MASERU – The Basotho National Party (BNP) has a rare chance to right the wrongs of the past by electing a unifier at the party’s much-awaited conference this weekend, analysts have said.
The conference, which is set to be held at the BNP Centre in Maseru, was called to elect a new leader following the ouster of Metsing Lekhanya in December.
The former ruling party is a shadow of its former self after losing members to other opposition parties such as the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party in recent years.
Analysts said the conference presents the BNP with a chance to rebrand when it elects a new president for the party.
They said the calibre of leader elected at the conference will either make or break the embattled party.
Seven candidates – Kopano Makoa, Ranthomeng Matete, Majara Molapo, Pius Molapo, Mokheseng Tekateka, ’Mabatloung Lillane and Thesele Maseribane – have all thrown their hats into the ring for the BNP presidency.
Analysts said while the fact that seven candidates are competing for the party’s top job could be a reflection of democracy it could also indicate “deep-seated problems” within the party.
National University of Lesotho (NUL) lecturer Motlamelle Kapa said it was critical that the BNP elects a unifier.
“The party needs to elect into power somebody with a wider appeal across all generations. He or she should be neutral and be able to unite the party,” Kapa said.
He said the ideal candidate should be an individual who is willing to listen to the views of people and implement them.
He should also be ready to lead and be led, Kapa said.
“The one who wins will have to be intelligent enough to extend an olive branch to those who have lost. Those should in return accept the peace (pipe) and dedicate themselves to the party.”
Kapa said both the winning and losing sides will need to work together to formulate an effective programme to rejuvenate the party.
He however warned that the success of the BNP will solely depend on the “quality of the new leader”.
Kapa also lashed out at the number of candidates who had thrown their hats into the ring.
“I’ve never seen so many candidates contesting for one post. This could mean it is democracy at play. But it could also indicate a crisis,” Kapa said.
The fact that the party had not adopted a culture of grooming future leaders to take over the leadership could explain this mushrooming of candidates, Kapa said.
“Former BNP leader Metsing Lekhanya had closed off the party. Now people see it as open because the playing field has been levelled”.
Kapa said the only way the BNP could reinvent itself and attract those who had deserted the party “is by effectively addressing people’s problems”.
“If it can help in the reduction of stock-theft, poverty and unemployment while at the same time pushing for speedy service delivery on such issues as passports, it will succeed,” he said.
“The BNP also invested a lot in agriculture to fight poverty in the past. If it can revive that, then it will definitely survive because it will have come up with solutions to Basotho’s problems.”
Another political analyst, Nchafatso Sello said the BNP needed a strong leader to address the current problems bedevilling the party.
“The party needs a brave individual who is not afraid to jump into the deep end. It needs someone who does not fear the unknown,” Sello said.
There is no room in leadership for people with authoritarian tendencies, Sello said.
He said the main challenge facing the BNP was the dark cloud of the past “still hovering over the party”.
“It was known to be an oppressive party. It has to work hard to shed that image, win back lost membership and attract the new,” Sello said.
“The party must also realise that regaining its former glory in Lesotho’s political arena won’t be easy because the ballgame has changed, the paradigms have shifted dramatically.”