A touch of diplomacy

A touch of diplomacy

MASERU – THERE is a certain guardedness when Ralechate ’Mokose, 68, a former diplomat, speaks. Every word he speaks appears to be carefully picked so as not to unnecessarily offend both friend and foe. Having served as an ambassador in the 1990s until 2001, it would appear diplomatic etiquette is now a part of ’Mokose genetic make-up.

Even when he is put in a corner, ’Mokose would rather not comment than speak his mind. For instance, he declines to comment whether he harbours any ambitions to one day be the Prime Minister of Lesotho. Yet there is one subject that appears to galvanise him, a subject he deals with at length with refreshing candour: the break-up of his beloved Democratic Congress (DC) party late last year.

As the powerful DC secretary general, ’Mokose was privy to the behind-the-scenes drama as the once formidable party edged towards an inevitable split. The split would eventually see Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who had dominated Lesotho’s politics for over 15 years, toppled from power last June. ’Mokose, who was in the thick of the action as the party was being slowly nudged out of power, provides an authoritative voice on the dramatic fallout within the DC, particularly with regards to the succession issue.

’Mokose says sometime in 2011, Mosisili called him and Monyane Moleleki to his residence in Roma where he told them he had enough and that he wanted to bow out as premier. It was a dramatic announcement that must have caught him by surprise. And so ’Mokose says his expectation was that after the 2012 general election, Mosisili would “graciously relinquish power to his deputy and announce that I have had my time, let’s discuss the succession issue”.

“We had been made to believe that he (Mosisili) would give up power to a man who had given so much to the political life of his leader,” he says.
When the DC did not win the 2012 general election, Mosisili quietly slipped into the background and appointed Moleleki leader of the House, which he thought was “a good omen”. He says after the DC reclaimed power after the 2015 snap election, they expected Mosisili to begin a gradual process of handing over power to his deputy.

He says they were shocked and surprised “when this did not happen”. Instead of handing over power, the DC began a vicious and well calculated political process of de-campaigning Moleleki accusing the deputy leader of “plotting to unseat Mosisili”.
“There was a group of youths who had been given a mission to tarnish the name of the deputy leader (Moleleki) under the guise that he was out to dethrone the leader.”

“I was aware the party was heading for a split and tried to intervene,” he says. “Mosisili was very silent and I was sure he had something to do with this.” ’Mokose believes Mosisili really wanted to bow out but “there are people who arm-twisted him to change his position”.
’Mokose was among a group of senior DC executive committee members who lost a High Court bid to oust Mosisili as party leader late last year.
They were later slapped with six-year suspensions from the DC, a decision that saw Moleleki, ’Mokose and others walk out of the party to form the Alliance of Democrats (AD) in November last year.

With the gloves literally off, ’Mokose and his colleagues approached the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, the Basotho National Party (BNP)’s Thesele Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL)’s Keketso Rantšo to plot Mosisili’s ouster.
They agreed they would pass a no-confidence vote against Mosisili and allow Moleleki to serve as Prime Minister for the first 18 months with Thabane serving the remainder of the term till 2018 when Lesotho was due for a new election.

When Mosisili lost the no-confidence motion, he advised King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call a fresh election, an exercise ’Mokose says was a “sheer waste of public funds”. The DC’s strategy, ’Mokose says, was calculated to fix the AD and ensure the party did not win any seats due to the limited time they had to campaign.

“But our number one priority was to dethrone Mosisili from the premiership and that we accomplished,” he says. “We also wanted to have a sizable number of seats to make us kingmakers and that too we achieved.” “We are in a very strong position.” As secretary general of the DC, does ’Mokose believe they did enough to save the party from its imminent split?

He says he and his colleagues went out of their way to forestall a split. “We did not part ways with the DC without effort. We loved the DC. We felt the party had a future only if we were able to discuss our differences amicably,” he says. “Several times I went to discuss the issues with (Mosisili) and told him you and Moleleki are the two people who can save us. Why don’t you meet and announce our unity? He did not buy the story.”
’Mokose says while he still has deep respect for Mosisili as his “leader and friend,” he realises the former premier’s biggest weakness is that he is not decisive enough to intervene when there are problems within the party.

“He is not quick enough to intervene.” Having transplanted the DC’s national executive committee into the AD, critics argue the new party could become a carbon copy of the DC, a charge ’Mokose rejects. “Far from it,” he says. ’Mokose says the AD’s mandate stems from a realisation that Basotho have been polarised for too long and need to heal.

He says they take a cue from Moshoeshoe I who moulded “a formidable nation from different tribes, including even the cannibals who had devoured his grandfather”. This is what drives the coalition government, he says. The politics of the past 50 years have sharply divided the people and there is now need to unify Basotho across political party colours, he says.

“Such politics have polarised our people at every level of society, in government, in the military and the civil service. This has impeded development.”
Yet despite playing a pivotal role in the collapse of the former government, ’Mokose appears content to sit in the background away from the glamour and glare of the public. Does he have any hard feelings that he was “snubbed” for a plum job in government?
True to form, ’Mokose is also diplomatic about this.

He says having served Lesotho in various capacities in government over the last 13 years, it is now time to give the younger generation a chance.
He says his farming business is keeping him busy. The coalition deal also meant there were only six cabinet positions available for the AD and it was therefore impossible for everyone to expect a ministerial position.

“Under those circumstances there comes a time when one removes the self and let other younger fellows take over.” The constant bouts of political intolerance have come at a great cost for Lesotho, ’Mokose says. Instead of channelling all our energy on development issues, “we have been fighting over the cake”. And when you fight rather than sit down to think, you negate the development agenda, he argues.

’Mokose says the first step towards placing Lesotho into that elite league of progressive countries is to ensure there is peace and political stability.
“As AD we want to create that peace and work together as Basotho. If there is peace, then we are able to plan and develop.”
He says he believes Lesotho remains a “virgin land” that has not been fully explored to unearth the vast mineral resources that it has apart from diamonds.

He says he finds it odd that Lesotho would be entirely surrounded by a mineral-rich country such as South Africa with itself having none.
“We have plenty of water which is generating over M800 million in royalties per annum. While the focus for Metolong Dam was to provide potable water to people, more can be done to empower communities through irrigation projects.”
“There are already talks to increase electricity production and boost clean energy.”

While ’Mokose is making the right noises on the investment and economic front, it is Lesotho’s stinking politics that has proved its Achilles heel.
With the dust from the June 3 election yet to settle, there are already howls of protest from the opposition which is accusing the Thabane-led government of purging people who are viewed as loyal to the former government.

The recent shake-up within the police, the intelligence and principal secretaries’ offices has given credence to this view.
’Mokose says this unfortunately is part of the polarisation that must be addressed under the SADC-proposed reforms.
He believes the best route would be to appoint permanent secretaries who are apolitical.

He also expects Lesotho to fully implement the SADC recommendations if it is to uphold democracy and promote the rule of law.
“Do we have any option except to follow the wishes and demands of the international community which wants to see the SADC recommendations acted upon?”

A former educationist, ’Mokose believes Lesotho’s education system needs a shake-up to move it away from its “colonial nature”.
“It was an education that was meant to create civil servants, the priests and the small-time employees to work for the whites. It emphasised mental arithmetic so that we could calculate (the change) in grocery shops.

“We have to move towards subjects that make you independent and not look for employment. We must focus on the youths and help them come up with viable projects that can create employment.”

Abel Chapatarongo

 

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