MASERU — The Basotho Congress Party (BCP) is set to hold an elective conference in Mafeteng on January 26 and 27, over a year after it nearly experienced a third split.
Party leader Thulo Mahlakeng told the Lesotho News Agency (Lena) that starting from this year the BCP will hold its conferences outside Maseru in an effort to reach out to members in the districts.
The BCP has been holding its conferences in Maseru ever since its return from exile in 1991.
Mahlakeng said the party planned to rotate the conferences around the districts to take the party closer to the people.
This year’s conference comes after some of its stalwarts attempted to oust Mahlakeng from leadership in 2011 saying he had changed its name behind their backs.
The stalwarts, Ntsukunyane Mphanya and Matsobane Putsoa, were complaining that Mahlakeng had changed the party’s name from Basutoland Congress Party to Basotho Congress Party which meant that the party was no longer the same.
Mahlakeng heaved a sigh of relief when in January last year the Court of Appeal President Justice Michael Ramodibedi ruled that the Basotho Congress Party and the Basutoland Congress Party are one and the same entity ending a month-old row over the name of the party.
The judgment meant Mahlakeng remained the legitimate and only leader of the BCP which had been torn by bitter factional fights.
Justice Ramodibedi ruled that Mahlakeng was correct in insisting his nemesis, Putsoa and Mphanya, were wrong to suggest the Basotho Congress Party and the Basutoland Congress party were two different entities.
Putsoa and Mphanya, supported by a committee of 17 members, had planned to hold a special conference in January last year to elect a new national executive committee of the Basutoland Congress Party while sidelining Mahlakeng and the Basotho Congress Party executive committee.
They also wanted to register with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as a different entity from the Basotho Congress Party, saying Mahlakeng had formed “a thing of his” that had no connection with their party.
They also wanted Mahlakeng and the Basotho Congress Party to vacate the party headquarters in Maseru alleging the party did not have any offices.
The Putsoa-led faction also wanted to stop Mahlakeng and the Basotho Congress Party from collecting rentals from tenants at the party’s properties arguing the properties belonged to the Basutoland Congress Party.
If Justice Ramodibedi had not ruled that the Basutoland Congress Party and the Basotho Congress Party were one party, Putsoa and Mphanya would have held their elective conference and ousted Mahlakeng from the party offices.
Mahlakeng would also have found himself being struck off the party’s candidate list for the 2012 general election.
Putsoa’s faction had asked for an order which would have restrained the IEC and the Registrar of Societies from dealing with the affairs of the Basotho Congress Party after the High Court had in 2011 ruled that Basotho Congress Party and the Basutoland Congress Party were two different entities.
Following this ruling, the faction led by Putsoa and Mphanya began arrangements to prepare for an annual general meeting to elect their party’s national executive committee.
Mahlakeng appealed against the High Court decision.
The BCP never held any general conference since then.
Mahlakeng confirmed to Lena that Lesotho’s oldest political party was weakened by two splits.
The near fatal split was in 1997 when the founding member and leader Ntsu Mokhehle toppled the government he led by forming the Lesotho Congress for Democracy in parliament, making the party that had won all 65 constituencies to become an opposition.
The second split was in 2002 when Molapo Qhobela, who had been elected leader after Mokhehle’s defection, formed the Basutoland African Congress after months of infighting with Mphanya.
Mahlakeng said it’s high time that the party engaged in educating voters the difference between BCP ideology and other parties’.