RCL pulls out of opposition pact
A VOTING pact that was recently agreed on by the opposition parties could be headed for a still-birth after Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader, Keketso Rantšo this week urged her supporters to disregard the agreement and vote exclusively for RCL candidates in next month’s national elections.
The opposition held a joint rally on 6 May in the Mahobong constituency where Ms Rantšo and other leaders, Thomas Thabane of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, Monyane Moleleki (Alliance of Democrats- AD), Thesele ‘Maseribane (Basotho National Party- BNP) announced a voting agreement to support each other’s candidates in selected constituencies.
This followed a similar pact by the main parties in the outgoing coalition government, Democratic Congress (DC) and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
The opposition pact was seen in several quarters as the logical outcome of the cooperation which culminated in the successful no confidence vote which brought down the Phakalitha Mosisili-led government on 1 March.
However, the collapse of the government did not lead to the opposition’s envisaged outcome of ushering in a new administration led by Mr Moleleki for the first 18 months, after which he would be succeeded by Dr Thabane.
Their plans were dealt a blow when King Letsie III heeded Dr Mosisili’s advice to dissolve parliament and call for the snap elections which will be held on 3 June.
The opposition leaders announced at the Mahobong rally that they had designated six constituencies where their supporters should vote jointly for one agreed party candidate in order to defeat the DC-LCD coalition.
They agreed to vote the ABC in Mahobong, which is the home constituency of deputy Prime Minister and LCD leader, Mothetjoa Metsing.
They also agreed to back the ABC in Abia (the home constituency of Dr Thabane), the AD in Machache (the home constituency of Mr Moleleki), the BNP in Mount Moorosi (the home constituency of Chief ‘Maseribane), the RCL in Taung (the home constituency of Ms Rantšo) and in Tsoelike (the home constituency of Dr Mosisili).
However, the pact unraveled early this week when a visibly angry Ms Rantšo addressed a rally in Taung number 56 in the Mohale’s Hoek district and told her supporters to disregard the voting pact and only back RCL candidates.
Ms Rantšo’s call was made in retaliation to ABC supporters in Taung who are opposed to voting for her in the constituency as per the 6 May agreement.
“No one can work in isolation taking into consideration the nature of our politics nowadays. I am from Maseru today (Sunday) and I saw posters all over the town which stated that ABC members in Taung said they would not vote for RCL in this constituency as the leaders had announced,” Ms Rantšo said.
“Similarly you should only vote for RCL in all those identified constituencies. It means you should vote for RCL in Machache, Mount Moorosi and Abia constituencies.
“The agreement to vote together was made by four leaders of these parties, but it seems it did not sit well with the ABC supporters in this constituency (Taung).”
She described her alleged rejection by the ABC as “painful” and “humiliating,” adding it was “testimony that we cannot rely on anybody else to vote for us in this constituency”.
“Therefore, we should go out there and recruit women and youth to vote for our party as it is committed to the empowerment of women and youth,” she said.
However, Ms Rantšo’s comments appeared to raise the ire of the op- position parties who separately told the Lesotho Times that the voting agreement was still in intact.
ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela suggested that Ms Rantšo had jumped the gun by making pronouncements at her rally after latching onto sentiments expressed at grassroots level.
Mr Mapesela said Ms Rantšo should have brought her grievances to the leaders who had agreed on the election pact.
“As far as I know the voting agreement still stands. All that we have to do as leadership is to convince our supporters to vote according to the agreement made by our leaders.
“It is true that the agreement is only made on mutual understanding. No one is being forced to vote in any way, but we urge our supporters to vote in accordance with the agreement,” Mr Mapesela said.
He added: “What she (Rantšo) should have done was to inform us about the situation so that we could address it accordingly.”
He said his party was in the process of negotiating with their candidates in the designated constituencies to get them to “understand our vision on this agreement”.
He said they had made them aware that they could still be accommodated in other posts including in the senate after the elections.
“She must give our committees a chance to solve the problem. The situation should be handled with the care and sensitivity it deserves.
“After what she has already told her supporters, I wonder if it would be easy for her to go back to them and normalise the situation,” Mr Mapesela said.
AD spokesperson Teboho Lehloenya concurred with Mr Mapesela, adding, “On Sunday my leader (Mr Moleleki) addressed a rally in Mohale’s Hoek where he maintained that the four parties had agreed on the voting system in the six identified constituencies”.
“We have made a commitment we are willing to abide by and we will talk about this agreement wherever we go.
“In order to show our commitment to the agreement we even went further to place our candidate for Taung constituency among the top candidates on the PR (Proportional Representation) list so that our supporters would be able to vote for RCL in Taung without hesitation.
“The same thing applies for Abia, Mount Moorosi, Mahobong and Tsoelike,” he said.
For his part, the BNP’S secretary general, Reginald Tekateka reaffirmed his party’s commitment to the voting agreement, saying, “We are working day in and day out to ensure that the agreement works”.
“You’ll even realise that we ought to have gone for a joint rally in Qacha’s Nek last weekend in accordance with our agreement but the rally was cancelled because of the unpleasant weather conditions.”
The joint political rally had been slated for Tsoelike but it was cancelled because of the heavy snow fall in that area. Meanwhile, Ms Rantšo told her supporters that an RCL government would prioritise the welfare of pensioners.
She said they would also reduce the age of people eligible for pensions from 70 to 55 years.
“We are saying people should start getting their pensions at the age of 55 years because at this age people are already taking care of their grandchildren,” she added.
She also called on party agents to be vigilant at the polling stations to prevent vote rigging.
RCL leader Keketso Rantšo.