Lesotho coalition faces collapse

> Gary van Staden and Majara Molupe

THE fractious coalition government in Lesotho is threatening to come apart once again after a nasty power struggle in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party.

Mosisili sacked four cabinet ministers accused of colluding with opposition parties to unseat the governing coalition on November 10.

He also moved Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki from the police ministry. The move backfired and four other ministers resigned, including Moleleki, who claimed at least 21 members of Parliament (MPs) in the ruling coalition were ready to quit.

Then, on November 17, Mosisili was issued with a suspension letter by his own party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

Mosisili’s response has been to call for a special general conference from December 2 – 4, at which he hopes to re-establish control. He claims the NEC had no power to suspend him.

The Southern African Development Community’s Oversight Committee to Lesotho arrived in Maseru on Monday hoping to speed up the peace process after years of coups and political assassinations.

But the new crisis engulfing Mosisili’s government overshadowed the visit and threatened to derail SADC’s mediation push.

On Tuesday, the Speaker of Parliament adjourned the sitting of the House indefinitely – avoiding a vote-of-no-confidence in her being sponsored by opposition MPs and elements of the DC.

Meanwhile, a dozen members of the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) have pledged allegiance to a breakaway faction of the DC. Last week, it was reported that Moleleki was already in talks with exiled opposition leader Tom Thabane to oust Mosisili.

All this comes just a few weeks after the SADC-appointed mediator, the South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, met with the opposition leaders, including Thabane, Theselle Maseribane, the leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) frontman Keketso Rantsho, to discuss stabilisation efforts in the country.

Given that the faction fighting in the ruling coalition has been common knowledge for some time, the South African meeting with the opposition leaders, including those still hiding in South Africa, may be more significant than it first appears.

Just a month earlier, under increasing pressure from South African opposition parties and the Public Protector, the South African Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation set up a task team to review tenders awarded since 2014, after growing allegations of corruption: including those around the Lesotho Highlands Water Project where delays in the R26bn project are thought to be due to the need to include LTE Consulting – a company said to be a big funder of the African National Congress (ANC).

The lucrative deals available to Lesotho business and political leaders have been pinned as a key consideration in the on-going political instability in Lesotho, with rival parties and elites competing for control and access.

Ousted former prime minister and now a key player in the fresh instability in Lesotho, Thabane, has long been deemed by political parties in Lesotho to be South Africa’s preferred prime minister, an issue that arose several times during SADC intervention in the mountain kingdom.

It now appears certain that Thabane and the other ‘exiled’ leaders will swiftly return home suddenly feeling safe again with the recent resignation of army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli providing a convenient excuse.

Not that the ruling coalition needs much encouragement to fall apart.

The DC has slowly disintegrated under increasing factionalism. For several months now, Moleleki has been the leading instigator following a fallout with Mosisili. Unhappiness in the coalition, and specifically in the DC, is claimed to centre on economic issues and a decline in the rule of law.

The power agenda, however, appears to be the real motivation.

Advocate Holo Nyane, a constitutional lawyer at the National University of Lesotho, told The Southern Times that defections in the DC had destabilised parliament and the government.

Nyane noted that since the DC’s NEC has not only pulled out of the government but also decided to sit at the cross bench in parliament, it will have a direct bearing on the coalition government.

“The bench majority in parliament is 61 seats and this means if some Members of Parliament have decided to pull out of the government, this will definitely affect the government.

This coalition government was made up of different political parties with a total of 65 seats. Therefore this means if there are some DC members who have pulled out of the government, this poses a threat to the government,” he said.

He maintained that the suspension of the Prime Minister by his own party spells a crisis in the government, adding that things could get worse if there is a motion of no confidence against the government, which appears to have been thwarted – for now – by the adjourning of Parliament until next year.

After coming to a head last week, Moleleki said at the weekend that Lesotho needed a broad-based and strong government of national unity to replace the current administration.

“I invite all parties represented in the national assembly, including the opposition, to approach us to talk about how we can take this country forward,” Moleleki told local media.

One of the key demands of the SADC probe was that Lt. General Kamoli be removed as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander.

After lengthy delays and some side-steps, it was announced last week that the controversial soldier was to step down on December 1, after protracted and apparently expensive negotiations with government officials.

The power struggles in the ruling party may well result in yet another coalition government, perhaps within days or weeks. That holds no promise of greater stability – just another phase in an unending cycle. – NKC African Economics

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