TOP petroleum company, Engen Lesotho, has come under fire from the Ministry of Labour and Employment over its decision to recruit an expatriate for the vacant post of managing director.
The post fell vacant after the retirement of the former incumbent, Theodore Molapo, in August this year. The Lesotho Times has established that Engen Lesotho’s parent company in South Africa has applied for a work permit for a South African national, Tebogo Mosehla, to succeed Mr Molapo.
The move to hire Mr Mosehla has not gone down well with Labour and Employment Minister, Moshe Leoma, who has said that companies should give locals first preference whenever they are recruiting new staff. Expatriates should only be hired in exceptional circumstances where they possess rare skills that are not locally available, the minister says.
In an interview with this publication, Mr Leoma said he had received Mr Mosehla’s work permit application. He however, said he was conducting his own investigations before making a final decision on the matter.
“We have received his application for a work permit at the office,” Mr Leoma said, adding that the application was made following a visit by Engen officials from South Africa to request a special dispensation to allow them to hire Mr Mosehla.
“Engen sent its representatives from South Africa to my office and requested that he (Mosehla) be granted a work permit. They argued that Basotho business people in the petroleum sector who deal directly with Engen Lesotho had requested for a specialist who would assist them to become independent players in the industry.
“I subsequently held another meeting with Engen Lesotho officials requesting that I approve the work permit. The last managing director was a Mosotho national but they requested that the position be given to an expatriate from South Africa whose primary mandate would be to assist them to become independent. They say he is a specialist and their expectation was for me to approve the work permit a fortnight ago.
“But I have a localisation policy. That is why I am not rushing into making a decision in relation to work permit applications for expatriates. I take my time to interrogate these issues. I will have a meeting with my principal secretary (Matela Thabane) and the labour commissioner (Mamohale Matsoso) for a briefing on the matter before making a decision on the issue,” Mr Leoma said.
He said he was conducting his own investigations to find out if there was merit in hiring an expatriate at the expense of a Mosotho.
“This is not the first time that this issue of (the lack of local expertise) has been raised. Vodacom Lesotho advanced the same argument but I stood firm and the managing director’s post was eventually given to a Mosotho. I want the Engen Lesotho vacancy to be filled by a Mosotho. My main interest is to localise these positions because we have competent academics in Lesotho who are being overlooked for top jobs,” Mr Leoma said.
Energy and Meteorology Minister, Mohapi Mohapinyane said he was not aware of Engen Lesotho’s plans to hire an expatriate. He referred all questions to his principal secretary, Themba Sopeng.
On his part, Mr Sopeng said his ministry was fully in support of the localisation policy and he was happy with progress towards empowering locals in the petroleum industry.
“The issuance of work permits is the prerogative of the labour ministry. However, on our side, one of the things we are aiming to achieve with the localisation policy is to empower Basotho in the service industries. To that end, I can say that implementation of the policy is going well particularly in the transport sector. All trucks transporting petroleum belong to Basotho businesses,” Mr Sopeng said.