MASERU — Re-elected Basotho National Party (BNP) secretary general Ranthomeng Matete has distanced himself from the faction opposed to the former ruling party leader Metsing Lekhanya.
Matete dismissed allegations that he had switched allegiance from the anti-Lekhanya faction after the failure of the no-confidence vote in March.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times on Tuesday the BNP bigwig dismissed as a “blatant lie” claims that he was once allied to the faction opposing Lekhanya but later changed camps.
“At no point was I allied to the anti-Lekhanya faction or whatever it is called. It is a blatant lie that I ever worked with the group,” he said.
Matete said he had never collaborated with the BNP faction led by National University of Lesotho political science professor Kopano Makoa.
“I can say quite categorically that I never supported Makoa’s faction, attended its meetings or even collaborated with them in any way,” he said.
According to Matete the pro-Makoa faction placed him on its two separate candidate lists as secretary-general and deputy leader respectively without his consent.
“That was done without consultation whatsoever. I am not one to favour candidate lists,” Matete said.
Matete claimed it was members of the pro-Makoa faction who were desperate to have him in their camp but he had never co-operated with the group.
“The Makoa people came to me on two separate occasions but I never expressed any interest to their requests neither did I promise them anything. I have always preferred being nominated from the conference floor,” Matete said.
The BNP stalwart said he was his own man and dismissed as “a myth” allegations that he was Lekhanya’s right-hand man.
“I serve the party, not any individual. I am nobody’s man but my own.”
Matete, who described the recent BNP conference as a “resounding success”, also said in terms of the party’s constitution Lekhanya was not supposed to be subjected to any election as demanded by the pro-Makoa faction.
“The leader (Lekhanya) was endorsed for a five-year term at our party conference in 2007. He still has two more years to go as the legitimate BNP leader,” Matete said.
According to Matete, before the party’s current constitution was adopted by the party in 2007 the leader’s term of office “was not fixed”.
“The 1980 constitution we were using was silent about the leader’s term of office. In terms of that constitution a leader could only be subjected to a no-confidence vote if he was no longer wanted,” Matete said.
Meanwhile, the faction pushing for the ouster of the BNP leader said Lekhanya should not celebrate his victory because the newly elected national executive committee was not likely to bow to his demands.
Expelled BNP youth leader and member of the pro-Makoa faction, Moeketsi Hanyane, said Lekhanya will find it difficult to dictate to the newly elected national executive committee members “because they are a bunch of assertive individuals”.
According to Hanyane difficult times lie ahead for the former military junta leader because his chances of controlling the newly elected committee were slim.
“I do not see Lekhanya having an easy ride controlling the new national executive committee like he did in the past. They are a no-nonsense lot,” Hanyane said.
According to Hanyane, last weekend’s conference was a failure because it did not subject the party’s top post to an election.
“The outcome of the March 19 conference indicated the loss of popularity for Lekhanya within the BNP. I maintain that his legitimacy should have been tested,” Hanyane said.
Hanyane said the failed no-confidence vote in March had proved that Lekhanya now commanded minority support in the BNP.
“The fact that he was not tested simply means he now leads the minority within the BNP,” he said.
Hanyane however admitted that despite their call for an election, Lekhanya’s current term of office had not yet expired.
Another member of the faction, who is also a BNP legislator, Seabata Thabisi, claimed the fight to oust Lekhanya was “far from over”.
“I will keep encouraging my colleagues in this struggle not to give up. We need to persevere and fight until we get what we want,” Thabisi said.
The BNP legislator said the newly elected BNP national executive committee would not succeed in making a difference within the BNP “with Lekhanya still at the helm”.