‘Maseribane to quit ministerial post

  • earmarked for ambassadorial post in Italy,
  • diplomatic job a soft landing for the minister who is set to give up the BNP leadership.

Pascalinah Kabi

SMALL Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane is set to quit his job to take up the post of ambassador to Italy.

Authoritative government sources this week told the Lesotho Times that the government had already written to Italy, informing it of its intention to deploy Chief ‘Maseribane to the European country.

All that is left is for Italy to accept or reject Chief ‘Maseribane, the sources said.

“Italy will only communicate its decision after rigorously vetting Chief ‘Maseribane and if he passes the test the European country will send Lesotho a confirmation letter known as an agrѐment,” a source said.

“When that happens, His Majesty King Letsie III will then commission Chief ‘Maseribane as Lesotho’s ambassador to Italy,” the source added.

Chief ‘Maseribane will take over from Bothata Tsikoane. It is not clear what the Majoro government intends to do with Mr Tsikoane who was transferred from India to Italy last year.

Foreign Affairs and International Relations Principal Secretary (PS) Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae referred all questions to Chief ‘Maseribane, saying only he should comment as “this is a personal matter”.

“Why do you need to know about this? This is a personal matter and you must talk to him (‘Maseribane). I refuse to talk to you about this matter because it is a personal issue,” Rtd Col Mothae said in a brief interview with this publication this week.

Repeated efforts to obtain comment from Chief ‘Maseribane were unsuccessful. He did not respond to questions sent to him.

However, the government sources said preparations were underway to deploy Chief ‘Maseribane to Italy when his second and final term as leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP) ends this weekend.

The BNP is a junior partner in the Moeketsi Majoro-led coalition which is anchored by the premier’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC).

Chief ‘Maseribane is set to hand over the BNP leadership baton to whoever will triumph in the weekend’s leadership elections in Maseru. Current deputy leader Machesetsa Mofomobe will battle it out with ‘Machere Seutloali, Professor Lehlohonolo Mosotho and ‘Mamotšepe Motseoa for the top party job.

According to BNP and government sources, Chief ‘Maseribane unsuccessfully attempted to coax the BNP national executive committee (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 25 March 2021 High Court application to force him to step down and pave way for the leadership elections. The application is pending in the High Court.

Now that he will no longer be BNP leader, the sources said Chief ‘Maseribane fears that whoever comes in might influence the party to demand that he be removed from his powerful post as minister. He wants a soft landing hence he has negotiated with the ABC who are only willing to oblige with an ambassadorial post as a reward for the BNP’s longstanding alliance with the ABC, the sources say.

“After the weekend BNP elections, ‘Maseribane will no longer be as powerful in the party and he fears this will threaten his ministerial position. He wants a soft landing and the ABC has no problem with that. They consider him a longstanding ally and they have agreed to post him to Italy.

“He (‘Maseribane) is just waiting for Italy to respond to the Lesotho government’s request to post him there,” the source said.

Another source concurred saying, “the ABC sees ‘Maseribane as a loyal ally and it has no problem giving him an ambassadorial post in Italy.

“He (‘Maseribane) will resign from his ministerial post as soon as Lesotho receives an agrѐment from Italy. This is an official communication a host country sends to indicate that it accepts another country’s choice for an ambassadorial post. The communication is sent after the host country has completed its vetting processes on candidates for diplomatic posts,” said the source.

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 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. 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 has 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.

Meanwhile, ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said the party was not privy to any decision to redeploy Chief ‘Maseribane to Italy.

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