MASERU — Khauhelo Ralitapole, the leader of the Basutoland African Congress (BAC), says she is stepping down “to make way for new blood”, the Lesotho Times can reveal.
Ralitapole said she will not be contesting for a leadership position at the party’s elective conference on Saturday.
Ralitapole told the Lesotho Times yesterday that relinquishing the BAC leadership post was her “way of setting an example for other leaders to follow”.
“I want to show them that there comes a point in one’s life when they have to slow down due to age and make way for new blood,” said Ralitapole who turns 72.
She said the stepping down does not mean that she is no longer a member of the BAC or that she is leaving politics entirely.
“I am actually going to be a member of the party’s elders’ committee,” Ralitapole said.
“I am a liberal leader, I am for peace. I also listen to people and embrace their opinions even if they are different from mine,” she said.
“I enjoy surrounding myself with intelligent people, people of integrity. That politics is a dirty game does not go down well with me.
“Politics affect people’s lives. How could you then associate such an important aspect of people’s lives with such statements?”
Although she was now taking the back seat, Ralitapole said, she was still not happy with the state of politics in Lesotho.
“The tendency of denying public participation on national issues is a cause for concern. It is important to let the peoples’ voice prevail on issues that affect them,” Ralitapole said.
“Political leaders have also lost their sense of tolerance. We cannot agree on anything because we do not know how to sit down, calmly share our opinions and reach resolutions together.
“The state of service delivery in Lesotho is also very disturbing. There are no outstanding achievements or indicators showing that we have been independent for as long as we have.”
Ralitapole said she strongly felt that the money from water sales to South Africa should be channelled towards the construction of water reservoirs nationwide.
“The issue of water being sold to South Africa while water supply in Lesotho is limited does not sit well with me,” Ralitapole said.
“I worked on the issue while I was in the natural resources ministry. That is how we came up with the Metolong Water Project. There are many other (projects) which were never implemented.”
The BAC was founded by Molapo Qhobela after he broke away from the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) in 2002.
However, the party was rocked by internal disputes after Qhobela refused to co-operate with the BAC national executive committee.
Qhobela was ousted from the party presidency after members of the party took him to court.
In 2005, the court ruled that Ralitapole was the legitimate leader of the BAC.
Ralitapole said she had wanted to step down in 2008 but the party had said she should stay on until a new crop of leaders had settled in their positions.
The BAC secretary-general, Mohopolo Macheli, described Ralitapole as a visionary, adding that she would not be totally excluded from the day-to-day running of the party.
“She will remain an integral part of the BAC because of her management and leadership skills. Unlike the calibre of leaders we have today, she sticks to democratic norms,” Macheli said.
“Our party is stable today because she is democratic. She also possesses the rare skill of listening, which leaders in Lesotho do not have.
“She makes decisions having listened and she does not beat about the bush but talks straight when she has a point to make.”
Macheli said the party had not yet identified anyone to succeed Ralitapole because “we want to leave that choice in the hands of the people”.
“We do not influence elections. Instead, we leave it to the electorate to make a choice,” Macheli said.