Lesotho: Rein in Mapesela, New Minister Demands

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro (file photo).
17 February 2021

Newly appointed Defence and National Security Minister, Lekhetho Mosito, has accused his colleague Tefo Mapesela of damaging his reputation through "unfounded and baseless allegations".

Mr Mosito is livid that his reputation has been seriously besmirched in the eyes of His Majesty King Letsie III, army officers and the public through Mr Mapesela's "unwarranted attacks". He thus wants a code of ethics put in place to govern the conduct of cabinet ministers to guard against similar "baseless attacks" in future.

Mr Mosito is the main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC)'s legislator for the Likhetlane constituency. His comments follow last week's acerbic attacks on him by fellow ABC legislator and Agriculture and Food Security Minister Mapesela.

Mr Mapesela described Mr Mosito as an "unprincipled goat and rebel" who was allegedly loyal to ousted former prime minister and ABC leader, Thomas Thabane.

He questioned why Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro had appointed Mr Mosito when the latter was allegedly a Thabane loyalist.

Mr Mosito was appointed in place of another ABC legislator Prince Maliehe (Teyateyaneng constituency) who was fired in last Wednesday's cabinet reshuffle by Dr Majoro.

This week Mr Mosito hit back at Mr Mapesela for his utterances saying his "baseless" accusations were likely to undermine his standing in the eyes of the King, soldiers and the public at large.

"For the past few days since the publication of the Right Honourable Prime Minister's decision to appoint me as Minister of Defence and National Security, my name has been mired in the mud for all the wrong reasons," Mr Mosito said in a statement this week.

"My name and that of my family have been compromised in the court of public opinion. This regrettable crusade was further compounded by a colleague in the National Assembly, a fellow cabinet member and comrade from the ranks of ABC, Honourable Tefo Mapesela.

"I am being attacked and harassed by my own kith and kin in my own country," added Mr Mosito.

He said Mr Mapesela's attacks on him had shown that there was a "dire need" for cabinet ministers, politicians and legislators to be reined in and taught to rise above their differences and avoid making "unfounded allegations" against one another which could damage other people's lives.

"There is dire need to formulate a code of ethics for members of the cabinet and the reinforcement of collective ministerial responsibility which is often violated by all and sundry (sic) particularly cabinet ministers.

"This unfounded attack on me has clearly lowered the esteem of His Majesty King Letsie III and it is by all means regrettable.

"I am a trained soldier and I know for a fact that the reckless statements made about me attract and perhaps pose a threat to the security of the land in the sense that the army will not have that element of deference to me as the administrative head of defence and national security," Mr Mosito said.

He said he had previously served in the army in the 1990s but did not say what rank he held.

He revealed that sometime in 1994, he was accused of stealing firearms from the army but the charges were withdrawn and he was never tried for the alleged crime.

"I was arrested and detained for close to a month. I was released on bail afterwards but my criminal case was never prosecuted and consequently the trial was discontinued," Mr Mosito said.

Last week he made headlines when Mr Mapesela and other prominent ABC officials including Deputy Water Minister, Lepota Sekola, questioned his appointment on the grounds that he was allegedly a rebel who was loyal to Mr Thabane.

Mr Mapesela led a delegation of ABC members which included Mr Sekola to voice their concerns to Dr Majoro at State House on Friday. Others who were part of the Mapesela delegation are MP Fako Moshoeshoe, 'Mathato Phafoli (chairperson of the ABC's parliamentary caucus) and ABC chief whip in parliament, Mankoe Maime.

Mr Mapesela said they were due for another meeting with the premier last Sunday in their bid to convince him to reverse Mr Mosito's appointment. Messrs Moshoeshoe and Sekola yesterday confirmed that the meeting took place as planned on Sunday but refused to say what was decided.

The fiery Mr Mapesela alleged that Mr Mosito was a rebel who had shown his loyalty to Mr Thabane by allegedly failing to vote for the constitutional amendment bill to clip any prime minister's powers to advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections whenever they lost a no confidence vote in parliament.

The bill was passed into law and could have been used to stop Mr Thabane clinging to power had he not agreed to step down in May 2020. This after his own ABC pushed for his resignation and withdrew the party from the then ruling coalition which also included the Basotho National Party (BNP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the Alliance of Democrats (AD).

"This rebel (Mosito) was not loyal to the party and yet he gets to be picked over men and women who stood by the ABC in support of the 9th Amendment to the Constitution Bill," Mr Mapesela said last week.

"I won't support this rubbish (Mosito's appointment to cabinet), it is unacceptable. I won't agree to this, never.

"Many MPs are not happy with this decision and it should not be forgotten that he (Mosito) is part of the State House (Thabane) faction. Those close to the PM must tell him to remove this goat of his before it runs our government. (sic)

"They have to start taking me seriously, I am not a clown. When I say something, you have to take it seriously or ignore at your own peril."

Mr Mapesela and his colleagues were not reachable for comment on their mobile phones this week and it could therefore not be established if at all they had met Dr Majoro on Sunday and how he had responded to their demands to reverse Mr Mosito's appointment. Dr Majoro's press attaché, Buta Moseme, did not respond to questions on the issue.

The cabinet reshuffle has divided the ABC's national executive committee (ABC) with some members like ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele and spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa accusing Dr Majoro of making unilateral decisions without consulting them. Others like deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao and Deputy Secretary General Nkaku Kabi are fully in support of Dr Majoro.

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