FORMER National Security Services (NSS) director general, Pheello Ralenkoane, has been re-appointed to the post.
His latest appointment, with effect from 5 January 2021, is for another three years. It brings to an end the uncertainty within the spy agency which had operated without a substantive boss since the expiry of Mr Ralenkoane’s contract in July 2020.
Although Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s press attaché, Mosito Moqhekoana, and the Government Secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, were not reachable for comment, Mr Ralenkoane himself confirmed that his contract had been renewed.
“I can confirm that I am back in office with effect from today (Tuesday),” Mr Ralenkoane said in a brief interview with the Lesotho Times.
He refused to comment on allegations by some government sources that the renewal of his contract had taken such a long time because some of the parties in the governing coalition were opposed to his continued stay in office.
“The office of director general of the NSS is crucial in maintaining national security and should not have taken this long to fill the vacancy. The lengthy delay in appointing a substantive head after the expiry of Ntate Ralenkoane’s contract last July was caused by disagreements among the governing parties who were plotting to have their own preferred candidates appointed,” said a highly placed official, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“It is a well-known fact that Ntate Ralenkoane is a member of the Basotho National Party (BNP) which is one of the small parties in the coalition led by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Democratic Congress (DC). The BNP fought hard to ensure that Ntate Ralenkoane was reappointed and in the end, they prevailed because the other parties could not agree on a suitable replacement.”.
Mr Ralenkoane’s reappointment, has however, not been well-received by the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) parties.
LCD spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele, this week said his party had hoped the post would be given to someone else because Mr Ralenkoane was a BNP politician and therefore unfit to head a security institution.
“We have always complained about Mr Ralenkoane being the director general of the NSS. His appointment has always been wrong because our security institutions need to be independent of the influence of politicians like him,” Mr Ratšele said in an interview.
His sentiments were echoed by AD spokesperson, Thuso Litjobo, who added that the delay in filling the position was a clear sign that “this government is not confident enough to make sound decisions”.
Over the course of his previous tenure, Mr Ralenkoane battled allegations of partisanship and bias after he presided over the January 2018 dismissal of 77 NSS officers who were hired during the time of the seven parties’ coalition led by DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili from 2015 to 2017.
The officers were fired on the grounds that they had been unprocedurally recruited but Mr Ralenkoane’s detractors say they were dismissed because they were not aligned to the then Thomas Thabane-led four party coalition which lasted from June 2017 to May 2020. The fired officers later challenged their dismissal and the matter is pending in the High Court.
In an interview with this publication shortly before the expiry of his previous contract last year, Mr Ralenkoane said although he had actively participated in BNP politics, he no longer dabbled in politics after his July 2017 appointment as NSS boss by then Prime Minister Thabane.
He said he was now “a public servant entrusted with the state security and for me to be effective, I definitely have to be apolitical”.
“It follows therefore that my conduct and actions upon taking the oath of office, shall have to be apolitical.
“The same goes for those officers who were recruited. Although they have to be vetted, they are usually taken in despite their political affiliation and are nurtured and trained through the NSS curriculum into what the organisation wants them to be and to serve the national interests of our Kingdom without any form of discrimination.
“If at all we were to hire people who had nothing to do with politics, then who would we hire because almost everyone has their political affiliation? There would definitely be no one to hire.
“What matters is what one does once they are in public office and I am smart enough to know that the minute I hold a public office that requires discipline, I leave the party line behind and serve this country as entrusted by His Majesty the King,” Mr Ralenkoane said.