Disgruntled BNP seek Mofomobe’s ouster
TWENTY Basotho National Party (BNP) constituency committees are demanding the ouster of party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, barely a month after his controversial election.
Mr Mofomobe, who is also deputy Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, was elected BNP leader at the party’s conference at the Mazenod Thotamoli Conference Hall last month.
He succeeded Small Business, Marketing and Cooperatives Minister Thesele Maseribane whose second and final tenure ended in March this year. His 12 June 2021 election was however, marred by violent clashes among party’s supporters which culminated in the fatal shooting of an elderly female party member, ‘Mabuang Mazinyo. Another male party member, Mosoeunyane Sehapi, is lucky to be alive after being shot in the rib cage. Mr Mofomobe was subsequently called in for questioning by the Mazenod police over the shooting incidents but no arrests have been made to date.
The conference went ahead after High Court Judge, Tšeliso Monapathi, threw out a last-minute urgent application by some disgruntled BNP members to stop it on the grounds that their Qalo, Qoaling and Ketane constituencies were not properly represented. This publication was unable to access the court papers showing the names of the seven applicants. However, Justice Monapathi ruled that the conference should go ahead as the applicants had delayed to lodge their application. He said money had been spent and preparations had been made for 80 of the party’s constituencies to attend the conference. The constituencies that were aggrieved were only three, an insignificant number, the judge ruled.
This and the last-minute withdrawal of the youthful ‘Machere Seutloali, widely viewed as Mr Mofomobe’s most serious challenger, paved the way for his subsequent victory.
However, some constituency committees are still aggrieved and now want Mr Mofomobe’s triumph nullified on the grounds that the elections were not free and fair.
In their identical 10 July 2021 letters to the party’s national executive committee (NEC), the committees list various grievances ranging from the failure to provide them with food, the intimidation of other contestants by Mr Mofomobe’s supporters to the fatal shooting of a party member as some of the issues which rendered his election null and void.
“We write this letter with great shame given the appalling manner in which the leadership conference held at Mazenod was administered,” the committees state in their letters which were seen by the Sunday Express this weekend.
“The trampling upon and disrespect of the party constitution at that conference has left us in great shame. We humbly, and with all due respect, would like you to inform us in writing if at all there are certain things which could have led to the setting aside of some clauses of the constitution.
“We are seeking clarity as to why there was no accommodation and food prepared for us, why there was no party merchandise at the conference as is normally the case.
“We would also like to know why such a small hall was chosen to host the conference when the number of the representatives was already known. We think this was deliberately done to defraud and weaken the conference as well as sow divisions among the representatives so that they may be frustrated and tense.
“We were not even given sanitisers, face masks and mere toilet paper. All over the place, there were people wearing clothes branded with Mofomobe’s images and not any of the other contestants. Most of the people who attended did not even wear their masks, and this really says no one cared about what would happen to the lives of those who had gathered there. Those people also sang vulgar songs meant to degrade other contestants.”
The committees also argue the elections should not have gone ahead after the fatal shooting of the 69-year-old Ms Mazinyo and the near-fatal shooting of Mr Sehapi whose age was not given.
“The conference went ahead despite that there were shootings that claimed a life. It went ahead as if nothing had happened. This incident was the first of its kind in this party’s history. You have really embarrassed us with this unfortunate incident.
“With powers vested in us by section 16 (b) (i) of the party constitution we order the NEC to nullify the 12 June 2021 conference as the elections were not free and fair. They were tense, lacked transparency and therefore unclean.
“The NEC should set a fresh date for elections that will be free and fair for party members to elect their leader. The election should be held at another venue under a transparent administration,” the committees state.
Contacted for comment, BNP spokesperson ‘Masetota Leshota said she had only heard about the letter from the Lithabaneng constituency committee and she was yet to receive letters from the committees.
She said it was “surprising” that the committees had taken over a month to raise their grievances.
“It is even more surprising because all constituencies which had grievances, had them addressed at the conference. However, they are free to exercise their democratic right to challenge the elections outcome,” Ms Leshota said.
BNP deputy secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane, said he had so far received only one letter from the Lithabaneng constituency committee.
“I have so far received a letter from the Lithabaneng constituency and we will respond in due course,” he said.