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Lehohla begs LCD youths

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla literally begged youths from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party not to join last Thursday’s protest march against government policies.

The Sunday Express can reveal that a few days before the march Lehohla, who is also the deputy leader of the LCD, called prominent party youths involved in organising the march and told them that their participation would embarrass the ruling party and government.

The idea of a march was initially hatched by party youths aligned to the Litima-mollo faction widely believed to be the driving force behind the LCD’s beleaguered national executive committee which is under immense pressure to leave office over allegations of incompetence and insubordination.

The faction is speculated to be led by Mothetjoa Metsing, the party secretary general, who has however consistently denied any links to the camp.

The youths wanted to protest the government’s decision to freeze jobs in the civil service but somewhere along the way the march’s agenda changed as taxi operators, the opposition, civil organisations and the labour movement joined in.

The result was a medley of groups with different motives.

The Sunday Express understands that early last week Lehohla called the prominent youth league members involved and told them that their participation would damage the government and undermine the party’s support ahead of the 2012 polls.

Lehohla confirmed to the Sunday Express that he called the youths involved “one by one” and told them that there was no need to continue with the protest because “the doors were open in the party and government for dialogue”.

“I talked to them as individuals, one by one, and asked them what exactly they wanted that they felt the need to join the protest,” Lehohla said on Friday, a day after the march.

“To me, they were not falling directly in any of the categories of the protesters and I could not find what their role would be in the march.”

“I just talked to them wanting to know what they were protesting against that could not be solved within the party,” he said.

“Perhaps some were still clinging on to the misinterpretation that new positions will not be created in this financial year meant that nobody will be employed in the civil service this year.”

A senior party official told this paper that Lehohla was instructed by the party to persuade the youths not to join the march.

He said the LCD leaders were particularly concerned that the youths would take to the streets wearing party regalia, a situation that would confirm that the party is indeed divided.

The fact that they would have been protesting against government policies a few weeks after another group of party loyalists marched to show support for Mosisili did not sit well with the leadership, the official added. 

“It is obvious that their actions would also embarrass the party leader and Prime Minister (Pakalitha Mosisili) and therefore the LCD leadership assigned Lehohla to talk to them,” said the senior LCD member.

“Their group would have clearly identified itself as the LCD youths objecting to how Mosisili is implementing government policies and how he has shifted from the party manifesto,” he said.

Most LCD youths seem to have heeded Lehohla’s pleas and stayed away from the march.

Without their support the event was reduced to a tiny procession of just over 500 people.

The march started at Setsoto stadium and proceeded to Moshoeshe statue from where a delegation proceeded to Mosisili’s office at the government complex where they handed a petition to Motloheloa Phooko, a minister in the Prime Minister’s office. Mosisili was on a four-day state visit to Malaysia.

The marchers then continued to parliament where they again handed the same petition to the clerk of parliament, Lebohang Ramohlanka.

Prominent faces in the march were All Basotho Convention youth leader Libe Moremoholo and Lesotho Workers Party leader Macaefa Billy who is also a legislator.

Moremoholo and Billy have a history of leading protests against the government.

Also in the forefront was Bokang Ramats’ella, a youth leader of the Lesotho People’s Congress which broke away from the LCD complaining that it had shifted away from its founding principles.

Lesotho Teachers Trade Union’s general secretary, Vuyani Tyhali, was also present. 

Taxi operators were represented by Mokete Jonase, the chairperson of the Maseru Region Transport Operators.

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