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Matete enters BNP leadership fray

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU – Basotho National Party (BNP) secretary general Ranthomeng Matete has thrown his name into the ring as the battle for the presidency of the party heats up.

The party’s interim leader Thesele ’Maseribane has also joined the race.

’Maseribane told a press briefing attended by hordes of BNP youth cadres on Friday night that he was joining the race for the presidency.

 Matete had by then announced his candidature through a press release earlier on the same day.

’Maseribane, 50, was appointed interim BNP leader following the ouster of former leader Metsing Lekhanya in December last year.

’Maseribane is the son of late BNP veteran Chief Sekhonyana ’Maseribane of Mt Moororsi in the Quthing district.

On the other hand Matete, 61, has been serving as BNP secretary general since 2003.

A firm favourite of Lekhanya for the BNP leadership post, Matete’s impressive resume includes a decade-long stint as the late Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan’s senior private secretary from 1977 to 1986.

The two will be contesting for the top post alongside party veterans Majara Molapo, Professor Kopano Makoa, Pius Molapo and ’Mabatloung Lillane at the party’s March 25-27 elective conference.

Addressing the media at the Emmanuel Hostel on Friday night, ’Maseribane said he had decided to try out for the position following encouragement from his Mt Moorosi constituency.

He said if elected his main aim would be to rebuild the BNP to its former glory.

“But I cannot do it alone. I can only achieve it with the help of all BNP supporters and the Basotho people,” ’Maseribane said.

We need to rebuild the party’s policies so that the BNP can be a political home that people can escape to, he said.

’Maseribane said he would ensure that the BNP established friendships with the international community as was the case “during the party’s heyday”.

“The BNP was a strong and popular party worldwide with friends from the international community. We need to revive that,” ’Maseribane said.

“But those have to be relations that accommodate people’s rights instead of trampling on them.”

The former BNP youth leader described himself as a dynamic person with outstanding qualities.

“I’m a good listener. I have even managed to convince some LCD members to relinquish their membership and join the BNP,” ’Maseribane said, showing off a few LCD membership cards for all to see.

He said if voted BNP leader, he would refrain from the practice of expelling people from the party the same way Lekhanya did.

“People fight all the time especially in a political organisation like the BNP,” ’Maseribane said.

But there must be firm structures in place to deal with conflict instead of rushing to expel people, he said.

“I have been expelled from the BNP a couple of times and I know the feeling very well. I wouldn’t wish that on someone else,” he said.

He said he had worked hard to ensure that a general amnesty was extended to party members who had strayed or were expelled.

Although he said he hated discriminatory politics, ’Maseribane was quick to say that he would not hesitate to take disciplinary measures against “members who violate the constitution”.

He admitted that the executive committee had written letters to members of the pro-Makoa faction within the BNP who had been violating section 19 (c) of the constitution by campaigning for the former National University of Lesotho (NUL) academic without first notifying the party’s head office.

“If we were to just operate without reminding each other of our constitutional obligations, we would be way out of line,” ’Maseribane said.

Asked if it was true that he had masterminded the letters to scare off the Makoa camp for fear of competition, ’Maseribane downplayed the question saying “I have nothing against Makoa”.

“Why would I? By the way, where’s Makoa? I’ve never seen him at the BNP office,” ‘Maseribane said.

“The weird thing is that all people who are candidates for the elective conference are always at the office. What sets him apart?”   

Matete on the other hand refrained from being sentimental instead briefly calling on BNP supporters to “join me in this cause”.

If elected, Matete said he would continue to work for the party and its successes with loyalty.

“I will also work on the foundations bequeathed to us by Dr Leabua Jonathan which have been a basis for the towering stature glorifying our party locally and abroad,” Matete said.

According to Matete these key foundations were the belief in God, democratic governance, promotion of individual initiative in the economy and co-existence between all countries of the world.

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