MASERU – As speculation goes into overdrive that Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Chief Thabane Thesele ’Maseribane is hatching a plan to influence his party to amend the constitution to enable him to run for a third term of office, aggrieved party veterans are reaching out to executive committee to “thwart any plans of that nature”. In a recent exclusive interview with 85-year-old BNP veteran and former Deputy Secretary-General Alexis Moholi, the octogenarian told Public Eye that if the executive committee did not rein ’Maseribane in and prevent him from “getting his way” that would “mark the end of the BNP which is already suffering”.
According to Moholi, since becoming BNP leader ’Maseribane had captured the party and was running it like his personal property, which he said became evident through “his blatant control of the previous executive committee”. ’Maseribane is serving his second and last term as BNP leader, and is expected to vacate office in June 2021, amidst mounting speculation that he and his supporters are hatching a plan to mobilise the party’s membership to amend the constitution in pursuit of a provision for a third term.
Currently, the BNP constitution stipulates that any person serving in the capacity of leader will serve for only two five-year terms, and ’Maseribane was elected to office in 2011, effectively rising from Lekhanya’s shadows whose downfall he engineered with the likes of current Deputy Secretary General Moeketsi Hanyane and a host of other party veterans. But the BNP executive committee has told Public Eye that it has no control over what a conference might decide on, adding that the accusations were unfair on ’Maseribane because “he has revived this party and made it vibrant” since taking over from former leader Major-General Metsing Lekhanya.
BNP Spokesperson ’Masetota Leshota yesterday fiercely defended ’Maseribane, telling this paper that he had done a sterling job of leading their party and castigating Moholi and one Moorosi Mshoeshoe who went on radio recently pleading with the NEC to ensure that the BNP leader vacated office at the end of his term. In the interview with this publication, Moholi said even if the BNP executive committee failed in other areas of their given mandate, ensuring that ’Maseribane vacated office at the end of his term “will be compensation enough”.
“If the new BNP executive committee didn’t know, then I put it to them today that the primary reason why it was elected into office was to keep the party leader in check and ensure that when his term of office ends in June 2021, he vacates office without incident,” Moholi said. “Even if they fail to in everything else, they should make sure that they deal with the BNP leader accordingly, by ensuring that he does not secure a third term through amendment of the BNP constitution, which we hear is what he is aiming at.”
Moholi alleged ’Maseribane’s administration of the BNP had led to the party recording paltry numbers at the polls, which he added led to party only securing five seats at the last elections which were in 2017. “What is wrong with the BNP is the party’s administration. As we speak, BNP is at the lowest ebb with just five MPs in parliament. I do have numbers to substantiate my assertions. And, the leader is at the centre of this mess.
“Indeed, running a political party is all about collective responsibility of the NEC, constituency, regional and village committees, as well as members of the party who more often than not have an influence on the running of the party,” Moholi said. “If the current NEC cannot control the BNP leader and fails to identify a new leader for this party, then it would have failed in its mandate. Our expectation, as veteran members of the party, is that unlike previous committees the current one is able to resist the leader’s influence.
“For instance, the last BNP executive committee was under the leader’s spell. He ran it the way many men do their families. Still, women have come onto their own and now resist control from their husbands.” Moholi further noted he was worried that ’Maseribane’s successor had not yet been identified despite it being only a year before his term lapsed, saying such an individual should be groomed in order to “take over from the current leader”. “But of utmost importance is that the leader’s constitutionally prescribed second and final term in office ends in a year from now, being in June 2021. Ideally, his successor should have already been identified by the party.
“That person should be groomed to take over already. The person should be known by the masses so that they learn to love and respect him/her. Such a platform is yet to be created,” Moholi said. “What defies logic is why the BNP leader would want to continue leading a party that he has run to the ground. I mean, ever since he took over the reins from Lekhanya, BNP membership numbers have dwindled dramatically. “What could be so special about him that the constitution could be amended just so he can further destroy our party? What could be so special about him? What does he have that a new leader can’t contribute to the growth of the BNP?
“If there are those who feel irked by my take of things, let us simply refer to the numbers in terms of where BNP was before Thesele became leader and where it is two terms into his leadership.” Moholi accused ’Maseribane of losing the BNP numbers in the June 3 elections, adding that since the BNP started contesting elections in 1965 “the BNP’s performance at the 2017 was the worst ever” adding “it’s even worse than when the party was under the leadership of former leader Major General Metsing Lekhanya”. “The BNP numbers have dwindled in recent years, under Chief ’Maseribane’s leadership. This year was particularly worse, even worse than when Lekhanya whom I worked closely with, was at the helm,” Moholi said.
“Hence, we want him to step down and make way for someone else, who can turn this party’s fortunes around.” Moholi also provided a table depicting the BNP’s election performance (which this paper has reported on previously), depicting poll results from 1965, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2015 and polls, portraying the losses and gains over the years. The diagram, among others, shows the BNP as having been voted for by 23, 788 voters in 2012, a year after ’Maseribane ousted Lekhanya, who in 2007 had garnered 29, 965 as the party’s popular vote.
Ironically, the diagram demonstrates that in 2015, the BNP’s numbers rose to 31, 508 under ’Maseribane’s leadership, who at the time was in a coalition government with the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). However, the same diagram shows that two years in 2017, following ’Maseribane’s almost two-year long exile in South Africa, where he had fled with his current coalition government partners, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Minister of Labour and Employment Keketso Rants’o amidst political tensions, the BNP went on to garner less numbers at the polls, by comparison to previous election results.
According to Moholi, BNP last enjoyed good leadership under its late former leader Rets’elisitsoe Sekhonyana, adding that even his successor Major-General Metsing “was never able to measure up”. “When Lekhanya came into office, he inherited Rets’elisitsoe’s legacy. Unfortunately, he failed to build on it. If anything, he ran that party to the ground. I was right there watching as he destroyed the party. If LCD (Lesotho Congress for Democracy) and AD (Alliance of Democrats) each have 11 seats in parliament, BNP would at least have garnered 15 of more under good administration,” Moholi said.
“BNP still has numbers on the ground but nobody is mobilising them. Some are disgruntled and say they are waiting for BNP to get itself good leadership. They yearn for the leadership style of the likes of ER. You know, in the leaders we have in this party today, there’s not even a semblance of the leadership style of neither ER nor Leabua Jonathan.”
Moholi added that BNP was “in bad shape” and “in desperate need of a makeover”, adding that ’Maseribane and all of the “so-called” party veterans had lost their spark and hit the ceiling “hence they don’t have any value to add to the party”. “He has lost his touch. We all have. There’s not much we can do for the BNP. We all have to step aside, make room for younger leaders with new ideas and a clear vision of the direction this party needs to be steered to,” Moholi said.
“I know for a fact that there are members of the NEC who are against ‘Maseribane taking a third term. I just hope that they are able to convince the rest to see things their way, because failure to do so means the end of the BNP. We know Thesele, we have seen him in action. He’s at his wit’s end, hit the ceiling completely. He’s got nothing new to give.”
He added: “Most of us Lesotho politicians have inherited Ntsu Mokhehle and Leabua Jonathan ideas, all of which are no longer serving a purpose in today’s political landscape. The tragedy is that we are all incapable of coming up with our own ideas to deal with today’s challenges. We are doomed. We need new ideas and Thesele is not it.”
Basotho National Party
History of Elections: 1965-2017
Year Result % Gain/(Loss) % Seats Total Votes
1965 108, 140 42.0 31 261, 824
1993 120, 686 22.6 12. 546 11. 6 0 532, 978
1998 145, 210 24. 5 24, 524 20. 3 1 595, 955
2002 124, 234 22. 4 (20, 976) loss 14. 4 21 554, 386
2007 29, 965 6. 76 (94, 269) loss 75. 9 3 442, 963
2012 23, 788 4. 31 (6, 177) loss 20. 6 5 564, 451
2015 31, 508 5. 53 7, 720 32. 5 7 577, 377
2017 23, 541 4. 05 (7, 967) loss 25. 3 5 581, 692