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The trouble with MPs’ defections



THIS past week the Democratic Congress welcomed two MPs from the Alliance 0f Democrats (AD) party. Mothepu Mahapa and Mokherane Tsatsanyane joined the DC after days of speculation and denials from both of them. Mahapa has a confl icted relationship with DC. He re-joins the party he left three years ago, after being elected as the MP for the Tele constituency under the DC fl ag. On the other hand, over the past year Tsatsanyane crossed from the ABC to the AD, and then to the DC. He was voted into parliament under the ABC fl ag but he left the party after former Prime Minister Tom Thabane was toppled. Everyone has the right to choose who they associate with. Mahapa and Tsatsanyane are therefore well within their right to cross over in parliament. However, the question is will this move the DC and people living in Stadium Area and Tele constituencies? What was their real motivation in joining the DC? Will their defection ultimately benefi t the party? The DC has had diffi culty bringing in good numbers in urban constituencies, particularly constituencies in Maseru. Hence the prospect of having a DC constituency right at the center of Maseru is very enticing. Moreover, Mokherane is known to be philanthropic hence it wouldn’t be stretching it to surmise that a chunk of Stadium Areas vote could have been people that were in support of Mokherane and not because the Stadium Area is an ABC stronghold. As a result, the people that voted ABC because of Mokherane, might vote for DC because of Mokherane. However, accepting the two MPs might also have negative implications for the party in the long run. We are a year away from a key election and it would be surprising if Mokherane and Mahapa won’t want to contest elections. This can become problematic in the sense that the expectation is that one should be a member for at least two years before they can contest elections as a DC candidate. Furthermore, it is also probable that people in the constituency also had a potential candidate. This is something that can cause a rift in the party if it is not managed properly. In addition, it will leave a bad taste in the mouths of older members if they feel that the party is extending special favours to these new members. e should consider that someone like Mahapa left the DC at its weakest point and joined the AD in exchange for a ministerial position. Obviously staunch members of the DC felt betrayed by him. If he were to stand for elections in Tele, I can bet there are people that won’t vote for him. Furthermore, it is shocking that someone could leave a party and in the same term go back to that party in the absence of confl ict. It is evident that there were no real issues that made Mahapa leave the DC. It also gives the illusion that politicians only look out for their interests and are uncaring of what those that voted for them think. Again, the scenario of MPs crossing the fl oor not for the benefi t or the interests of the people is becoming a norm, and the more it happens, the more it is becoming acceptable. Soon there will no longer be MPs that quit parties on the basis of principle because the party has lost direction or it is going against the mandate given by the constituency. I feel like that is the purpose of fl oor crossing, I don’t think it was intended to allow MPs a route to wherever the butter is. This is evident in the case of Tsatsanyane who left the ABC on account of the ABC forming government with the DC. This is the reason I am asking if the two MPs acted on the basis of principle. As for the suggestion that these MPs could be joining the DC in order infi ltrate the party, with the intention of stunting its growth, I fi nd it rather far-fetched. I doubt the AD being out of government would risk looking weak and unstable, for the purpose of infi ltrating the DC. The position the AD has found itself, of losing a member as infl uential as Tsatsanyane has done more damage to the party. In Lesotho, political parties are esteemed when they are in power. This is to say parties command recognition and respect when they are in power. The AD now has limited infl uence after it was ousted from power. They wouldn’t add on to their political woes by being seen losing Tsatsanyane. The issue of MPs from the AD has both its upsides and downsides. It gives the DC numbers and politics is a numbers game. It reiterates on DC’s slogan that its for all, as it has accepted two members whom they never thought could join the DC. The warm reception they got could attract even more people to the party. However, the defections could also demonstrate the levels to which our politics have decayed. It shows the greed and debauchery which have come to defi ne our politics. MPs appear concerned with what they can get rather than how they can serve the people. The DC, however, shouldn’t throw caution to the wind. While growing the political party (through membership) is key to any political party, the Democratic Congress should be alive to the fact that Monyane Moleleki is a political master strategist, a political cat with years in political industry. The above paragraph intends to warn the DC that the mass infl ux of MPs joining it may be “sleepers” deployed to “wake” after the 2022 general elections and head back to the political formations they initially defected from! With coalition governments looking like will stay with us for the next foreseeable future this argument is not far-fetched and how that will be mitigated is incumbent on the leadership of the DC to actively guard against, without necessarily alienating high profi le people to join and grow the movement. Another danger is that organisations can change their organisational culture through mass infl ux of members joining from other parties. This infi ltration can result in changing its congress values, ideology and norms. Organisational culture is one of the most important factors of a political party’s success or failure Each political party has an organisational culture, and depending on its strength, the organisational culture may have a prominent impact on the members of the organisation, their values and behavior. The infl ux of new members has the potential to change the culture of a political party more especially after change of leadership. I can only pray and hope that the DC will protect its culture, values and ideology.      

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