Time up for Lekhanya

THE leader of the opposition Basotho National Party (BNP), Justin Metsing Lekhanya, last weekend survived by the skin of his teeth a major putsch led by party elements that are fiercely opposed to his leadership.

Lekhanya is under tremendous pressure to quit from rival factions of the BNP who have been clamouring for his ouster since 2007.

The party conference held last weekend was inconclusive after the faction opposed to Lekhanya failed to garner the 75 percent vote required to pass a no-confidence vote against the party leader.

The party will meet again within 30 days to deal with the matter.

While Lekhanya might resort to political shenanigans to delay the inevitable, he needs to be told that the writing is now certainly on the wall.

The time is up for the grand old man of Lesotho’s politics.

Lekhanya, who turns 72 on April 7, is a former military ruler who usurped power through a coup on January 20 1986.

The former army major ruled Lesotho for five years until he was toppled in yet another coup on May 2 1991 in what was a tumultuous phase in our history.

Lekhanya’s record during that phase is an albatross on his neck.

This brief history puts into perspective his pretentious claims to be a democrat at heart.

But when we thought historians should have been sitting down to write Lekhanya’s political obituary, the man made a dramatic comeback when he was elected the leader of the BNP in March 1999.

In spite of his chequered political career Lekhanya defied the odds and bounced back into our national politics, thanks to our forgiving spirit as Basotho.

Lekhanya has called the shots in the BNP for 11 years.

If he wins again, Lekhanya would serve a further three-year term to take his tenure at the helm of the party to 14 years.

Herein lies the root of the party’s problems.

At 72, Lekhanya is a veteran politician who must have seen it all.

But he must have the wisdom to accept that he is not getting any younger and the party needs fresh minds to take the battle forward.

It would be political suicide for the BNP not to see this bare truth.

Lekhanya has had ample time to shape the BNP in his image over the past 11 years.

Now is the time for the man to hand over the reins to a younger and energetic successor.

We cannot fathom why Lekhanya would want to be dragged out of office, screaming and kicking, unless he sees leadership of the party as a career.

He should retire to his village and write his memoirs.

In the absence of term limits, the BNP runs the risk of retaining the same old and tired faces in positions of leadership.

This would have a negative impact on our young democracy.

The BNP must therefore not let this grand opportunity to effect leadership renewal within the party slip.

Without leadership renewal the party is doomed. It stares oblivion in the face.

The forces of change within the BNP must therefore be encouraged to continue their push for regeneration of the leadership.

We think it is in the BNP’s interest to push vigorously for such change.

Under Lekhanya’s dour leadership the BNP’s political fortunes have continued to nose-dive reducing what was once a political behemoth into a midget.

As party leader, Lekhanya must answer for this dramatic loss in support.

Dissident supporters of the BNP blame the party’s collapse on Lekhanya’s leadership style.

They say he is aloof and dictatorial.

Critics say Lekhanya, despite taking off his army uniform, remains a military man at heart.

They argue that this probably explains the man’s aloof leadership style.

Lesotho’s young democracy stands to gain from a dynamic opposition that can keep the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy-led government in check.

We are not going to get value from the same tired faces that have been recycled over and over again in the past two decades.

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