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The Brave BNP General

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Brave bnp general lekhanyaMASERU — If the Basotho National Party (BNP) were a company it would surely have closed shop by now.

Its political profits are almost non-existent and customers (read voters) are shunning it.

It’s a good thing that it is not a profit-making organisation so its leaders can afford to cling on to what is left of this once mighty party even when supporters have deserted.

The BNP has been losing supporters in droves for the past 10 years.

Picture this: in the 1998 general election the BNP got 143 000 votes but by the 2002 elections that number had whittled down to 124 000 votes. And in the 2007 elections the losses were even more stupendous with the party only managing 29 000 votes.

The BNP has three seats in parliament, a far cry from the 23 the party held after the 2002 elections.

Just last Sunday the BNP could only draw 150 supporters to the party’s rally in Qoatsaneng.

The numbers tell a story of a party that is slowly but surely sliding into oblivion.

It’s a story of a former ruling party that has fallen with a big thud.

Ordinarily, such numbers should startle any party leader but BNP boss Metsing Lekhanya is putting on a brave face.

Not even allegations that he has forced thousands of followers to defect to the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party seem to alarm Lekhanya.

Those that have been expelled from the party for what the leaders call indiscipline say Lekhanya is the reason supporters have fled the party.

They say he must go.

Yet Lekhanya says the party is still quite intact and those that want him out are “just power-hungry people that are too impatient to wait for their turn to lead”.

He says he is aware of these accusations but insists they come from people who are “just so thirsty for power and would do anything to achieve their goals”.

The former military supremo, who toppled the Leabua Jonathan-led government in a bloodless coup in 1986, says the accusations come from people who are “capitalising on my military background to project me like the bad guy. People who claim that I am at the centre of the internal fights within the BNP are lost,” Lekhanya says.

“Fights are caused by those who are impatient and ill-disciplined.

“I mean those people who see submitting to authority as a waste of time, people who take shortcuts in life.

“They are agitators and are not in the least humble. Where they come from they have battered party structures and destroyed constituency committees.”

For Lekhanya the allegations are “yet another absurd and baseless attempt to drag my name through the mud”.

Still he does not deny that under his leadership the BNP has lost supporters to the ABC.

What he denies are the reasons for these massive defections.

“Our people went to join the ABC because they believed they could destroy the LCD by supporting the ABC,” Lekhanya says.

“But they have since realised that they could not do it and are now returning home.

“I never tell members to leave the party. We only discipline people and suspend them in some cases.

“I do not believe I have the power to expel people from the party they love.”

Even those defections don’t mean that the party is dying, says Lekhanya.

“It is just wishful thinking,” he says. “The BNP has never been more alive.

“To gauge its strength by its representation in parliament is a big mistake.”

Lekhanya says he is now working on reviving the party.

“The BNP excelled in agriculture and good governance,” he says.

“Apart from a few differences here and there, political parties generally agree that the BNP regime was the best.

“These are some of the things we have to remind our supporters about.

“They are already coming back home in droves.

“We are staging rallies across the country and I can assure you that by December this year you will be able to see the difference,” he adds.

“Many of our supporters will be coming back home.”

That sounds like an extremely ambitious adventure considering that this is a party whose history is tainted by political coups and authoritarian tendencies.

Lekhanya insists that the BNP’s history is clean and will not be a major issue when he launches his campaigns to win back supporters.

“Our military rule was not dictatorial at all,” he says.

“That is why I was the first leader to introduce leadership conferences within the BNP, to make way for consultation between supporters and leaders.

“Most of the things people say about the BNP are untrue.

“If we had committed any atrocities against humanity, we would have been tried before the International Criminal Court like former Liberian president Charles Taylor.”

Lekhanya says the allegations are meant to discredit the party.

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