FORMER Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili says he will approach his successor Thomas Thabane to deal with Trade and Industry minister Tefo Mapesela who the former accuses of behaviour that is unbecoming for a minister.
Dr Mosisili, who leads the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party said this while addressing a weekend rally that was attended by hundreds of party members at Maseru High School in Maseru.
He said he would soon engage Dr Thabane to call Mr Mapesela to order because the latter was an insult to His Majesty’s cabinet and he did not deserve to be a minister due to his disrespect for chiefs as well as the wool and mohair farmers.
Mr Mapesela torched a storm with his recent blistering attack on some chiefs, among them Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso of Matsieng and Lesaoana Peete of Kueneng. The minister was peeved by the chiefs’ decision to attend South African brokers BKB’s wool and mohair auction in Port Elizabeth, South Africa last week.
BKB has been caught up in tug of war between the government and local farmers after the government set new rules that forbid anyone to trade in wool and mohair without a licence obtained from the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing.
The regulations further state that “the holder of an export licence shall not export wool and mohair unless it is prepared, brokered, traded and auctioned in Lesotho”.
Any person found guilty of brokering, testing, processing, trading and auctioning wool and mohair without a licence is liable to a fine of M50 000 or a maximum of five years imprisonment.
Anyone found to be in the business of shearing wool and mohair or exporting without a licence will be fined M20 000 or be imprisoned for two years.
BKB has been caught up in the government and the farmers’ fight because it has been buying Lesotho’s wool and mohair and exporting it from South Africa for more than 40 years.
The government says the regulations are meant to benefit farmers but the farmers say they are meant to benefit a company owned by a Stone Shi, an Australian-Chinese man who is said to be close to some ministers.
Mr Mapesela took exception to the chiefs attending the BKB event and called them marenanyana (little chiefs) who had been “bribed with drinks” into seemingly endorsing BKB against the government’s directive that all wool and mohair be exported from Lesotho.
And on Sunday, Dr Mosisili described Mr Mapesela as an insult to His Majesty’s cabinet.
“I have never seen such a character of a minister,” Dr Mosisili told the DC faithful.
“I have never seen such criminality. If it’s not about closing the shearing plants, then it’s insulting the chiefs. Oh my word, whose child is this?
“Ntate Thabane is not doing justice to Basotho with this kind of a minister. I will ask him (Dr Thabane) to come to the aid of the people.
“He (Mr Mapesela) is not fit to be minister and he is degrading that position.”
Dr Mosisili also laid into Mr Mapesela for seeking to close wool and mohair shearing plants across the country.
Shortly after Mr Mapesela’s attack of the chiefs, he attempted to shut down some shearing plants and in one instance he was met with resistance by one of the principal breeders, Khotsang Moshoeshoe in Mokhotlong.
A video clip of the incident showed a visibly irate Mr Mapesela pacing up and down with hands in pockets and threatening, “I will close this plant”.
Mr Moshoeshoe responded by saying, “I dare you boy, you won’t close this plant”.
“This plant doesn’t belong to the government.”
Commenting on the altercation, Dr Mosisili said the government was busying itself with issues that did not concern it.
“These farmers are not demanding anything from government to sustain their business. It is entirely their business as to where they sell their commodity,” the former Prime Minister said.
Mr Mapesela however, shot back by saying despite being the longest-serving premier that Lesotho has ever had, Dr Mosisili was a failure.
“He is the longest serving Prime Minister and he is a dismal failure. He owes Basotho an apology for having failed them. He has no right to tell Ntate Thabane who to appoint and when to dismiss anyone.
“The least that he can do is to mind the affairs of his constituency because he is just an ordinary legislator for the Tsoelike constituency. He is not even the leader of the opposition in parliament. As for me, I have every right to inspect every business in this country because I am the only minister of Trade and Industry,” Mr Mapesela said in an interview with this publication.
The government spokesperson, Nthakeng Selinyane, defended Mr Mapesela, saying the latter was motivated by the quest to “retain national wealth within our borders”.
He suggested that Dr Mosisili did not have the moral high ground to attack Mr Mapesela as the former had “presided over the erosion of the country’s wealth via the notorious Bidvest contract” which still weighed down on the government even now.
The Mosisili-led former government courted controversy by awarding the vehicle fleet services tender to Bidvest without going to tender in August 2016.
The Bidvest deal, which was for 48 months, was prematurely terminated in April 2017 at the huge cost of M108 million, the Auditor General’s report for the 2017/2018 financial year revealed.
Dr Mosisili’s government was ousted in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 elections which ushered in the Thabane-led four party coalition government. The current government comprises of Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party, the Alliance of Democrats, the Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.