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Metsing’s head on the chopping block

’Marafaele Mohloboli/Bongiwe Zihlangu

FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s 10-year reign as Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader could soon be over if 11 disgruntled party constituency committees get their way at the party’s annual conference due in January 2023.

The 11 constituency committees are Hololo, Likotsi, Stadium Area, Matala, Mosalemane, ’Makhoroana, Thaba-Tseka, Mashai, Tšoana-Makhulo, Qacha’s Nek and Mokhotlong. They have all written to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) demanding that Mr Metsing be ousted even before the conference takes place. That can only happen if the party call a special conference.

The committees want him ousted on the grounds that he is no longer marketable to the electorate and the party has lost its way under his long leadership. The committees could well be right given that for the first time since its formation in 1998, the party failed to win a single seat at the polls held on 7 October 2022. It was only saved from utter oblivion by the controversial proportional representation (PR) system which gave it three PR seats. The LCD also obtained one Senate seat which was given to one Sehloho Monatsi, an NEC member who is said to be a financial backer of the party.

That decision by Mr Metsing to second Mr Monatsi to the Senate ahead of secretary general, Teboho Sekata, has also sparked another serious rift within the party which could hasten its demise. Mr Sekata’s lawyers, L. Ketsi Chambers, have slapped the party’s NEC with a letter demanding that he be appointed to the Senate in place of Mr Monatsi who was sworn in with other Senators two weeks ago.

However, party spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele, told this publication that the committees would have to go back to the drawing board and follow the “correct procedures” to stand any chance of compelling the party to convene a special conference to decide Mr Metsing’s fate.

He said such demands had to start at the branch level and be approved by two thirds of each constituency committee. He also accused Mr Sekata of orchestrating the constituencies’ campaign to oust Mr Metsing. The LCD leader would only leave his post when his tenure expires in 2024, he said.

Nonetheless, Mr Sekata’s letter is a clear indication of the rift right at the apex of the party’s leadership. Taken together with the 11 constituencies’ letters of no confidence in Mr Metsing, these issues threaten to finish off the once mighty party which used to enjoy outright majorities in elections between 1998 and 2012. It was initially under the leadership of the late Prime Minister Ntšu Mokhehle and later under former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. Its fortunes have been on a free fall ever since Mr Mosisili ditched it to form the Democratic Congress (DC) in 2012, with the 2022 polls being its worst ever electoral performance.

Mr Metsing’s failure to steer the LCD ship can be attributed in part to the fact that he has been tainted by various criminal allegations and charges and he has spent a significant of time away from the country in self-imposed exile to escape jail.

The most serious of these are the treason and murder charges hanging over his head. He has been charged alongside Health minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) party, former army commander, Tlali Kamoli and Captain Litekanyo Nyakane in the treason case. In the murder case, he has been charged alongside Mr Mochoboroane, Kamoli, Captain Nyakane as well as Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.

The charges stem from the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Mr Metsing was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Mr Mochoboroane was Communications, Science and Technology minister and LCD secretary general. Kamoli had been fired by Mr Thabane from his post as army commander on 29 August 2014 before orchestrating the attempted coup allegedly with the support of Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Captain Nyakane and Lance Corporals Ntsane and Motsieloa. Messrs Thabane and Metsing had fallen out with the latter alleging he was not being consulted on key decisions.

The murder charge emanates from the killing of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko, during the night of the attempted coup when soldiers under the command of Kamoli raided police stations to disarm police officials said to be loyal to Mr Thabane.

Both matters will be heard on 29 November 2022 by Judge Maliepollo Makhetha.

Due to this and the party’s poor showing at the October polls, the 11 LCD constituencies now feel that Mr Metsing is not the right man to take the party forward hence he must make way for new blood.

In addition, Mr Sekata, who has loyally stood behind Mr Metsing when the latter was in exile, is now demanding his pound of flesh. Part of the letter written on his behalf by his lawyers states that, “Our client has informed us that one of the members of the LCD by the name of Mr Sehloho Monatsi has been wrongfully and unlawfully nominated as a member of the Senate representing the LCD”.

“His nomination has been done in contravention of the provision of the constitution of LCD. We are reliably informed that Mr Monatsi was wrongfully nominated to the said position by the working committee which has no such powers whatsoever. For Mr Monatsi to have been nominated to such position, this ought to have been through the NEC.

“Further, we have also been informed that even in terms of the hierarchy, Mr Monatsi does not stand a chance to be a member of the Senate committee representing the LCD. Our client, Mr Sekata is the one who stands a chance to occupy such position. In this regard it is unfair on the side of our client that Mr Monatsi was able to jump the queue and occupy the position which rightly ought to be occupied by our client in terms of hierarchy,” the letter further reads.

Mr Sekata wants the party to reverse its decision to nominate Mr Monatsi to the Senate and nominate him instead. He had given the party seven working days to reverse its decision. He was unreachable on his mobile phone this week to say what he steps he intended to take since the party had not heeded his ultimatum which expired on Tuesday.

However, LCD spokesperson, Ratšele, has rubbished both Mr Sekata’s claims and the 11 constituencies’ demands for Mr Metsing’s ouster.

He accused Mr Sekata of mobilising the disgruntled constituencies to seek Mr Metsing’s ouster. He said the “rebellion” would not succeed. He said the constituencies had not followed the right procedures to demand a special conference to get rid of Mr Metsing.

Although the annual conference is due in January, it is likely to be held in March to give the NEC time to wind up its affairs, he said. Even then, Mr Metsing’s position would not be contested at that conference while other NEC posts were up for grabs, he added.

“The letters from the constituency committees don’t bear the official stamps as expected in such situations. Secondly, they did not follow the correct procedure to seek a special conference as provided for by the party constitution,” Mr Ratšele said.

“For the party to have a special conference, this must be initiated by the branches which in turn communicate with their constituencies. Two thirds of the constituency committee members should agree on the need for such a conference.

“All this was not followed. No office holder should influence other members to rebel against the party. By the look of things, this rebellion has Sekata written all over it because he is unhappy with the appointment of Mr Monatsi as Senator. These people were organised and influenced by Sekata.

“The current NEC’s tenure ends next month but we might just remain in office for an extra two months to enable us to wrap things up and prepare for the annual conference. However, the leader’s post will not be contested as he still has two more years to go. But the rest of us are vulnerable because our posts are up for grabs,” Mr Ratšele said.

He said they would only respond to Mr Sekata’s letter after he had couched his demands in “clear terms”, citing the relevant clauses of the LCD constitution which he claims entitled the secretary general to be nominated to Senate ahead of everyone else except the leader and deputy leader.

“We haven’t responded to Sekata’s letter of demand because we need him to couch his letter in a clear way and cite the clause of the constitution on which he is basing his argument to be nominated. Nevertheless, he should know that it is the prerogative of the leader to choose who gets to be appointed to the Senate. The leader can do that unilaterally,” Mr Ratšele said.