Jobs-for-the boys-war rocks ABC

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. . . party’s NEC summons Majoro to explain “failure” to give jobs to ABC cadres

Pascalinah Kabi

PRIME Minister and deputy leader of the main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), Moeketsi Majoro, is in trouble with his own party’s national executive committee (NEC) over his alleged failure to reward party members with jobs in government.

NEC members and grassroots supporters are particularly incensed by the premier’s decision to appoint former Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, as the country’s new ambassador to Italy. Incidentally, the former cabinet minister will take over from Bothata Tsikoane who is said to be an ABC member. It is not clear what the Majoro government intends to do with Mr Tsikoane who was transferred from India to Italy last year.

The ABC is not happy with the appointment of Chief ‘Maseribane ahead of its own members.

So serious is the disgruntlement within the party that its powerful NEC has even summoned Dr Majoro to a no holds barred meeting next week to explain his failure to reward party loyalists with lucrative jobs in government and the civil service.

ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa confirmed that party members had raised the issue and the NEC would indeed meet on Monday.

“It is true (that the ABC NEC is meeting on Monday),” Mr Masoetsa said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

He said although some NEC members had indicated on the committee’s social media platforms that the meeting will solely discuss their grievances pertaining to Dr Majoro’s failure to give jobs to party supporters, the agenda would be prepared by secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele.

However, another NEC member, Moeketsi Senoamali Phakisi, told this publication that he and others were unhappy with the manner in which the ABC had handled appointments to ministries controlled by the party. The ABC’s main coalition partner is Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC).

As has been the case with previous coalitions, the two parties have an unwritten agreement allowing them to deploy their own cadres to ministries under their control. They have also agreed to deploy members of their ally parties to such ministries.

Chief ‘Maseribane profited from the latter arrangement. The BNP is a junior partner in the Majoro-led coalition and a longstanding ally of the ABC.

Mr Phakisi, an NEC member representing the Mafeteng District, spoke to this publication in his personal capacity.

He said the NEC had agreed to meet on Monday and they hoped to get answers from Dr Majoro over their grievances.

“We are meeting on Monday 30 August 2021,” Mr Phakisi said.

“Personally, I have worked hard for this party. I’m not saying I have worked harder than others but I think I have done enough to be remembered when opportunities arise but that has not been happening.

“I haven’t been considered for positions I thought I was suitable for…It never happened despite numerous complaints and it now looks like I am working to push others closer to the cake while I and my family are left behind to eat pap with salt.

“This is why we have agreed with my fellow comrades in the national executive committee to look into this employment issue and find out what is really happening. We suspect that issues are not being well handled by party deployees in government. We need to agree on a common position that no one must enjoy the fruits of our collective labour more than others,” he said.

Mr Phakisi said throughout the infighting within the party, he had always been courted by the different factions. He said he was always disappointed that after lending his support to a particular faction, he was never rewarded when that faction gained control of the party.

“Parties experience infighting now and again. The warring factions want my support but the challenge is that whenever the side I will be supporting gains control of the party, they don’t remember me when they slice the cake.

“So, we have agreed that the NEC must meet and discuss this matter. We need clarity on what is going on. All NEC members agree that we must discuss this issue and that the honourable prime minister must come and give us answers. If he is not to blame then it must be our delegations to him who are mishandling issues.

“He is now the deputy leader of the party. He is going to give us answers on Monday,” he said.

Citing the example of Chief ‘Maseribane’s deployment to Italy, Mr Phakisi said the ABC had failed to reward its own members with lucrative posts.

“For example, an ABC member (Tsikoane) has been recalled from Italy. I don’t know if he will be redeployed or he has lost his job. But his previous post has been filled by a nationalist (‘Maseribane). This means we are addressing the nationalists’ problems; it is as if we have designated ourselves as their social workers.

“In addition, there are five posts of commissioners at the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy but one of them was filled by an Alliance of Democrats (AD) cadre, Mohau Kobile.

“These decisions cannot be reversed because doing so would entail lawsuits and hefty payouts. We will give these examples at the meeting. We will also request that in future, he (Majoro) must rely on the ABC NEC before making any appointments.

“This will help him gain the NEC’s support whenever there are any issues raised against him. Making such decisions alone will only warrant that we send him to the dogs when issues arise at a later stage,” Mr Phakisi said.

Chief ‘Maseribane handed over the BNP leadership baton to his erstwhile deputy, Machesetsa Mofomobe, in June this year. This after the latter triumphed in the party’s violent leadership elections characterised by the fatal shooting of an elderly female party member, ‘Mabuang Mazinyo, and the injuring of a male member, Mosoeunyane Sehapi. Mr Mofomobe beat Professor Lehlohonolo Mosotho and Lesojane Leuta for the top party job.

According to BNP and government sources, Chief ‘Maseribane had unsuccessfully attempted to coax the BNP NEC to amend the party’s constitution to allow him to stand for a third term. But his efforts were rebuffed and some of the party members even filed a successful High Court application to force him to step down and pave way for the leadership elections.

Now that he would no longer be BNP leader, the sources said Chief ‘Maseribane feared that whoever replaced him might influence the party to demand that he be removed from his powerful post as minister. He wanted a soft landing hence he negotiated with the ABC who were only willing to oblige with an ambassadorial post as a reward for the BNP’s longstanding alliance with that party, the sources said.

Under Chief ‘Maseribane, the BNP has been a close ally of the ABC for more than a decade.  In the wake of the 2012 elections, the BNP helped ABC leader Thomas Thabane to form a government even though the latter’s party had won fewer seats than the DC then led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. The BNP and the Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) teamed up with the ABC to form a government which lasted until early 2015 when Mr Metsing fell out with Mr Thabane.

Prior to that, Chief ‘Maseribane had stood in solidarity with the ABC during and after the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against Mr Thabane.

Chief ‘Maseribane even joined Mr Thabane in exile and they only returned in 2017 to contest the June 3 2017 elections precipitated by the collapse of the then Mosisili led administration on 1 March that same year.

Thereafter, Chief ‘Maseribane agreed another coalition deal with the ABC. Joining him in the Thabane-led four party coalition which lasted from June 2017 to May 2020 were the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Keketso Rantšo-led Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

Even when Mr Thabane was ousted by his own party and replaced by Dr Majoro last May, Chief ‘Maseribane remained an ABC ally though he shifted loyalties from Mr Thabane to the new prime minister. He was initially rewarded with the Communications, Science and Technology ministerial portfolio. He was subsequently moved to the small business portfolio in a 3 February 2021 cabinet reshuffle which also saw the dismissal of Ms Rantšo from her Labour and Employment portfolio.

Chief ‘Maseribane had survived in the Majoro cabinet despite strong disapproval from some senior ABC members who insist that the BNP should not have been rewarded with any ministerial or government posts because the ABC would have still formed government even without the BNP’s five seats.

At the inception of the current government, the ABC had 52 seats while the DC had 27.

Despite some defections last year and an April 2021 split, the ABC still has the most seats- 35- while the DC now has 29. The coalition is anchored by several small parties giving the government a healthy 80 seats in all.

This had given ABC hawks enough ammunition to demand Chief ‘Maseribane’s ouster.

Apart from Chief ‘Maseribane, the ABC members are also unhappy with the government’s decision to renew the contract of Tšenolo FM owner, Mohau Kobile as the commissioner in the local government ministry.

His contract as a commissioner was renewed by ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa during the latter’s time as local government minister last year. Mr Rapapa served in the local government portfolio from May 2020 until his June 2021 redeployment to the Communications, Science and Technology ministry.

Mr Kobile was initially engaged in 2017 by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties coalition. When his contract ended last year, Mr Rapapa renewed it on the grounds that this would enable the ABC to have control over his radio station.

However, the move was not well received by ABC members who accuse Mr Rapapa of dishing out posts to members of the congress parties. Current local government minister, Lehlohonolo Moramotse, is now locked in a court battle with Mr Kobile who is challenging his dismissal last month.

In an unwitting exposition of the jobs-for-the boys scourge which has afflicted recruitment to civil service jobs, Mr Rapapa said he only renewed Mr Kobile’s contract to enable the ABC to enjoy the support of his radio station.

He said Mr Kobile is a former ABC member who previously campaigned hard for the party in Bloemfontein alongside the late Harvest FM manager, Reverend Adam Lekhoaba. He said after Mr Kobile left the party, he started promoting Mr Mosisili on his radio station.

“We no longer have any radio station that supports us because 357 FM is used by the congress parties to attack us. When you listen to Moafrika FM, it is always attacking Kobotata (ABC) and when you listen to ACL FM, it is defending the congress movement. PC FM does not support us, it is a lukewarm station. So, I thought we should have power over him (Kobile) and tell him he is out of order and he will be fired (if Tšenolo FM attacks the ABC).

“I extended his contract and in return he would give Kobotata members inside information about the congress parties because he was appointed by (former Local Government Minister) Pontšo Sekatle who was then in the congress movement,” Mr Rapapa said.

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