. . . accused of failing to warn premier of no-confidence motion
By Bongiwe Zihlangu
MASERU –– Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has fired his Political and Economic Advisor Sekhonyana Bereng.
According to sources who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week, Bereng’s contract was terminated through a letter dated March 31 and signed by government secretary Motlatsi Ramafole.
Bereng yesterday confirmed he was no longer the premier’s advisor, adding the contract, which he signed in August 2012, had been terminated by “mutual agreement”.
“Yes, it is true I am no longer the Prime Minister’s political advisor. The contract was terminated by mutual agreement between us but I will not go any further than this,” Bereng said.
But Bereng was quick to add he remained a “staunch” member of Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), which formed a coalition government alongside the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and Basotho National Party after the May 26 2012 general election had failed to produce a majority winner as demanded by the country’s constitution.
Asked to shed more light on Bereng’s departure, the Principal Secretary-Cabinet (Economic Affairs), Sam Rapapa, said the termination letter was very brief and did not state why the former diplomat was being sacked.
“I was shown the letter by the director of human resources; the letter was written by GS Ramafole informing Mr Bereng that his contract as the Prime Minister’s Economic and Political Advisor has been terminated,” Rapapa said.
Asked if the letter provided reasons why the contract was being terminated, Rapapa said it did not, adding “the PM does not give reasons when he terminates people’s contracts”.
“The letter is silent in that regard, except to say that the contract has been terminated with immediate effect and that the necessary preparations were being made to give Mr Bereng his benefits,” Rapapa said.
“We will ask the PM to provide reasons for the termination of the contract when he returns from Brussels next week.”
Rapapa could, however, not say how much Bereng was likely to receive since the contract was terminated midstream or how much it would cost the government.
Bereng’s benefits included, among others, an office at the Government Complex, a secretary and a chauffeur-driven vehicle.
The Lesotho Times understands Bereng’s duties, in which he worked closely with Ramafole, included advising Thabane on “political governance and issues of economic impact”.
And according to an authoritative ABC source, who spoke to the Lesotho Times on condition of anonymity, it was the party’s National Executive Committee which advised Thabane to rid himself of Bereng for alleged incompetence.
According to the source, Bereng had reportedly failed to warn Thabane of a plot to unseat him by way of a no-confidence motion, which is still before parliament.
The source added Bereng also allegedly failed to advice Thabane on who to appoint for the position of Senior Personal Secretary, who would travel with the Premier abroad, leaving Ramafole to do the work, thus compromising his main duty of monitoring the performance of Principal Secretaries in government ministries.
“All these issues needed to be attended to but he did not do his job. For a long time, the ABC NEC had been encouraging the Prime Minister to fire him.
“But the vote-of-no-confidence issue in parliament proved too much for the PM as it became apparent to him his political advisor was sleeping on the job,” the source said.
Bereng is Lesotho’s former High Commissioner to Canada (1992-1994) and was Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service from 1982-1984. He then moved to the Ministry of Public Works in a similar capacity before returning to the Public Service ministry in 1986 where he stayed until 1990.
In 1994, Bereng, who holds a Degree in Public and International Affairs, retired from the civil service and a year later, joined the United Nations where he held the post of Governance Advisor until 2009.
Thereafter, he joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), working in Malawi and South Africa. The UNDP also attached him to the South African parliament during this time.
In 2011, Bereng was appointed to the ABC’s National Executive Committee’s Working Committee as a member without portfolio — a post he held until shortly before the May 26 2012 general election, which subsequently ushered his party into government.