Mounting pressure for ‘Maseribane to relinquish BNP leadership

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‘Marafaele Mohloboli

SOME disgruntled Basotho National Party (BNP) members have threatened legal action to force party leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, to step down and pave way for the election of a new leader at the party’s annual general conference scheduled for 26 to 28 March 2021.

Chief Maseribane, who is also Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, has been at the helm of the BNP since 2011.

There are conflicting reports within the party as to when his second and final tenure is supposed to end. According to BNP secretary general, Tšepo Lethobane, Chief Maseribane’s second term is due to end in June 2021. There have been reports that Chief Maseribane has been courting some of the national executive committee (NEC) to amend the party constitution to allow him to serve a third term.

However, some disgruntled party members insist the veteran leader’s tenure ends at the end of this month.  They say he must step down without further delay to allow the party’s annual conference to be turned into an elective conference which will choose a new leader to replace him.

The disgruntled members are said to include former deputy secretary general ‘Mota Nkuatsana. Others are well-known party stalwarts, Moorosi Moshoeshoe, Emmanuel ‘Mako, Lesiamo Molapo, Mochai Mochai, Matobo ‘Mabathoana and Michael Mohasi.

They also argue that turning the party’s annual conference into an elective conference will enable the party to save money by hosting one event instead of holding another to choose a new leader later in the year.

They are even prepared to go to court to force Chief Maseribane and the NEC’s hand as they believe the party leader has no plans of giving up the post.

Their threat to go to court is contained in a letter they wrote to the NEC this week.

“We would like to bring to the attention of the NEC that we disagree with it on the date of the end of the leader’s tenure,” the disgruntled members state in their 1 March 2021 letter to the BNP’s NEC.

“The NEC has decided to ignore some provisions of the constitution which we raised in our previous petition on this (leadership) issue.

“This letter serves to bring to your attention that we intend to approach the High Court to seek the correct interpretation of some clauses of the constitution that speak to our area of contention. We would like the court to announce a vacancy in the leadership post as per the constitution and we also want the court to serve the leader with a court order barring him from carrying out his duties as party leader.”

However, the NEC appears unmoved by the threats of court action. It is adamant that there is no vacancy until Chief Maseribane’s tenure “ends” in June.

In an interview with this publication this week, BNP secretary general Lethobane described Chief ‘Maseribane as “a principled individual who would not contravene the party constitution he helped to draft”.

“Those who want to go to court are free to do so because we are a democratic party. In terms of our constitution, a person may be a leader for only two terms and Chief ‘Maseribane’s term ends on 12 June 2021. He (‘Maseribane) is too principled to stoop that low and cling to power against the provisions of the constitution.

“This means that his seat is not yet vacant. After the NEC’s 10 March 2021 meeting, we will begin writing letters calling for an elective conference which will only be held after the expiry of the leader’s term office. We are writing the letters early so that there will be at least 90 days before the elective conference.  This is aimed at giving all those who may want to contest an equal chance to campaign ahead of the election,” Mr Lethobane said.

On her part BNP spokesperson, ‘Masetota Leshota, denied that the NEC was in cahoots with Chief Maseribane to prolong the latter’s stay in office. She said the disgruntled party members were simply being impatient by demanding an elective conference way before the end of Chief Maseribane’s term in June.

“We believe they are resorting to the courts of law because they have exhausted all internal remedies to have the party turn the annual conference into an elective conference. They would rather we hold one conference this year even if this will be three months before the end of the leader’s term of office.

“This is just an issue of impatience because the constitution is clear that before an elective conference is held, there has to be a letter calling for expressions of interest from all those who would like to contest. This is a principle of democracy.

“Everyone has to be given an equal opportunity to campaign for whatever seat they would like to be elected to.

“We also believe that the leader has served this party well and the least that we could give him is a dignified farewell instead of pushing him out,” Ms Leshota said.

Despite Mr Lethobane and Ms Leshota’s suggestions that Chief ‘Maseribane will bow out at the end of his term in June 2021, authoritative BNP sources insist that he has no intention of leaving when his term officially ends. The sources claim Chief ‘Maseribane has already expressed his desire to continue leading the party notwithstanding the two-term limit clause.

He has reportedly instructed constituencies aligned to him to write to the NEC to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a third term. Should this happen, the sources say he will face-off with his current deputy, Machesetsa Mofomobe, who is said to be eyeing the top party post.

Both Chief ‘Maseribane and Mr Mofomobe have kept their cards close to their chests.

Repeated efforts to obtain a comment from Chief ‘Maseribane since last week have been unsuccessful as his mobile phone rings unanswered.

Mr Mofomobe has said it is premature for him to talk about the matter as the leadership post was still occupied by Chief ‘Maseribane.

 

By virtue of his post as BNP leader, Chief ‘Maseribane was appointed a cabinet minister in the previous Thomas Thabane-led governing coalition. He was retained in the current Moeketsi Majoro-led coalition which is anchored by Dr Majoro’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC).

Mr Lethobane said even after his tenure ends, the party will allow Chief ‘Maseribane to continue as one of its five proportional representation legislators and cabinet minister.

“He (‘Maseribane) will remain a member of parliament until the 2022 elections. He will also remain in cabinet as long as he is entrusted with a portfolio by the prime minister,” Mr Lethobane said.

 

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