Leabua Jonathan

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Leabua Jonathan
Minister-president Jonathan van Lesotho (1970).jpg
Prime Minister of Lesotho Jonathan (1970)
2nd Prime Minister of Lesotho
In office
7 July 1965 – 20 January 1986
Monarch Elizabeth II (1965–1966)
Moshoeshoe II (1965–1986)
Preceded by Sekhonyana Nehemia Maseribane
Succeeded by Justin Metsing Lekhanya
As chairman of the Military Council
Personal details
Born Joseph Leabua Jonathan
30 October 1914
Leribe, Basutoland
Died 5 April 1987(1987-04-05) (aged 72)
Pretoria, Transvaal
South Africa
Nationality Basotho
Political party Basotho National Party
Religion Roman Catholic

Joseph Leabua Jonathan (30 October 1914 – 5 April 1987) was the second Prime Minister of Lesotho. He succeeded Chief Sekhonyana Nehemia Maseribane following a by-election and held that post from 1965 to 1986.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Leribe, Jonathan was a minor chief, like many others a great-grandson of the polygamous King Moshoeshoe I.

Jonathan worked as a mine induna at Brakpan but because he was a chief he went back to Rakolo's and got involved in local government in Basutoland from 1937 and was a member of delegations to London that sought self-government in Basutoland.

Politics and premiership[edit]

Jonathan converted to Catholicism and in 1957 founded the Canadian Catholic missionary-backed Basutoland National Party (BNP), renamed Basotho National Party at independence. In the 1960 election Leabua's party came fourth in the election but the BNP won a slim majority in April 1965 elections on a minority vote. Leabua lost his seat and had to stand for election in a safe seat later. He took office as Prime Minister on 7 July 1965.

Soon after Basutoland gained independence in 1966 as Lesotho, executive power was transferred from the British High Commissioner to the Prime Minister. Jonathan's government was allegedly supported by apartheid South Africa, because Jonathan at the time thought that he could talk sense with South African prime ministers Henrik Verwoerd and Balthazar Johannes Vorster, who were contemporary with him. Jonathan was hostile to both the Pan Africanist Congress and African National Congress of South Africa who respectively supported the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP). He forged links with the ANC after the PAC-backed Lesotho Liberation Army, the exiled BCP military wing, prepared to target Lesotho after 1976.

State of emergency[edit]

The first post-independence elections were conducted in January 1970. These were free from any serious incident and Chief Leabua was prepared to hand over to the BCP, which had won 36 of the 60 seats. He was dissuaded by senior ex-ministers and got the approval of British police commanders to launch a coup.[citation needed] BCP leaders were jailed without trial for between 2–3 years and then fled into exile in January 1974 after a failed uprising.

The King, who was associated with the minuscule MFP, who had been humiliated and kept under house arrest since January 1967, was then sent to the Netherlands and then Wantage in England near Oxford, where he had previously studied.

Racial policy and opposition to apartheid[edit]

Despite Lesotho's economic dependence on South Africa and the government's official policy during the 1970s of dialogue with its neighbour, Jonathan began criticizing the South African government's policy of apartheid supporting for the prohibited African National Congress (ANC) when international advisers suggested Pretoria's days were numbered.

During the late 1970s, Jonathan, despite his regime's protests to Libya, nevertheless accused the South African government of supporting the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA). Mokhehle is fact did indeed go over to Pretoria but only in late 1981. The main LLA force was wiped out in 1979 but later recruits were assisted by a Transkei-based American mercenary with Rhodesian army service, Major Bob MacKenzie, son-in-law of the former CIA deputy-director, Ray Steiner Cline, a former member of the 1969 Nixon administration. The South African government denied these claims but later admitted Mokhehle was part of the notorious Vlakplaas operation. Much of Leabua's unsavoury early political life history has been obscured by his late opportunistic alliance with the ANC, which itself was a highly controversial organisation despite its ostensibly principled stance against apartheid. The best accounts of Leabua's life are in archive material (included over 20 hours of audio recordings of Basotho leaders) provided to university collections by a White Tanzanian intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. Bernard Leeman PhD, who served as a Major in the Lesotho paramilitary and gathered evidence supporting the view that the 1970 was peaceful and the Police Mobile Unit was surprised when the state of emergency was proclaimed.

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Dag Harmaschalt award in 1983
  • Honorary PhD in Education by NUL in 1984
  • Companion of OR Tambo Award (gold) in 2007 (posthumously)

Downfall and death[edit]

On 15 January 1986, a military coup led by Major General Justin Metsing Lekhanya ironically under pressure both from Pretoria and the Leballo faction of the Pan Africanist Congress deposed the Jonathan government. Leabua Jonathan was placed under house arrest in August 1986 and died of a heart attack on 5 April 1987 at the age of 72.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sekhonyana Nehemia Maseribane
Prime Minister of Lesotho
Succeeded by
Justin Lekhanya