‘Let’s exorcise the demons of the past’

Tsitsi Matope

The Minister of Home Affairs, Joang Molapo says there is need to deal with “demons of the past”, which have resulted in the politicisation of the civil service and “compromise” of professional standards.
According to Chief Molapo, strengthening various systems in the civil service would go a long way in dealing with the many challenges, which come with a change of government.

The existing culture of removing personnel holding certain offices of authority when a new government come to power, due to their perceived political allegiance creates uncertainty within ministries, affects functionality and continuity of programmes, Chief Molapo further told the Lesotho Times this week.

Chief Molapo — who is also the deputy leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), which formed a coalition government with the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) after the May 26 2012 general election had resulted in a hung parliament — further said it was important to make it clear that no political party should own the public service.

The minister also said the political leadership should understand the core mandate of the civil service, which is to serve the public irrespective of their different political affiliation.
“This is a sad situation that manifested itself from the time when the British had political control over the public service, which happened to have a large proportion of Basotho employees.
“The employees had their own particular political views and they had this expectation that in the post-colonial era, they would then become the political masters.
“When the political party (Basutoland Congress Party), which the majority of them supported, lost the election, they then used their positions in the public service to fight the then BNP government (which assumed power in 1966 when Lesotho gained independence).
“This marked the beginning of the politicisation of the civil service,” Chief Molapo said.
He explained in response to the situation, the BNP put its own people in the public service to help deal with suspicions of sabotage.

“When the BCP (Basotho Congress Party) came to power in 1993, they found a public service that was largely sympathetic to the BNP and were confronted with the same challenges that the BNP had faced.”
According to Chief Molapo, over the next 19 years of congress party leadership, which ended with the May 26, 2012 election, the different parties also sought to infiltrate the public service with people sympathetic to their cause.

“With the current coalition government, operations in some areas are affected by this employment system, which was not entirely based on merit but political affiliation,” Chief Molapo said, insisting there is need to place more emphasis on high efficiency and high standards of operation in the civil service, than political allegiance.
“In this whole process of restructuring of the civil service, I think we should start at Principal Secretary (PS) level.

“Principal Secretaries should be appointed through a process that seeks to professionalise their offices with strict requirements that recognise the need to attain high standards and quality service.
“Passing this rigorous process would give us the confidence that the leadership of our ministries is in the hands of capable people of high professional caliber; people of integrity who have the capacity to undertake the demands presented by the ministries.

“They would also be expected to continue to abide by those standards even when a new government comes and should be able to collaborate progressively with the any new minister appointed.”
The minister emphasized that professional principal secretaries should also be tasked with the responsibility of providing guidance to their directors and help instill a culture of professionalism.
“Understanding that we need to develop performance-based relationships and not loyalties based on personal issues is important if we are to professionalise the civil service.
“Our respect for each other should be based on our abilities to complement one another as a team focused on developing the country.

“For example, when one is appointed the Director of Public Prosecutions, you are not put in that position to prosecute anybody’s enemies but instead have to understand that your responsibility is to review cases on merit.

“You are employed because the systems have recognised that you are a person who cannot be compromised.
“It’s the integrity of the person we should really be concerned about, not political affiliation.”
Chief Molapo further explained that what politicians should resist at all costs were insecurities brought by lack of trust of the civil service.
“We should resist the temptation to think that as politicians, after we win elections, we should then fire some people we don’t trust in the civil service and employ our own supporters.
“If we would like our civil service to perform and develop the country, we should put in place mechanisms that ensure the public service is free of any divisive, political elements. We should get it all right.”

The BNP deputy leader said time had come for all political parties to agree that their responsibility was to work hard for the people who put them into positions of power.
“After winning an election, let’s expect to work with a civil service that is robust and has the capacity to implement government policies.
“We cannot spend the first two years in government firing and hiring people.
“Let’s all work towards preserving our civil service and as the coalition government, this is the direction we are working at taking,” Chief Molapo said.
He further said the need to remove politics from issues of national interest was a major issue in the current government.
“Because we are from different political backgrounds, it is important for us to talk about issues that represent our collective national interests.

“Increasingly, we are moving towards a situation that says we can’t politicise our dealings with each other, I already know that you have a political view but in order for us to work together, the common area where we work has to be the area where the facts have to dominate the discussion rather than political ideology or views as individuals.”

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