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Lehohla says he is ready to lead LCD

Staff Reporter

MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla says he is ready to take over as leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s dramatic exit from the party last week.
After three years of intraparty fighting and months of court battles Mosisili dumped the LCD last week to form the Democratic Congress (DC) last week.
With that move he pushed the LCD out of government for the first time since 1998 when it came to power after a hotly disputed election victory that triggered weeks of riots and left dozens dead.
The DC will now run the country with Mosisili as prime minister until the general election scheduled sometime in May.
And for the first time in 15 years the LCD will enter an election as an opposition party and without Mosisili as its leader.
Lehohla, 66, says he is prepared to step into Mosisili’s shoes and lead the party if he gets support.
“If the people nominate me at the conference then I will obey their wishes,” Lehohla said in an interview with the Sunday Express on Wednesday.
“I will not canvass for that position because it is the people who will decide at the conference.
“I will respect the wishes of the people. The people’s wishes should be respected,” he said.
He however admitted that if he takes over he will be leading a much weaker party whose chances of winning the next election have been “drastically reduced by the split”.
“As the LCD we cannot claim to be stronger after the split. I don’t think the other faction (DC) can claim to be stronger either,” he said.
Historical trends, he added, have shown that the LCD’s support in the elections has been going down and the “situation might worsen this time”.
But Mosisili, the man Lehohla used to deputise in the party and now wants to replace, has already said he is confident the DC will form the next government after the May poll after winning the election “fair and square”.
Lehohla said although he was disappointed with the back stabbing split “I cannot say I didn’t see it come”.
“In the end the scheming, power struggles and mistrust became too much for the LCD.
“Each faction had expectations that their candidate was going to lead the party and when that did not happen the jostling started.”
Although he admitted that he has ambitions to lead the LCD he was quick point out that he won’t “solicit for that position because soliciting is what caused problems for the LCD”.
Lehohla said he believes if the LCD had a clear succession plan the chaos that eventually led to its split could not have happened.
The succession issue, he noted, poisoned the atmosphere in the LCD and the factions were “too busy fighting to realise that the party was about to split”.
He claimed to have tried hard to keep the party united and warned Mosisili that the party was headed in the wrong direction.
“How could I not do it (advise Mosisili)? I would always say (to Mosisili) it looks like we are running into problems,” he explained.
“It has become clear that the executive committee and the leader were not working together. The court cases against the party had started.”
Lehohla said he became concerned when people started jostling for top positions in the party.
“It was all about personality differences. People were not ready to strike a reasonable balance between their ambitions and the need to put the party first.
“When we eventually realised that the party was in trouble and tried to resolve the problems it was too little and too late.”
He said, with hindsight, he realises that the split could have been avoided if the LCD had a clear succession plan.
“Unless and until we realise that no one is bigger than the movement we are risking more splits in future,” he said.
To avoid further splits, he explained, the LCD must set the parameters of succession.
“People must discuss the succession issue. When there is no limit on political terms there will be a problem.”
The LCD should have appointed a neutral arbitrator to help bring the warring factions together when the battles started, Lehohla said.
“The problem was that we did not realise how divided we were as the leadership. We could have appointed people with the skills to help us negotiate.
“We could not do it on our own because there was no trust. There was a wrong perception that the executive committee was going to block some candidates. From where that perception came, I honestly don’t know,” he said.
Lehohla who had been Mosisili’s deputy for 10 years said although the party has split he believes the political scheming has not ended.
On Friday he was in his constituency in Mafeteng on what he said was a mission to “ensure that my position is not undermined”.
“I have to make sure that my position in the constituency has not been undermined. While I was dealing with party issues some people came come to my constituency to undermine me.
“I have to make sure that people are not coming to my constituency with some plots.”
When asked how he will explain the split to the LCD supporters, Lehohla said it was in fact the people who have to educate him on what really happened.
“Well, they are the ones who are said to have been consulted before the formation of the other party (DC) and they are the ones who are said to have give permission for the split.
“They should be the ones to tell me what really happened,” said Lehohla with a chuckle.

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