MAJOR General Metsing Lekhanya, who led the 1986 coup against then Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan, died yesterday at the age of 83.
The former army commander who later traded his military fatigues for civilian attire after assuming control of the Basotho National Party (BNP), died ironically on the 35th anniversary of his coup.
At the time of going to print, it was not clear what had caused his death as there were no official comments from his family, government or the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). Instead his death was widely reported on social media platforms.
BNP leader and Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Thesele Maseribane, said he would only comment after he had met Maj-Gen Lekhanya's family.
"I will only be able to talk to you tomorrow after I have met his family," Chief Maseribane told the Lesotho Times last night.
Born on 7 April 1938 in Mants'onyane, Maj-Gen Lekhanya joined the then Basutoland Mounted Police in 1960.
He later headed the Paramilitary Police Mobile Unit (PMU) platoon when it was formed on the eve of the country's independence from Britain in 1965. In 1974 he became its commander, assuming the rank of Major General. In 1980 the PMU was renamed the Lesotho Paramilitary Force (LPF) which later became the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
In 1986, Maj-Gen Lekhanya seized power from Chief Jonathan and placed Lesotho under military rule. He then became the chairman of both the Military Council and Council of Ministers. Five years later in May 1991, he was also overthrown in a military coup staged by Colonel Elias Ramaema.
He subsequently joined politics at the return of multi-party democracy in 1993. That same year, he contested the Mants'onyane constituency seat under the BNP flag but lost.
He was elected as the party leader in 1999, replacing then leader Retselisitsoe Sekhonyana. In December 2012, Major Gen Lekhanya was ousted as BNP leader through a no confidence vote.