Death threats rock RFP
MASERU – A member of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) has received death threats as internecine squabbles in the months-old party reach new heights in the run-up to the October 7 elections. Escalating infighting has seen party members in the Phoqoane constituency, in the Mafeteng district, at each other’s throats following a court ruling. An independent candidate who was previously appointed to represent the RFP in the elections before the court ruling, Taunyane Tšoeunyane, has since received death threats.
Incendiary rhetoric following reversal of the candidature of some members of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) ahead of the October 7 polls by the High Court of Lesotho last week is fuelling a wave of threats against some court-ordered incumbents. Disgruntled RFP members who won the party’s recent past primary elections but were blocked by the party’s top leadership from contesting the forthcoming elections representing the party sought legal recourse claiming the decision by the RFP executive defeated the basic principles of democracy. Among these were former sports minister and Alliance of Democrats secretary, Dr Mahali Phamotse.
Some among the rejected candidates abandoned the RFP as a result, while others (including Phamotse) declared that despite being aggrieved they were not going to leave the party over. In court, the legal representative for the RFP, Advocate Letuka Molati, had argued in one of the several cases initiated that the RFP was trying to put up high standards and find the best candidates as representatives in engaging the new system of choosing candidates to represent the party following primary elections.
Molati said they introduced a new model as they tried to do away with traditional practices and bring in transformation. These include efforts to apply the basic principles of good governance, rule of law, meritocracy and zero tolerance to corruption and nepotism to liberate Lesotho from poverty and hunger. The High Court of Lesotho, in the end, reversed the RFP decision to reject some candidates who had been elected in the primaries – opening up the floodgates for fresh feuds. In its recent circular number 0022/2022 dated September 11, 2022 published after the court ruling, RFP has positioned the candidates as instructed.
However, it has emerged that some candidates were replaced for different reasons other than adherence to the high court ruling, including, amongst others, that they were still government employees at the time of their appointment while others had opted to run as independent candidates. Tšoeunyane, on the other hand, told Public Eye that he was privately approached by some of the party’s elite who asked him to withdraw his candidacy and give support to his competitor ’Matankiso Tekane.
Tšoeunyane said he rejected the proposition and insisted he was the legitimate candidate, until he was chased out of a party meeting held at Thaba-Bosiu convening all RFP candidates a month ago. He said upon arrival at Thaba-Bosiu he discovered there were two candidates from Phoqoane. He claims he was then called outside by the party’s secretary general, Nthati Moorosi, who also called Tlohang Sekhamane to witness what was discussed. Tšoeunyane alleges he was told he had been mistakenly invited to the meeting.
As he departed, Tšoeunyane said he went to the office to ask for help but was turned down by those he met, who told him that there is nothing they could do because those are the “party’s owners”. Feeling disgraced and hurting, he says he demanded for his Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) candidature form to be given to him, and took the decision that he would approach IEC to contest as an independent candidate, instead.
Tšoeunyane said he first spoke to his family and supporters about the decision he had taken and they agreed and promised to support him. He also revealed to this paper that he was surprised to learn about a letter from the party head office to his constituency committee noting that he has been replaced as a constituency candidate following some investigations by the party. The letter reportedly said he been appointed to other task to help in the growth of the party.
He explained that he was surprised because he was never informed of such a decision, and that the RFP constituency committee has never approached him to resolve the issue of his candidature. Tšoeunyane also revealed to this publication that he was investigated by the National Security Service (NSS) on the grounds that he is not a Lesotho citizen who had not been living in the country.
He said he was born in Lesotho, although he schooled and worked outside the country and has never held any other identification except that of Lesotho and only came back home when he retired. This week Tšoeunyane said he was visited by the RFP campaign team who had a meeting with him and claimed that they were not aware that he was no longer representing the RFP in the constituency until during the introduction of the meeting.
He further revealed that the campaign team he had a meeting with told him that he had rejected the money he was offered to start projects for the benefit of the constituency. But Tšoeunyane adamantly affirmed to this paper that he was never offered any money. Asked if he would have accepted the money, he said he would not make the decision on his own without agreement with his supporters. He further noted that there were other rumours that he was offered and promised a diplomatic position if he could withdraw his candidature.
“It’s a lie; I was never offered a job and no one ever spoke to me about the job offer. I was only told to resign and I refused.” Tšoeunyane said he was astonished that the campaign committee professed ignorance about these issues because the letter about his replacement was published in the August 25 and September 11 circulars announcing new constituency candidates and the reasons for their replacement. In that circular the reason given against his name was that he was now an independent candidate. Tšoeunyane noted that he recently received death threats.
Speaking to Public Eye RFP member from the Phoqoane constituency, ’Makatleho Mosuoe, said she did not vote for Tšoeunyane but after the announcement of the elections results, she thought otherwise because she decided to support him. Mosuoe said when the campaign team came to have a meeting with him, Tšoeunyane called her and others to be present in the meeting and she confirmed that the team claimed they did not know that Tšoeunyane was now independent. “During the meeting the RFP campaign team invited us to join them as the party leader Sam Matekane will be in Matlapaneng and that we will be given a chance to explain our side”.
Despite the campaign team efforts to unite the party, Mosuoe said they could not make it to Matlapaneng because some party members who also claimed to be coming from the RFP headquarters said they should not attend because they will cause chaos. Asked if she has heard anything about the death threats against Tšoeunyane, she said she could not confirm if they were directed at him but what she overheard is that one of Tekane’s supporters said someone’s head will be chopped of if she does not win. Tekane refused several of Public Eye’s interviews, indicating that she was not in a position to comment on the matter.
However, allegations emerge in a leaked audio clip from an RFP WhatsApp group suggesting that Tekane said Tšoeunyane and his supporters should not attend the party leader’s rally because she will be uncomfortable around them and that they might be unruly. Contacted for comment, the RFP spokesperson Mokhethi Shelile said Tšoeunyane no longer qualifies as a constituency candidate despite the court ruling that those who had emerged in first position in primary elections prior to being interviewed by the party’s executive committee should be placed as constituency candidates.
Shelile further noted that despite the court ruling, the RFP received complaints that Tšoeunyane cannot afford to run campaigns so he was approached to step down and withdraw from the constituency candidate position. “All RFP candidates have to finance the constituency campaigns and we realised after our findings that he as a person cannot afford to hold constituency campaigns,” Shelile explained. He added, “he (Tšoeunyane) was called to the head office to reach consensus and he agreed that he will resign but he never did”. As a result, Shelile said Tšoeunyane’s position as a constituency candidate has been overtaken by events.