mathibeli Mokhothu, who is outgoing deputy leader and outgoing deputy secretary general Tlohang Sekhamane are vying to succeed him.
Dr Mosisili assumed the leadership of the DC, which was formed in 2012 in the aftermath of a split in the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). Before the split, he was the leader of the LCD from 1997 when he succeeded the late former prime minister, Ntsu Mokhehle.
Dr Mosisili also served as prime minister from May 1998 to June 2012 and again from March 2015 to June 2017 when he lost the snap national elections.
All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane became prime minister after his party entered into a coalition with the Alliance of Democrats (AD) led by Dr Mosisili’s former deputy in the DC, Monyane Moleleki, the Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
Dr Mosisili’s tenure as premier, particularly from 2015 to 2017 was characterised by reports of widespread human rights violations by the police and army as well as corruption in government.
The June 2015 assassination of army commander, Lieutenant Maaparankoe Mahao by fellow soldiers and the July 2016 near fatal shooting of Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri by soldiers are some of the major incidents that happened under Dr Mosisili’s watch.
The unprocedural government vehicle fleet services contract with South Africa’s Bidvest company which happened during Dr Mosisili’s tenure not only further damaged his reputation but also contributed to the DC split which spawned the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD).
The December 2016 split which gave birth to the AD has however, not ended the divisions within DC as the party has been split into two factions which are battling for control.
One faction known as Liphakoe is said to have thrown its weight behind Mr Mokhothu in his quest to succeed Dr Mosisili. Mr Mokhothu is the official leader of the opposition in parliament and he is the member of parliament for the Qhoali #68 constituency. The other faction, known as Melele, is said to favour Mr Sekhamane. Mr Sekhamane is a former finance minister and former member of parliament for the Mokhotlong #79 constituency.
And on Friday, Dr Mosisili reminisced on his time in charge of both the LCD and the DC. He apologised to the cheering party members, telling them that although he committed mistakes, he never meant any harm. He said his shortcomings were committed in his genuine quest to improve the welfare of Basotho.
“There is an old Basotho adage that every good thing comes to an end and there is the (biblical) Ecclesiastes (verse) that everything has its own time,” Dr Mosisili said, adding, “the time for me to retire has come”.
“I have served you since 1997 when we formed the LCD. It is therefore, not surprising that like any human being in leadership, I have wronged you for so many times and for a long time.
“I need you to know that my wrongdoings were not intentional. I did everything in my power for the betterment of my country and this party and I ask of your forgiveness where I wronged you,” Dr Mosisili said to chants of “we forgive you”.
He also used the platform to appeal to party members to avoid using the elective conference to foment further divisions. He instead urged them to consider it as a necessary democratic tool to elect new leaders.
He said although the DC was relatively young party, it had however, quickly grown into one of the largest parties in terms of its following as shown by the numbers who voted for it in the last elections where it amassed 30 seats.
Only the ABC with 51 seats, which entered into a coalition arrangement with the AD, the Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho, gained more seats than the DC.
He however, said the DC, like any political party, had suffered its own share of instability and called on the elective conference to deeply reflect on the causes of the instability and come up with possible solutions.
“When we take over the reins of power, please make sure that the government’s policies address the needs of the people. Shun corruption by all means, respect the electorate and try all means to ensure there is a separation of powers in government. At the moment there is no such in this current government.
“I will always be on standby to advise where necessary and when requested to. I swear that I will give you the space to operate as mandated, to lead the party and the government without my interference.
“I will be sitting and watching with bated breath as the new leadership leads the country into prosperity. I will respect your votes but my clarion call to you is to fully support the new leadership so that the party can grow whether in opposition or government,” Dr Mosisili said.
While all leadership positions are up for grabs, all eyes are on the leader’s contest pitting Mr Mokhothu and Mr Sekhamane.
And if the rapturous welcome that Mr Mokhothu received from party supporters upon his arrival is anything to go by, then he could emerge as the next leader of the DC.
Resplendent in the red shirt with the green and black stripes of the DC colours, Mr Mokhothu received a standing ovation which outshone that of Dr Mosisili. He arrived at the Methodist High School venue of the DC conference after 8pm.
His opponent, Mr Sekhamane, who arrived at the venue at about 6pm, did not receive as thunderous a welcome as Mr Mokhothu did.
Even when he proceeded to the high table the reception Mr Mokhothu got from Dr Mosisili did not match that which was accorded to Mr Mokhothu.
Unlike Mr Mokhothu who was warmly hugged by Dr Mosisili, Mr Sekhamane only received a simple handshake from both Dr Mosisili and Mr Mokhothu before taking his seat on the far right of the table.
Others who sat at the high table were Dr Mosisili’s wife, ’Mathato, DC stalwart ’Mathabiso Lepono, National Independent Party leader Kimetso Mathaba, Marematlou Freedom Party leader Moeketse Malebo and LCD deputy spokesperson Apesi Ratšele.