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Major boost for Mofomobe in BNP leadership elections

’Marafaele Mohloboli

ACTING Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Machesetsa Mofomobe received a major boost ahead of the party’s leadership elections which were due last night.

This after one of the leadership hopefuls, ‘Machere Seutloali, pulled out at the last minute and endorsed him for the top job.

Addressing a Friday press conference at the party headquarters in Maseru, Ms Seutloali said she was pulling out for the sake of party unity.

“I have always been clear that all that I want is unity for this party for a better Lesotho,” Ms Seutloali said.

“I have come to a point where I realise that since we have huge masses behind us, it is only good that we don’t divide the party, especially with the national elections just around the corner in 2022.

“I know that this might not make sense to some of those who vouched for me and supported me throughout the race. But it had to be done because to me what really matters is the unity and the oneness of the party.

“I therefore announce that I am withdrawing from the race and I’m giving all my support to Ntate Machesetsa. It is not a difficult thing to do because we had always pledged that we would accept the outcome of the results. If I am to be the sacrificial lamb, so be it,” Ms Seutloali said.

On his part, Mr Mofomobe said he was humbled by Ms Seutloali’s actions, adding she had always shown maturity throughout the race.

“This is not something that just happened overnight. It has been a process and it is worth noting that we are a party of firsts.

“We are the only party that has a clear term of office in its constitution, the only one that has openly held debates. We have set a precedent,” Mr Mofomobe said at the same press conference.

That same Friday evening, High Court Judge Tšeliso Monapathi also threw out an urgent application by some disgruntled BNP members to stop the elective conference 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 withdrawal of the youthful Ms Seutloali, widely viewed as Mr Mofomobe’s most serious challenger, opened the door for his expected victory.

Barring any upsets, party insiders say the Deputy Foreign Affairs and International Relations minister is the frontrunner to succeed former leader Thesele ‘Maseribane whose term ended in March this year. Chief ‘Maseribane has however, been in charge of the party since then and it was only a Friday High Court judgement by Judge Keketso Moahloli which confirmed that his term had actually expired in March.

He handed down the judgement in an application that had been brought before him by seven prominent members of the BNP.

The seven are ‘Mota Nkuatsana, Moorosi Moshoeshoe, Emmanuel ‘Mako, Lesiamo Molapo, Mochai Mochai, Matobo ‘Mabathoana and Michael Mohasi.

The BNP, BNP national executive committee (NEC), Chief ‘Maseribane and Mr Mofomobe were the first to fourth respondents respectively in the application.

The seven had filed a 25 March 2021 application for the removal of Chief ‘Maseribane, who is also Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister. They wanted Mr Mofomobe to hold fort until a new leader is elected.

The seven had asked that their application be treated with urgency, alleging that there would be “war and anarchy” within the BNP if Chief ‘Maseribane is not removed with immediate effect from the BNP leadership.

The matter was initially supposed to be heard on 1 April 2021 but it was postponed on several occasions and judgement was finally handed down on Thursday.

This meant that the ruling against Chief ‘Maseribane was more academic as he clung on until the start of the elective conference over the weekend.

Nevertheless, Chief ‘Maseribane was given the opportunity to address the party faithful yesterday at the Thotamoli Conference Centre in Mazenod where the elections are being held.

He made an impassioned plea to all members to respect and uphold the party’s constitution at all times.

“Through the ten years of my tenure, I have asked so much of you and you have always obliged and it is in this spirit that I am urging you to keep this party intact for me,” an emotional Chief ‘Maseribane said.

“Please respect the party constitution and refrain from taking the party’s affairs to the courts of law because a party that takes its differences to court is not a party.

“Please handle this party with care because it is the hope of all Basotho. Take care of one another as well. Being a leader means forgetting your personal and family interests.”

He said even though he was now taking a back seat, he would always be available to give advice when needed.

He urged the winner to be magnanimous in victory and not mock those who lost.

On his part, Mr Mofomobe said they were happy to give Chief ‘Maseribane an opportunity to make his valedictory address despite the court ruling which said his leadership had expired in March.

“In as much as we respect the courts of law, we couldn’t just let our leader go without addressing us,” said Mr Mofomobe.

Meanwhile, it was unclear last night how many contestants were still in the race. Only Mr Mofomobe and ‘Malineo Motšepe were at the conference venue ahead of the start of the voting last night. The other three contestants, Lesiamo Molapo, Lesojane Leuta and Lehlohonolo Mosotho were a no show, prompting speculation that they could have chickened out.

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