MASERU – Former agriculture minister Tefo Mapesela has claimed his newly founded party Basotho Progressive Party (BPP) was evicted from an office it rented at the Basotho National Party Centre (BNP), the headquarters of BNP in Maseru.
Mapesela broke away from the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) last month and announced that he was forming a new party BPP. He officially left ABC in parliament this week.
“The National Executive Committee (NEC) of BNP kicked me out and said they will refund me the M500 I had already paid for rent,” Mapesela told Public Eye yesterday.
“I had only used that office, Room No. 1, for two weeks when they kicked me out. They are afraid of me and think I am going to take their members,” he added.
BNP secretary general, Tšepo Lethobane, denied Mapesela’s party was evicted saying there has never been a tenancy agreement between BNP and BPP.
The tenancy agreement sets out all the terms and conditions that a landlord and a tenant have agreed to about the tenancy and must be in writing.
“It is totally misleading to say Mr Mapesela was evicted as there was no agreement between his party and BNP. This means he has never been our tenant,” Lethobane said.
“He made an application which was duly received and processed but was denied. He was not accepted as a new tenant,” he added.
Mapesela, however, insisted that his application to rent office space at the BNP centre was accepted by the person responsible for property rentals on behalf of BNP before he paid M500 rent for a month.
“When BNP NEC heard that I was renting their space, they kicked me out. That was a very small office and I needed it for registration purposes. My plan was to eventually move out and look for bigger space. I asked them to allow me to use the space for only one month but they refused,” he said.
Lethobane said the application for tenancy could only be accepted or rejected by the landlord which is BNP NEC, the highest decision-making body of the party between conferences.
“Mr Mapesela’s application was not accepted, so he was not kicked out as he claims,” he said.
Public Eye investigations revealed this week that Mapesela party’s residency at the BNP centre had ruffled some BNP party members’ feathers.
Some members said being the official residence of the BNP, the centre flies the BNP flag 24 hours a day and seven days a week on its rooftop therefore it would be improper to host a rival party flag.
Mapesela told Public Eye that he was informed that other BNP members were not happy that his party was allowed to rent space at their headquarters.
“That is rental property, that is why I went there in the first place. There are many flags flying there some belong to churches and there is nothing wrong with that because that is a rental property,” he said.
“But they are afraid of my party. They said I am going to take their members but I asked them which members because that party does not even members. Which members will I take because they do not have those members they are claiming to have?” he added.
Mapesela broke away from ABC which is in a coalition government with BNP and others after he was fired as minister of agriculture and food security by prime minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro but tensions had been simmering for a long time within the ABC.
He announced he would be forming a new political party which he said would be led by Professor Nqosa Mahao who was then deputy leader of ABC.
Days later, Mahao served divorce papers on ABC and also declared his intention of forming a new party.
Mahao addressed his supporters at his house where he outlined a plan to hold consultations with those who share his concerns in a few days to come up with the programme of action and a name for the new formation.
When he eventually unveiled the new party, Basotho Action Party (BAP), Mapesela was not part of it.
Since then, Mapesela has gone his own way.
He was first elected MP for Mokhotlong constituency in 2015 and was reelected in 2017 and was consequently appointed minister of trade and industry by the then prime minister Thomas Thabane, the founding leader of ABC.
He also served as minister of defence and national security and forestry, range and soil conservation in the previous Thabane administration until 2020 when he was fired.
He bounced back months later as minister of agriculture and food security after Thabane was toppled in parliament and replaced with Majoro.