Mphaka off to LHWC

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Pascalinah Kabi

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has appointed former Government Secretary (GS) Moahloli Mphaka as Lesotho’s advisor to the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) effective from next month.

Government sources said Mr Mphaka was now expected to use his new role to help Lesotho maximise its economic benefits in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). He was expected to help Lesotho achieve “meaningful benefits” from the multi-billion maloti 1988 binational water project.

“The Prime Minister is targeting the highlands water project as one of the top revenue strategies and he strongly feels Ntate Mphaka is best suited to assist him to achieve that target,” a source said.

The source said Dr Majoro’s administration was unhappy with the meagre benefits that Lesotho is earning from the multi-billion maluti water project and wants Mr Mphaka to help increase the revenue.

Contacted for comment on Monday, Mr Mphaka confirmed that he had been given a new assignment by Dr Majoro.

“Yes, I can confirm that the Prime Minister has given me a new assignment effective 1 September 2020. The office of the Prime Minister will, if it feels the need to, announce details surrounding my new assignment,” Mr Mphaka said.

He added: “All I can say is that the same way I selflessly served the nation during my tenure in the office of the government secretary, I am going to serve Basotho selflessly in this new post. I wish to thank Ntate Thabane (former prime minister Thomas Thabane) for putting me in the spotlight and giving me the responsibility to serve Basotho, I will forever cherish his leadership,” Mr Mphaka said.

Last November, Communications Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane called on the Lesotho and South African governments to begin fresh negotiations to amend the LHWP agreement to ensure that it fully benefited Lesotho.

Chief ‘Maseribane said the LHWP treaty in its current form did not fully benefit Lesotho.

The LHWP was first agreed in 1986 between the Lesotho and South African governments to supply South Africa with water from Lesotho in exchange for royalties. Lesotho also benefits from the generation of electricity from the project.

According to the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), Lesotho has received a total of M9, 9 billion from November 1996 to July 2019 for the transfer of 15 453, 20 million cubic metres of water to South Africa.

But Chief ‘Maseribane is adamant that the agreement is not in the best interest of Lesotho and the country could get a better deal from a re-negotiated agreement.

“It is time to call South Africa to fresh negotiations as we cannot maintain the water price which was set way back then when the (LHWP) treaty was signed.

“We need to review the water treaty to discuss water transfer prices. Their (South African) economy is growing rapidly due to the water we supply them but if we look at how much we get for that water; it is a disgrace,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

Although he could not be reached for comment this week, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kemiso Mosenene, last week told the Lesotho Times that the decision to redeploy Mr Mphaka had been made after the realisation that there was an urgent need for his “rare special skills” elsewhere in the government.

“After extensive consultations with the ABC national executive committee, the honourable Prime Minister has decided to deploy Ntate Mphaka to a new assignment within the country. Ntate Mphaka’s new assignment will be announced at the later stage but he will soon leave the office of the Government Secretary,” Mr Mosenene said last week.

He said both the premier and Mr Mphaka negotiated the new deal for the government secretary and that a decision was reached amicably between the two.

“The two (Majoro and Mphaka) have amicably reached an agreement on Ntate Mphaka’s new position,” he said.

At the time, Mr Mosenene refused to confirm Mr Mphaka’s new posting saying it was to be revealed “at the right time”.  But he said an agreement had already been signed for the new deployent.

The bad blood between Dr Majoro and Mr Mphaka was nevertheless palpable after the PM accused the former GS of committing fraud.  A source had described Mr Mosenene’s remarks as “nice semantics” to camouflage the fact that Mr Mphaka had been removed from the most powerful administrative government post.

“As GS under Thabane, Mphaka was the de facto prime minister. He essentially ran government. His new posting is nowhere near the power he enjoyed as GS. No amount of nice semantics can conceal the fact that he has lost massive power” said a source.

A fortnight ago, the Sunday Express reported that Mr Mphaka had been fired following a series of disagreements with Dr Majoro over various issues particularly the renewal of the contracts of eight principal secretaries (PSs) shortly before Dr Majoro succeeded former prime minister Thomas Thabane.

Dr Majoro has since accused Mr Mphaka — in court papers — of fraudulently renewing the contracts of the eight PSs. The eight PSs are Mothabathe Hlalele (Public Works), Nthoateng Lebona (Finance), Motena Tšolo (Development Planning), Malefetsane Nchaka (Water), Tšeliso Lesenya (Communications, Science and Technology), Khothatso Tšooana (Health), ‘Mabotle Damane (Communications, Science and Technology ministry) and ‘Maseithati Mabeleng (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation).

Two of the PSs, Ms Damane and Ms Mabeleng have filed a High Court application to stop Dr Majoro from removing them from office.

Another Thabane appointee, Nonkululeko Zaly, has also filed a High Court application challenging Dr Majoro’s decision to revoke her appointment as PS in the Home Affairs ministry.

Prior to filing their court applications last month, Ms Damane and Mabeleng refused to vacate their offices to make way for Mr Lesenya and Advocate Khumalo who had been appointed by Dr Majoro to replace them respectively.

The duo was sent on forced leave with effect from 10 July 2020 but they refused to go away quietly and they petitioned the High Court to nullify Dr Majoro’s decision to send them on forced leave. They also want the premier to be stopped from firing them from their jobs.

Dr Majoro, Mr Mphaka and the Attorney General Haae Phoofolo are first to third respondents respectively.

Although their contracts were renewed along with the six other PSs in April 2020 allegedly by Mr Thabane, Dr Majoro certainly does not want to retain the duo in his new government which replaced the Thabane coalition on 20 May 2020.

The premier filed his affidavit three weeks ago to oppose Ms Damane and Mabeleng’s High Court application to stop him from removing them from office.

In that affidavit, he vented his anger at Mr Mphaka, accusing him of “unilaterally” and “fraudulently” renewing Ms Damane and Mabeleng’s contracts earlier this year.

Dr Majoro said Mr Mphaka had no legal authority to renew principal secretaries’ contracts.  He had done so fraudulently. That power was vested in him as prime minister and he acted in consultation with the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Mr Mphaka hads since rebuffed Dr Majoro’s assertions, insisting that all contracts of the mentioned PSs were renewed lawfully. Mr Thabane is fighting in Dr Majoro’s corner. He has filed an affidavit in which he claims he renewed the contracts of the PSs lawfully. The ex-premier accuses Dr Majoro of lying.

Although the Sunday Express had correctly reported that Mr Mphaka had lost his all too powerful position as GS, Dr Majoro’s office took umbrage with the use of the word “fired”.

The premier’s spokesman, Mosito Moqhekoana, said Mr Mphaka had taken “voluntary leave” pending his redeployment.  ‘You will remember that Ntate Mphaka’s contract was renewed by a further three years. He had unused leave days at the expiry of his initial three-year contract and he felt a need to exhaust all his remaining leave days before he can resume a new contract,” Mr Moqhekoana said.

Lerotholi Pheko is currently the acting GS. It is not clear if he will be confirmed in the position.

 

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