MASERU — October 2008.
The political star of Monyane Moleleki, the stalwart of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party and the longest serving minister, seemed to be waning.
His political clout was fading.
The political ground was dramatically shifted beneath him.
Or so it seemed.
The LCD youth league leadership which was supposedly aligned to him had just been disbanded for allegedly disrespecting the party leadership and leaking confidential party issues to the media.
His political opponents seemed to have meticulously planned to deliver a thundering political blow to Moleleki and it seemed to have worked after they booted the youth league leaders.
But things were just about to get worse for the Russian-trained journalist-turned-politician.
At the LCD’s conference in January 2009 his political rivals returned to deliver another blow, this time voting him out of the party’s national executive committee for the first time since the party was established in 1997.
All other candidates alleged to be aligned to his faction failed to make it into the committee.
The rival faction, which some say is led by the communications minister and LCD secretary-general Mothetjoa Metsing, had romped to victory and consolidated its grip on the party’s power structures.
They had the national executive and the youth league committees.
Brickbats started raining on Moleleki’s faction.
Some members of the interim youth committee wrote a secret letter to party leader Pakalitha Mosisili imploring him to fire Moleleki and other ministers for poor service delivery.
The now defunct Voice of the Free Democrats, a newspaper paper that was believed to be run by young party functionaries, also fired volleys at Moleleki and his so-called faction.
Some party insiders say a letter written by former LCD secretary-general and ex-cabinet minister Mpho Malie to a local bank and the party’s leadership alleging that funds allocated to block scheme farmers had been looted was aimed at Moleleki’s faction.
Now, fast forward to August 2010 and see how Moleleki has turned the tables.
Last weekend’s youth league elections marked his return.
As the results were announced the youths broke into innuendo-laden songs that were clearly celebrating the victory of Moleleki’s faction and the demise of Metsing’s group.
“Khalema Moetapele, ho tloha Mahobong ho ea tsoa Taung batho ba ea re tsietsa (Our leader, please take action against these people, from Mahobong to Taung).
“They have become a serious problem,” they sang.
Although the youths did not mention names party insiders say the songs were directed at Metsing whose constituency is Mahobong and Malie who hails from Taung.
The songs, party insiders say, were a direct appeal to Mosisili to deal with the so-called Metsing faction.
When it was all done youth members from Moleleki’s faction had won all the nine leadership positions and, to put the cherry on the cake, they scooped four ordinary member positions in the committee.
But the battle is just starting for Moleleki’s faction, party sources say.
Moleleki’s faction might have the youth league but the Metsing faction still controls the national executive committee.
The women’s league, another key constituency, has been split between the two factions.
It is another fertile ground for a tussle for the control of the party.
In private conversations senior members of the Moleleki faction are gloating that they are now going for the national committee to have a firm grip on the party structures again.
The Sunday Express this week spoke to two senior members of the Moleleki faction.
“We might have won the LCD youth league committee and we are proud of the victory as we worked hard to outshine our opponents,” said one of the officials who has stuck with Moleleki for years.
“However, it must be noted that the fight has only just begun.
“It is now time to shake things up at the top. The face of the national executive committee should be transformed.”
He said “it is payback time” for the Metsing faction.
“Those people nearly finished us but we have bounced back because we quickly learnt to play their game,” he said.
“The tables have turned on them now.”
Another LCD official aligned to the Moleleki faction said he believed it was time people spoke openly about and freely addressed “the factionalism rocking the party”.
“It is time to talk about the factionalism within the LCD openly because it is there. Why hide it?” he charged.
The LCD’s deputy leader, Lesao Lehohla, seems to understand that the factional fights in the party are likely to move a gear up as the battle for the soul of the congress party intensifies.
“Now that the youth committee has been elected, it should be afforded the respect it deserves,” Lehohla said in his closing remarks at last weekend’s youth conference.
“Whatever differences there were should be cast aside because now we are one.”
However, history has shown that the factions in the LCD will never be “one”.
The battle continues.