Former Basotho National Party (BNP) Secretary-General Lesojane Leuta, who has been fighting expulsion from the party and attempts to strip him of his proportional representation (PR) seat held under the BNP ticket for the past two years, will contest the June 3 National Assembly elections as an independent candidate.
Public Eye this week caught up with Leuta, to establish his reasons for contesting the Matsieng constituency in the outskirts of Maseru as an independent candidate and what will become of his efforts to challenge his expulsion.
Leuta puts the blame squarely on BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, accusing him of frustrating his efforts to contest elections under the party’s banner, by blocking him from contesting primary elections which would enable him to contest.
He relates how he sought the intervention of party veterans to resolve his issues with ‘Maseribane and the party, only for the BNP leader to undermine those efforts by “making promises he never meant to keep”.
“When he was with the elders, he promised that the matter between us would be solved. But he was just buying time until the primary elections so that he could bar me from contesting elections,” Leuta claims.
An impassioned Leuta says his focus is on restoring the dignity of the Matsieng constituency, which he says has been abandoned by MPs who have previously represented the region in parliament.
Leuta laments the lack of basic services such as access roads and water supply, adding most families have migrated to villages across the Tlouoe river as a result of the lack of bridges, a situation he blames on the constituency’s former MPs including the LCD’s Pashu Mochesane, the ABC’s ‘Mats’epo Ramakoae and the DC’s Mokhele Moletsane, who has since defected to the AD.
Below are excerpts from the interview…
PUBLIC EYE: Please explain why you have decided to contest the June 3 as an independent candidate.
L.L: I decided to contest the elections as an independent candidate when I realised that my leader Thesele ‘Maseribane was going all out to frustrate my efforts to contest the elections under the BNP banner. He was suffocating me, trying his level best to end my political career in style but I wasn’t going to allow him to do that. My departure from politics will be decided by me, on my own terms.
Barring me from contesting the Matsieng constituency under the BNP banner is merely a continuation of the battle I have been fighting, where the BNP leader and his allies were pushing to have me expelled from parliament. So, this time around they frustrated my efforts to contest for the BNP as a way of ensuring that I don’t go to parliament. I was prepared to serve the BNP in that constituency but it’s not going to happen.
P.E: What is it that hasn’t been done before by previous MPs that you think you can do for the Matsieng constituency and its people?
L.L: There are a lot of things and I will have to first establish from the people what their priorities are. But I was born and bred in Matsieng so I know the region very well. For instance, I can’t go to my home as often as I’d like to because there are no access roads to the area.
The tarred road to Koro-Koro is about 10 kilometers from my home and about 7km to Mahloenyeng. But I can’t reach my home from either direction. I can only drive there with an all-terrain vehicle, not a normal car. Regardless of weather conditions, people are compelled to walk to reach the tarred road where they can get transport.
I believe that if I am elected, I will be better placed to approach the authorities for us to move in solving the problems faced by my people. For instance, there are families who have migrated to villages across the Tlametlu river, all because of the lack of access roads to my village.
P.E: Hardly do we see independent candidates winning elections in Lesotho. People prefer to vote for their parties and not individuals. How do you hope to convince the Matsieng electorate to see you as a credible alternative?
L.L: My prospects of convincing the Matsieng electorate to vote for me are high. People like former Finance Minister Dr. Timothy Thahane took the independent route in 2015 and garnered a lot of votes although he didn’t make it to parliament. I’ll do my best to out-perform him (chuckles).
On a serious note, the constituency has had several MPs but there’s absolutely nothing to show for it. Let me give you an example of the access roads into the Tlouoe Valley which were all built during the BNP government under Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan but they have now been virtually washed out away and are almost impassable.
I think the reason why previous MPs never cared or bothered was because they were not familiar with the pain of having no roads and transport, as they lived elsewhere, whereas I know the pain better. I can’t even visit my people, which breaks my heart. It’s a great inconvenience. Access roads into Matsieng villages are non-existent. The minute you divert from the tar road, it’s a struggle reaching all the villages.
Secondly, there’s no satisfactory access to water. We now have a network of water from the Metolong Dam, passing by Matsieng through to Morija, yet we can’t access it. We need water, road infrastructure and electricity there. Even access to telephone networks is a serious problem. I am directly affected by the situation there.
P.E: Don’t you think contesting against the BNP will weaken your campaign, that the party’s supporters will see you as a traitor?
L.L: I think I will have enough evidence to convince BNP supporters that it was never my intention to contest against the party, that I’m being forced by circumstances to do that, at the instigation of the BNP leader for that matter.
P.E: Should we assume this decision to mean that you are permanently parting ways with the BNP?
L.L: There’s no way on earth I’m parting with the BNP. As I’ve said already, the BNP leader is to blame for my decision. His treatment of me was very bad. I still believe that one day when the BNP has elected a new national executive committee, with people who understand the administration of a political party, this issue will be resolved and I will return to the BNP.
P.E: You have been a BNP member for almost 50 years. Your leader has made it very clear that the minute a member contests against the party, they automatically expel themselves. What of the constitutional clause supporting your leader’s assertion?
L.L: That is one very unconstitutional clause and very unjust. It goes against the very principles of natural justice. There are political parties which have failed to put into effect a clause of that nature. I can contest it because I have reasons to advance, as to why I was driven to this decision. We all know it’s the party’s leadership that pushed me over the edge. I will solicit the support of BNP membership countrywide.
P.E: Did you ever seek any intervention or mediation from within the party structures, towards attaining a resolution to the conflict between you and the party?
L.L: Yes, I did solicit the intervention of many people from within the party. I tried to have people talk to him while he was still in exile in South Africa but nothing came of it. When he returned to Lesotho in February he promised the BNP elders and veterans that he would work on the issue. Recently when he was attending a funeral in Mokhotlong, he promised some of the party veterans there that he was already working on it, assuring them that it would be resolved soon. On his part, I’ve never seen anything from his side that shows he is interested.
Once or twice we met in parliament and he said to me that we could solve the issue between us. But I was opposed to that because I am where I am today because of we did the BNP PR list together, only for him to later paint me as a liar, saying he never instructed me to submit it to the IEC. He even signed an affidavit in support of a lawsuit instituted against me by one BNP member, in which he denied knowledge of the PR list we had done together. I was not about to fall into the same trap again, of entering into agreements that have no witnesses.
P.E: You have mentioned that you reached out to the BNP to express your wish to contest the Matsieng constituency in the party’s banner. What exactly did you do because your leader last week told this paper that your intention was not clearly expressed?
L.L: I informed the Matsieng constituency committee of my intention to contest this year’s election under the BNP banner. In the letter, I told the committee that I had already transferred my vote from the Maseru constituency where I’m based to Matsieng.
But I did not meet with the committee face-to-face, save to say I was informed that the leader was already working on resolving the conflict between us, hence the committee could utilise me whichever way they saw fit, for the BNP’s benefit.
But I was betrayed by some people in the constituency, which I immediately reported to the current BNP secretary-general. I also queried the credentials of the candidate some BNP members wanted to contest the election, on the basis that he was not authentic and not a member in good standing because he has just joined the BNP hence didn’t qualify to contest elections as he had not renewed it at least twice as per the constitutional requirements. In fact, he was a member of the BNP who only recently joined the party.
This is to say that my leader was unfair to claim that I didn’t try to contest elections on behalf of the BNP. I’ve done my part. The sad part is that they didn’t even respond to any of my letters but instead went ahead to endorse this other person.
P.E: Your leader says he’s shocked and surprised that you have been sending delegations of BNP elders and veterans to intervene in your conflict, while also making plans to contest elections as an independent candidate.
L.L: It’s merely a response to his inaction and reluctance to resolve the conflict between us, that I’m contesting elections as an independent candidate. From the time he returned home from exile to date he has been singing the same song, that he’ll resolve the issue. All the initiatives have been from me, he has never moved even a finger to sort it out.
By promising to work on the matter he is just using delaying tactics to ensure that I didn’t meet deadlines for the primaries, and submission of candidates’ names. Even people who were frustrating my efforts at constituency level to contest in the primaries, I’ve discovered that they have been in constant contact with my leader.
And I have a message for them, that for as long as I’m still alive and of sound mind, nobody will push me out of the BNP. Thesele himself left the BNP in the early 90’s to join the National Progressive Party (NPP) while his deputy leader Joang Molapo, defected from the BNP to help found the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP). They all rejoined the BNP later. But I won’t leave the BNP no matter what.
Public Eye/ BONGIWE ZIHLANGU