RCL will ‘trans­form’ form’ Le­sotho ho

Lesotho Times - - Front Page -

RE­FORMED Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) leader, Keketso Ran­tšo, is one of the coun­try’s most well-known and re­spected politi­cians. Un­til she co-founded the RCL last month, Ms Ran­tšo — who is also Labour and Em­ploy­ment min­is­ter — was a long­stand­ing mem­ber of the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD). In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times (LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, Ms Ran­tšo chron­i­cles her long and dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cal jour­ney — as well as her hopes of be­com­ing Le­sotho’s first fe­male prime min­is­ter af­ter the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions.

LT: As a new party, is the RCL, or as the party is pop­u­larly known, ready for next month’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, which come two years early fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment?

Ran­tšo: It is true that we are a very new party. We turned one month old on 12 Jan­uary fol­low­ing our reg­is­tra­tion with the IEC (In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion) on 12 De­cem­ber 2014.

How­ever, we have since started our cam­paigns through­out the coun­try as we al­ready have can­di­dates in all the 80 con­stituen­cies to be con­tested in next month’s elec­tions.

We started the cam­paigns in con­stituen­cies where our mem­bers that we crossed to­gether with from the LCD to form the RCL, come from.

Those con­stituen­cies are Taung, Litha­ba­neng, Mabote, Senqu, Machache, Thaba-bo­siu, Sta­dium Area, Mphosong and Mabote. We had to start with these con­stituen­cies to ex­plain why we had to leave the LCD to start a new party.

These are some of the con­stituen­cies in which we be­lieve we have good sup­port.

Peo­ple in these ar­eas un­der­stand the pres­sure we were under, which made us leave the LCD.

I was elected RCL leader at the party’s first con­fer­ence held in Maseru on 20 De­cem­ber, as was the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC).

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 49 con­stituen­cies took part in the elec­tion process. Fol­low­ing the elec­tive con­fer­ence, we then held a very suc­cess­ful rally in Mokhot­long early this month.

LT: How has the RCL man­aged to have can­di­dates in all the 80 con­stituen­cies when the party was only launched last month?

Ran­tšo: Through sheer hard work; we are work­ing tire­lessly day and night to en­sure the party grows and draws as many sup­port­ers as pos­si­ble. Out of the 80 can­di­dates, 22 are fe­males, which is a rel­a­tively good num­ber con­sid­er­ing how women are side­lined from ac­tive pol­i­tics in this coun­try. We could be the party field­ing the high­est num­ber of fe­male can­di­dates in next month’s elec­tions.

Other than that, most of our can­di­dates are young peo­ple who are in­no­va­tive and full of en­ergy. Ac­tu­ally, my heart is with the women and the youths; I am very pas­sion­ate about work­ing with women and the youths.

Yes, men are still good to have as ac­tive mem­bers in the RCL, but re­ally my heart be­longs to women and the youth.

LT: Has the RCL launched its man­i­festo as yet?

Ran­tšo: We launched our man­i­festo in Mokhot­long ear­lier this month. And just yes­ter­day (18 Jan­uary), we held a rally in Thaba-tseka, where we also spoke about our man­i­festo.

This com­ing week­end, on 24 Jan­uary to be ex­act, we will be hold­ing another rally in Qacha’s Nek, and then we will move to Quthing the fol­low­ing day, for yet another cam­paign rally ahead of the polls. LT: Could you please high­light some of sig­nif­i­cant points in the man­i­festo.

Ran­tšo: We have put more em­pha­sis on na­tional sta­bil­ity. We be­came aware that in most cases when the na­tion is un­sta­ble, it is due to is­sues of se­cu­rity.

When na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies are bi­ased and seem to align or favour cer­tain po­lit­i­cal par­ties, that’s when in­sta­bil­ity sets in.

This is due to these agen­cies be­ing politi­cised or when party lead­ers in­ter­fere with the op­er­a­tions of these agen­cies.

As the RCL, once we get into power, the first thing we are go­ing to do is re­vise the na­tional con­sti­tu­tion, par­tic­u­larly where it re­lates to is­sues of na­tional se­cu­rity. At the mo­ment, the con­sti­tu­tion al­lows po­si­tions of army com­man­der and po­lice com­mis­sioner to be ap­pointed by politi­cians. We are go­ing to amend the con­sti­tu­tion and stop this.

We want those po­si­tions to be filled through ap­point­ments made by the King only. As politi­cians, we may just sug­gest a list of names from which the fi­nal de­ci­sion and ap­point­ments will be made by the King alone.

This is be­cause these two po­si­tions play a very cru­cial role of pro­tect­ing the con­sti­tu­tion of this coun­try and there shouldn’t be any po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence. We also want to root-out pol­i­tics within the pub­lic ser­vice.

First, we want prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries, who are cur­rently ap­pointed po­lit­i­cally, to be em­ployed just like any other pub­lic ser­vant, based on qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

They should be em­ployed on a per­ma­nent ba­sis and not de­terred from do­ing their work pro­fes­sion­ally by politi­cians. Politi­cians come into gov­ern­ment and go, but prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries, as chief ac­count­ing of­fi­cers and main ad­min­is­tra­tors, should re­main. This way, we will be giv­ing them the au­thor­ity to prop­erly pur­sue gov­ern­ment poli­cies.

We fur­ther in­tend to look care­fully at how we can im­prove our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. For a long time, our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has failed our chil­dren.

For in­stance, the gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced free ed­u­ca­tion up to Stan­dard Seven only. We have learnt through our re­search, as the RCL, that most peo­ple don’t pro­ceed with their ed­u­ca­tion beyond Stan­dard Seven be­cause their par­ents can­not af­ford to put them through sec­ondary school. As the RCL, we are say­ing we pledge to pay for their school fees up to sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.

In ad­di­tion, we in­tend to es­tab- lish vo­ca­tional schools in each of the 10 dis­tricts of Le­sotho to ad­mit these young minds. The vo­ca­tional schools will ad­mit them from Form C and Form E lev­els. How­ever, these tech­ni­cal col­leges will be of the high­est stan­dard, where the grad­u­ates would re­ceive cer­tifi­cates, diplo­mas and de­grees.

We will also in­still the spirit of com­pe­ti­tion among el­e­men­tary schools to im­prove our ed­u­ca­tion as early as pos­si­ble. They should not only com­pete in aca­demic sub­jects, but also sport to sharpen their minds.

The is­sue of the much-awaited Na­tional Youth Coun­cil is also our pri­or­ity area. I was part of the youths who came up with the Na­tional Youth Coun­cil pol­icy from as way back as 1995. But what we would like to do, as the RCL, is to com­pletely re­move party pol­i­tics out of the coun­cil.

Cur­rently, although it is yet to be es­tab­lished, the coun­cil is bound to have three rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the rul­ing party.

And we are say­ing that should not be the case. The coun­cil should in­volve Ba­sotho youth with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of any po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.

Like I said, I am pas­sion­ate about the youth and their de­vel­op­ment, which is why I don’t want to see their is­sues be­ing messed up with party pol­i­tics.

If es­tab­lished well with­out po­lit­i­cal is­sues, the Na­tional Youth Coun­cil can ad­dress young peo­ple’s con­cerns, in­clud­ing our coun­try’s es­ca­lat­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate.

As the Labour and Em­ploy­ment min­is­ter, I was al­ready work­ing on the So­cial Se­cu­rity Fund, whose Bill is yet to be pre­sented be­fore par­lia­ment.

This is meant to ad­dress is­sues of bet­ter salaries and pen­sions among pri­vate-sec­tor em­ploy­ees. The RCL, when we get into power, will fa­cil­i­tate this into an Act, to en­sure bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions for ev­ery em­ployee, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic work­ers.

We will also be work­ing closely with South Africa to en­sure Ba­sotho are is­sued work per­mits. Ev­ery year, we see many Ba­sotho be­ing dumped at the bor­der from South Africa, under the pre­text that they are il­le­gal im­mi­grants. As min­is­ter, I was al­ready en­gaged in talks with my South African coun­ter­part so that Ba­sotho are is­sued work per­mits.

With­out work per­mits Ba­sotho, are be­ing abused by em­ploy­ers in that coun­try. They are paid R500 a month as farm and do­mes­tic work­ers, while their South African coun­ter­parts get R2000. In short, we will change Le­sotho for the bet­ter, should we be­come the next gov­ern­ment.

LT: Go­ing back to your de­ci­sion to leave the LCD, what re­ally tran­spired?

Ran­tšo: Ba­si­cally, we quit the LCD due to the party’s poor and ma­li­cious ad­min­is­tra­tion. The LCD NEC was be­ing dic­ta­to­rial, ar­ro­gant and dis­crim­i­na­tory. We were un­fairly is­sued with dis­ci­plinary let­ters. I, for one, was be­ing ac­cused by Ntate Metsing (LCD leader and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Metsing) and the LCD NEC of em­ploy­ing Ntate Tahleho Ma­betha as my prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary in the min­istry.

Ntate Metsing wanted to im­pose Ms Amelia Din­gizwayo (Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial) to be my prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary against the Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment agree­ment (which saw the LCD, All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment af­ter the 26 May 2012 elec­tion had failed to pro­duce an out­right ma­jor­ity win­ner).

In terms of the agree­ment, min­is­ters were to in­form their par­ties and the coali­tion lead­er­ship about their choice of prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries, not the other way round.

I re­fused to take Ms Din­gizwayo and in­sisted on hir­ing Mr Ma­betha and that’s when re­la­tions be­tween me and Ntate Metsing started to de­te­ri­o­rate. The NEC ini­ti­ated dis­ci­plinary action on this is­sue with­out even mak­ing an ef­fort to un­der­stand my de­ci­sion.

They dragged me be­fore a dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee un­fairly when the per­son who should have been sum­moned was Ntate Metsing for abus­ing his pow­ers.

The NEC fur­ther dis­rupted op­er­a­tions of our com­mit­tees in the con­stituen­cies and ha­rassed some com­mit­tee mem­bers by con­fis­cat­ing of­fice equip­ment and ap­point­ing new mem­bers for no ap­par­ent rea­son.

They ap­pointed their favourites against the peo­ple’s wishes. We re­alised we were no longer wanted in the LCD. They ha­rassed us so that we could leave the party.

They started to draw car­toons about me in their news­pa­per (Mololi) for the sup­port­ers to start hat­ing me. As the RCL, we didn’t just name our party Bolekana (bil­ly­can) be­cause we liked it; it was a name long im­posed on us by some vin­dic­tive mem­bers of the LCD, in par­tic­u­lar the NEC.

These peo­ple went on a smear cam­paign against us. Bolekana would be drawn with my head in­side it to spite me, and they would call me ’Mabolekana.

I was be­ing in­sulted with all sorts of words that should not be printed in any de­cent news­pa­per. And the news­pa­per, Mololi, would be dis­trib­uted in the con­stituen­cies to de­grade me be­fore the sup­port­ers.

I was also ac­cused of di­vid­ing LCD youths into two war­ring fac­tions — one sup­port­ing me and the other Ntate Metsing, which was all lies. Yet the truth was I was only try­ing to bring the two fac­tions to­gether, and only did this be­cause I was the party’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral.

LT: Could you give us a lit­tle back­ground about your­self.

Ran­tšo: I was born and grew up in Taung, Ha Mo­let­sane (Mo­hale’s Hoek). I at­tended pri­mary, sec­ondary and high school in that area. I am mar­ried and the mother of two daugh­ters. I was mar­ried in Matelile (Mafeteng). I be­came ac­tive in pol­i­tics at a very young age, and have al­ways been in the congress move­ment. I was deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the LCD Na­tional Youth League, deputis­ing Ntate Metsing. I was the first woman to even­tu­ally be elected the party’s Na­tional Youth League sec­re­tary-gen­eral.

From there, I was elected sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the LCD Women’s League, and then be­came a mem­ber of the party’s NEC.

And when the party split, with those who left form­ing the Demo­cratic Congress, I was ap­pointed sec­re­tary-gen­eral, break­ing another record as the first woman to oc­cupy that po­si­tion.

LT: Do you see your­self be­com­ing the next prime min­is­ter of Le­sotho?

Ran­tšo: Yes. It is my dream to be­come the first fe­male prime min­is­ter of Le­sotho. Af­ter all, I am used to break­ing records. I have a strong be­lief that if I be­come prime min­is­ter af­ter next month’s elec­tions, I can be able to change this coun­try for the bet­ter.

LT: When you were ap­pointed min­is­ter in 2012, there were some who doubted your abil­ity con­sid­er­ing your seem­ingly hum­ble ed­u­ca­tional back­ground. What do you have to say about this?

Ran­tšo: I am very much aware of that is­sue, but I be­lieve I have proved those doubters wrong; I have shown that I am ca­pa­ble of hold­ing high of­fice. I don’t have to hold those very high qual­i­fi­ca­tions to take part in the de­vel­op­ment of my coun­try.

In life, there are two types of lit­er­ate peo­ple; one is where you have big aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions af­ter un­der­go­ing in­ten­sive study, and the other when one is just sim­ply trained and has an un­der­stand­ing of how to lead peo­ple.

The late Dr Le­abua Jonathan (for­mer prime min­is­ter) did it. Why can’t I do it with the cer­tifi­cates and diplo­mas that I have?

RCL leader Keketso Ran­tšo flanked by deputy leader Mot­lo­h­eloa Phooko (right) and Mabote con­stituency can­di­date ‘Mamolula Ntabe at the party’s launch last month.

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