MASERU — The government has recalled senior diplomats in foreign missions in a move that the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) has described as a purge of those perceived to be its supporters.
There was also speculation this week that two principal secretaries are on their way out.
Lesotho’s ambassador to Malaysia, Ntsebe Kokome, is said to have arrived back in Lesotho on Friday.
A search for her replacement has already started.
‘Majonathan Molise, first secretary at the embassy in China, has also been recalled and is expected to be back in Lesotho by December 7.
She is sister to former deputy home affairs minister, Lineo Molise-Mabusela, who is also a prominent DC member.
Also recalled are Phakiso Ralepoma who is counsellor at the embassy in Ireland and Teboho Mohapi who is counsellor in London.
The website for the Lesotho high commission to the United Kingdom lists Mohapi’s position as vacant.
Although the DC yesterday charged that there was a sinister political agenda behind the changes, the foreign affairs ministry said nothing was improper about them.
Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thibello Metsing, confirmed the changes but said the contracts of all those who had been recalled had expired.
“The contracts for the ambassador to Malaysia had ended,” Metsing said yesterday in a telephone interview.
“The same applies for the three other officials (Molise, Ralepoma and Mohapi).”
Normally these officials are on a three-year contract. They are civil servants so they can be recalled at any time by the government. But in this case their contracts had expired,” Metsing added.
“It’s the prerogative of the government, according to public service regulations, to recall people”.
There was speculation this week that Home Affairs principal secretary, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, was also on his way out.
Sources in the ministry said Khetsi is waiting for his package from government before leaving.
But on Tuesday Khetsi said there was no truth in the allegations that he had been removed because he is still the principal secretary.
“I am still an employee of the government of Lesotho,” Khetsi said.
Government secretary Motlatsi Ramafole said Khetsi had not been removed but was on leave.
The Lesotho Times was also told last night that the principal secretary for health, ‘Malerato Khoeli, was on an extended leave pending her exit from government.
Sources close to her said she will be leaving the civil service in January next year.
The DC says it sees a political hand in the decision to recall senior diplomats and fire senior civil servants.
DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki yesterday said although he believes it is the right of any government to appoint “its own people” his party was worried with the manner in which the coalition government has handled the matter.
“We have no qualms with a government appointing its own supporters to diplomatic missions but something is not right in this case,” Moleleki said.
“It comes across as a purge because there are instances where some diplomats have just been moved to some missions three months ago but they are now being recalled.”
“This government,” he said, “is hell bent on removing everyone it has not appointed”.
“This is a waste of taxpayers’ money because recalling a diplomat costs money and sending a diplomat on mission costs money.”
Moleleki said there was also something sinister about the way senior civil servants are being removed.
“If a contract has expired then there is no problem. But how do you explain a situation where someone is being removed before their contract ends and they are being paid off using taxpayers’ money?”