MASERU — South Africa’s ruling African National Council (ANC) on Tuesday paid tribute to the Basotho National Party (BNP) saying it was forever grateful for the role the former ruling party played during the apartheid era.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told a press conference in Maseru that the BNP was “fiercest liberation ally”.
He said the BNP had risked the safety and security of Lesotho by housing South Africa’s ruling party during the apartheid era “so that we could infiltrate the enemy”.
“We’ll never forget the relationship we had with the BNP that allowed us to infiltrate the enemy,” Mantashe said.
“If it was not for this relationship there would never have been two massacres in Maseru. I also loved BNP leader Dr Jonathan and the humour with which he tackled politics.”
He said just because the BNP was no longer strong did not mean that the ANC should erase that part of history.
Mantashe was addressing a press briefing convened by the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party secretary general, Mothetjoa Metsing, at which the two parties pledged to establish a “party-to-party” working relationship.
Despite his sentiments regarding the BNP, Mantashe was quick to add that political relations were not static and that the ANC now had an obligation to develop a relationship with LCD.
“Political relations are not static. Currently in power is the LCD. We have an obligation to develop relations with them as that will determine relations between the two countries at government level,” Mantashe said.
According to Mantashe, the 2007 ANC Polokwane general conference had mandated the party to establish working relations at party level with all ruling political parties in the Sadc region.
“The resolution was that we form and strengthen party-to-party relations with all liberation movements and develop connections even with parties we don’t share similar ideological beliefs,” Mantashe said.
Asked whether the latest move was a shift of policy in aligning with the ruling LCD, Mantashe said: “We are not in alliance with the LCD but developing party-to-party relations.”
He told the press conference that the ANC dealt with the BNP because it was the party that was in government and that had harboured them.
“But ideologically, we worked with the Basutoland Congress Party in the mines in the National Union of Mineworkers where they worked with people like James Motlatsi, who was the NUM president,” Mantashe said.
On the question of the treatment of Basotho nationals by immigration personnel at the border posts, Mantashe said that Lesotho is a sovereign state and not a province of South Africa.
“Lesotho is a sovereign state, not South Africa’s 10th province. If you cross to SA undocumented we will deal with you the same way we deal with those from Zambia, Namibia, and others,” Mantashe said with conviction.