MASERU — The Basotho National Party (BNP) enthusiasts were barred from visiting the late Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan’s widow two weeks ago.
Together with their leader Thesele ’Maseribane the BNP supporters wanted to deliver presents to ‘Mantahli Jonathan for her 90th birthday.
’Maseribane led a large group of the BNP supporters to Ha-Rakolo in Kolonyama, to see ’Mantahli and give her birthday gifts but the family did not allow the hurly-burly anywhere near the old lady.
’Maseribane was the only one permitted to pay respects to Jonathan. The BNP youth league leader, Tšepo Monethi, has confirmed that the Jonathan family did not allow them to go to the party founder’s home and they had to assemble somewhere in the village’s open ground where they had political discussions with the Kolonyama constituency committee.
Jonathan’s eldest daughter, Ntahli Jonathan-Lephoto, said she heard over the radio that the party was going to visit her mother and the immediate family members decided that “it was not wise to do that because we had not been informed.”
“You will understand that my mother is very old and sick and we need to prepare her for official visits such as that one,” Jonathan-Lephoto said.
“It does not matter if people in their individual capacities visit her on any day but when an official visit is planned we need to know so that we can prepare her accordingly,” she said.
A family member who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Lesotho Times that the party members together with ’Maseribane were not allowed to present their presents to ‘Mantahli.
The family member who says he is ’Mantahli’s nephew said the visit was ’Maseribane’s “attempt to win BNP followers who regard Leabua Jonathan as their political patriarch”.
“I feel pity for the majority of people who had come because they were not aware that they were being used to gain someone political points,” he said.
Over the years the BNP leadership has been dominated by the Molapo, Jonathan, Sekhonyana, ’Maseribane, Letsie, and other Lesotho royal families.
The current fight over leadership is between the Molapo family, which includes the Jonathans, and Sekhonyana family under which ’Maseribane falls.
Lead fighters for the Molapo family are Majara Molapo, who is contesting for presidency, and Joang Molapo, while the Sekhonyana family is led by ’Maseribane.
These families joined forces in December last year to oust Major General Metsing Lekhanya, a non-royal who led the party for the past 10 years.
Jonathan-Lephole said she received the presents on her mother’s behalf.
She however said the decision to bar the BNP members from visiting ’Mantahli had nothing to do with politics.
’Maseribane said there was nothing sinister about their visit to Jonathan’s widow.
“Who in their good senses think anybody can prevent me from seeing Nkhono ’Mantahli? I regard her as my own mother and I can go to Ha-Rakolo to see her at any time,” ’Maseribane said.
“The relationship between our families was created by God and nobody can change that,” he said.
“Above that, we are members of the BNP and whatever we do we put the party’s interests at heart.”
“We have a lasting bond with the Jonathan family,” he said, adding: “My own father stepped down as prime minister to give his leader, brother and friend, Chief Leabua a chance to lead this country.”
Nehemia ’Maseribane who was deputy BNP leader in 1965 when Lesotho went for the first polls became a prime minister because the party leader, Leabua Jonathan, had lost elections in his Kolonyama constituency.
’Maseribane stepped down when Jonathan won a by-election in another constituency to become an MP and was elected prime minister.
“This shows that these families have strong ties that cannot be broken by good-for-nothing people who have a long lasting thirst for leadership positions,” he said.
“Lies that the Jonathan family did not want to see me or the BNP members I was with are misguided, unfortunate and malicious.”