Le­sotho’s own Con­gress­gate

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As a con­se­quence rem­i­nis­cent of the Brazil saga, the whole scan­dal still re­ver­ber­ates across South Africa even to this day and sim­i­larly won’t go away. Op­po­si­tion par­ties al­ways call on the pres­i­dent to re­sign as a re­sult of the court’s rul­ing.

Le­sotho’s Con­gress­gate Now herein lie the par­al­lels be­tween the three scan­dals above and what last week tran­spired in Le­sotho. The fa­mous au­dio record­ing of a prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal party spokesper­son and an as yet uniden­ti­fied other par­tic­i­pant in the tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion.

This con­ver­sa­tion went to the very heart and foun­da­tions of the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment, par­tic­u­larly, its two big­gest po­lit­i­cal par­ties, their re­la­tions, their machi­na­tions and con­fir­ma­tion of the in­tense in­fight­ing and jock­ey­ing for po­si­tions within th­ese par­ties.

It brought to the fore the in­fight­ing within the re­spec­tive par­ties in gov­ern­ment and in their re­la­tions with their big­gest ri­vals. It brought squarely into the pub­lic do­main the think­ing of the ma­jor role play­ers in Le­sotho pol­i­tics that have hith­erto been pub­licly de­nied by the ma­jor role play­ers. For weeks now there was wide­spread spec­u­la­tion that there was in­tense in­fight­ing within the rul­ing par­ties and in­tense jock­ey­ing for po­si­tions.

As fate would have it, the lid was blown away by an au­dio clip and some shrewd ag­gres­sive and in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism. Now th­ese record­ings had, so to speak, let the horses to bolt. As a re­sult of the re­lease of the record­ings the whole coun­try is awash with spec­u­la­tion, ac­cu­sa­tion and counter-ac­cu­sa­tions and dis­ap­proval and ef­forts to white­wash the seis­mic im­pact of the record­ings. In ad­di­tion, they have led to what one may safely term, a knee-jerk re­ac­tion from some quar­ters.

What the record­ings con­tained In the record­ing, the party stal­wart al­leges that the in­fight­ing in the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) had in­ten­si­fied to the ex­tent that its deputy leader has held sev­eral se­cret meet­ings with the for­mer premier Thomas Tha­bane in Dur­ban, South Africa, to iron out an agree­ment for an al­liance to oust the cur­rent seven-party coali­tion agree­ment. He fur­ther claims there is a high pos­si­bil­ity that the in­cum­bent premier will de­fect back to the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) if the fac­tion­al­ism in the DC con­tin­ued.

He opines that the DC deputy leader would be left in a weaker po­si­tion as he has the sup­port of only Pro­por­tional Rep­re­sen­ta­tion (PR) mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, thus be­ing left in the op­po­si­tion and the premier mak­ing the LCD the stronger rul­ing party

Fu­til­ity of the LCD’S de­nial Hot on the heels of th­ese record­ings, the LCD is­sued a press state­ment dis­tanc­ing it­self from the ut­ter­ances. How­ever, the dam­age had al­ready been done and there was a half-hearted de­nial that there was in­deed, in­tense in­fight­ing in the DC. As if to ac­qui­esce with the ut­ter­ances, the LCD just warned the con­cerned party stal­wart to re­frain from ex­press­ing views on other par­ties in the coali­tion. This cen­sure in ef­fect sub­tly ac­knowl­edged the ve­rac­ity of the state­ments in the record­ings. It was there­fore a fu­tile dis­owner.

The record­ings likely im­pact It is im­por­tant to note that weeks prior to the leaked record­ings, there was in­tense in­fight­ing be­tween the DC’S Women’s League and DC’S Youth League, a fac­tor that had now come into the pub­lic do­main. The record­ings were there­fore a crys­talli­sa­tion of the in­tense in­fight­ing in the DC, crit­i­cally this time, com­ing from the anal­y­sis of their strong­est ally in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment. The ut­ter­ances came from some­one who had the ben­e­fit of the in­side track, so to speak.

It has there­fore stoked fur­ther the in­ter­nal mis­trust and sus­pi­cious in the DC. The record­ings had in ef­fect pit­ted un­easy al­lies against one other. All fac­tions across the congress di­vide no longer trust each other. To make mat­ters worse, th­ese came from a very close ally who most def­i­nitely was speak­ing his fair anal­y­sis of the sit­u­a­tion al­beit he never in-

tended th­ese to be pub­lic knowl­edge.

There is a Se­sotho an id­iom that, loosely-trans­lated, means those who rus­tle un­der cover of dark­ness are al­ways spot­ted un­wit­tingly by passers-by. Sim­i­larly, this recorded party spokesman was ex­press­ing the dis­parag­ing re­marks un­aware that he was be­ing recorded by a third party. His re­marks were there­fore, ei­ther his of­fi­cial party line al­beit not for pub­lic knowl­edge at that stage or was his bru­tal as­sess­ment of the un­rav­el­ling sce­nario within the congress al­liance, that was later to be dis­cussed at the (par­ties) party level for pos­si­ble ex­e­cu­tion. There­fore de­spite de­ter­mined ef­forts to dis­miss this record­ing, the ham­mer blow has been done to the mu­tual trust within both the DC and the LCD and their fu­ture in­ter-party re­la­tions. There will for­ever be un­der­cur­rents of mis­trust.

Fu­ture sce­nario No one can pre­dict with cer­tainty what the fu­ture holds for the two ma­jor coali­tion par­ties in gov­ern­ment, LCD and DC. In­deed on 11 June, the DC is hold­ing an im­por­tant ind­aba to map the way for­ward. No doubt the record­ing will form part of the debate.

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