Bongiwe Zihlangu and Tefo Tefo
MASERU — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s political life is on a knife edge, less than a year before a key general election.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s executive committee on Friday attempted to block a march scheduled for today to shore up support for Mosisili.
The march was organised by the LCD’s youth and women’s leagues.
The attempt to block the march comes as a rival group within the party planned counter protests against the decision to freeze government jobs.
Insiders say the executive committee’s attempt to block the march and a plan by the rival group to protest against a government policy is an unprecedented challenge to Mosisili’s waning authority within the party.
The discord within the LCD suggests that Mosisili could be fighting one of his biggest internal battles since assuming power in 1997.
Organisers of today’s pro-Mosisili march say their event, which will end at the Prime Minister’s State House residence, will proceed in defiance of the executive committee’s ban.
Senior party officials aligned to Mosisili told the Sunday Express there could be a purge of anti-Mosisili entities in the LCD following the latest developments.
But so determined is the rival group that it chose to meet on the day that their counterparts are showing solidarity to the head of government.
They say they want to march to protest government’s plan to freeze new jobs in the civil service.
Analysts say the growing internal feud could seriously dent the LCD’s chances in general elections tentatively slated for next February or early March.
Lebaka Bulane, the LCD youth league secretary-general confirmed receiving an order from the national executive committee to abandon the pro-Mosisili march.
“The secretary general for the national executive committee (Mothetjoa Metsing pictured below) told us that he was just a messenger from the national executive committee of the party to inform us that the committee did not approve the march,” he told the Sunday Express on Friday.
“But the march still proceeds,” he vowed.
Bulane said Metsing delivered the message while addressing the youth and women’s league committees on Friday.
He said the meeting was held at the party’s offices in Maseru at around 10am.
“He told us that we should rather focus on the preparations for the intended conference on reconciliation,” he added.
Metsing, who is also the official LCD spokesman, could not be reached for comment. Repeated efforts to reach him on Friday and yesterday were futile as his phone went unanswered.
Members of the women’s league, emerging as the Prime Minister’s core backers, are insisting that the party should hold an elective conference where they will back Mosisili but campaign against the rest of the executive members.
LCD women’s league president ‘Mathabiso Lepono told this paper that calling for the disbandment of the committee while keeping Mosisili in charge of the party was simply “to fix a situation”.
“We will retain our leader. There’s no doubt about that. The only thing we need to do now is fix the current situation,” Lepono said.
“Why are they scared to go to a special conference? What are they running away from? Why are they refusing to listen to the multitudes?”
A conference to elect a new leadership initially scheduled for March was aborted after the High Court ruled in favour of some party members who had applied for it to be blocked.
A group opposed to both the conference and today’s march describes the event as “hypocritical”.
A member of the group, Rorisang Mokoena, a former LCD national youth committee chairman confirmed that his allies would meet at Unity Primary School grounds to plan a protest march against the government’s decision to freeze jobs for the 2011/12 fiscal year.
He refused to divulge more details but confirmed that the police had cleared the meeting.
He refused to justify why the group planned to march against policies of its own government.
But a senior Cabinet minister closely aligned to the Prime Minister warned that the group’s actions could backfire.
“Those that are trying to stop the march should know that if you stand on a river called Senqu and you test it with a stick it will take you with it,” he said.
Senqu is the biggest river in Lesotho.
It runs from the north-eastern part of Lesotho through Lesotho’s southern part to South Africa.
Lira Theko, an analyst with the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, said the LCD risks disintegrating into two parties if the chaos persists.
“If the LCD eventually splits, chances of Mosisili bouncing back are slim. He might have done it in the past, but his prospects are not that bright anymore,” Theko said.
“They are separated. Very unfortunately this is happening to the ruling party which should be focusing on driving policies instead of dealing with internal conflicts.”