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Daggers drawn as BNP leader, SG face off

’Marafaele Mohloboli | Bongiwe Zihlangu

THE battle lines have been drawn between Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, and party secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane.

This as the outspoken opposition leader has vowed to haul Mr Hanyane before a disciplinary committee to explain his “unconstitutional, unacceptable and false claims” that he had been made the scapegoat for the party’s dismal showing at the 7 October 2022 elections where it failed to win even a single seat.

Mr Hanyane, who had called a press conference on Tuesday to air his grievances, last night performed a U-turn, saying he had withdrawn all the allegations he had made against Mr Mofomobe.

He issued a statement, saying he had called the press conference without the party’s national executive committee (NEC)’s permission, thus violating the BNP constitution. He added that his judgement had been clouded by anger when he called the presser.

It remains to be seen if this withdrawal will save him from the wrath of Mr Mofomobe or end the strife in the BNP.

The party, which led the country from independence from Britain in 1966 until it was overthrown in a military coup in 1986, has been in progressive decline since multi-party democracy was reintroduced in 1993.

Just like in the previous 2017 elections, the BNP failed to win a single seat at the 7 October 2022 polls. Unlike in 2017 where it was awarded five proportional representation (PR) seats, the BNP was only awarded a single seat this time around. That seat has been taken up by the party leader, Mofomobe.

The fallout from the party’s disastrous showing which has been bubbling under the surface, finally came to the fore this week with Mr Hanyane firing the first salvo at Mr Mofomobe.

Addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in downtown Maseru, Mr Hanyane said Mr Mofomobe had no one but himself to blame for the BNP’s poor showing at the polls which were convincingly won by new Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party.

“It is with great dismay that I have to explain myself in this fashion.

“For a long time, the party’s problems have been placed on my shoulders. I’ve been accused of obstructing the leader from doing his duties effectively,” Mr Hanyane said.

He said name calling in the party, mutual insults, the misuse of funds and lack of collective responsibility in the leadership were the main factors behind the BNP’s dismal performance at the recent and previous polls. He said these factors had chased away donors who wanted to refurbish the BNP headquarters and take the party forward.

“In February this year, I had said that the party would be signing a contract for the refurbishment of our building. The failure to sign this contract affected the party in a bad way as the funders would have also helped us to purchase a fleet of vehicles for use during the election campaign. It was the leader (Mofomobe)’s unilateral decision to scupper the project of refurbishing the BNP Centre.

“Ahead of the polls, billboards with the leader’s face ought to have been put up nationwide. But this never materialised as the funder pulled out due to our leader’s failure to submit designs which included his pictures,” Mr Hanyane said.

He said funds for running the youth and women’s league committees as well as rentals were diverted to host party rallies.

“The Maputsoe, Quthing, Mafeteng and Teyateyaneng rallies were funded from rentals. The party ought to have received M175 000 for its election campaign from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) but we ended up getting only M15 000. This was because those who were previously in charge of the party office did not comply with IEC requirements to file relevant documents relating to party agents as expected.

“They did not return the IEC documents signed by party agents for the 2017 local government elections. This cost the party another M111 000. Some people now want to shift the blame to the secretary general and the treasurer for this fiasco.”

Mr Hanyane also took a swipe at Mr Mofomobe for his utterances and conduct during the run-up to the polls which he said had put off some potential voters.

“Another issue which contributed to our dismal performance was the leader’s announcement at a rally that he had made peace with the Democratic Congress (DC) leader. This didn’t sit well with party members in various constituencies.

“Instead of selling party policies at rallies, he (Mofomobe) chose to demean and criticise other party leaders. This got a lot of people talking and wondering how they could vote for such a leader.”

Mr Hanyane said he had been insulted on social media platforms and his name had been dragged in the mud in the presence of Mr Mofomobe but the latter did nothing about it.

“At his star rally, the leader said some party officials  were impeding him from working as they were taking orders from former leader, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane. These are some of the things that led to the dismal performance of the BNP in the elections. The party lost 16 000 votes compared to the previous polls in 2017.”

Mr Hanyane said Mr Mofomobe’s attacks on the government reflected his personal views, not the party position as the NEC had not met to decide their position regarding the new RFP-led government.

Stung by Mr Hanyane’s criticism, Mr Mofomobe and other NEC members yesterday called a press conference of their own at the party headquarters.

“Everything the secretary general said were lies,” Mr Mofomobe said.

“What he did was as good as washing our dirty linen in public and that is not how this party operates. That was uncalled for and we are going to deal with him after the disciplinary committee has heard his case.

“Regarding his claims about the aborted refurbishment of our headquarters, I had engaged the NEC and informed it of my fears concerning the said investor. It’s not that I refused; all I asked is that I be given a chance to do due diligence before engaging the funder. The NEC agreed with me.

“As for the billboards, we all agreed that we should rather focus on branding our cars with our logos as they would be seen by many people as we went about campaigning.

“Coming to the issue of the DC, I don’t see any problem working with that party. It’s not a sin. It happens all the times in politics. By now anyone should know that there are no enemies in politics. I’ve had to strike deals with people I never thought I would find myself with like Ntate (Mothetjoa) Metsing (of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy) and others. I have never acted on my own but always in consultation with the party’s NEC.

“So, why would it be a sin that I said that I want to work with (DC leader Mathibeli) Mokhothu? My only difference with the DC is that they wanted (murder and treason-accused) former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, to be freed while we wanted him and other suspects to stand trial to finality. Apart from that, it is no sin to have a relationship with Mokhothu,” Mr Mofomobe said.