‘Rented crowd pushed me out’

MASERU — Metsing Lekhanya’s reign as leader of the troubled Basotho National Party (BNP) came to an abrupt end on December 18, 2010. A vote of no confidence was enough to oust Lekhanya who had initially survived two previous attempts to get rid of him. After 11 years as the boss Lekhanya now becomes an ordinary card-carrying member of the BNP. He says he is not bitter that he was ousted but he is disturbed by how it came about. The Lesotho Times (LT) this week talked to Lekhanya about his reign and the party’s prospects without him as leader. Below are excerpts from the interview:

LT: You have been removed as the BNP leader and plans are already in motion for an elective conference to elect your replacement. What are your future plans?

Lekhanya: I am ready to serve the BNP and ensure that it reinvents itself into a powerhouse that can participate in both the local government and national elections.

LT: Do you have any regrets?

Lekhanya: I don’t think so. I’ve done my part for the past 11 years.

LT: Are you happy with the way the vote of no confidence came about?

Lekhanya: Not at all. The people who passed the vote of no confidence against me were not proper constituency representatives. They do not belong to any constituency committees. Delegates from the Mt Moorosi constituency, for instance, were not proper committee members.

LT: Are you saying the delegates who voted you out were a rented crowd?

Lekhanya: Indeed they were rented. But to avoid trouble I just decided to let it be.  The attempt to remove me as leader failed in March and June but this time my rivals made sure they succeeded.  To achieve this people who wanted me out brought people from the streets so that they could be delegates at the conference.

LT: Thesele ‘Maseribane, your deputy comes from the Mt Moorosi constituency. Are you saying even the delegates from his constituency were rented?

Lekhanya: Mt Moorosi does not have a proper constituency committee. He (‘Maseribane) collected people from the constituency to attend the conference as delegates. Those people did not hold any particular positions in the constituency committee. The constitution says a constituency should send five delegates from the constituency. Three of these delegates must be holding positions in the constituency committee. The other two delegates must be nominated by the constituency.

LT: So you are saying even delegates from your Thaba-Tseka constituency were also rented?

Lekhanya: Members of my constituency’s committee did not attend the conference. My chairman was not there. They were all not there. There were some members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) who participated in that conference. They were just branded constituency committee members so that they could help in pushing me out.

LT: From what you are saying it sounds like the whole process was fraudulent. Why did you not challenge the decision?

Lekhanya:  It was fraudulent but I did not want to challenge it because it would have put a wedge in the party. I wanted unity in the party. What is clear is that the general amnesty that we gave to people has had a negative impact on the party. That is why we had people who don’t belong to the party participating in the conference. They were just a rented crowd, most of whom are card-carrying members of the ABC who capitalised on the general amnesty extended to all former members of the BNP. But to avoid unnecessary court cases I had to leave things as they were.

LT: There are allegations that after the vote of no confidence you rushed to consult three lawyers in the hope that they would help you overturn the decision.  They are said to have turned you down arguing that your case did not have merit.

Lekhanya:  It’s a lie. It’s a basic lie. I consulted no lawyer at all. The only person I consulted was the BNP secretary general. He actually advised me to let things be.

LT: Are there any prospects of the BNP reinventing itself?

Lekhanya:  I hope the party will be able to reinvent itself. I hope that by March the party would have made some inroads. But I don’t think it will happen because I am aware that some people have already started hiding crucial party files. There are people who want to line their pockets. There are people who are only after the party’s funds.

LT: Are you saying some senior members have already started looting or they are planning to loot?

Lekhanya: The looting has already started. The normal arrangement is that when members of the executive attend party meetings they are refunded for their transport. But you find that some executive members claim that they have come from Leribe when they actually live in Maseru. Some even claim that they have come from Quthing when they live in Maseru. They have started looting the party coffers.

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