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Lesotho former military ruler dies

The late former military ruler Major General Metsing Lekhanya

Jan. 22, 2021 3 min read

3 min read

FORMER head of military junta Major General Metsing Justin Lekhanya died on Wednesday aged 82, exactly 35 years after the 1986 coup that unseated the Basotho National Party (BNP) government led by the late Dr Leabua Jonathan.

The former army commander died at the Makoanyane Military hospital after a long illness.

Major General Lekhanya was the Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Chairman of the Military Council of Lesotho from January 24, 1986 to May 2, 1991.
Born in Thaba-Tseka in April 7, 1938, he did both his primary and secondary school education in Roman Catholic Schools in Thaba-Tseka.

After he finished high school, he briefly worked in the South African mines before he joined the Basutoland Mounted Police in 1960.

He became the first Mosotho officer to head the paramilitary Police Mobile Unit (PMU) platoon soon after its formation in 1965.

During the early 1970s, he received trainings at police academies in South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), before he later assumed command of the PMU as Major General in 1975.

He also oversaw its transformation into the Lesotho Paramilitary Force, later to be called the LDF.

He commanded the army that overthrew Dr Jonathan in the 1986 military coup following revelations that he had been the victim of a hoax by two Pan-Africanist Congress military commanders exiled from South Africa, Potlako Leballo and Bernard Leeman. The two had served under him as army officers in 1977 under false identities.
The hoax had resulted in him financing the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) which fought against the LDF.

Major General Lekhanya immediately sought to improve relations with South Africa, which were strained due to Dr Jonathan's support of the African National Congress (ANC).

He initially also gave more powers to His Majesty the late King Moshoeshoe II, but later came into dispute with him, before toppling him in another military coup in 1990.

The king was later restored, and Major General Lekhanya was also ousted in yet another military coup in 1991.
Instead of retiring, he contested in the 1993 elections as a BNP candidate in the Mantšonyane constituency but he lost.

After the then BNP leader Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana’s passing, Major General Lekhanya was elected as the party leader at the March 1999 conference.

In the May 2002 parliamentary elections, he was defeated in the Mantšonyane constituency by 'Masuthang Taole of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

He was, however, elected to the National Assembly through proportional representation.

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On May 31, 2006, he was temporarily suspended from the National Assembly in connection with the alleged intimidation of the Speaker.

The BNP leadership is said to have condoned and abetted the alleged intimidation, according to a motion and subsequent report from the Committee of Privileges.

Four other BNP Members of Parliament were also suspended, but for lesser periods of time.
In December 2010, Major General Lekhanya was toppled as the party leader after a supermajority on a vote of no confidence against him.
The government is yet to officially announce the former leader’s passing.

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