By Tefo Tefo
MASERU – The opposition Basotho National Party (BNP) party was on Tuesday thrown into fresh turmoil after five suspended officials vowed to resist attempts to oust them from the party.
BNP leader Major General Metsing Lekhanya on 11 February finally ruled that the five be suspended from the party for the next two years.
Lekhanya was last year tasked by the party to come up with an appropriate sentence for the officials. Two weeks ago Lekhanya ruled that the five be suspended for two years until February 2011.
The suspended officials are BNP youth league president, Alexis Hanyane, youth league organiser Mateisi Mateisi, women’s league president Khoboso Mantsó.
The women’s league vice-president ‘Mapalesa Mosetse and the chairperson for Mt Moorosi constituency, Thesele ‘Maseribane, were also among those slapped with the suspension.
‘Maseribane’s sentence was however wholly suspended.
But in a sharp twist to the case highlighting the internecine struggles within the party the five officials told a press conference on Tuesday that the suspensions were null and void.
The five said they considered the sentence unjust and of no legal consequence.
“We do not accept the decision by Major General Metsing Lekhanya (to suspend us) because the decision was not based on principles of natural justice,” Hanyane told journalists.
The officials said they will lodge a formal appeal against their suspension at the party’s general conference which begins on 27 March.
The BNP national executive committee suspended the five were last March for insubordination and violating the party’s constitution.
The committee accused the five of bringing the party into disrepute after they held press conferences where they denounced Lekhanya.
They accused Lekhanya of ruining the party and lacking a clear vision to drive the party forward.
The suspended officials said their suspension proved that there was a leadership crisis within the BNP.
They said Lekhanya had presided over the disintegration of the former ruling party and should go.
Critics say under Lekhanya’s leadership the BNP is a shadow of its former self as members desert the party to find a home under new political parties.
“Lekhanya has failed to keep BNP supporters united. They are now scattered all over . . . when we discuss these issues we are summoned for disciplinary hearing.
“We want him out of the leadership seat,” said Mateisi during the press conference.
The disgruntled officials said they would mobilise party supporters to demonstrate against Lekhanya if they fail to unseat him at the general conference next month.
“We will use other means such as toyi-toyi to get him out of office if procedural means do not work,” said Mateisi.
The five first appeared before a disciplinary committee last April. They were found guilty of misconduct and were suspended from their positions pending a final decision by Lekhanya.
Under the party’s rules the suspended officials will be barred from participating at the party’s general conference in March.
The conference has been called to review the year’s activities with the secretary general and the treasurer expected to present their reports.
The BNP will next year hold another conference next year to elect a new national executive committee for the party.
Mantsó told the press conference that the suspensions were meant to stop them from raising key issues affecting the party.
“The sentences were passed at this time so that we could not participate at the conference to elect a new executive committee of the party,” said Mantsó.
The suspended officials were adamant that they would not be silenced.
“Preventing us from speaking about issues within the BNP is the same as killing us because we are politicians and cannot live without politicking,” said ‘Maseribane.
Contacted for comment BNP general secretary Ranthomeng Matete said the suspension of the five was final and non-reversible.
“Clause 8 (d) of our constitution stipulates that a sentenced member of the party has no right to appeal against his or her sentence either to the party or its members.
“However the conference may, out of its own volition, review the decisions made by the leader of the party,” said Matete.
Matete dismissed the suspended officials’ accusations that the party had lost support because of Lekhanya’s lack of leadership skills.
He said they were trying to shift collective responsibility to an individual.
“Some of the suspended officials were members of the national executive committee and they had collective responsibility to ensure sustainability of the party.
“Now that they have been suspended they want to shift the blame to the individual. It is wrong” Matete said.
Lekhanya could not be reached for comment on his mobile phone.