MINISTER of Mining, Keketso Sello, says he joined politics out of a strong desire to help create a new Lesotho teeming with economic opportunities for all citizens.
As a businessman, Mr Sello, said he was alive to the need for transparency, fairness and accountability in the awarding of tenders.
He said he was particularly galled by the culture of cronyism and the failure of politicians to create a conducive atmosphere for tenders to be awarded to deserving companies, a development which had negative consequences for the economy and overall national development.
“I am a business man and have always been,” said the son of an undertaker who inherited the family business.
“I decided to venture into politics after experiencing disappointment at the hands of politicians we had voted into power. I felt it was time I stopped being a spectator and needed to play a part in effecting the change I wanted to see.
“I was compelled to join politics to find out why it was so hard for politicians to create a conducive playing field for all business people. For the longest time politicians have failed to protect business people. There has always been favouritism in awarding of tenders and this has never sat well with me.”
And he should know because after all, the ruling All Basotho Convention’s legislator for the Hlotse #13 constituency in the Leribe district is a business man of note.
Born to an undertaker in 1970, Mr Sello inherited the family business.
He said his ministerial appointment as a came as a great surprise that he never saw coming.
“Being appointed a minister came as a shock, let alone the minister of such an important portfolio as mining which has the potential to change Basotho’s livelihoods. I felt honoured and humbled. It also excited me because I am very ambitious and I accepted the challenge as I would like to turn around the mining sector.”
He said the transformation of the mining sector started with adherence to the procedures by mining applicants and those who award tenders on the basis of cronyism and corruption.
He said he was advocating for zero tolerance of corruption in mining because this was one of the sectors that was hit hard by graft.
“There are a whole lot of pending court cases in mining and government needs to clear them. Even though I am not a part of the mining board, I am going to make it my business to push for transparency in the awarding of tenders. I will advise them until they do the right thing. No to corruption.”
He vowed to vet every mining licence issued, starting from the recommendations forwarded to him before appending his signature.
“All licenses should be awarded transparently because I won’t sign anything I am not comfortable with just because it has been forwarded to me by the (mining) board.”
He said there was still the challenge of engaging expatriates even for jobs that could be done by locals, adding this emanated from lack of coordination between his ministry and that of Labour and Employment.
“There is need for the two ministries to work together as they are intertwined. No ministry can operate in silos and it is for us to make it happen. Expatriates should be there for two years and there is a serious need for serious transfer of skills and I feel that this is long overdue.”
As an undertaker who owns the Lesotho Funeral Services, Mr Sello is particularly incensed by the general neglect of the dead which has seen him arrange for the free burial of corpses that often went unclaimed by relatives.
He challenged government to do something about the situation, saying “these are the same people who were lured into voting politicians into power and yet they were neglected once they died”.
“Politicians only care about voters while they are still alive,” he said.
“Being in my line of business has really humbled me to appreciate God’s greatness and also understand that we are what we are because of other people.
“So I have also learnt to always help out whenever I can as I am sometimes stuck with neglected corpses out of negligence or even out of destitution.”
Mr Sello concluded by calling for a paradigm shift in the way politicians went about their business, disappointing the electorate in the process.