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Succession: BNP at war

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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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RFP douses fires

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MASERU – THE Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) was thrown into a fire-fighting mode this week after disgruntled party members protested over the party’s “undemocratic practices” in picking election candidates.

The members who won primary elections to stand for the party in the October 7 general elections were however blocked by the party’s leadership, torching protests by the grassroots supporters.

The group says it now wants party leader, Sam Matekane, to explain the criteria used to pick election candidates.

In defending the process, the RFP has argued that it picked the candidates on the basis of meritocracy insisting these were the best qualified candidates for the constituencies, an argument the group says lacks transparency.

Shortly after the party’s secretary general, Nthati Moorosi, announced the list of the chosen ones last week, scores of RFP members flocked the party offices demanding answers why their elected candidates were left out.

On Tuesday morning, the RFP went all out to reassure the disgruntled members that they were still valued members of the party. thepost understands that the party held a counselling session with the group.

However, a few hours later the group held a press conference in Maseru where they said even though they still supported the party all they wanted was transparency.

The disgruntled members are ’Mampho Seutloali from Stadium Area, Monohi Ralentsoe from Makhaleng, Chopho Lekhoabane from Khafung, Morakane Monate from Hlotse, Kobeli Rethabile Letlailane from Lithoteng, Thabo Moloi from Machache, Mahali Phamotse from Matlakeng and ‘Mamako Mohale-Lerata from Matelile.

The group said Matekane should explain the criteria the party used to pick candidates. Earlier the party had said the candidates would be selected based on their educational backgrounds, business successes or other social achievements in their communities.

Most of all these people Matekane left out have solid academic credentials and are successful in other sectors of society. Letlailane, reading their joint statement at the press conference, said they are demanding the document drafted by their leader while shortlisting the candidates.

“We believe that these documents are the only ones that can end the outcry that is coming from members who elected us in the constituencies,” Letlailane said.

“Members are worried that the results do not have transparency. This has caused loss of members in some constituencies,” he said, adding that some had already started re-joining parties they had defected from.

He said they wanted Matekane to give them answers so that they could go back and convince members that all is still well in the party. He said the documents would allay the fears of the people in the party.

“We aim to help our party to stop losing members on account of this,” he said.

Letlailana got 28 votes but Matekane picked Siera Letsoela who got only 12 votes. Phamotse received a stunning 96 votes but the party picked a relatively unknown Kenny Ntoane who only got 10 votes.

Letlailane said the RFP should be a beacon of transparency because many people had left their parties to join it because they were not transparent.

“The people are asking the RFP to live by what it preaches.”

He stated that most of the candidates who won primary elections but were not chosen do not want to defect together with the people in the constituencies who have started defecting.

“We aim to work hard to build this party, to get things right so that people do not leave,” he said.

He said their other aim is to prove to the nation and the people that the results were transparent. Dr Phamotse said by asking for the criteria “the angry people will understand and stop defecting”.

“We are helping by asking for accountability as there are some constituencies that have also launched similar complaints,” she said.

She said there are 30 aggrieved candidates who won primaries but were not picked to stand in their constituencies.

“They are not happy and we do not want them to leave,” she said.

Dr Phamotse said what makes matters worse is that members do not have the party constitution and they do not know if they have any legal basis to complain. The people, she said, base their decisions on democracy as they know it.

“We are representing others who are also not happy, especially those who won the primary elections.”

The Stadium Area primary election winner, ’Mampho Seutloali, said the candidates have huge supporters behind them.

“They are expecting to know what will be done as they voted for people and the party chose otherwise,” Seutloali said.

She stated that they had been negotiating with members not to defect.

“We are telling our people that the RFP is still powerful,” she said.

Matelile’s Mohale-Lerata said they signed a document to be members, therefore, they have a right to speak on matters affecting the RFP.

“But the constitution has not yet reached our constituencies,” Mohale-Lerata said.

A day earlier, Qacha’s Nek constituency members stormed the party premises demanding answers over the party’s undemocratic selection of candidates.

The members who had traveled from Qacha’s Nek to seek answers were not allowed to enter the office until around 4pm when a security guard finally let four of them in.

One of their representatives, Kokolia Mosothoane, told thepost that the leader chose ’Maatang Chaka who lost the primary elections.

“We demand to know how our leader picked this nobody, who stays in Maseru and knows nothing about us,” Mosothoane said.

“We will not tolerate this,” he said.

The members left the offices without answers.

On Sunday, the party co-founder Tlohang Sekhamane defended the party’s stance at a rally in Qeme constituency. Sekhamane said change is a beautiful thing as it goes along with developments.

“Change is not delicious on some people’s palates. We must embrace change,” Sekhamane said.

Sekhamane said Matekane has pointed out who should represent which constituency and “people lash at him for that”.

“That is why Lesotho is a poor country because we do not want to do the right things,” he said.

He said Matekane is doing what he knows by changing the ways things have been done in the country in the past.

He stated that Matekane wants to work with people he trusts the most.

“We thank you for allowing him to do so,” he said.

He said members “should change their old ways”.

“Stop believing that a parliament is an employment place where people go to eat with their families.”

He urged the members not to leave when unhappy because their party is doing this for their sake and the sake of the entire country.

“Matekane should be allowed to show and lead the way, he wants new things for your sake.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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Why Thabane case flopped

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MASERU – THE murder case against former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, ‘Maesaiah, collapsed this week because it hinges on the testimonies of four key witnesses the prosecution could not find. thepost can reveal that those witnesses have been playing ‘hide and seek’ with the prosecution for more than two years.

The police and the prosecution have so far failed to track down those witnesses, according to sources close to the case.

The four, who are Basotho based in South Africa, are said to be reluctant to give statements to the prosecution.

“They are not clearly saying that they don’t want to testify but they are always giving excuses,” said a source involved in the investigation.

thepost understands that attempts by the police to meet some of the suspects in South Africa last week failed.

“I am told one of them said he was rushing to Lesotho for an emergency. When the police came back to Lesotho, the witness said he was already back in South Africa.”

The source said two of the witnesses are famo music gang members that have information on the people who carried out the hit on Lipolelo Thabane.

The other two know how the murder was planned. Sources told thepost that for the past three weeks the police and the prosecution have been debating on how to proceed with the case against Thabane and his wife.

“We have some good information from the other 35 witnesses but the evidence from those four is crucial to this case.”

The source said the prosecution and the police have been racing against time to get the witnesses before the Thabanes’ legal team applies for the case to be dismissed due to lack of prosecution.

“They don’t know when those witnesses will be available. It’s not like those witnesses can be simply subpoenaed to give their statements,” the source said.

“The prosecution knew that the defence was now planning to apply for acquittal on the basis that the cases had been delayed for too long and the case against ‘Maesaiah is not proceeding.”

“If the prosecution had charged Thabane it meant he had to enter a plea and the case would have to proceed. But the trouble was that the prosecution is still struggling to get the four key witnesses.”

He said the withdrawal was the prosecution’s only option.

“It’s a strategic retreat rather than surrender. The charges have not been dropped so they can still be reinstated when the witnesses are available.”

There are however fears within the prosecution and the police that those witnesses might no longer be willing to testify and could disappear off the radar.

The police, another source said, are worried that those witnesses might be intimidated or induced to refuse to cooperate with the prosecution.

Two of ‘Maesaiah’s co-accused have died.

Staff Reporter

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Molibeli in new bid to hold on to post

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MASERU – COMMISSIONER of Police Holomo Molibeli says Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro no longer has the power nor mandate to advise the King to retire him. This is contained in a new application he filed in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.

In the application, Commissioner Molibeli says the Prime Minister cannot advise the King to fire him after parliament was dissolved two weeks ago.

He argues that following the dissolution of parliament, Majoro has become a caretaker Prime Minister without powers to make any major decisions in the interim.

He said section 83 (7) of the Constitution of Lesotho says a Caretaker Prime Minister “is limited to maintaining the status quo existing before the dissolution” of the 10th Parliament.

Commissioner Molibeli pleaded with the court to order that Majoro’s advice to King Letsie III to retire him from the office “during the caretaker period be considered unconstitutional, null and void for being contrary to section 83(7) of the Constitution”.

He added that the court should “interdict and restrain the King from acting on any advice of the Prime Minister or having the effect of advising His Majesty to require” him to retire.

In his founding affidavit, Commissioner Molibeli said that when the 10th Parliament was dissolved on July 13, the government assumed the caretaker role and with effect from July 14, “the Prime Minister became a caretaker Prime Minister presiding over the caretaker government”.

“The Prime Minister during the caretaker period is constitutionally prohibited from, among others, removing or effecting changes to key positions as the heads of securities, the judiciary, other law enforcement agencies such as Lesotho Revenue Authority and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

“As the Commissioner of Police, I am the head of and superintend the LMPS and its operations in Lesotho,” he said.

He said the 9th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits significant changes to key positions in the government “was inspired not only by the need to express the constitutional convention to that effect but also to specifically deal with the specific incidents influenced by collation politics since 2012”.

He said these are “matters of common knowledge and which the court is entitled to take judicial notice of”.

He said during the reforms process, the constituent popular sovereignty of the people of Lesotho was expressed in the Plenary II Report.

“There should be no appointments or removals to the heads of securities (LMPS, LDF and NSS) including the Commissioner of Police in the interim,” he said.

He emphasised that as the occupier of the office of the Commissioner since 2017, he is entitled to exercise and perform the functions of that office until otherwise removed by both the constitution and the law authorities.

“I have a right to prevent illegal and unconstitutional means of removing me from that office, and therefore to approach the court for purpose,” he said.

He said his dignity, reputation and self-worth are also derived from the performance of the functions of the office of the Commissioner of Police which he is currently holding.

“I have a right to prevent my unconstitutional and illegal removal from office,” he said.

He said the unconstitutional and illegal removal from office will cause irreparable harm not only to the integrity of the constitution, maintenance of the rule of law but will effectuate constitutional injustice to him and trample upon and render illusory and worthless his non-material rights.

’Malimpho Majoro

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