. . . dismisses United Congress Movement speculation
AS speculation of a possible split in the Democratic Congress (DC) mounts, the party’s spokesperson Serialong Qoo has lambasted deputy leader Monyane Moleleki and the National Executive Committee (NEC) for bringing the governing party “into disrepute” by contradicting government positions.
Mr Qoo also poured scorn on the rumoured splinter party, United Congress Movement (UCM), saying it was a creation of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s detractors.
Infighting in the DC has escalated to unprecedented levels, with the party coming apart at the seams over a leadership succession fight and a controversial government fleet tender.
Mr Moleleki, who is reportedly eying the party’s leadership, and with it the premiership, has been linked with the Lirurubele (butterflies) faction, while Dr Mosisili is linked to Lithope (loosely translated to girlfriends).
Mr Moleleki and the DC’s NEC have contradicted with the government in its decision to award the vehicle fleet contract to Bidvest Fleet Company, and called for its termination so it can be awarded to a joint venture company fighting the deal.
The NEC accused DC treasurer and Finance Minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla of disregarding due process in cancelling the tender at the expense of the joint venture company comprising Fleet Service Lesotho (Pty) Ltd and Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions (Pty) Ltd that had been recommended for the contract.
The joint venture company has since gone to court seeking an order to stop the government from engaging Bidvest.
The feud over the multimillion-maloti tender, which is administered by a ministry run by the DC itself, is seen as ample evidence the main coalition government party is at war with itself.
The NEC has also distanced itself from a protest march organised by outspoken politician Bokang Ramatšella last month to show solidarity with Dr Mosisili, his coalition partners and army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli among others. Mr Moleleki and other senior DC officials were also conspicuous by their absence at the march.
Addressing supporters during a rally in his Machache constituency on Sunday last week, Mr Moleleki said he refused to attend the march because the organisers “were out of order”.
He said the premier had the sole responsibility and prerogative to appoint the army commander and other heads of security agencies hence it was illogical to show confidence in them.
However, Mr Qoo said Mr Moleleki was not acting like a cabinet minister in contradicting the government’s positions on the vehicle fleet contract and other issues.
“It is unfortunate that our party has lately been brought into disrepute by the deputy leader who has openly supported a company called Lebelonyane Fleet Services. This is contrary to the behaviour expected of a cabinet minister,” he said.
“Also worrying is the fact that the NEC, of which I am a member, has also showed its unwavering support to this company in its bid to be awarded a government fleet services tender.”
Mr Qoo said the NEC would now be stranded after its “shameful” pronouncement given one of the Lebelonyane directors absolved the government of any wrongdoing.
The director, Lebohang Maketa, last week accused his estranged colleagues who include Letsatsi Mabona, Mantsikane Khali and Kereke Moteletsane of being imposters with no legal standing to claim to be lawful directors of Lebelonyane Fleet Services.
However, Mr Mabona and other members of the company dismissed allegations they were imposters and argued Mr Maketa had been paid to turn against his colleagues since his press conference was attended by known allies of Dr Khaketla.
Said Mr Qoo: “These issues are tainting our party’s image. After learning about the fleet company’s split, one wonders who the NEC will be supporting now.”
“It should be clear I was never among the NEC members who organised a press conference to make such a shameful pronouncement even though I am the rightful spokesperson of the party.”
He said the UCM was a hoax created by Dr Mosisili’s foes to sow division in the DC.
Speculation is rife the 18 September 2016 protest march was meant to gauge support for the mooted UCM. Apart from Dr Mosisili, the march was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and some leaders of the governing coalition parties.
The march also fuelled talk all the members of parliament who attended would cobble together a governing alliance under the UCM ahead of a possible no-confidence motion against Dr Mosisili when the National Assembly reconvenes on 7 October 2016.
“This so-called UCM is a lie fabricated by those opposed to the leadership of Prime Minister Mosisili,” Mr Qoo said.
“The government’s detractors are using social media platforms to spread this toxic venom against us. Initially, they said we gathered at the march to test our strength for us to form a political party.
“However, they now claim we have already founded the United Congress Movement. It’s all lies.”
He added: “The fact of the matter is those people who failed to attend the march are clearly not interested in supporting this coalition government. They don’t have any interest in their own government.”
Mr Qoo also scoffed at rumours Dr Mosisili and other DC members aligned to him would defect to the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
“You should be mindful that earlier there were frivolous claims that DC’s Women’s League President Dr Pontšo Sekatle wanted Dr Mosisili to lead some party members in defecting to the LCD. That was just a fabrication intended to bring chaos in the party and defame her character,” he said.
“All Sekatle said was that LCD leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing would be the acting prime minister when Dr Mosisili left office until such a time a new prime minister is sworn into office.
“But her statement was distorted to suggest she wanted the LCD leader to take over as prime minister when she was mentioning a technical issue that does not suggest the LCD would be taking over the control of the coalition forever.”
Mr Ramatšella also took aim at the DC NEC in an interview with the Sunday Express, saying they were peddling “false accusations”.
He said no new political party was being formed, adding the march was merely meant to show “unwavering support” to Dr Mosisili and his partners in government as well as the security agencies.
Mr Ramatšella said there was a campaign by some DC NEC members to taint Dr Mosisili’s image in an attempt to oust him.
“Certain DC NEC members have been saying this march was meant to test the strength of the support base we hold in the coalition government with a view to forming a new party,” he said.
“All these allegations are lies meant to taint the image of the prime minister and all the organisers as well as attendees of the march.”
Commenting on Mr Qoo’s allegations, DC Deputy Secretary-General Refiloe Litjobo accused the party spokesperson of contradicting the NEC’s resolutions.
Mr Litjobo said while Mr Qoo failed to take part in the NEC’s press conference held at Lesotho Cooperatives College last month, his absence did not mean party business couldn’t continue.
“As the DC NEC, we are bigger than Qoo. We made a clear pronouncement on the fleet service tender and we stick by our resolution,” he said.
“We cannot support Bidvest at the expense of the impoverished masses whom we are supposed to protect.”
Mr Litjobo also indicated he only got to know about UCM on social media during the protest march.
“My suspicion is that he (Mr Qoo) knows more about UCM than he lets on since it came about on the day of their march. These days, Qoo has not been taking his mandate from the party, but is always making statements contradicting our resolutions. We suspect he now owes his allegiance to another political formation,” he said.