…as party holds crunch primary elections to choose candidates for national polls
THE Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party will today begin holding crunch primary elections amid calls for unity by party leader, Sam Matekane.
The primaries will be held from today until Friday to elect candidates to represent the party in 69 electoral constituencies.
The 69 will join Mr Matekane and 10 others who have already been earmarked to represent the party in their respective constituencies.
Mr Matekane has sparked a huge uproar within the RFP with the directive that 10 of his closest allies should automatically represent the party in their respective constituencies without having to undergo primary elections.
Mr Matekane himself will represent the party in his native, Mantsónyane, Thaba-Tseka, constituency in the general elections due in October.
Aspiring candidates in the remaining 69 constituencies must nonetheless undergo primary elections. This in addition to fulfilling other rigorous criteria including checks on their educational backgrounds and, being interviewed by Mr Matekane himself to assess their fitness to represent the party.
These decisions sparked a protest at the party’s Maseru headquarters two weeks ago by dissatisfied members led by the Maseru Central youth chairperson, Relebohile Mosamane.
Mr Mosamane and his placard-waving band of protestors were particularly incensed by what they said was a dictatorial move by Mr Matekane to foist deputy leader and former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara as the candidate for the Maseru Central constituency. Mr Mosamane said they would file a court application to reverse Mr Matekane’s decision.
With this in mind, Mr Matekane yesterday called for unity and urged supporters to rally behind whoever triumphs at the primaries.
He was addressing RFP supporters at the party headquarters in Maseru. The supporters had gathered to welcome him back from the United Kingdom where he had gone to receive a lifetime achievement award from the African Leadership Magazine.
“Tomorrow is the day for primary elections,” Mr Matekane said.
“I therefore, appeal to you my fellow RFP members to support each other. Please support those who will emerge victorious. To those who lose, you must know that here at RFP we are one. We must support each other,” Mr Matekane added.
According to a recent RFP circular, the 69 constituencies are expected to hold primary elections at branch and constituency levels, then produce four prospective candidates who will be interviewed and vetted by Mr Matekane himself.
This – according to RFP chairperson, Teboho Kobeli – is in keeping with the party’s founding principles of choosing candidates on the basis of meritocracy.
Mr Kobeli said meritocracy was a broad concept hence the need for follow-up interviews to enable Mr Matekane to acquaint himself with the prospective candidates before a final decision is made as to who should represent the party.
“We need to sit down with candidates and talk to them because we need people with different sets of skills, and each will be selected based on the needs of their constituency. For instance, the needs of Maseru constituencies differ from those in the rural and highlands regions.
“We must clarify that we are not looking for CVs. We are not going to subject people to interviews that will exert pressure on them. We just want to identify the right people based on the needs of their constituencies. Every person has a special quality or set of skills that set him apart and make people trust them,” Mr Kobeli said a fortnight ago.
Speaking on this issue yesterday, Mr Matekane said although there would ultimately be one candidate per constituency, others who would have failed to make the cut “would still be as important to the party”.
“Even after we have selected one out of the four candidates you will have presented to us from the 69 constituencies, the remaining three are still important because they would have been chosen at the grassroots.
“Despite not making it, we will still be interested in them. It is important that we all support the winner in the constituencies,” Mr Matekane said without elaborating how the losing candidates would still be important to the party.
He reiterated his stance that the RFP was gunning for victory in all 80 constituencies to enable it to govern alone.
Only the RFP was capable of solving Lesotho’s problems, hence the need for the party to secure a comfortable majority to avoid being straddled with coalition partners, he said.
“We are eyeing all 80 constituencies and we must bag them all. Time is therefore of the essence. We must now return to our constituencies and work hard at the grassroots. We must work hard to ensure that the RFP wins power. That way we will be well placed to address all the challenges bedevilling Basotho.
“No other political party has the capacity to solve Basotho’s problems. We are here to solve those problems. We will form pools from which we will select people with expertise, who have outdone themselves in different fields because in government there is a lot that needs to be done,” Mr Matekane said.
It remains to be seen how the primaries will play out in the fledgling party following the recent uproar by members against what they view as a dictatorial style of ring-fencing Mr Matekane’s inner circle from competition within the party.
The move to shield the top brass has been condemned despite senior RFP officials including chairperson Kobeli and former cabinet minister, Tlohang Sekhamane’s explanation that the 10 had been chosen to represent the party because they were an “embodiment of the RFP’s founding principles of meritocracy”.
The norm is that aspiring candidates in political parties are subjected to a process of internal primary elections before they are chosen to represent their parties.
However, Mr Matekane eschewed this trend to ensure that his main allies, including RFP deputy leader Nthomeng Majara and former Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) Governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, automatically represent the RFP in this year’s highly anticipated polls.
Ms Matlanyane will stand in Qalabane while secretary general, Nthati Moorosi, will stand in the Thetsane constituency whose current legislator is Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).
Others who have been spared the rigours of primary polls are Executive Transport proprietor, Lebona Lephema (Teyateyaneng), spokesperson Mokhethi Shelile (Lithabaneng), businessman Cloete Mdlokovana (Mohale’s Hoek), deputy spokesperson Thabo Maretlane (Thaba-Phatšoa), Lejone Mpotjoane (Hololo), Thabo Mofosi (Moyeni) and Ntšeuoa Sekete (Lebakeng constituency).
All these are prominent members of Mr Matekane’s inner circle. Party insiders said they were regarded as the elite squad who founded the party alongside the business mogul in March this year.