Succession: BNP at war

Succession: BNP at war

THE Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ’Maseribane’s time at the helm of the party is up, according to the constitution. His two terms end this year. Under the party’s constitution, ’Maseribane will be barred from standing in elections. His looming departure has now triggered a fierce jostling among those seeking to take over the leadership of the party.

’Maseribane was elected for a second and final term on June 12, 2016 but some say his time expires on March 26. They want ’Maseribane to go soon while others want him to hang on for a while.
Moorosi Moshoeshoe, chairman of the Mabote constituency, wants to see ’Maseribane’s back sooner while ’Masetota Leshota, the party’s spokeswoman, has a different view. Moshoeshoe’s faction has written the party’s leadership suggesting that when it holds the annual conference in March, there should also be elections for a new leader. thepost’s News Editor, Caswell Tlali, interviewed the two. Below are excerpts from the interviews.

It is said you and others are eager to remove the leader even without waiting for his time to fully expire.
Moorosi Moshoeshoe: It is not correct to say we want to remove him when his time is not up. No, the fact is on March 26 he will have completed his two terms. It is not that we want to see him gone as a person. We are not necessarily talking about an individual here, we plainly say the incumbent’s time has expired in terms of the BNP constitution. Our constitution makes it clear that the leader’s time at the helm of the party shall not exceed 10 years.

So, why do you want him to go on March 26 when he was elected on June 12?
You have to understand this very well. Our leader was elected for the first time on March 27, 2011 and five years down the line, on March 26 2016 he was supposed to have been elected again but he took a further 77 days in office until June 12. This means during the 77 days he took in office, performing all his official duties, he was the leader.

There was no vacancy in the leader’s position and because there was no pause, we count the days from when he was elected on March 27, 2011 to March 26, 2021 as full 10 years as our leader and rightly so in terms of the BNP constitution. Beyond March 26 this year, if he would still be in office, it would be unconstitutional. That is why we have brought this fact to the attention of the National Executive Committee because we are eager to see the constitution followed.

What will you do if he continues as the leader beyond March 26 until June?
Let us first understand that when he was in exile in South Africa, he was still exercising his powers in the party in line with the constitution hence all reports were taken to him where he was. That was correct. He was still the leader even after his time expired after March 26, 2016 and until he was re-elected into office on June 12 nothing changed.

His two terms were not over as provided for in the constitution. But now it would be different because the constitution explicitly says the leader shall not exceed 10 years in office. It says shall not, and not may not, which means that all BNP members must observe this constitutional requirement. If he continues beyond the stipulated constitutionally provided time, he would not be a leader anymore. Our constitution provides that where there is a vacancy in the position of the leader his deputy will take over until a leader is elected. I expect that the constitution will be followed. Some suggest that we can go to the courts but I think that is unnecessary for now, the constitution, I understand, will be followed when the leader’s time ends.

By operation of the law his two terms end on March 26. This is like in the United States where the president takes two terms in office. When that time comes there will be elections to elect a new president. The BNP follows best democratic practices and I believe will act accordingly when the leader’s time is up on March 26.
There are allegations that you are being led by former deputy Chief Joang Molapo.

There is no truth in the allegations. Chief Joang announced that he is now joining congress parties. We have not made such announcements and we are BNP members and will remain so. There are some who left this party before like Chief Joang, some are within the NEC now, we did not follow them until they came back and we welcomed them back. We are not going anywhere. Our party is the BNP.

Don’t you think this is destabilising the party?
The party was not destabilised in 2011 when we elected a new leader, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane, who took over from Ntate Metsing Lekhanya. Why would there be a destabilisation now when we elect a new leader taking over from Chief Thesele? Our constitution is simple and clear, even the courts have said so.

Are you eyeing to be the BNP leader one day?
That is not my ambition. I enjoy working in a team supporting the leader to achieve our collective dream.
Have you spotted someone you want to replace Chief Thesele?
Yes, but I will not mention his name now because I have to wait for the secretary general to write a circular opening the grounds for the candidates to compete. That is when I will openly speak about my candidate. As for now, he is still under wraps.

But what wrong have you found with Chief Thesele?
I can’t say with him per se. I have nothing against him as a person. But I have tasted how the BNP was under the late Chief Leabua Jonathan, how it was under Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana and how it was successful as a party. It is a party founded on good nationalistic principles that requires selflessness and working for the good of us all, for the good of the Basotho nation. I saw the landmarks left by those leaders. I also noticed how the party plummeted under General Lekhanya and how lately he was seen working for our allies and not for the BNP as a party. The BNP almost lost its identity under his leadership. And now I see how our party is just accompanying its allies when we go to elections under Chief Thesele’s leadership.

We are not working like a party should. We are just accompanying other parties to elections, not to compete with them. I don’t have anything against these leaders as individuals, I just say the party dwindled and performed poorly under their leadership. I am not working to push Chief Thesele out of leadership, his time is constitutionally up. There will be a new leader.

With ’Masetota Leshota

You as the NEC are accused of seeking to extend the leader’s term beyond what is stipulated in the BNP constitution.
In terms of the constitution the leader takes two terms and the current leader’s two terms will come to an end this year, on June 12, 2021. At the time of the next annual conference in March, he will still have four months to go to complete his term. The NEC, through the secretary general, will write a circular that will announce the election of a new leader in 90 days.

Why can’t you hold the leader’s election in March during the conference?
We have not called for willing candidates within the 90 days as the constitution stipulates. It will be unfair for those who would want to contest for the position. They would not have had enough time to canvas for support from the constituencies and villages. The BNP members in their wisdom provided that there should be 90 days to give candidates time to do that. Those who suggest that we should hold the election for the leader at the same time with the conference seem to have forgotten about this important provision.

It is a constitutional requirement to give people 90 days to prepare. We are on the same page with them that the leader’s two terms of 10 years have come to an end but we have to follow the constitution when we prepare for the election of the new leader.
But they are adamant that the leader’s second term will end on March 26 and on the other hand you insist that it will be on June 12.

You have to remember that on March 26, 2016 when there was supposed to be elections for the leader the elective conference was postponed. So, officially Chief Thesele was re-elected into office on June 12 and it is logical to start counting his five-year term from June 12 and not March 26.
But those who say his time will be up on March 26 argue that between that date and June 12 he was still a leader.

I think now they are driven by hatred and nothing more. Why do they want to push him out when his time is already up? They will still have a chance to elect a leader of their choice on June 12. We all know that when Chief Thesele went into exile his then deputy Chief Joang remained the acting leader here in Lesotho. It is true that the party still reported to him about its developments here but the man who was actually behind the steering wheel was the deputy leader. Why don’t they mention this? Yes, Chief Thesele was the leader, having been elected in 2011 but he was not here and the leadership role was being played by his deputy in terms of the constitution.

We had to postpone the elections because we had some problems and had to hold the conference in June instead of March. His time will officially end on June 12 and nothing more. I think these people are now suffocated by hatred and they can’t think properly.
Why do you see hatred here?

To make an example, they wrote the NEC suggesting that the coming March conference should incorporate the elective conference of the leader. Even before the secretary general could respond to their letter, here they are going from radio to radio, newspaper to newspaper, talking about these issues. We thought this is an internal issue that should be solved internally but now they have taken it to the media. Surely, they have a sinister motive in all this. Why can’t they wait until June 12, the day the leader officially took office for the second term? Why can’t they wait for the office to respond to their letter? Actually, what do they want? I fail to understand their thinking.

So, you mean their impatience is a sign of hatred?
This is unfair. They know perfectly well that Chief Thesele was a registered refugee in South Africa and that Chief Joang, his then deputy, was the acting leader but they insist he was still doing his office duty as the leader. No, it can’t be. If one has the audacity to count that it took 77 days from March 26 to June 12 and Chief Thesele was at that time doing official duties of the leader, such one is harbouring hatred. You will not come up with such details if you are not at war.

They complain that under Chief Thesele the party is underperforming.
These people are members of the party, what action did they take when they noticed this? They waited until this time to say the party is performing poorly? Ntate Moshoeshoe is a constituency chairman and has the responsibility to come to the NEC and raise this issue. When did he do this? He hasn’t. the NEC would listen to him and if it failed, he would then write a letter of grievances like he has now done.

All of them have been participating actively in this party and had ample time to pinpoint any weaknesses because it is everyone’s responsibility to do that. We are all to blame if the party is underperforming. Why should the leader shoulder the blame alone? Aren’t we all leaders whose responsibility is to grow the party? If the party is failing, we all have to be blamed. We have a collective responsibility.
They say the party has resources to pull itself out of problems but it doesn’t seem to.

This party is 62 years old and has a great track record which they know well. What have they done to ensure that their party uses its resources well? I want to say we do not have a dictatorship here where people are afraid to talk. Everyone is free to say their mind in the BNP. It is surprising that they kept quiet until now when they want to push the leader out without following the constitution.

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