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Thabane reshuffles cabinet yet again

by Lesotho Times
  • PM takes over Defence and National Security Ministry
  • move aimed at consolidating army’s subordination to civilian authority

Pascalinah Kabi

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane will today reshuffle his cabinet in a move that well-placed sources say will see him assume the Defence and National Security portfolio.

The reshuffle will also see the return of Messrs Motlohi Maliehe and Lehlohonolo Moramotse who were fired last year by Dr Thabane. Mr Maliehe, the former Tourism and Environment Minister, is set to bounce back in the Social Development portfolio, vacant since the February 2019 sacking of Ms Matebatso Doti. Mr Moramotse (former Public Works and Transport minister) returns as Police and National Security. The police portfolio has been vacant since the resignation of ‘Mampho Mokhele. Ms Mokhele resigned to take up the post of Counselor at the Lesotho embassy in Ireland.

Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, confirmed the reshuffle in an interview yesterday but declined to give details.

“The cabinet will be reshuffled tomorrow (today) and there will be new ministers who will be sworn in tomorrow (today),” Mr Mphaka said. He however, refused to say whether or not Dr Thabane would take over the Defence portfolio. He also refused to disclose the identities of the new ministers or the ministries that would be affected by the reshuffle.

He told this publication to “wait until tomorrow to see new faces in the cabinet”.

But reliable sources insisted that Dr Thabane would assume the Defence portfolio. The incumbent, Tefo Mapesela, will be moved back to the Ministry of Trade and Industry where he served from 2017 until he was re-assigned to the defence ministry in December 2018.

According to one of the sources, “the new faces in the cabinet are Ntate Motlohi Maliehe, Lehlohonolo Moramotse, Kose Makoa (Deputy Minister of Forestry) and Moshe Leoma (Deputy Minister of Agriculture)”.

“Besides these, ministers, Mokhele Moletsane (Justice), Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry), Semano Sekatle (Public Service), Tekemi Tsolo (Prime Minister’s office), Nkaku Kabi (Health) and Mokherene Tsatsanyane (Deputy Minister Public Works and Transport) are all going to be reshuffled,” the source added.

Another source said ministers, Keketso Sello (Mining), Professor Ntoi Rapapa (Education and Training), Litšoane Litšoane (Local Government), Mahapa Molapo (Agriculture and Food Security), Leshoboro Mohlajoa (Forestry), Mokoto Hloaele (Home Affairs), Tsukutlane Au (Energy), Tefo Mapesela and deputy ministers, Mothepu Mahapa (Education) and Kotiti Diholo (Local Government Deputy Minister)  would also be affected.

“Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi is moving to Law and Constitutional Affairs and Habofanoe Lehana will replace Makgothi at the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Mapesela is going back to Trade and Industry,” said the source.

In just 10 months at the helm of the defence ministry, Mr Mapesela’s tenure has been characterised by highly publicised fallouts with army commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, and National Security Service Director, Pheello Ralenkoane.

Mr Mapesela has given media interviews accusing the security chiefs, particularly Lt-Gen Letsoela of defying his authority as their civilian boss. He also accused the security chiefs of divulging sensitive security information to other ministers and thus compromising the security of the nation.

He said by defying him, the trio had become rebels whose conduct could lead to the collapse of a democratically elected government.

He even alleged in May this year that Lt-Gen Letsoela was cut from the same cloth as detained double murder-accused former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, adding that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) was likely to regress to the same rebellious state it was in under the leadership of Lt-Gen Kamoli from 2014 to 2016.

The LDF was thrown into disarray when Rtd Lt-Gen Kamoli rejected his dismissal by then and current Prime Minister Thabane.

Dr Thabane dismissed Lt-Gen Kamoli for insubordination and appointed the now deceased Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao in his place in august 2014. Lt-Gen Kamoli refused to accept his dismissal and proceeded to launch a coup attempt against Dr Thabane’s first government on 30 August 2014.

The alleged coup attempt kick-started a chain of events that culminated in the snap elections of February 2015 which ushered in the former Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition in place of Dr Thabane’s first government. Dr Mosisili restored Lt-Gen Kamoli and demoted Lt-Gen Mahao who launched a court bid challenging the dismissal. The case was never finalised after Lt-Gen Mahao was gunned down in June 2015 in cold blood by fellow soldiers under the command of Lt-Gen Kamoli. Thereafter the country descended into anarchy and impunity as soldiers and other members of the security agencies committed murders and other human rights violations. This only stopped after the advent of Dr Thabane in the aftermath of the June 2017 elections and the subsequent deployment of a SADC standby force from December 2017 until November 2018 to maintain peace and stability in the country.

Although Dr Thabane expressed confidence that peace and stability will prevail in the country after the departure of the SADC force, Mr Mapesela constantly warned of “anarchy” brewing in the army because of the alleged insubordination of Lt-Gen Letsoela.

And the sources said it was the fall-out between Lt-Gen Letsoela and Mr Mapesela which has forced Dr Thabane to act by removing the tough-talking minister from the Defence portfolio and sending him back to his former ministry.

Ntate Thabane will take over the Defence ministry. Ntate Thabane wants to stamp his authority by taking over one of the most critical portfolios in government. He feels that by taking over the Defence ministry, the army will once again be stable as it became evident that Mapesela and Letsoela’s relationship had become untenable,” a source said.

Another source concurred and added that the reshuffle will also allow Dr Thabane to fill the vacancies created by the February 2019 dismissals of Ms Doti and Mr Lebohang Hlaele from the Social Development and the Law and Constitutional Affairs portfolios respectively.

Although no reason was given for their dismissals, it is widely believed that they were fired as punishment for siding with Professor Nqosa Mahao even after Dr Thabane had made it clear that he was against the latter’s candidature and subsequent election to the post of All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader at the ABC’s February 2019 elective conference.

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