NEWLY-ELECTED Basotho National Party (BNP) secretary general, Tšepo Lethobane, stands accused of using his position in the teachers’ unions for his own political agenda.
The restive teachers coalesced under the banner of three teachers’ unions- the Lesotho Principals Association (LeSPA), the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) and the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and staged a countrywide strike which paralysed the education sector in August 2019.
As a representative of LeSPA, Mr Lethobane has been one of the key players in the negotiations with the government over the teachers’’ demands for higher salaries and improved working conditions.
But his election to the top BNP post at the party’s elective conference in Mazenod last week has however not been well-received by fellow unionist and chairperson of LAT, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, who says he is in breach of laws and regulations which bar teachers from being politically active.
“It is very unfortunate that things have come to this. Teachers have regulations that bar them from being politically active and he (Lethobane) shouldn’t have used the teachers’ grievances for his political mileage,” Mr Ntsibolane said.
“The least he (Lethobane) could have done would have been to resign from the teaching service that would have shown maturity.
“Congratulations to him on his new post but it is sad that he has left us in this quandary. He should have used the right ways to ascend the political ladder. He has left us in a mess where some teachers have not been paid and some have died due to stress. Honestly it is very unfair that he (Lethobane) gained his political mileage from using the teachers’ plight.”
Mr Ntsibolane said by contesting for political office, Mr Lethobane breached the Teaching Service Regulations 2002 and the Codes of Good Practice of 2011.
According to Section 41 (2) (f) of the Teaching Service Regulations, “A charge of misconduct may be issued if a teacher has used his position as a teacher to further private or political party aims or to encourage disobedience or resistance to the laws of Lesotho or accepted appointment to any position in or connected with a committee or branch of any political party”.
Section 3 (2) (k) of the Code of Good Practice 2011 states that “a teacher shall not use his position to further private or party political aims or accept candidature in national or local council elections”.
However, Mr Lethobane denied any wrongdoing, saying, “I have done my part and delivered as assigned by teachers”.
“We have successfully rounded up the negotiations with the government over the teachers’ grievances and all that is left is just the implementation of the teaching structure and for the salary arrears to be paid.
“I’m a man of my words and I have delivered on my assignment. I have set the standard very high for teachers in generations to come. I have been the chief negotiator and I am not surprised that there are people who are complaining, people never stop talking,” said Mr Lethobane.
He said his and fellow teachers’ political affiliations were not a secret and known to each other and therefore it was surprising that his BNP membership was now being held against him.
“We all have political inclinations and why is mine being aired and made an issue? As teachers’ representatives, we even went to the extent of showing our political membership cards to one another to make sure that we were on the same page and fighting for a common cause.
“This after we realised that our grievances were not being given attention because it was thought we were in the opposition. Once our political affiliations were known to each other, we agreed to go to our respective party leaders who are in government to convince them to listen to us and to be honest with us because we were members of the parties in the governing coalition.”
The governing coalition comprises of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD), Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane’s BNP.
Mr Lethobane said he would use his new party post to push for the implementation of a new teaching structure and payment of the teachers’ salary arrears.
“I know my worth and what I will bring to the BNP table. As a man of principles, I believe in accountability, responsibility, love and consideration and I know these values are enough to turn things around in my party.
“This country has to change for the better and I believe I will play a critical role in achieving that change. I know every constituency in this country and I am going to use that to my party’s advantage. Hence I promise we will win the 2023 elections and I will win the Thaba-Putsoa constituency,” said Mr Lethobane.