I remain unmoved: Phamotse

I remain unmoved: Phamotse

MASERU – GENDER Minister and Alliance of Democrats’ secretary general Dr Mahali Phamotse was the target of a violent demonstration by party supporters two weeks ago. The small mob burnt office property as it picketed at the party’s offices. They accused her of sidelining them in the allocation of tenders and employment opportunities.
The party quickly moved to douse the fires, with leader Monyane Moleleki calling for calm and pleading with party members to shun violence as a means to resolve their problems.
A few days later the party’s national executive committee held an urgent meeting to discuss the embarrassing skirmishes. This week thepost spoke to Phamotse about the demonstration and what it means for the party and her position as secretary general.

We started by asking her what she thinks could have triggered the demonstration.

I don’t really think it is personal but my analysis is that the AD is a new party that is doing things differently from the establishment from which most of its members came. It seems some people still have a different concept of what a party should be. That view is based on their previous parties.
Our leader has a new vision of a party that has outgrown the norms and practises of other parties. There has always been the idea that once a political party comes into power, it should discriminate against members of other parties.

This then leads those in power to discriminate against members of other parties when it comes to economic opportunities and jobs. We have politics in which some think they are superior to others in terms of economic participation. When in power you want to control everything.
You think you are entitled to opportunities and avenues at the expense of the people at the bottom and those who are not in your party. Our leader is going against that way of thinking and way of doing things. He is preaching togetherness and oneness for all Basotho.

Having been close to him I can tell you that he doesn’t just say those things but lives them as well. He lives by those values but he needs people who operationalise and implement them. That is what I am doing as the secretary general. I am trying to make people understand that we are a party that should live by the values of peace, unity and togetherness.

But clearly there are some who don’t share that vision or don’t like the way you are implementing it.
Do you think people have understood that the politics of hate should be a thing of the past?

Not necessarily, but you have to look at the size of the crowd that was at that demonstration. I don’t suppose that those people were more than 30. That, to me, says that the majority of the AD members understand the message from the leader clearly.
Those people had called that meeting on Facebook but the numbers did not amount to much. If people were buying into their agenda they would have come out in numbers. Our leader is succeeding in getting the message to the members.

The people are following their leader. What happened at that small demonstration does not reflect the feelings of the majority of AD members. It is just a few individuals who are unhappy with the new direction the party is taking. They think I am administrating the party in a way they are not used to.

What does that demonstration, small as it was, reflect about the party?

It sends a message that as politicians we are failing our people because of what we have been selling them. We have been saying come to me and you will be better than the others. When we say “others” we are referring to Basotho. Politicians want to own people. So they don’t say come to me so that I can be a leader of all the people, including those who don’t support me.
They say I will take care of you as members of my own party. That is wrong. We don’t talk about general development but about people who elect us. I don’t understand how that happens because jobs and roads are for all. What if your people do not have qualifications?

We promise to expel people working and we forget that some of the people we are promising jobs are not qualified. This leads to huge problems in the economy because we end up placing people in areas they should not be. The result is a poor road or a leaking building.
We lower the standards to achieve the promise to create jobs and opportunities. The truth is that we are creating huge problems for ourselves and the country because we are misplacing people. That results in poor structures, bad infrastructure and a struggling economy.

When you place a wrong person it costs time and money. The trouble will be with you for years and generations to come. It’s eating us inside and will continue to do so until we put in place policies that promote togetherness and unity.
Ntate Moleleki has seen it all. I think he is one of the longest serving people in parliament. He has been in cabinet the longest. So when he says we have to change course we should listen because he knows what he is talking about.

You might have noticed that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is preaching the same message of unity and peace. They know the dangers of divisive politics because they have seen how it has spoiled our judiciary, economy and the nation.

Why were the protesters targeting you as the secretary general? Surely you are just part of the leadership that has collective responsibility.

It is a vulnerable position because it is the pillar of the party. Anything wrong with the party is blamed on the SG. As the SG you are at the centre of everything. They don’t look at your success but focus on that which they think you are doing wrong.
People will always complain but they have to look for ways to deal with issues in a reasonable and unifying fashion. The centre pole is the one that holds the tent. If that pole shakes, the tent crumbles.

How has the party leadership handled the problem?

The leaders took it very well. He (Moleleki) stood very strongly against their actions. He was not so much concerned about the petty issues they raised but the way they went about trying to resolve them.
He also spoke strongly about how some people behave when called to account for their actions. He said people should be reprimanded. He said if people have a problem then they should come to him as the leader because the buck stops with him.

There have been allegations that those protesters were merely pawns in the power struggle or factional fight in the party? Who do you think is their master?

When people convene there is always the convener. It cannot be a coincidence that people meet and start demonstrating. People don’t just meet and start burning office property. At all times there is the originator of the idea.
The issue is who, but I don’t want to get into that because the leader has spoken. I see it as anger against the system I am using. Those people don’t have tangible reasons for fighting.
They are fighting my system and not me as a person. My personality is not the issue here. It’s my strategy they don’t understand and don’t want to comprehend. I am merely implementing the vision of the leader and the party.

Maybe they hoped that our leader would change with the wind soon after the election but that has not happened. His message has remained that of peace and unity. He has continued to say that the days of discriminating against perceived political opponents are over.

Is Moleleki’s message getting to the AD supporters?

When he started saying these things, people were fuming. It has been tough for people to comprehend that message because it goes against what people have been used to. He has been saying lets forgive each other and move on. He said lets have amnesty. But people thought that he was now going soft on criminals.
That is not the case because amnesty does not mean lack of accountability for one’s actions. Something seems to have changed over the past few months because some leaders are now carrying the same message. They have mocked him but they are now seeing his vision.

People take time to adjust to good things. People want to adjust to bad things.

Do you sometimes regret leaving the academia?
Not at all. I want to be challenged. In lecturing, you work to achieve the same things. Here you solve problems. You meet different problems every day and you tackle them differently all the time. It feels good to be looking at new problems and getting solutions.

I like that kind of life. It gives me pleasure. I don’t wish to be a leader or deputy, I wish to be here. I want to do things here. I am happy all the plans are going well. People are joining the party and rallies are happening.

Staff Reporter

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