MASERU — Professor Kopano Makoa is considered the Basotho National Party (BNP) leader-in-waiting.
A strong faction in the party believes he is the right man to replace Major General Metsing Lekhanya who they accuse of presiding over the BNP’s collapse.
Under Lekhanya, the faction says, the BNP has lost touch with the people and its supporters have deserted the party in droves.
Makoa believes he is the right man for the job.
But many hurdles stand in his way.
One of them is Lekhanya’s resistance. He has to contend with Lekhanya’s plan to purge the conference of delegates he accuses of cheating their way into the March 19 conference.
Lekhanya says these delegates were not supposed to be at the conference and should not have participated in the no confidence vote that almost saw him booted out.
Our group political editor BONGIWE ZIHLANGU spoke to Makoa this week about his aspirations and his plans to revive the BNP party.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
Zihlangu: What is your main agenda in the event that you assume leadership of the BNP? How do you plan to do things differently?
Makoa: We have a radically different programme of democratising the party. We want to unleash the party instead of confining it in one place. We want to place the party back in the hands of the people so that everybody will be at liberty to elect leaders of their choice.
We need to do away with the tendency of politics that cluster around individuals and create a new environment where everybody has a direct entry and a role to play. I am talking about a place where the party leader will be just one of the party members.
To us leadership will not mean ownership of the party. We will remove clauses which forbid participation, such as those which suggest that a leader can only be removed when and if he so wishes.
Zihlangu: How would you handle issues differently from Lekhanya? In what specific ways will you be different from Lekhanya?
Makoa: We will step up political education to address local programmes. We can achieve that by having a party that functions not only in Maseru but countrywide.
Lekhanya’s BNP does not feature on Lesotho’s political landscape. It has been totally squeezed out by smaller parties.
What we need is a pragmatic programme, but one which is not simply determined by circumstances.
Zihlangu: What are the issues that you stand for and what is it that you seriously need to resolve when you get into power?
Makoa: I stand for a party that can cultivate a good image both internally and internationally, a party that can be trusted. I stand for a party that is a trustee of Basotho values and reflects the aspirations of the Basotho nation. I mean things such as recognition and economic development.
I stand for a party that inspires the confidence of the entire nation, not just its followers. I stand for a party that is free of corruption and the chicanery that currently characterises this country. My supporters are opposed to the current BNP. We want to recapture national ethics. BNP is not supposed to subscribe to the corrupt policies of the current government.
Zihlangu: You have expressed the need for the BNP to revive relations with countries like North Korea, China and Cuba. Why do you think it’s helpful to reinforce links with states that are generally seen as undemocratic while at the same time claiming that you want to democratise the party? Don’t you see any conflict in that?
Makoa: Relations with different countries depend on different issues. Organisations have overriding needs which cannot be ignored. Let us talk about starvation and education. All these issues need to be addressed.
We are saying consequently, rather than depending on a government that provides scholarships along party lines, we should look into having reliable sources of support as we are now starved of resources. We need to have friends from whom we can campaign for assistance.
Most countries do not see eye to eye on political doctrines, but it does not necessarily mean relations between them are sour. Let us take South Africa for one. It is Africa’s champion of human rights, but embassies within that country are so diverse.
Zihlangu: The BNP was known for being oppressive and violated human rights in the 1970s. How do you plan to change people’s perceptions about the tainted image of the party?
Makoa: Naturally history never dies away. But the image it has carved is easy to either mitigate or erase. The bad aspects of that legacy have to be jettisoned but we will not do that by manipulating people. We have to come up with a credible scheme.
We are potentially the best political party in the country, only if we could be given the opportunity to unleash our potential.
We believe the very same BNP can be transformed into a useful vehicle. We just need to convince people that it can be done.
We are convinced that only democracy can take us forward. We are the only party that will be voted for by the masses because we will give people the opportunity to exercise their choice.
Zihlangu: You are quite critical of the current BNP constitution which the incumbent leader credits himself for as one of his achievements. What is wrong with it?
Makoa: The constitution that Lekhanya takes pride in is a retrogressive document for this day and age. How could he even count it among his achievements for the party? The very same constitution which aims to entrench him as the party’s leader forever?
We are going to re-examine it when I assume the BNP leadership and modify it by especially removing those repressive clauses contained in it.
In fact, we are going to remove everything which repels potentially new members and thwarts progress. We will not advocate for anything that transforms members into slaves of the leadership. We will only subscribe to that which maximises freedom, a political party that is the hub of freedom.
We are not targeting Lekhanya as an individual neither are we pushing for his ouster for reasons that are of a personal nature. We only aim to get rid of anything that hinders the BNP from functioning as a party, Lekhanya included.
But if Lekhanya bows to the needs of the people and his image does not repel but organises people back into the party, then he can stay.
Zihlangu: Do you think he has the potential or the capacity to revive the party as he has said he intends to?
Makoa: No, I don’t think he can achieve it. He has not demonstrated the will to do so and I doubt anything will convert him into being a democrat.
I also think he has squandered his chances of impressing people. He just does not have the required political skill to revive the BNP.
He has no vision. He does not understand the dynamics of the BNP.
If he wants to further erode his popularity, he should continue playing stupid.
Zihlangu: What is your view of the outcome of the vote of no confidence cast against Lekhanya?
Makoa: I dismiss with disdain the fact that he won. The two-thirds majority clause is irrelevant.
Lekhanya has lost popular legitimacy within the party. The vote was not only to remove him but also to test his legitimacy. Every vote cast against him counted.
Any self-respecting person would not gloat about surviving a motion of no confidence due to the immunity provided by a silly two-thirds majority clause.
The reality of the matter is that he was being tested for legitimacy and he failed. He did not defeat anyone, he did not win anything.
If anything, he whittled down the number of people who could have voted against him by being impossible in the conference, which led to many people walking out during the voting process.
Zihlangu: What is the next step if you fail to remove Lekhanya?
Makoa: I do not think we will fail. We need to democratise the BNP. However, if we fail to remove him then the struggle continues. We want to restore the BNP to Lesotho political arena.