Metsing: Kingmaker or Troublemaker?

SHARE   |   Monday, 10 April 2017   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Metsing Metsing

Mothetjoa Metsing used to be known in Lesotho as a behind-the-scenes operator, having served in the government as the Minister of Communication. That was before he triggered a bid to topple his coalition partner Tom Thabane as Prime Minister in 2014. He took the Lesotho politics by storm in 2012 when he led a group of Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) members who wanted the then Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili to cede power. He was the Secretary General of LCD and worked with the opposition to try to topple the leader of his party leader. Together with his deputy Lebohang Nts’inyi they tried to pass a motion of no confidence against Mosisili but Metsing somersaulted when he realised they didn’t have the numbers. The opposition parties wanted to pass a Motion of No Confidence against Mosisili and replace him with Metsing. The plot, however, collapsed at the eleventh hour when Metsing rejected the nomination, saying people behind the motion had not consulted him before suggesting him as Mosisili’s replacement. Metsing wrote to the then National Assembly speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai asking that his name be withdrawn from the motion. Basotho Batho Democratic Party’s Jeremane Ramathebane described Metsing as a coward. “He could easily fire Mosisili and his camp from the LCD but instead he chose to flee with weapons held tightly in his hands”. “This is indeed funny. The Metsing faction has executive powers to expel the Mosisili faction from the LCD. They are cowards. They are running away although they have the tools to fight,” he lamented in 2012. Mosisili would later form his own party Ntsu Democratic Congress, in reference to the founder of the LCD, Ntsu Mokhehle. Born and raised in Mahobong Ha Lobiane in Leribe, Metsing took over as LCD leader and after the 2012 elections his party formed alliance with All Basotho Convention (ABC) of Tom Thabane with him assuming the powerful seat of deputy prime minister.

While the ABC provided the position of the Prime Minister, LCD insisted and got almost all the key Ministries of Finance, Education, Foreign Affairs etc. Sources indicated that the negotiations were always stymied by Metsing, who always insisted that no government could be formed without his support. His favourite expression is said to be ‘U ea ntlhoka!’ meaning ‘you need me’ and this has worked for him. He ensured that he controlled the key ministries especially that of Defence and National Security. Metsing had long been a backroom wheeler-dealer and had shady dealings which led to Thabane to instituting a Commission of Inquiry to investigate corruption among some ministries. This infuriated Metsing, who allegedly connived with Mosisili’s NDC to pass a Motion of No confidence on Thabane. On 19 June 2014, Thabane suspended Parliament over fears of a coup d'état, allowing him to avoid a vote of confidence. This was sanctioned by King Letsie III. Thabane was forced to flee the country in August and Metsing took over as the acting Prime Minister. After the collapse of the coalition, another election was called in 2015 and this brought another coalition. Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) became a majority party in the coalition with 47 seats. The biggest loser of the elections was the LCD which had lost more than 50% of its 2012 support (its seats were reduced from 26 in 2012 to 12 in 2015). Metsing’s expression U ea ntlhoka!” played itself out as his party became the second biggest within the coalition and be secured himself the deputy Prime Minister position again and still held the power grip on Parliament. Regarded as a master political manipulator Metsing ensured that he legitimised his relationship with Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) by ensuring that his supporter is appointed Minister of Defence and National Security. A close ally of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli, they were both accused of trying to topple government and being behind the assassination of the former army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao. In the Phumaphi report which was investigations instituted by SADC to determine the cause of death for General Mahao it came out that Metsing and Kamoli had secret meetings. It was during the Phumaphi Commission hearings instituted by SADC that it was revealed that Kamoli was seen on several occasions coming out of Metsing’s residence.

Behind the political turmoil within DC
One of the reasons why Mosisili’s rule didn’t last is credited to Metsing, as some within DC questioned why a party with 10% following was now in control of government. There was fear among DC leaders led by the party deputy Monyane Moleleki that their party will soon be swallowed by a smaller party, something they couldn’t take in. In November last year, Mosisili tried to apply for a court order to have the faction led by Moleleki to be suspended from the National Executive Committee (NEC). Moleleki and some of his followers then formed Alliance of Democrats (AD) after they were suspended from the party. Though it is a new party and viewed as a force to reckon with, AD might find themselves coming back to seek coalition with Metsing to form a coalition and he will say to them U ea ntlhoka! Fresh elections have been called for June to break an impasse brought about by yet another successful Motion of No Confidence on Mosisili. The 120-member assembly voted by acclamation to depose Mosisili who assumed power two years ago after uniting with smaller parties to oust Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Congress. Thabane who was on self-imposed exile has since returned to the country. Metsing honed his homegrown morals from his late parents and the Mahobong society as a whole. Like many Basotho men, after completing his COSC, he worked in the South African Mines. During which time he acquired qualifications in Industrial Relations, Journalism, Business Management and MBA from the University of Netherlands (BSN).