MASERU — A former senior executive of the opposition Basotho National Party (BNP) has accused the party leader Metsing Lekhanya (pictured below) of turning the party’s disciplinary hearings into “something like military tribunals” meant to deal with internal opponents and dissenting voices.
Former BNP deputy secretary-general, Mothobi Moholi, who was expelled from the party in January said Lekhanya has been abusing the disciplinary hearings to push out those that are opposed to his continued stay as leader.
Lekhanya, a former army general, toppled the government of the late Leabua Jonathan in 1986 and led the country until 1992 when the government was moving towards a democratic government.
Lekhanya has led the BNP since 2002 but recently there has been intensified pressure on him to step down amidst accusations that he has failed to revive the former ruling party’s waning fortunes.
He has also been accused of being dictatorial and running the party like his personal fiefdom.
Moholi said with pressure piling on him to step down Lekhanya is now using the disciplinary committees to purge the party of enemies.
The disciplinary committees, Moholi said, have become willing instruments in Lekhanya’s strategy to weed out perceived enemies.
Moholi said to ensure that decisions go his way, Lekhanya has stuffed the committees with hand-picked appointees that are either sympathetic to his agenda or are indebted to him for giving them top posts in the party.
Former military colleagues have also been roped into some disciplinary committees to deal with Lekhanya’s opponents.
The result, he said, are hearings that resemble military tribunals.
“I have lost faith in the credibility of the BNP disciplinary committees because they resemble military tribunals,” Moholi said.
“I don’t trust them because they are composed of friends and relatives of the party leader. They are also filled with individuals who know nothing about law.”
Moholi said the disciplinary committees had lost their impartiality and integrity because Lekhanya has continued to tinker with the appointments.
“We cannot expect people who have benefited directly from the leader to be impartial,” Moholi said.
“I am talking about people who gained promotions during Lekhanya’s rule when they were in the force. I am also referring to individuals who were handpicked by the party leader to contest general elections under the party banner.”
He said in the past retired magistrates and prosecutors used to conduct disciplinary hearings.
“This was done for the sole purpose of transparency and as a way of sticking to and observing principles of natural justice.
“But people of such calibre have since refused to chair BNP disciplinary hearings upon realising that they were being misused by the leadership.”
Moholi said Lekhanya started influencing the disciplinary committees “a long time ago and he has continued to do so”.
He said when he was deputy secretary general between 2005 and 2007, he once heard Lekhanya speaking over the phone requesting one Rapholo from Thaba-Tseka (the BNP leader’s home district), to do him a favour by chairing one of the party’s disciplinary committees.
“Rapholo, who is Lekhanya’s relative, had chaired such committees before. But on that particular instance he turned Lekhanya down,” Moholi said.
“There were five members who were on suspension at the time. Rapholo refused because Lekhanya was dictating to him how he should conduct the disciplinary hearing in question.
When Rapholo turned him down, Moholi said, Lekhanya resorted to former military colleagues.
“Lekhanya then resorted to using a former military officer, one Marikimane as the chairperson and former colonel, Ntja Masupha as the prosecutor.”
“That is why I am saying that BNP committees are nothing short of military tribunals. Other members of the committee included had contested elections under the party banner having been selected by Lekhanya.”
It was not possible to independently verify Moholi’s allegations with Rapholo.
Many members who appeared before these committees have decided to leave the party because they feel they had not been treated justly.
“Take for instance the National Progressive Party (NPP) formed by Chief Peete Peete and Thabang Nyeoe’s Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP),” Moholi said.
“They both deserted the BNP because of the delivery of judgments lacking in principles of justice. The fact that one also cannot appeal the committee’s decision once it has been made is cause for concern.”
Moholi is also bitter about his own expulsion.
He said he was never given a chance to defend himself because Lekhanya had already decided to push him out.
“The BNP secretary general, Ranthomeng Matete, says I was expelled from the party on grounds of insubordination but I strongly question the move,” Moholi said.
“I failed to appear before the disciplinary committee because I was out of town on work-related business. I informed the party through a letter. Nobody ever thought of giving me the chance to speak.
“We are being persecuted for merely suggesting that the evidently fatigued Lekhanya must retire from the BNP leadership and make way for young blood,” Moholi said.
“Lekhanya has said he fails to comprehend why we want him out when previous leaders of the BNP died while still in power.
Apart from the shenanigans with the party disciplinary processes Moholi is also bitter with Lekhanya for pushing his name further down the PR seat list in 2007.
“When the list was drawn initially, I was in line for the PR seats at number 15. But after the IEC had returned the list for technical reasons, my name was pushed down to number 22,” he said.
“My name was replaced by that of a woman whose daughter is married into Lekhanya’s family. One other thing is the fact that the top five people on the PR list were directly nominated by him. They were chosen by virtue of them being his friends and not because they were active in the party.”
Lekhanya has presided over the BNP’s most tumultuous era that has seen the party split into two factions.
Some senior members have openly called for his ouster.