MASERU — The Basotho National Party (BNP) youth league will today celebrate the party’s return to power after 27 years of “wandering in the wilderness”. The BNP government led by Chief Leabua Jonathan was toppled in a military coup on January 20, 1986. The party performed dismally in all national elections since the restoration of democracy in 1993. The BNP only won five proportional representation seats in last May’s general election but joined the Thomas Thabane-led coalition government as a junior partner. BNP youth league president, Tšeliso Lesenya, told a press conference on Friday that January 20, 2013 is significant year for the former ruling party because “it finds us part of government once again”.
“Twenty-seven years ago, the BNP government led by the late Dr Leabua Jonathan was overthrown by the military with the aid of South Africa’s apartheid government,” Lesenya said.
“This year January 20 finds us as part of government, although this time around it’s a coalition government voted for by Basotho.” Lesenya was flanked by BNP youth league deputy secretary general ’Machere Seutloali and party spokesperson Tšepo Monethi. “Every year on January 20 we bow our heads in shame. But this year we’re going on a journey of self-introspection now that we’re back in government,” Seutloali said.
“This time we will hold a holy mass to thank God for carrying us for twenty-seven years and guiding us back into government.” Last year’s May 26 general election saw former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party fail to garner a simple majority to form a government. This paved the way for Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the BNP to cobble a deal to form a coalition government. Lesenya boasted that during their tenure in government the BNP built resilient tar roads which to date remain in good condition, launched nationwide self-help projects, established the Central Bank of Lesotho, Lesotho Bank and the Agricultural Development Bank and the Lesotho Building Finance.
“That government also built the Moshoeshoe I International Airport and established the Lesotho Airways. But sadly all those establishments were sold by the congress movement when they came into power,” Lesenya said.
Among other developments by the BNP government, Lesenya said, were the founding of the Lesotho National Development Corporation whose purpose was to lure investors to Lesotho to create industries such as the Basotho Cannery and textile factories. In spite of all the achievements, Lesenya was quick to admit that the BNP government also committed atrocities “which we want to put behind us as the youth”. “Our successes don’t mean that we did not make mistakes as a government. That is why as the youth league we’re intent, from the bottom of our hearts, on righting the wrongs of the past,” Lesenya said.
“Our intention is to work hard to restore those facilities that we built but were neglected while letting go of the negative aspects of the former BNP government.” The comments about the congress parties wrecking BNP development projects could likely trigger a bitter war-of-words with the LCD which is part of the coalition government. The LCD was in power for 14 years before it was toppled in a palace coup after Mosisili dumped the party and formed the DC last February. Monethi said they do not think raising these issues could destabilise the coalition government.
“We will be restoring those facilities together without pointing fingers or being conscious of our political party colours. We will be working with them (congress movement) to restore everything,” Monethi said.
To commemorate the day, the BNP will organise a Holy Mass this morning at the party’s grounds before proceeding to Durham Link along the Maqalika Dam for celebrations.