MASERU — Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Metsing Lekhanya says he is ready to relinquish the reins of the party when his term of office ends in 2012.
Lekhanya, 72, spoke to the Sunday Express on Friday as speculation mounted he wanted to cling on at the helm of the BNP after he outsmarted a faction that sought to topple him at the party’s conference last weekend.
The former military ruler was elected the BNP leader in 1999 but at the time the party did not have term limits until a constitutional amendment in 2007.
The party’s leader can now only be in office for a maximum of two five-year terms.
Lekhanya can still seek another term because he is only in his first term since the tenure limits were introduced.
He, however, said he considered himself to be already in his second term which ends in 2012.
“I am only left with two years in office as my second term which I started in 2007 ends in March 2012,” Lekhanya told the Sunday Express.
“But beyond that I cannot divulge much because I cannot make decisions on my own.
“I am yet to discuss the finer details of my exit strategy with the national executive committee.”
BNP secretary-general Ranthomeng Matete also told this paper that Lekhanya had taken the stance that “his term of office ends in 2012”.
“The BNP leader was endorsed for a five-year term at the party’s 2007 conference and he still has two more years to go as the legitimate BNP leader,” Matete said.
“I do not think a leader with good faith would want to stay further than that.”
A faction led by Moeketsi Hanyane, the former leader of the BNP’s youth wing, is opposed to Lekhanya’s continued stay at the helm of the BNP.
Lekhanya’s opponents accuse him of destroying the BNP, which governed Lesotho from independence in 1965 until 1986.
The party now has three seats in parliament – held by Lekhanya himself, Matete and Seabata Thabisi – thanks to the proportional representation system.
Lekhanya, however, said he wanted to revive the party’s fortunes first before he stepped down.
“It is not that I don’t want to go,” Lekhanya said. “I do want to go but not before I have restored the BNP to its position on the Lesotho political landscape.”
“And not before I have put the party structures back in place,” he added.
“But I also don’t want to leave the party in a mess.
“I just need to use the time I am left with to restore the BNP to its former glory.”
Lekhanya said it was important “to make way for new blood”.
“I am not in the least opposed to new blood taking over,” he said.
“But when that happens it should not only be because people want change, but also because they want to see the BNP progress.”
Attempts to put the election of a new party leader on the agenda of the BNP’s conference last week were quashed on the basis that Lekhanya had already survived a no-confidence vote against him in March.
The anti-Lekhanya faction had planned to nominate Professor Kopano Makoa of the National University of Lesotho to vie for the BNP top post.