MASERU — Ousted Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Metsing Lekhanya is demanding M3 million which he says he lent to the party.
Lekhanya, who was kicked out as BNP leader on December 18, claims he bailed out the party when it was in financial troubles.
He says ever since he took over the leadership of the party 11 years ago, the BNP had been surviving on his benevolence.
But now that Lekhanya is no longer the leader he wants the party to repay every cent it borrowed from him during troubled times.
He claims the BNP owes him a staggering M3 million. He says he is prepared to fight if the party refuses to pay him.
Lekhanya says over the past 11 years that he served as BNP leader he funded the party’s operations, rallies and legal battles.
“When I became leader the party was broke and I had to dig into my pockets to help it out,” Lekhanya told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday.
He says when the party challenged the constitutionality and legality of the 2002 national elections it could not afford to pay the legal fees and he had “to find the money”.
He claims he sold his house for M740 000 to pay the legal fees.
Lekhanya said around the same time he also sold his other house for M140 000 and a vehicle for M240 000 to pay legal fees for three other BNP court cases.
Lekhanya says since then the party had always turned to him when it needed money for operations, rallies and other court battles.
“For instance when the party was fighting to regain ownership of the BNP Centre I was the one who was paying the legal fees,” he says.
He claims to have also funded the party’s rallies, conferences and meetings.
The BNP’s financial position has not been stable since 2000.
After it mortgaged the BNP Centre, its main source of revenue, to pay mounting debts in the 1990s, the party mainly survived on donations from well-wishers.
But as it lost subsequent elections and its chances of regaining power crumbled, reliable donors deserted and diverted their donations to other parties whose fortunes seemed to be on the rise at that time.
The emergence of Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention in October 2006 is said to have wiped the last few donors that had been sustaining the BNP.
Lekhanya says during those troubled times it was his money which kept the party running.
The former military junta leader claims he got the money from his farm in Sehlabeng sa Thuathe from where he produces wool and crops.
His small farm in Thaba-Tseka also helped fund the party, Lekhanya claims.
Some of the money, he says, came from rentals for a building and a filling station he owns in Thaba-Tseka.
When times were hard Lekhanya says he took money from his investment policies and salary as an MP (M21 000 per month).
“My family suffered because of this party.”
He says although his wife was not happy that he was using his money to help out the BNP she understood that “this had to be done”.
“She could have left me a long time ago but she didn’t. At least now I don’t have to use any of my money anymore.
“The figure is around M3 million and I have documents to prove that the party owes me that money. It could be more,” Lekhanya said.
Lekhanya says the party leadership is aware that the party owes him money.
Ironically Lekhanya claims that money could be the reason he was eventually pushed out as party leader.
The fight to oust him, Lekhanya says, intensified when his rivals realised that the party was about to regain control of the BNP Centre and would soon start getting rentals.
The BNP Centre generates about M110 000 in rentals every month.
Lekhanya alleges that it is this money that his rivals are targeting.
Lekhanya claims his rivals had always wanted him out but they let him stay on as leader during the hard times because he was the only one who had money to finance party operations.
“It’s a fact that they did not like me but they used me as their milking cow because I was the only one willing to sustain the party financially,” he said.
BNP’s secretary general Ranthomeng Matete told the Lesotho Times that the party was yet to discuss with Lekhanya “who owes who and what”.
“I would not want to dispute what he says or go into detail about these issues at this point and time,” Matete said.