Lekhanya must start preparing for his exit

BASOTHO National Party (BNP) leader Metsing Lekhanya outmuscled his political opponents last weekend to retain control of his beleaguered political party.

We wish to extend our congratulations to him on his victory.

Being the old political fox that he is, Lekhanya carefully manoeuvred matters at the conference to ensure that he retained his position at all costs.

In events that appeared well-choreographed, delegates ensured that a no-confidence vote that had been planned by a rival faction did not materialise.

That plan was effectively crushed to give Lekhanya what was essentially a walk-over victory.

What this means is that Lekhanya will remain an ‘unwanted tenant’ within the BNP until 2012 when his five-year term ends.

We will begrudgingly acknowledge Lekhanya’s wily political instincts in outmanoeuvring his political opponents with such ease.

But his victory could also be attributed to the shocking ineptitude of his political opponents led by National University of Lesotho political scientist Francis Makoa.

What happened last weekend exposed the dearth of lateral thinking within that faction.

The way the faction capitulated, after making so much noise in the run-up to the conference, left its supporters nursing bruised egos.

The faction had neither a Plan B, nor C, to deal with Lekhanya. And when it mattered most, they were found wanting.

It is our view that after managing to outmuscle his political opponents Lekhanya must now prepare for his departure.

Lekhanya lost the mandate of the majority at the March 19 conference when 55 percent of delegates voted against him.

Lekhanya cannot ignore this reality.

Although the figures were not enough to dislodge him from office they clearly showed that the BNP leader had lost the mandate of the majority.

It would therefore be political folly on his behalf if he were to ignore the telling signs that his days in office are numbered.

The greatest disservice that he could do to his party would be to ignore the signs and cling on to power against the wishes of the majority of BNP supporters.

Great leaders know when to throw in the towel.

Critics accuse Lekhanya of presiding over the collapse of the former ruling party whose support base continues to dwindle.

Recent by-election results would tend to support this assertion.

To what extent Lekhanya is personally to blame for the party’s dismal state is however open to debate.

But as the leader, Lekhanya must take the flak.

Lekhanya, who was elected the BNP leader in March 1999, has been at the helm for close to 11 years.

We think this is way too long a time for anyone to be in power within his own party.

If he serves the complete term until 2012, Lekhanya would have been in power for 13 years.

To protect his legacy, Lekhanya must put in place a clear succession plan that ensures the party survives long after his own demise.

He must resist the temptation to cling on to power at all costs.

The BNP leader would therefore be advised to start preparing for his departure.

He must put in place mechanisms that allow for a smooth handover of power to a successor. Succession planning is the hallmark of good leadership.

Lekhanya must also acknowledge that at 72 he is not getting any younger.

When his term ends in 2012, he will be 74.

It would be political suicide on his part if his party were to fail to identify and groom a successor.

A younger leader with fresh ideas would ensure a regeneration of ideas within the BNP.

Holding on to the same leaders would only ensure a regurgitation of the same old and tired ideas and policies that have failed to steer the party towards electoral success.

In our opinion, the BNP is a damaged brand.

The party’s reputation remains soiled following a brutal crackdown on political opponents in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The BNP needs its own “Lazarus moment” to reverse its dipping fortunes.

It needs a new broom to clean up its soiled reputation.

And Lekhanya is not the man to bring about this change. The sooner the BNP realises this, the better for the party.

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