As the curtain comes down on 2013, we reflect on some of the stories that made headlines in the Kingdom this year.
The story of the seniority squabbles between former Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla and Court of Appeal President Justice Michael Ramodibedi dominated headlines and generated a lot of interest. Justice Lehohla was forced to quit but Ramodibedi dug in his heels and rebuffed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s order to quit.
The Prime Minister is now seeking Justice Ramodibedi’s impeachment and the matter is in the courts.
Justice Ramodibedi has just lost a bid to persuade the court to halt the impeachment process. Another meta-narrative in the year stems from the national identity documents tender in which an Israeli company, Nikuv International, is being probed by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences on the circumstances under which it won a M292 million maloti contract.
Senior government officials have been fingered for allegedly receiving huge kick-backs and some are now before the courts.
The coalition comprising Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Deputy Premier Mothetjoa Metsing, and the Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Senior Minister Thesele ’Maseribane; faced some of its toughest tests since the three parties came together to form a government last year.
Among these was the issue of the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. A lot of grumblings among the partners erupted when Thabane tried to bring the M14 billion project directly under his portfolio, effectively wrestling the important project from control of the then Water Affairs Minister Timothy Thahane of the LCD.
Matters among the tripartite coalition almost came to a head and the public heard disgruntled partners suddenly reminding ABC that the agreement has a clause about “agreeing to disagree”. For a moment the nation held its breath thinking what an implosion of the partnership would entail for the politics of the land.
Hardly a month later, another disagreement between the LCD and ABC became evident in the allocation of diplomatic posts.
Correspondence between Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa (LCD) and Thabane clearly showed sharp differences between the two key political parties holding together the coalition, creating another anxious moment for the nation.
For the later part of 2013, Thahane, has been facing corruption charges in court. In the end his LCD party’s leader, Metsing, was forced to announce that his party had asked Thahane to resign from cabinet until the courts clear his name of any wrongdoing.
This year will also be remembered for the tantrum-prone Minister of Trade Temeki Tšolo, an ABC member. who had to be booted out of Cabinet at the end of September after he allegedly assaulted an officer from the Lesotho Revenue Authority following an altercation over M10 change.
It became such a pity that a man l who had started off very well as one of the most promising members of the new cabinet could sacrifice all the work he did simply because he failed to check his temper.
Soon after, Tšolo was dramatically sacked as he touched down at Moshoeshoe 1 Airport from an international trip.
Hard on the heels of the departure of Tšolo another minister from the ABC camp nearly lost his job.
A lot of noise was made in various media outlets alleging that Agriculture Minister Litšoane Litšoane had assaulted his domestic helper. Some of the details in the alleged assault must have been heartbreaking for his party’s integrity. In the end the saga slowly receded and was overtaken by another headache from within the ABC camp in cabinet.
This was probably the mother of all boobs and the biggest headaches for Thabane.
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and ABC member, Mophato Monyake, was extensively quoted by various media claiming that he had managed to catch the country’s most wanted criminal Lehlohonolo Scott and had initiated a process that would secure his extradition to face the law in Lesotho within two weeks.
Respected human rights lawyer, Haae Phofoolo, who is the Minister of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights (also from ABC), sharply contradicted Monyake arguing that from his understanding of legal processes, it was technically impossible to get Scott extradited and send to Lesotho “within two weeks” as promised by Monyake.
As if that was not enough egg on the face of ABC, the party leader himself, Thabane, who is also in charge of the police ministry corroborated the police’s position Scott was still at large and the authorities were still looking for him.
This all created an impression of a cabinet in sixes and sevens.
Enter the saga involving the arrest of a fugitive soldier who had fled to South Africa 15 years ago only to be nabbed when he came back under the cover of a general political amnesty instituted by the government last year.
Monyake was stepping onto the toes of his comrades again by issuing statements that contrast sharply with cabinet colleagues. As correctional services minister, he said he had assured fugitive soldier Thabang Phaila’s family that he would not be arrested if he came back home.
Army commander, seemingly with the tacit approval of Thabane, had gone on to tell Monyake they wanted Phaila to answer for the 1998 mutiny. The saga is still continuing.
However, drama was not confined to politics.
In the last quarter we witnessed a very intense scrutiny on the goings-on at the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa). Interest in the administration of soccer has been growing in all countries across the globe lately, not least because soccer is not just a game anymore but it has also become a mammoth industry everywhere.
So when the elections for a new president at Lefa showed signs of possible vote-buying, eyebrows were raised.
To this day, Lefa has not been able to categorically refute allegations published in the media, especially that on the eve of the election, re-elected Lefa president, Salemane Phafane, was entertaining at a hotel in Mafeteng in the company of a group of members from the district football associations; the same people who formed the poll’s electorate on the next day.
On the grand international stage, 2013 will be remembered as the year in which the world lost the beacon of peace and reconciliation, Nelson Mandela.