THERE was drama at two government ministries this week when four principal secretaries (PSs) squabbled over rights to occupy their offices.
The drama occurred at the ministries of Communications, Science and Technology as well as that of Forestry, Range and Soil Conversation.
At the centre of the wrangle were PSs ‘Mabotle Damane, Tšeliso Lesenya, ‘Maseithati Mabeleng and Advocate Mole Khumalo.
Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro last week moved Mr Lesenya from Public Service to the communications ministry while Adv Khumalo was moved from Social Development to the forestry ministry.
A statement from the office of the prime minister did not say whether the former incumbents Ms Damane (communications) and Ms Mabeleng (forestry) had been reshuffled or sacked. Their contracts had nonetheless been extended until 2023 by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane before the collapse of his government on 11 May 2020.
When Mr Lesenya and Adv Khumalo duly reported for work at their new ministries on Monday they found, to their surprise, the former incumbents Ms Damane and Ms Mabeleng respectively still occupying the offices.
According to sources, Ministers Thesele ‘Maseribane (communications) and Motlohi Maliehe (forestry) had their hands full on Monday trying to restore sanity and quell tempers that had flared among the PSs who quarreled over the offices.
“Mole came in on Monday to report for work and found Mabeleng in office and she was not willing to make way for Mole,” a source said, adding, “it was a really awkward situation for both of them”.
“There were tense exchanges before Mole told Mabeleng that he had nothing against her and he was not willing to cause a scene. Mole eventually left the offices after Mabeleng told him that she had written to the government, demanding clarity on the status of her employment.
“She (Mabeleng) told Mole that she remained a PS as she had a valid contract for the next three years. She told him that she wrote to the government on Friday after being informed that a new PS had been assigned to her ministry while was still in office.
“Mole then left the office but before his departure, he phoned the minister Ntate Maliehe who was not in office to inform him that he (Mole) would only report for work after the matter had been resolved. He is still not at work as we speak.”
Adv Khumalo refused to comment on the issue while Ms Mabeleng’s mobile phone rang unanswered since Tuesday.
Mr Maliehe said he was in Mohale’s Hoek when the drama unfolded.
“My secretary called to tell me that the new PS Ntate Mole arrived at the offices and found that ‘M’e Mabeleng was still in office. What I can tell you is that ‘M’e Mabeleng’s contract ended either Tuesday or Wednesday last week and she should have vacated the office then.
“On Friday I went in the office late in the afternoon and I was shocked to find her there. In fact, I had already made up my mind that I no longer wanted to work with her (Ms Mabeleng). I asked the relevant offices to give me a new PS and they have given Ntate Mole who I want to work with.
“I intend to tell her that I have a new PS and she must go and report to her bosses because I cannot work with her. I don’t know who her boss is but she must go report to whoever is her boss,” Mr Maliehe said.
A similar drama is said to have played out the same day less than a kilometre away at the communications ministry.
According to sources, Minister Maseribane had to mediate between Ms Damane and Mr Lesenya after the duo wrangled over who was the rightful PS.
Ms Damane was initially evasive asking, “what do you want me to say” when asked about the issue.
She eventually admitted that “it is true that Ntate Lesenya found me in the office on Monday”.
“I am still at work but I’m preparing to handover to Ntate Lesenya. I am going home. I have been released,” she said.
She said she did not understand why she had been relieved of her duties when her contract, which was due to expire next month, was extended by another three years by Mr Thabane.
“I don’t know what this means because I have an active contract. I really do not know because the letter that I received, dated 10 July 2020, from the office of the government secretary indicates that I have been relieved of my duties as PS,” Ms Damane said.
In a separate interview, Mr Lesenya said “I am aware that you have contacted PS Damane and honourable Chief ‘Maseribane on the same issue. There is really nothing to it”.
Chief ‘Maseribane sounded unhappy when asked about the alleged fracas between Ms Damane and Mr Lesenya.
“There are no two PSs here. She (Ms Damane) is busy handing over (to Mr Lesenya).
“These people (sources) are telling you lies and they must be brought to book. Who are these people? This is unprofessional. Why do you allow people to tell you lies? They (Lesenya and Damane) were there for a hand-over. How else would she do a handover except by being in office?”
Asked if Ms Damane did not have an active contract, Chief ‘Maseribane said “she has been sent on leave”. He did not explain why she had been sent away and another PS had been appointed in her place while she had a valid contract. Ms Damane and Ms Mabeleng have gone to court to try and halt their dismissals.