MASERU — Pressure is mounting on Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Metsing Lekhanya (pictured) to step down immediately.
A faction in the former ruling party insists that Lekhanya — the former military supremo who took power in a bloodless coup in 1986 — must vacate his post because he “has killed the party”.
The faction this week intensified pressure on the leader accusing him of using his “stooges” in the national executive committee to cling to power.
The faction led by Berea constituency member Motsie Raliile and ‘Mabatloung Lillane from Maama believes the party has no chance of winning any seats in the 2012 election if Lekhanya remains in power.
Raliile is the one who led protesters who picketed outside the party’s conference on March 27.
The conference refused to accept the petition brought by the protesters saying the leader was already busy and they had not been given prior notice.
Raliile said his efforts to recruit more supporters for the party had failed because “people are saying they will not come to BNP if Lekhanya is still the leader”.
“He is the biggest problem. The people have clearly shown that they don’t like him,” Raliile said in an interview this week.
“Many people have deserted the party because they are uncomfortable with him. He does not want to listen to people.”
Raliile said the national executive committee and the conference that passed a vote of confidence on Lekhanya two weeks ago were filled with his “stooges”.
“It is shocking that the leader can use such a group of people to rubberstamp his decisions.”
He accused the leader of influencing the outcome of the conference by allowing his supporters to participate as delegates.
He said Lekhanya was using unorthodox means to maintain his dead-man grip on power in the party.
Raliile said before the conference Lekhanya had gone to his constituency in Thaba-Tseka to pick delegates to support him in his bid to remain leader of the party.
Raliile, who was the BNP’s losing candidate for Berea during the 2007 general elections, said his faction was not going to restuntil Lekhanya stepped down.
“We want him to step down honourably. He has to admit that he has failed. For the sake of the party Lekhanya must go.”
“I have no doubt in my mind that if he remains in power we will lose the election dismally.”
He added that people had deserted the party in droves because Lekhanya’s reputation is tainted by his involvement in the BNP military government in the 1980s.
Lillane who failed in her bid to wrestle power from Lekhanya in 2007 said only the leader’s immediate exit would save the party.
Lillane defied the party leadership when she organised the BNP silver jubilee in Maama constituency last week.
“The people are saying Lekhanya has stolen the party from them,” Lillane said.
“We want to take the party back to the people. Lekhanya must realise that this party belongs to the people.”
“We cannot allow one man to destroy a big party like BNP,” said Lillane.
BNP secretary general Ranthomeng Matete has however dismissed the faction’s demands.
“Those people have the mandate from the people. Those protesters do not have a mandate,” Matete said.
“The way I see it is that this is the same group of people who have been causing problems in the party for a long time. They are basically the same people who don’t have the people’s support. They don’t respect the constitution. The party will not condone such hooliganism.”
He said Raliile’s faction was made up of bitter people.
“I think it is a question of sour grapes. Some of them were in the executive committee but they were thrown out in 2007 because they had failed. Some of them are very bitter that they are no longer in the committee.”
“Some are bitter that they could not make it to parliament. They are just a bitter lot.”
He said allegations that the party had lost support were not true because the faction was relying on figures from the Independent Electoral Commission which had been disputed.
Matete said: “We are looking at a minimum of 250 000 and a maximum of 300 000. To me the party is stable and the numbers support that.”