MASERU — For some time the Basotho National Party (BNP) and All Basotho Convention (ABC) have been considered “opposition allies”.
They have fought in one corner against a common opponent, the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
They might differ on who should assume power but they agree on who should leave it: the LCD.
It’s an “alliance” of purpose that has “united” the ABC — Lesotho’s biggest opposition party by way of legislative seats — and the once mighty BNP.
Yet this might soon come to an end.
BNP boss Metsing Lekhanya is furious that ABC leader Tom Thabane is “talking dirty” about the BNP’s history.
The friction started in July when Thabane told a local weekly, the Voice of Free Democrats, that the BNP government which ruled Lesotho from 1970 to 1986 had politicised the civil service.
This, Thabane said in the interview, had allowed the BNP to stuff government offices with party loyalists who were not qualified for the jobs.
The result, he said, was the current inefficient civil service.
Lekhanya responded by writing an angry letter which he said was distributed to newspapers and given to Thabane as well.
Lekhanya said he was angered by Thabane’s remarks and wanted answers from him.
He was also angry that Thabane had not responded to the letter.
“The ABC leader has not responded to our letter of complaint up to now,” Lekhanya said.
“It is a disappointing and disheartening attitude.
“It goes to show there is a serious lack of respect between political parties in Lesotho.”
He said Thabane’s failure to respond showed his “disregard of me and the BNP”.
“The ABC leader’s failure to respond to our letter is a clear indication of his disregard of the BNP and me as its leader,” said Metsing, adding that Thabane’s decision could have been “calculated and intentional”.
“Thabane has not responded on purpose. He is neither dumb nor stupid.
“He is an experienced diplomat who knows what procedures to follow when he has erred.”
Lekhanya said Thabane should be the last person to badmouth the BNP government because he was part of it.
“It’s strange that Thabane is throwing stones now when he was part of the BNP government,” he said.
“Thabane was one of the front-liners of the BNP administration.
“He was the PS of the health ministry and was also the Minister of Interior.
“Therefore it is totally delusional of him to accuse the BNP of wrong-doing.”
Lekhanya said the BNP could not be held accountable for the current sorry state of the public service because the congress movement has been at the helm of power long enough to have “rectified all the purported wrongs of the past”.
Lekhanya said Thabane was also chief adviser to the late BCP leader Ntsu Mokhehle.
He accused Thabane of helping Mokhehle formulate a plan to purge all suspected BNP supporters from government offices when the BCP came to power after the 2003 democratic elections.
“Thabane is totally misled and out of line,” Lekhanya said.
“There was a public service policy put into use by the BCP administration from 1993 which forced civil servants affiliated to the BNP ‘to self-dismiss’ (resign under pressure).
“He was part of the whole strategy.”
Lekhanya said all BNP affiliates have been flushed out of the public service system and replaced by card-carrying members of the LCD.
Lekhanya said he believed Thabane’s remarks were part of his campaign tactics as “is the norm with all other political parties in Lesotho”.
“Parties like BCP, LCD and ABC cannot hold on their own,” he said.
“They always drag the BNP name through the mud by referring to the wrongs of the past.
“They are still attached to the politics of struggle instead of progressive politics.”
Lekhanya said if Thabane’s “unacceptable” behaviour continued he would have no choice but to retaliate.
“This is spoiling relations between us. If they keep on throwing stones at us, we will have no choice but to retaliate,” Lekhanya said.
Thabane said he was not scared.
He said his observations about the BNP government were true because he was one of the senior civil servants at the time.
He also admitted he was part of the “atrocious” policies implemented at that time.
“Though I was not affiliated to the BNP politically, I was part of their administration and there were things they did that were right and there were those that did not go down well with me,” Thabane said.
Thabane said he carried out some of the instructions from the BNP government but it does not help to ignore the truth of what impact those policies had on the country.
He however said he had not seen the letter from Lekhanya.
“If I knew about the letter I would have responded to it. But I have not seen it,” Thabane said.
He denied that his relations with Lekhanya had soured and insisted that they were still “on speaking terms”.
“I was with him the other day and things seemed normal,” Thabane said.
“We are still working well together and you must remember we are opposition allies.”