Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki's Alliance of Democrats (AD) is once again in the throes of serious infighting after 26 constituency committees passed no confidence votes in the national executive committee (NEC) and demanded a special conference to elect a new leadership.
So serious are the constituency committees that they have not only spurned overtures by the NEC to meet and discuss their grievances but have even threatened to drag the NEC to court if the special conference is not held.
AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo recently told the Lesotho Times that 14 constituency committees had passed no confidence votes in the NEC over its failure to expel secretary general, Mahali Phamotse.
Mr Litjobo said the constituency committees felt that Dr Phamotse should be expelled after she was recently charged with corruption for allegedly influencing the awarding of a 2015 high schools textbooks tender to Epic Printers and Molumeli Pty (Ltd).
Chief Magistrate 'Matankiso Nthunya heard the case last month and immediately released Dr Phamotse on free bail, saying she believed the minister would not abscond but would stand trial to finality. At the time of the alleged offence, Dr Phamotse, who is now the Alliance of Democrats (AD) secretary general, was Education and Training Minister and a member of then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili's Democratic Congress (DC).
Mr Litjobo said 14 AD constituency committees are not happy with the party's NEC over its failure to expel Dr Phamotse over the alleged corruption which allegedly occurred a year before the party was formed.
He listed the aggrieved constituencies as follows: Tsikoane #14, Peka #17, Kolonyama #18, Teyateyaneng #24, Thetsane #33, Qoaling #34, Koro-Koro #42, Qeme #43, Rothe #44, Matsieng #45, Likhoele #53, Mekaling #59, Mpharane #61 and Mashai #76.
"In some of the letters, the members complain that since Dr Phamotse has been accused of corruption she ought to have been fired from the party and her ministerial post. All the letters complain that some clauses of the party constitution were breached when issuing a circular to invite members for the youth league conference (slated for 28 February 2020)," said Mr Litjobo.
However, a recent letter by prominent lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, on behalf of the aggrieved constituencies to the AD's NEC, shows that there are at least 26 constituency committees and not 14 that have passed no confidence votes on the party's NEC.
"We are duly instructed to act on behalf of the members of the Alliance of Democrats (AD) who came from constituencies that have authored letters stating that they have lost confidence in the current national executive committee (NEC), Adv Letuka states adding, "our clients are at least 26 committees".
"In terms of the constitution of the AD, where 10 constituencies have written to the NEC expressing their position that they have lost confidence in the NEC, the latter is legally obliged to call for a special conference. The said conference shall be held within 28 days of receipt of the said letters (from the constituency committees) and further that within 14 days of the receipt of the letters a circular shall be sent to the constituencies announcing the calling of the special conference and stating the time and place of the conference."
Adv Letuka states that his clients will not brook the NEC's attempts to avoid a special conference and they are prepared to take the NEC to court to ensure their demands are met.
"We are instructed by clients that the NEC has decided to put aside the no confidence letters and instead, has decided it will be calling committees of the constituencies that have authored the letters to listen to their concerns... This resolution of the NEC flies in the face of clear and mandatory provisions of the AD constitution and call for a special conference in the manner of and within the time lines prescribed by the constitution.
"We have been instructed by clients to demand that the NEC should abide by the constitution and call for the special conference in the manner and within the timelines prescribed by the constitution. We have been further instructed that should the NEC fail to act properly we should approach the courts of law for appropriate relief," Adv Letuka states in the letter to Dr Phamotse and the NEC. The is titled 'Demand for the calling of the special conference following submission of letters expressing a loss of confidence in the national executive committee'.
Although it was written on 18 February 2020, it only surfaced this week and the Lesotho Times is in possession of a copy.
The AD is the second biggest in the four-party coalition which also features Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC), Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane's Basotho National Party (BNP) and Labour and Employment Minister Keketso Rantšo's Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
Prior to the constituencies" no confidence vote on the NEC, the AD has also experienced instability due to the power struggle pitting Mr Litjobo and Dr Phamotse, who is also the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation.
The duo began a cold war from the run-up to and the subsequent AD elective conference which was held in March 2018.
They had been billed to fight it out for the secretary general's post along with former secretary general, Mokhele Moletsane, but Mr Litjobo withdrew at the eleventh hour after a directive from Mr Moleleki.
While accepting that all three were suitable for the post, Mr Moleleki directed them to withdraw from the contest, saying the election of any one of them would however, cause divisions among their supporters which could weaken the party.
Mr Litjobo heeded Mr Moleleki's directive and withdrew from the race leaving Dr Phamotse and Mr Moletsane to slug it out for the post that was eventually won by Dr Phamotse.
However, tensions persisted between the two and in September 2018, youths said to be loyal to Mr Litjobo set fire to AD property in Maseru in a violent demonstration against Dr Phamotse.
The destroyed property included a machine used to produce membership cards, a computer, two doors, sofas, eight plastic chairs and table cloths.
The mob accused Dr Phamotse of fanning factionalism and other offences which have allegedly brought the party into disrepute. The party youths alleged that Dr Phamotse was behind the formation of a faction calling itself Babochabela (those who come from the Northern region).
They further accused Dr Phamotse of firing two AD members from her ministry and replacing them with a member of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili's Democratic Congress (DC) party which is now in the opposition. The AD is a splinter party from the DC.
Last April, Mr Litjobo took to radio to accuse "the former minister of education and of Justice" of working against the AD leader (Mr Moleleki) and bringing the party into disrepute. Although Mr Litjobo did not mention her by name, his remarks were a clear reference to Dr Phamotse who has served in both portfolios and is currently the Gender minister.