THE opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has criticised the re-appointment of “failed ministers” such as Keketso Sello and Tefo Mapesela to the new government. The LCD also questioned the appointment of All Basotho Convention (ABC) Senator Kemiso Mosenene after he was recently called in for questioning in connection with the murder of ABC deputy leader Sello Machakela.
The party said Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro should not have appointed him when he had serious allegations hanging over his head. It said the government risked embarrassment should be tried and found guilty of murder.
Former Trade and Industry minister Mapesela bounced back in the Agriculture and Food Security portfolio while former Mining minister Sello was appointed to the Small Business Development, Co-operatives and Marketing portfolio. ABC senator Mosenene was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The three were among 21 ministers and eight deputies who were appointed by new Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro last Thursday. This follows the advent of the new coalition led by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Democratic Congress (DC) parties.
Four or five more cabinet ministers are expected to be sworn in this week and this means Dr Majoro’s cabinet will be more or less the same size as those of former premiers Thomas Thabane and Pakalitha Mosisili which had 26 ministers and nine deputies, and 26 ministers and eight deputies respectively.
ABC deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao last week conceded that some reincarnated ministers were “dead wood” who had failed to achieve anything tangible in their previous stints in government. He however, defended Dr Majoro, saying he had no choice but to re-appoint them to balance conflicting political interests and ensure stability in the government.
But the LCD is not happy at all especially with the re-appointments of Mapesela, and Sello. LCD secretary general Teboho Sekata this week told the Lesotho Times that they are unsuitable on account of their previous conduct and failings.
Mr Sekata said Mr Mapesela had hurt wool and mohair farmers by supporting the controversial 2018 regulations which forbade them from selling their produce through their preferred brokers as they had done for four decades until the passing of the laws. Under the laws, local farmers were now expected to sell their produce via the Lesotho Wool Centre in Thaba Bosiu which is controlled by controversial Chinese businessmen Stone Shi.
The regulations were widely resisted by the farmers who complained of underpayment as well as delays in paying them for their produce. This eventually forced the previous government to amend the regulations last year to allow more players in the wool and mohair sector. Mr Sekata also said ethical considerations dictated Mr Sello should not have been re-appointed after one of his personal aides was arrested for smuggling diamonds into South Africa in December 2018. The case is pending before the courts in the neighbouring country.
“We expected to see fresh faces in the new cabinet but we are surprised to see that the same old people who have hurt Basotho in the past have been recycled,” Mr Sekata said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
“This new government has already failed the nation and lied to it.
“Mr Mapesela is one of the ministers who hurt Basotho immensely in the past regime with the wool and mohair regulations and other immoral cases where he insulted people and chased women and children with guns. Yet he has been re-appointed.
“Mr Sello’s aide was arrested in South Africa for smuggling of diamonds and yet here he is here again serving in the new cabinet under a different portfolio.
“Mr Mohlajoa is even worse because he knows very well that police are investigating him for the murder of former ABC deputy leader Sello Machakela. The least he should have done to save himself from the embarrassment was to wait for his fate to be determined before accepting any appointment. This would have also saved the prime minister from unnecessary controversy,” Mr Sekata said.
However, the trio have rubbished Mr Sekata’s views.
According to Mr Sello, Mr Sekata’s remarks merely reflect sour grapes after his party was not invited into the governing coalition.
“Who does he (Sekata) think he is to accuse me of corruption when I was never even called before the courts of law over the diamonds issue?
“He should stop the petty politicking and go straight to the anti-corruption institution if he feels he has anything on me,” Mr Sello told this publication this week.
Mr Mosenene said “only the courts of law shall determine whether I’m guilty or innocent so I won’t even say much about that issue”.
Mr Mapesela said it was the prime minister’s prerogative to appoint ministers and “even I can’t question his decisions”.
“If there is anyone who has a problem with my appointment, they take up the issue with the prime minister. I remain unapologetic about the wool and mohair saga because I didn’t do anything sinister. The regulations were simply about localising our product to ensure the nation fully benefits from it.
“As for my morality being questioned, I did what anyone else would do to protect himself and people may interpret my conduct the way they want,” Mr Mapesela said.