MASERU — A rebel faction of the Basotho National Party (BNP) party says it will hold its own counter celebrations to mark the birthday of the party’s founder Chief Leabua Jonathan in October.
Suspended BNP youth league president, Alexis Hanyane, told a press conference last week that the faction will hold its own celebrations at Jonathan’s home at Kolonyama in Leribe.
The decision to hold parallel birthday celebrations could deepen the rift within the BNP, Lesotho’s oldest political party.
It could also test the rebel faction’s popularity as the BNP would be holding a similar event in Maseru.
Suspended BNP youth league president, Alexis Hanyane, told a press conference last week that the faction will hold the function at Jonathan’s home in Leribe.
“We are here today to inform you about the celebrations that will be held at Kolonyama Ha-Rakolo, the home of the founder of the BNP.
“We wish to inform you that we shall commemorate the birthday of Chief Leabua Jonathan which is the 30th of October 1914,” Hanyane said.
Others who addressed the press conference were the former vice-president of the party’s women’s league ‘Mapalesa Moseetse, ‘Mabatloung Lillane and Paul ‘Mabathoana.
The rebels were suspended from the party last year for violating party regulations and openly challenging BNP leader Metsing Lekhanya.
Lillane unsuccessfully tried to topple Lekhanya at the party’s 2007 conference.
Her plan to oust Lekhanya at the conference failed as delegates refused to support her in a call for a vote of no confidence on the party leader.
The BNP national executive committee last March said it would celebrate the party’s 50th anniversary on the 4th of April. The BNP was established on 4th of April 1959.
The BNP later postponed the celebrations to October to coincide with Jonathan’s birthday.
The rebels said they will hold their own celebrations on the same day the BNP holds their function in Maseru.
The rebels said they will celebrate the Gold Award of Companions of Oliver Tambo that was given to Jonathan post-humously in 2007.
The award was given to honour Jonathan for what the South African government said was his dedication and sacrifice towards the liberation of South Africa.
Under Jonathan’s rule South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) cadres received sanctuary in Lesotho while waging their struggle against the apartheid regime.
Hanyane said they were planning to invite a representative of the ANC to the celebrations.
There have been suggestions that Jonathan’s family was backing the anti-Lekhanya group as they had not forgiven the former army general for toppling Jonathan in the 1986 coup.
Jonathan died in 1987.
BNP secretary general Ranthomeng Matete could not be reached for comment last night.