Lesotho
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 “We will be back” – Mokhothu

…DC leader vows his time to rule is coming

Bongiwe Zihlangu/Hopolang Mokhopi

OUTGOING deputy prime minister and Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, has urged his supporters to stay the course and not despair after the party’s trouncing by the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) in last week’s polls.

The DC leader is adamant his party will bounce back and reclaim power from the RFP. He has thus exhorted DC members to start preparing for the 2027 general elections now, assuming there will not be snap elections sooner.

Mr Mokhothu does not at all believe the RFP coalition will be able to last the distance given the history of collapsed coalitions in Lesotho. He also thinks the RFP will not be able to fulfil what he sees as its “pie in the sky” electoral promises.  In that event, Basotho will give back power to the DC, he predicts.

“Wipe your tears, shake off the dust and do not despair,” Mr Mokhothu said, as he rallied his party to take last week’s defeat in the stride.

He also told delegates to the party’s leadership conference yesterday there was a need to self-introspect and establish why there had been such widespread apathy.

Even though the DC had come second, winning 18 of 80 contested constituencies, Mr Mokhothu was not satisfied. He said the party ought to have done better in light of the efforts it had put in campaigning.

The DC had been touted as one of the front-runners in what was expected to be a closely fought election with the RFP and the All Basotho Convention (ABC). In the end, both the DC and ABC offered little challenge to business mogul Sam Matekane’s six months-old RFP which garnered 56 constituencies to the DC’s 18. The margin would have been wider were it not for the proportional representation (PR) system which gave the DC eight seats to bring its total tally to 26.  The RFP was not given any PR seats by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) due to Lesotho’s complicated Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system.

The ABC fared even worse than the DC as it failed to win a single constituency seat. Were it not for the eight PR seats it was allocated, the party founded by Thomas Thabane in 2007 would have been completely obliterated from the political scene.

The ABC and DC were the anchor parties in the outgoing coalition.

Mr Mokhothu downplayed his party’s defeat at yesterday’s leadership conference.

He urged party members to stay the course and prepare for next year’s local government elections and the next parliamentary polls due in 2027, assuming no snap elections come sooner.

He dismissed last week’s defeat as a mere setback.  The DC would come back stronger “at God’s chosen time”, he declared.

“Wipe your tears, shake off the dust and do not despair,” Mr Mokhothu said.

“Do not be weary. You must do everything in your power to rebuild the DC. I urge you to be energetic in your quest for victory in future elections.

“God might have decided to give power to our biggest rival so that they can expose themselves to the nation when in power.

“Perhaps the outcome of the 2022 elections is an indication that God is preparing a place for us in future. He will then give the DC an opportunity to win all constituencies in the next elections, in the same way that (congress party icon and former Prime Minister Ntsu) Mokhehle did in 1993. He won when all those he had fought with before were long gone. It is my belief that God’s time is the right time hence we must not grumble,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Quoting from the biblical book of Deuteronomy, Mr Mokhothu said, “Hear, O Israel. Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid and do not tremble or be terrified because of them”.

He, however, acknowledged that the number of seats garnered by his party was a poor return for the hard work they had put into their campaign.

“The harvest is not satisfactory. Although we worked hard and came second, I’m not content with the number of seats that we won. We must work hard to get to the root of the problem. Even our numbers in the constituencies where we won were very low. Our numbers have dwindled. Basotho countrywide were reluctant to go to the polls to vote.”

His remarks about voter apathy are spot on as the IEC said only 516 801 people voted out of a registered number of 1 375 753 voters. This means that about 38 percent of the registered voters turned up on voting day.

Mr Mokhothu said  DC members must introspect and ask themselves why they failed to attain the victory they were aiming for.

“We must ask ourselves why we failed to convince people to go to vote. Why couldn’t we influence the elderly, men, women and youths of this country to vote? We must be worried about the voter apathy demonstrated by Basotho this year.”

The RFP has since agreed a coalition deal with the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC). The Monyane Moleleki-led AD and the Selibe Mochoboroane-led MEC are bringing a combined nine seats to give the coalition a total of 65 seats – just enough to form government.

Mr Mokhothu suggested all was not lost as coalitions regularly crumbled, opening the door for the DC’s return into government.

“In 2017 Basotho turned against us in the name of wanting change. The noise was the same as what we witnessed this year. We must not lose hope. I have matured politically. Let me say that whenever a single political party fails to acquire an outright win, parties will always make overtures to woo others. This never stops even after a government has been established.

“In 2012 we had a hung parliament as no party had scored an outright majority. The DC won the elections with 48 seats but other parties with lesser numbers ganged up against us to form a coalition government. They tossed us aside. However, after a short while (2015) that government collapsed.

“In 2015, the DC then formed government (with six other parties) but sadly it collapsed (in 2017) due to infighting. There were fresh elections but before long, the new government collapsed and we were called in to form a new coalition (with the ABC in May 2020),” Mr Mokhothu said.