… lawyers hammer deal clearing path for former SG’s comeback

Expelled Leuta cleared to rejoin BNP

BONGIWE ZIHLANGU

MASERU – Former Basotho National Party (BNP) Secretary-General Lesojane Leuta, who was expelled from the party in June 2016, is free to re-join the party after the feuding sides reached an out-of-court settlement. The settlement which was registered as a court order by Justice Moahloli AJ, restored Leuta’s membership unconditionally.

Advocate Tumisang Mosotho for the BNP and Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane appealing for Leuta agreed that “the Applicant be and is hereby reinstated as a member of Basotho National Party (BNP) without any preconditions”. Leuta confirmed his reinstatement and expressed satisfaction saying “while it was a long time coming, it was also worth waiting for”.

“It’s true that my membership of the BNP has been reinstated, without any preconditions. Remember we had a long drawn out court case where I was fighting my 2016 expulsion from the party,” Leuta said on Wednesday. “Eventually our lawyers met and we entered into an out-of-court settlement which has now become a fully-fledged court order, as we felt that the case was taking too long to be heard. The court order is such that my reinstatement means I retain all my privileges, including membership and other things.

“However, in a different case, issues pertaining to my being MP under the BNP banner as well as my previous post as Secretary-General of the party have been overtaken by events, because the BNP now has new MPs under a new parliament and also elected a new executive committee at the 2016 elective conference. Otherwise everything else remains the same.”

BNP Secretary-General Ts’epo Monethi confirmed the out-of-court settlement and further cited that it was important “to acknowledge that milestone”. “Mine now is to build going forward and make sure that everyone is happy. Yes, indeed we had problems that we should acknowledge. But at the leadership of the party and everybody else, it’s time we dealt with issues as per the constitution. We need to avoid emotions as succumbing to them could lead to making irrational decisions,” Monethi said.

“Again, while there are internal squabbles within parties, we also need to be conscious of the fact that some situations are caused by external forces. We need to be patient and tolerant and resort to internal conflict resolution mechanisms to resolve issues.” According to Monethi all that was left was for the party to follow proper procedure, which he said included “issuing him with a membership card, which we haven’t done yet”.

Leuta was expelled from the BNP after the party’s 2016 elective conference, following a drawn-out battle by the executive to expel him and strip him of his proportional representation (PR) parliamentary seat. Leuta however approached the courts for recourse arguing it was “unconstitutional and against principles of natural justice”. “When I was eventually expelled from the BNP, it was due to a long drawn-out battle between me and some members of the party’s executive committee.

But my frame of mind right now is such that I want to leave the past where it belongs, in the past. “Actually, those people who were pursuing my expulsion were just a small group which happened to be very influential,” Leuta said. “I don’t think they will still want to pursue me because they got everything they wanted. They were able to get into parliament and are now MPs. I, on the other hand, had nothing against them. I’ve never had anything against them and am prepared to work with everyone, in pursuit of the BNP’s success.”

According to Leuta, who joined the party as a teenager in 1965, the reinstatement was important to him because he has always felt that through the BNP “I can serve my country”,“I am very content that it has finally happened. Never for once did I falter in my quest to retain my BNP membership. I grew up in the BNP. I was taught a lot of things and also learnt so much more on my own.

It was this party that instilled in me the spirit of patriotism and that I have an obligation to serve my country,” Leuta said. “I joined the party as a teenager in March 1965 and have been a member since. That is a solid 53 years. Even when I was supposedly expelled, I did not feel the need to adopt a new ideology because I’ve never considered myself anything else other than a BNP cadre.”

Being out in the cold, even if it was for just a few years, he added, was veyr difficult for as he was to see “things happening that I could have prevented if I was still a member. It was a sad experience, having to watch from a distance as things unfolded”. However, Leuta also expressed concern about the BNP’s influence in Lesotho’s political space, saying the party had been weakened and that he hoped to help it regain its former glory.

In its heyday from the mid-1960s to early 1986 under its founder and leader, the late Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan, the BNP ushered in Lesotho’s independence in October 1966, and went on to fight alongside South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC), against that country’s then oppressive apartheid regime.

But when the party lost elections in 1970 to Ntsu Mokhehle’s Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), Jonathan refused to cede power but instead suspended the constitution, declared a state of emergency and ruled by decree until 1986 when he was overthrown by the military junta. However, post the 1993 reintroduction of democracy and that year’s elections which were won by Mokhehle’s BCP, the BNP remained the main opposition and continued to influence decisions at national level.

However, in recent years the BNP seems to have lost ground, with the party currently commanding five PR seats in the National Assembly and being a junior partner in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s four-party coalition government comprising also the ABC, AD and RCL. “Being part of the BNP again means I can make a difference in changing things that I couldn’t when I was on the outside. I feel that it’s my obligation to work hard towards ensuring that the BNP regains its former glory and that it has a voice in important decision-making at national level. As things stand, the BNP has lost part of that influence,” Leuta stated.

Reminiscing about the party’s 1990s ground-breaking participation in national issues, Leuta detailed several instances when the BNP was able to influence government’s position saying “how I wish we could go back there”. “I can mention a few things. In its heyday, the BNP was influential in many aspects.

For one, the BNP was able to appeal to the consciences of MPs of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s then ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) MPs, who shamelessly squandered funds reserved for “work for food” or “poverty reduction” projects (commonly known as fato-fato within villages at MPs’ respective constituencies countrywide, where people built roads and bridges in return food packages and allowances),” Leuta noted.

“It was due to protests staged by the BNP under the leadership of the late Rets’elisitsoe Sekhonyana, that that government had to review the manner in which that money was allocated. The practice back then was that MPs would be given money to take back to people working on such projects in their villages. But those monies did not always reach the people because the MPs squandered them.

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