Back to drawing board for DC

Back to drawing board for DC

MASERU – OUT-MANOUVRED and out-gunned on the electoral platform, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party appears mortally wounded.

Humbled by his thumping electoral loss on June 3, Mosisili tendered his resignation as Prime Minister to King Letsie III last week.
The DC’s surprising loss in the election represented the biggest political earthquake to rock these shores over the last two years.
At 72, the loss could potentially end Mosisili’s illustrious and colourful political career.

Since 1997, Mosisili has dominated Lesotho’s political turf after he was personally anointed to lead the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) by Dr Ntsu Mokhehle.

That long reign, which was only briefly interrupted when he handed the reins to Thomas Thabane in 2012, could be finally over.
While it would be premature to pen Mosisili’s political obituary, there is no iota of doubt that his DC party faces a herculean task in rebuilding the party if it is to win back power in the next election.

The DC’s secretary general, Semano Sekatle, says they are going to go back to the drawing board to strategise.
With just 30 seats out of 120, there is no doubt the DC performed dismally in the last election and Sekatle says the party will carry out a thorough post-mortem to understand why it lost power.

“We have to go back to the people and understand why we lost this election,” he says.
However, Sekatle says it is clear that the bitter squabbles within the DC that saw the party’s deputy leader, Monyane Moleleki, walk out with a huge chunk of supporters cost the party heavily in the election.

Moleleki quit the DC and formed his Alliance of Democrats (AD) earlier this year following a bitter leadership squabble with Mosisili. The AD grabbed nine seats in the last election.

At the same time, the DC’s election partner the LCD also went through squabbles of its own which saw charismatic MP, Selibe Mochoboroane, leave the party to form his own Movement for Economic Change (MEC). That party also appeared to have whittled down the LCD’s numbers after it grabbed six seats.

“These divisions in the DC and LCD cost us the election,” Sekatle says. “Together we could have been able to form government.”
But did it ever dawn on the DC that it could lose the election?
Did they see this defeat coming?

Sekatle says the party was fully aware of these divisions and their potential to split votes, “that is why we had to join forces with the LCD”.
“That is the major reason why we thought we needed to work together and organise members of the congress movement together. We were confident that we were going to win.”

Sekatle says after being in power for so long, the narrative of change that was being pushed by opposition parties appeared too enticing for the electorate. “It would appear that the people of Lesotho have had enough of us and so needed change. They wanted some space.”
Sekatle says the DC is still to meet to carry out a comprehensive post-mortem of the election to determine if the results “were a protest vote” against the party and government.

He concedes that in a number of constituencies there had been a significant drop in voter turn-out.
“We are still looking at the numbers.”

He however believes Thabane was removed too soon when he lost the snap election in 2015.
That, Sekatle says, did not give people enough opportunity for them to see what kind of leader Thabane was.
“He was removed too soon for Basotho to realise and determine the difference with us in 2015.”
He says it would also appear their DC supporters suffered from “voter fatigue” as they “were dismayed why they had to vote every two years”.

Not enough was done to educate and mobilise this key constituency, he says.
Sekatle however rejects as false the assertion that the DC became too drunk with power and was complacent in the run-up to the election.
He says as a democratic party they have since accepted the election result as an expression of the will of the people.
“We are democrats and have accepted the defeat.”

Their focus, he says, will now shift to Parliament where the DC will provide “strong opposition”.
“We will spend more time working with sub-branches rebuilding the party. We will also need to educate our people in the principles of the congress movement.”

Sekatle says key among such principles are their pro-poor policies that made the DC and the LCD the darling of the masses over the last two decades.

“We have to educate our members on why we are different to the Nationalists so that people do not swing from one party to another. We have to bring that understanding to the youths so they can take over.”
“As a government we strove to use government resources to support the poor and the vulnerable. Whatever we did was geared towards the poor and vulnerable.”

The DC and its predecessor, the LCD under Mosisili, are credited with the introduction of pro-poor policies such as the provision of old age pensions, free health care and free primary school education.

It is those policies that made Mosisili “the poster boy” of Lesotho’s politics over the past two decades.
However, those policies appeared to count for nothing when voters, including those in the DC’s rural strongholds, entered polling booths on June 3.

Sekatle says the party will now need to understand why this umbilical cord with rural voters was broken.
He says the DC will also go on an aggressive programme to rebuild the party and educate members on the principles of the party.
“We believe the government cannot employ everybody in an economy like ours but can provide a broad spectrum of services for everybody like free primary education and health-care. All those things lead us to the poorest of the poor which is why we cannot be popular in cities.”

Sekatle says the DC will remain true to its “congress movement” roots in pushing pro-poor policies.
He says it was because of the party’s principled stand on core issues that saw Moleleki and a huge chunk of youths leave to form the AD.
Sekatle remains adamant that the DC handled matters correctly in its dispute with Moleleki even though he admits his departure hurt the party’s power retention agenda.

But could the DC have handled matters differently with Moleleki?
“No, we couldn’t,” he says. “We believe Moleleki was impatient with regards to his outcry that he was supposed to be the Prime Minister.”
He says Moleleki and his backers who are now in the AD were out to stampede Mosisili out of power, a strategy that ran counter to the DC’s tradition of electing leaders.

“He was arguing that he should take over whereas it should be members (of the DC) who elect who takes over.”
“His self-interest was so strong that he felt he could split the party and we could not accept that kind of behavior.”
Sekatle says Moleleki has moved far away from the principles they stood for as a party.
Perhaps the biggest criticism Mosisili has had to fend off is that he has been around for too long, joining a cabal of African leaders notorious for overstaying in power.

Having served more than two five-year terms as premier since 1998, Mosisili and the DC have not groomed a successor, feeding a bitter behind-the-scenes tussle for power.

Critics say the succession issue has been at the centre of the party’s squabbles since the days of the LCD and it is that failure to tackle the succession issue that saw Moleleki walk out of the party, a decision that came back to haunt the party on June 3.
Sekatle however says the issue of leadership renewal within the DC “will be decided by the party” at the appropriate time.
“The party will decide anybody’s fate through its normal processes.”

He says a general elective conference is set for 2019 with the party preparing for a policy conference in July this year to determine the way forward.

Staff Reporter

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