RCL supporter shot at rally

RCL supporter shot at rally

MASERU-A BITTER squabble over the control of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) sunk to a new low on Sunday after a party supporter was shot and seriously injured at a rally in Khafung constituency. Several others were also injured during the clashes between supporters of party leader and Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo, and secretary general ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie.

Rantšo and Lemphane-Letsie were not present in the constituency when their supporters clashed. Eye-witnesses say Rantšo’s personal aide who is also a member of the youth league committee, Retšelisitsoe Lesane, together with three other supporters, was at the rally when Tšeliso Moleko was shot. ’Mathato Pitso who claims to be the Khafung constituency’s secretary general told thepost that she heard some gun sound during the fight and saw one person (name withheld) hiding a pistol in his jacket.

“I did not see anybody with a gun except (name withheld),” Pitso said. Malibo Setjeo who said he is the party’s spokesman also said he saw a man who was travelling in Rantšo’s car firing some shots at Moleko and seriously injuring him.

“I have reported that to the Teya-Teyaneng police because I witnessed it,” she said. The suspect denied that he shot anybody saying “it is just a rumour circulated by people who are against me”.

Setjeo said the constituency had called a meeting and invited other constituencies so that they could be together to analyse the 2017 general election to see why they performed poorly. He said three people who were travelling in Rantso’s cars stormed the meeting and wanted to take control. When the constituency committee refused, they became violent.

Pitso said the cars were parked at a place where the meeting was to be held while the minister’s personal van was parked right in front of the podium. The van was booming with the party’s music so that they could not hear each other when they spoke, she said. Pitso said the three were not happy that they had not been given a chance to control the meeting “despite the fact that we told them that it was not a national meeting but a constituency one”.

However, the root cause of the problem was that the constituency has two groups and each of them has its own committee.

Although Pitso declined to go into details of the allegiance of the groups, it emerged that she is backing a faction that filed a case in the High Court that challenged Rantšo’s leadership.

The squabbles within the party intensified late last year after Rantšo wrote Lemphane-Letsie a letter saying she should show cause why she should not be suspended. Rantšo accused Lemphane-Letsie of taking major party decisions behind her back to the detriment of the party.

Instead of responding to the letter, Lemphane-Letsie with the backing of other national executive committee members filed a case in the High Court seeking Rantšo’s ouster saying she treats the party like her fiefdom. The party youths wrote a scathing statement in February this year attacking “those who have taken the leader to the courts” and rebuking them for discussing party issues in the media.

Since then, the party has never held a general meeting to iron-out the differences and as time went by tension between the two factions has been rising. The dispute burst into violence last Sunday.

Bataung Thulo, the RCL treasurer, told a local radio station that he has always told party members to halt public gatherings in the constituencies “to avoid confusion because there are serious divisions in the national executive committee”. Thulo was responding to the news of the violence in Khafung. Setjeo told thepost that their party has always been embroiled in infighting since last year’s general elections after some youths defected to other political parties.

He said the infighting has almost brought the party to its knees. “It is now on a rocky trajectory which will lead to its collapse,” Setjeo said.

Setjeo is one of those who supported Lemphane-Letsie in her court application. The case will continue this month.

Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said no one has been arrested yet following the shooting. He said the police were already working on the matter.

Mopeli said although the suspect has been identified, “there are certain legal requirements we have to fulfil before we can arrest him”.

Staff Reporter

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