Rapapa speaks on priorities as prime minister

  • promises lean cabinet, security sector free of political interference

’Marafaele Mohloboli

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) chairperson Samuel Rapapa, who has been nominated to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, says his immediate tasks will be to appoint a lean cabinet as well as rid the security agencies of political interference.

Mr Rapapa was on Monday nominated by the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC) to succeed Dr Thabane who announced last week that he will be stepping down at the end of July this year after more than five decades in politics and in the civil service.

Yesterday he told the Lesotho Times that upon assuming the reins of power, one of his immediate tasks would be to ensure that the huge backlog of cases in the country’s courts of law is cleared.

“The first thing I will do as prime minister is to ensure that the judiciary will work hard to prosecute corruption cases,” said Mr Rapapa without elaborating how he will achieve this.

The huge backlog, estimated by some judicial sources to be in the region of 4000 cases, was one of the reasons cited by Dr Thabane when he suspended former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara in September 2018.

Mr Rapapa also said he would appoint a leaner cabinet as well as rid the security agencies of political interference.

“I will also work on reducing the size of the bloated cabinet, rid or minimise political interference in the security agencies and all other state institutions. I will also work to introduce and oversee the implementation of policies and schemes to boos agriculture.

“Lesotho has the potential to succeed in the agricultural sector as we have abundant water, land and the required skills. A vibrant agricultural sector will not only guarantee food security but reduce the high unemployment rate through job creation.”

The judiciary and the security agencies are some of the institutions targeted for reforms under the multi-sector reforms recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016 as part of efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.

The Thabane government currently has 30 cabinet ministers and 10 deputy ministers serving a 2,1 million population which is far less than the population of Johannesburg which is estimated at more than 5 million. If appointed, it remains to be seen whether Mr Rapapa will reduce the size of cabinet by abolishing or even merging some ministries while retaining the support of those who expect favours for helping to propel him to the top job.

Some analysts have called for the merger of some of the ministries such as the Justice and Correctional Services ministry and that of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights.

Mr Rapapa is a chartered accountant by training. He was born on 23 March 1962 and raised in Mosalemane about 70km north of Maseru. He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting degree from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and enrolled for a chartered accountancy with the Centre for Accounting Studies which he completed in 1989.

He also holds a post graduate degree in Financial Management from the Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in India.

Born to Mr Makutselane and Mrs ‘Matšabalira Rapapa, he has a strong congress background derived from his father who was a staunch member of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP). He says he became politically conscious at the tender age of eight in 1970, when his father was beaten up in his presence by heavily armed soldiers.

Growing up, he always wanted to avenge his father’s beating which culminated in the latter’s arrest and criminal charges under the Internal Security Act and subsequent nine months detention at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison. This was punishment for his activism against the nationalist government of then Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan of the Basotho National Party (BNP).

But as fate would have it, Mr Rapapa’s ABC is currently in a four-party governing coalition with the BNP, the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

In the mid-1990s’ Mr Rapapa joined the BCP and at the age of 35, he contested his first parliamentary elections in the Mosalemane constituency in 1998 elections under the BCP banner.

He polled only 190 votes against the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s 4300 votes but that loss only served to harden his resolve to get into parliament.

He left the BCP in 2006 to join the newly formed ABC under the leader of Dr Thabane and in 2014 when the latter was head of the first coalition featuring the ABC alongside the LCD and BNP, Mr Rapapa was appointed Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. He was later moved to the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture and he resigned his post to contest the 2015 elections for the Mosalemane constituency. He won the post but the 2015 polls ushered in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties coalition which lasted until 2017 when Dr Thabane returned to power at the head of the current coalition.

He retained the Mosalemane constituency in the 3 June 2017 elections when he contested against and defeated his own brother, Professor Ntoi Rapapa, who represented the AD.

Mr Rapapa will have his work cut out in re-uniting the party which has been torn apart by the infighting which followed his and the likes of ABC deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao’s February 2019 election to the ABC’s NEC. Prof Mahao’s election was bitterly opposed by Dr Thabane and some ABC officials on the grounds that he was a relative newcomer who should not have been elected ahead of seasoned party stalwarts. Mr Rapapa has immensely benefitted from the fact that Prof Mahao is not a member of the national assembly as per the constitutional requirements for one to become prime minister. As second in the party hierarchy, Prof Mahao would have been the obvious NEC’s choice to succeed Dr Thabane. But as the third most senior ABC official, Mr Rapapa has been nominated because he is the most senior NEC official eligible for the top post.

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