Two opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) legislators, Mothepu Mahapa and Mokherane Tsatsanyane, have ditched the Monyane Moleleki-led party to join Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu's Democratic Congress (DC).
Their defections were announced yesterday in parliament by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Sephiri Motanyane.
The announcement was greeted with loud cheers by some DC backbenchers. Thereafter, Messrs Mahapa and Tsatsanyane visited the DC party offices where they were given membership forms and party cards.
The defections also enabled the DC to finally get revenge on the AD, a party which was formed in December 2016 by former DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki and a faction which had supported his failed bid to succeed then DC leader and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Even after the June 2017 elections, the AD continued to be a thorn in the side of the DC as it poached some DC MPs like Tlohelang Aumane (Semena constituency) and Mr Mahapa (Tele constituency).
Like the Biblical prodigal son, Mr Mahapa has now retraced his steps back to the DC. He was unreachable yesterday to comment on the issue. However, some DC insiders who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media on party issues, said Mr Mahapa had been lured back by senior party officials who were on an aggressive drive to grow the party and ensure it comfortably won next year's general elections.
By joining the DC, Mr Tsatsanyane has turned into something of a political flip-flopper as he had only been an AD member for less than 10 months. He had dumped the All Basotho Convention (ABC) for the AD last June on the grounds that the ABC had failed to protect its leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, "Maesaiah, from being prosecuted for the 14 June 2017 murder of Mr Thabane's ex-wife, Lipolelo.
Addressing his constituents at the time, Mr Tsatsanyane said he was loyal to Mr Thabane and now that the former premier had been hounded out of his post, he no longer had any reason to remain in the ABC.
Yesterday, he told scores of DC supporters who gathered at the old state house in Maseru to welcome him that, "this is a day to rejoice for others while it is also a day of grief for others.
"I shall forever remember the late (famo musician) Khosi Mosotho Chakela who always told me that I was following the wrong people. Today I have seen sense and that is why I am wearing this Terene (famo gang) blanket because I am a full member (of Terene). I've been one for 20 years.
"I learnt that the Alliance of Democrats was thinking of courting DC as they see it as the only stable party. It was then that I decided to join the DC as an individual. I promise to wholeheartedly serve this party," Mr Tsatsanyane said.
DC leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu was on hand to welcome Mr Tsatsanyane.
"The DC is a home to all Basotho," Mr Mokhothu said yesterday.
"We have also welcomed Terene members because our party does not discriminate against anyone. Ours is the only stable party in the country and we are working towards the attainment of a stable economy and the upliftment of all our people's living standards. I swear by Pakalitha Mosisili's name that through Ntate Mokherane we will win in Maseru in next year's elections."
DC secretary general Tšitso Cheba subsequently told the Lesotho Times that the duo's defections to join them "was a giant step towards strengthening the DC's representation in the National Assembly.
"We are humbled by the MPs' move to join us and this shows that our party is indeed a home to all," he said.
Upon joining the AD last year, Mr Tsatsanyane was given a rapturous reception by senior AD officials including party spokesperson Thuso Litjobo.
Yesterday, Mr Litjobo was at loss to explain Messrs Mahapa and Tsatsanyane's sudden departure which he said had come as a huge blow to their aspirations to lure more people to join them ahead of this year's by-elections and next year's general elections. (See story above).
"This is an unbearable loss and blow to our party," Mr Litjobo said.
"It says we have to seriously self-introspect to see where we might have gone wrong so that we mend our ways to avoid a repeat of the same thing (defections).
"We don't know what strategy was used to lure them because they did not give us any reasons for their defections. There could have been money at play. We don't know for sure but it is highly likely that they were promised something. This is a great loss for us because numbers are very vital for the growth of any party.
"We have heard that Tsatsanyane says he was not given a membership card but that is something that I vehemently dispute. He was given membership on 15 June 2020. He was even given immediate membership in contravention of the party constitution which states that one can only be a full member after 36 months.
"He also says he was mistreated by the party but that is not true. This is a man who was given everything that anyone joining a new party could wish for.
"We had even promised that he would not have to go through a primary election to be the party candidate in next year's elections," said Mr Litjobo.
The defection of the two MPs is a massive boost to the DC as it has increased the number of its legislators to 27. The defections are also a psychological boost as they give the impression that the DC is growing ahead of next year's elections. In contrast, the AD MPs have been reduced to nine.