MASERU — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili yesterday axed four ministers from the government in the biggest shake-up of his cabinet since he assumed power in 1998.
Sources say the reshuffle was triggered by the bitter factionalism that is threatening to tear the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party apart.
This is the biggest cabinet reshuffle that Mosisili has ever made in his 13 years in power.
Trade Minister Popane Lebesa has been replaced by Leketekete Ketso, a university lecturer who was once the finance minister in the 1990s.
Lebesa is the LCD’s treasurer and is a member of the party’s national executive committee.
Also fired is tourism minister Lebohang Ntsinyi.
She has been replaced by ‘Mannete Ramaili, Lesotho’s former ambassador to Ireland.
Ntsinyi is the deputy secretary-general of the LCD.
Agriculture minister Lesole Mokoma was also fired and was replaced by Lincoln ’Mokose who until yesterday was the Minister of Forestry and Land Reclamation.
Mokose’s position at the forestry ministry now belongs to Kabelo Mafura, a former diplomat with extensive experience in forestry management.
Labour Minister Moses Masemene has also made way for Senator ’Maphoka Motoboli, a staunch LCD supporter who in 2008 contested and won the position of treasurer in the party’s women’s league.
She was however later stripped of that position after allegations of irregularities in her election.
The assistant minister of labour ’Matanki Mokhabi has been shifted to the education ministry to replace ‘Malijane Maqelepo as assistant minister.
Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who was widely expected to be fired, survived the axe.
The new ministers were sworn in at the Royal Palace yesterday afternoon.
Curiously the new ministers were whisked off from the palace in cars that belonged to the former ministers.
Preparations for the reshuffle seem to have started in earnest a few weeks ago when Ketso was appointed senator.
His appointment sparked speculation that a cabinet reshuffle was imminent.
Although Mosisili did not give reasons for the drastic reshuffle sources say it could have been necessitated by the current power battles in the ruling party.
’Ntsinyi and Lebesa are said be part of a strong LCD faction that has been pushing some people to succeed Mosisili.
The faction is understood to be led by Metsing, although he has vehemently denied it in the past.
Mokose and Motoboli are understood to be members of a faction led by Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki.
This faction, a source said, has bounced back from the heavy defeat that it suffered in 2009 party elections to become the more powerful of the two competing factions in the ruling party.
The reshuffle seems to have triggered more discontent in the party.
As the new ministers were being sworn in at the Royal Palace a group of angry LCD youths gathered at the party’s tiny headquarters in Maseru to voice their concerns about the reshuffle.
The youth, numbering more than 100, complained that the party leadership had not consulted them before the reshuffle.
They only dispersed after being dismissed by Lebesa.
None of the fired ministers attended the swearing in ceremony at the Royal Palace.
The LCD national executive committee has come under a barrage of attacks from party constituencies that are calling for its dissolution.
The Metsing-led committee is accused of insubordination and failure to run the party operations smoothly.
More than 35 of the 82 LCD constituencies are understood to have submitted petitions calling for the dissolution of the committee.