MASERU — A Basotho National Party (BNP) faction calling itself “Members of Goodwill” will today hold the annual Leabua Jonathan Memorial Lecture without the party’s executive committee.
Jonathan became Lesotho’s first prime minister after winning the first democratic election in 1965.
When the BNP lost the election to the Basotholand Congress Party in 1970, Jonathan refused to cede power and suspended the constitution.
He jailed opposition leaders and ruled the country until 1986 when he was ousted by the military. He died in 1987.
Despite his dictatorial rule Jonathan is still revered by many in the BNP as a visionary leader.
Different BNP factions have always tried to associate with his legacy and family.
The “Members of Goodwill” group is led by the former BNP youth leader Moeketsi Hanyane, a garrulous activist who has had running battles with the party’s successive leaderships.
Hanyane told the Sunday Express on Friday that his group had not invited the BNP executive committee led by Thesele ’Maseribane.
“Why should we invite or give them a platform? Have they ever shown initiative with regard to issues pertaining to commemorating the life of the BNP founder?”
“We don’t even need their permission. My understanding is that all BNP members of goodwill have the right to express pride in their party and its founder.”
Hanyane said they were organising the event with the late Jonathan’s family.
“We are making all the arrangements with the family of the BNP founder. We have his family’s blessings to go ahead with the memorial lecture,” Hanyane said.
The Leabua Jonathan Memorial Lecture was their way of commemorating Jonathan’s life and achievements both locally and internationally, he added.
“He achieved a lot in his lifetime for Lesotho. It was a year after he became prime minister in 1965, that Lesotho got her independence from the Britain.”
“It was also during his time as prime minister that the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) were established.”
The now defunct Lesotho Bank, Lesotho Flour Mills and Moshoeshoe I International Airport were also set up while Jonathan was in power, Hanyane said.
When contacted for comment on Friday, Ranthomeng Matete, the BNP secretary general and Jonathan’s personal aide for more than a decade, told this paper that they knew nothing about today’s memorial lecture.
“We’ve only heard about it on radio and in the streets. We know nothing about it,” Matete said. “Our position though is that much as we see nothing wrong with people commemorating the life of the BNP founder at least they could have consulted with the headquarters”.
“Even if it’s something done purely out of goodwill, it puts a dent on the image of the party if it’s not done in unison. We appeal to all BNP members to come so that we can work as one”.
He said the party did not have a problem with Jonathan’s family working with Hanyane’s group.
“It’s the family’s prerogative to work with members of the party it wants. But the truth of the matter is that we would prefer for them to consult with the party on public events concerning the BNP founder,” Matete said.
The family spokesperson and Jonathan’s eldest daughter, Ntahli yesterday said they were not necessarily working with the Hanyane faction but they gave their blessings.
“They came to inform us of their plans and we gave them the go-ahead because we felt there was absolutely nothing wrong with the memorial lecture,” Ntahli said.
“You must know that they are divided into two or three factions. We don’t have a favourite group that we work with when it comes to events of this nature. We work with everybody.”
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