It’s time for revolution

It’s time for revolution

MASERU – WHEN King Letsie III announced June 3 as the date for the snap election in late February some political parties were caught flat-footed.
There was panic and pandemonium in some party ranks. New parties that had not yet contested any election were not so sure of their support base.

For some parties, it was only after the announcement of the election date that they hit the campaign road, too late to make any meaningful inroads.
Despite the formidable obstacles, the parties ploughed on. Among these was Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC), a break-away party from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), that went on to put a strong show during the polls. Mochoboroane says he was confident about his party’s electoral prospects, particularly in his stronghold of Thabana-Morena constituency in Mafeteng.

When his rivals were trying to make belated inroads in Thabana-Morena, Mochoboroane did very little campaigning in the constituency.
Unbeknown to most of his rivals, Mochoboroane says over the last five years or so, he had developed an unbreakable “umbilical cord” with the people of Thabana-Morena. That was thanks to the many agricultural projects that he initiated in the constituency aimed at empowering the local communities and ensuring that they were self-sufficient in terms of securing livelihoods and food.

He was so confident of victory to the extent that he did very little campaigning in the run-up to the election.
“I only went to my constituency a few days before the election for a meet-and-greet session, I never addressed a campaign rally there,” he says.
Mochoboroane’s MEC won six out of the 120 seats that were up for grabs, a commendable feat for a party that was barely six months old.
The party mustered over 29 400 votes in the election.

The MEC becomes the fifth biggest political party in Lesotho after the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Democratic Congress (DC), the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). At 39, Selibe Mochoboroane represents a new generation of politicians in Lesotho that is not encumbered by historical baggage. Mochoboroane, whose campaign slogan was “Ke nako (‘Now is the time)”, says time has arrived for Basotho to smash the barriers that have divided the people along ideological lines for decades.

“It has been known for years that in Lesotho you either had to be on the right or left, either from the “congress” or “nationalist” movement. In MEC we are not influenced by either.” “Our politics is politics of development!” he says.

Mochoboroane says their movement seeks to offer a fresh brand of politics that is not beholden to the past.
Such a past only fostered deep divisions among the people, he says.
“We came with a different dimension of politics,” he says. “As the MEC we believe in the politics of development. We want to change the face of the economy. As a young leader it wouldn’t make sense to believe in the politics of inheritance.”

Key to his party’s campaign message was the issue of “economic emancipation”.
Mochoboroane says it is unacceptable that Lesotho continues to import almost 98 percent of its food requirements from South Africa.
Unless Basotho grow their own food, they will continue to be dependent on foreign countries, a situation Mochoboroane says is unsustainable in the long run. “We have the land and plenty of water but the reality is that we are not producing enough for our own consumption or for commercial purposes.  “We need to grow our own food and cut imports,” he says.

Only when we are able to do that will we be truly free, Mochoboroane says.
This is the message that Mochoboroane “preached” at his campaign rallies. It is a message that appears to have struck a resonance with voters, judging by the over 29 400 people who voted for the MEC in June.

Mochoboroane says he “will continue” to preach this message in a bid to restore self-belief among Basotho.
“We want to restore hope for the people. I will continue to preach this gospel so that many can hear it so that when they look at the politics of polarisation (we have endured over the years) they will say enough is enough.”

He insists the MEC is and will always be “issues-driven”.Mochoboroane boasts that not once did he resort to the stale politics of insults and name-calling (that have sadly been a permanent mark of Lesotho’s politics over the years) at his campaign rallies.

“We have not inherited the politics of hatred and propaganda. We were talking issues.”
Mochoboroane says the MEC is already preparing for the next general election in 2022, if not sooner given the recent experiences with coalition governments in Lesotho. The last coalition government lasted only 28 months. “Even when we are out of government, we will translate our speech into action. We will soon launch a project to promote local produce and create jobs for our youths.”

But for this to happen, Mochoboroane admits he needs “to change the thinking of our politicians and the way we do things”.
It will no longer be business as usual, he insists. Mochoboroane has over the last five years patiently built a reputation as an “all-out action man” first as Deputy Minister of Local Government in 2012 before moving to the Ministry of Communications in 2014 as Minister.

He was later appointed Minister of Energy in 2015 where he also excelled in pushing the government’s rural electrification programme.
That, however, has not always endeared him with his colleagues in politics who have sometimes labelled him too ambitious.

Mochoboroane was fired from the government after he fell out with his colleagues in the LCD, an episode he now says was a blessing in disguise.
Critics say the decision to kick-out Mochoboroane haemorrhaged the party leaving it much weaker. The result was a bloody nose in the polls last June.
The LCD only managed to win a single constituency seat in party leader Mothetjoa Metsing’s Mahobong constituency.
It picked 10 other seats through the Proportional Representation (PR) system.

Even though he was hounded out of the party, Mochoboroane says he is now a much “happier man”.
“I have peace of mind, even the politics I am preaching, I am enjoying every moment of it,” he says.
“My decision to leave the LCD and form the MEC has put me in a better position to grow politically.”
He says this has freed him from the “burden of group think” as he is now free to make the right decisions without compromising his principles on the altar of political expediency. Mochoboroane says he was viscerally opposed to moves by some of his former colleagues within the LCD to sow seeds of divisions within Mosisili’s DC party.

“I did not want to be part of the people who were dividing our fellow brothers in the DC.”
He says while it is true the splits in the LCD and DC hurt the former ruling parties’ power retention agenda, the electoral pact between the two parties was doomed right from the start, with or without him in.

That is because “the two parties did not have the same mandate”, he says.
Mochoboroane argues that Lesotho needs a new constitution that will “respond to the challenges facing the country”.
He cites the case of Principal Secretaries who are the chief accounting officers for government ministries.
Mochoboroane says it is a pity that every government wants to replace serving Principal Secretaries “who are political appointees” whose appointment is not based on merit but political affiliation.

“If we have a constitution that says the chief accounting officer will not be a political appointee but must be appointed on the basis of merit, we would have taken a big step in depoliticising the public service.” He says Lesotho “needs an independent public service that serves everybody”.
Mochoboroane bemoans the failure of successive coalition governments since 2012 to work on a new Constitution to make it responsive to the needs of the new political realities.

“We failed to correct the system. The first thing was to correct the system to make it responsive to the workings of a coalition government.”
Mochoboroane believes Lesotho can resolve almost all of her political challenges particularly in implementing the Justice Mphapi Phumaphi recommendations. “As Basotho we can do things on our own. We should be able to sit down and solve our own problems. That will get us out of the mess.”

Abel Chapatarongo

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