Thabane breathes fire

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…threatens cabinet reshuffle to weed out corrupt ministers

…lambasts PSs for drunkenness

’Marafaele Mohloboli

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane says he has no option but to reshuffle his cabinet to get rid of “corrupt ministers”.

The Prime Minister has also fired a broadside at unnamed principal secretaries whom he accused of drinking heavily, questioning where they were getting the money to splurge on expensive alcohol to keep themselves constantly inebriated.

He threatened ruthless action against such PSs.

Dr Thabane said he had been observing his ministers and was badgered by the failure of some in his cabinet to uphold the principles of good governance on which he based his campaign.

Dr Thabane’s threat of a cabinet reshuffle- the second such in less than two months- was made at a rally early this week in Malimong #22 constituency in the Berea district.

Dr Thabane came to power in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 snap elections at the head of a four party coalition which comprises of his All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

He waged a successful election campaign that was premised on the pledge to tackle endemic corruption in the public and private sector in the country. After assuming power, he publicly stated that corruption would not be tolerated and vowed to bring offending ministers and other public officials to book.

And on Sunday in Malimong, Dr Thabane reiterated that corruption remained a persistent problem, saying he would not hesitate to use his powers to rid government of the bad apples.

He said he had observed over a period of time a trend wherein some of the ministers involved themselves in corrupt activities particularly in the awarding of tenders.  This did not reflect well on the government, he said.

He said he had engaged his coalition partners on the issue of graft and there was a consensus that it should not be tolerated.

“I have been watching (the corruption) in silence but I had to observe carefully lest I judge hastily,” Dr Thabane said.

“I have observed with sadness that some ministers within the ABC are beginning to take interest in these corrupt activities and I have decided to act before it gets out of hand. I have no other choice but to reshuffle.

“I loathe anyone who indulges in such activities be it the giver of the bribe or the one who is bribed because I won the elections with one of my campaign key messages being the fight against corruption.

“Appointing ministers is one of the powers vested in me and it is not always an easy thing to later reshuffle ministers. But when you are in my position it is something that you commit to do because you would have accepted to lead.”

Dr Thabane also warned ministers to cut back on foreign travels to avoid wasting money on unnecessary trips.  He would not hesitate to introduce tough measures to constrict unnecessary foreign trips.

“Airplanes are not taxi cabs, they are very costly and starting now I am going to disapprove of trips which I feel are not necessary. If at all you feel that I may disapprove of your trip even before you request, don’t even bother come to me,” Dr Thabane warned.

His call for the reduction in foreign trips echoes that of Finance Minister, Moeketsi Majoro, who made it abundantly clear in his maiden 2017/18 budget in July 2017 that Lesotho must save money for investment into productive sectors to boost economic growth and job creation.

Speaking at the time, Dr Majoro said cabinet ministers should cut back on foreign trips, drastically reduce their bloated delegations and forego first class travel.

He said he had formulated the proposed budget against the background of extremely challenging global, regional and local conditions which necessitated cost-cutting measures across the board including government expenditure as it related to ministers’ expenses.

The budget speech was delivered under the theme ‘Pursuing fiscal sustainability within the context of political instability and insecurity’.

Among other measures aimed at reducing expenditure, “ministers and equivalent ranks would no longer fly first class”.

“Ministers will no longer travel for more than seven days without the express permission of the Prime Minister based on elaborate justification,” Dr Majoro said, adding that ministers had to reduce the size of their delegations to international meetings to just the optimum numbers necessary for them to perform their duties effectively.

Dr Thabane also attacked some principal secretaries for drunkenness, saying, “I have also noted with concern and shame how some of you principal secretaries drink heavily”.

“One wonders where you get all that money that you spend so extravagantly on alcohol. I therefore urge you to stop this behaviour or else I shall have to deal with you.”

Dr Thabane also railed at some ABC legislators and ministers, accusing them of holding secret meetings with the party’s former deputy leader, Tlali Khasu.

“I have noted that there are some ministers who are busy having caucus meetings initiated by the former deputy of this party and I urge those meetings to stop forthwith because the person behind them is no longer with us. He has followed his heart and his vacancy shall be appropriately filled by party cadres at a conference.”

Mr Khasu left the ABC on 17 September 2016 after being suspended for three months for allegedly castigating Dr Thabane during a radio programme.

Mr Khasu subsequently formed the True Reconciliation Unity (TRU) in January 2017 together with another former ABC stalwart, Pitso Maisa.

Dr Thabane’s attacks on party members and threats to reshuffle the cabinet are the second such in the space of less than two months.

Last November, Dr Thabane told a party rally in Hlotse that his ABC had been infiltrated by “enemies who have come to confuse us”.

He said the enemies were spreading malicious rumours about the office of the First Lady, ’Maesaiah Thabane and its role in assisting vulnerable villagers. He also threatened at the time to reshuffle his cabinet.

He spoke at a time when social media was awash with complaints from people who claimed to be ABC supporters who accused his wife of “capturing the government”.

They complained that Dr Thabane had allowed ’Maesaiah to run the government through what they termed a “bedroom coup”.

Meanwhile, Malimong legislator, Mr Leshoboro Mohlajoa, took advantage of the Sunday rally to reassure Dr Thabane of the full support of the Berea members of parliament and voters.

The assurance put to rest earlier speculation that legislators from the district were not happy with the fact that only one of their number was appointed to a ministerial position last June despite the fact that the district had given the ABC its second biggest area electoral win with nine seats out of the 11 contested in last year’s national polls.

The ABC won the most seats in Maseru with 15 seats out of the 18 contested in the district.  The ABC garnered a total of 48 seats, while the AD won nine, BNP five and RCL one.

ABC legislator for Khafung #23 constituency in Berea constituency, Habofanoe Lehana, was subsequently appointed  Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs minister- a development which reportedly riled the legislators in the constituency who felt they deserved more appointments for their success and loyalty to the party.

The other Berea legislators are Fako Moshoeshoe (Mabote), Litšoane Litšoane (Bela-Bela), Likopo Mahase (Khubetsoana), Mohlajoa (Malimong), Motlatsi Maqelepo (Berea), Hlomelang Lefu (Makhoarane), Samuel Rapapa (Mosalemane) and Tšoeu Molise (Tšoana-Makhulo).

The discontent was laid bare by an audio clip that circulated on social media networks after the elections in which an unidentified woman – claiming to be a member of the ABC’s Berea election committee – claimed party supporters in the district had convened  a meeting with their legislators to voice their concerns at the lack of more ministerial appointments.

“We discussed the fact that our legislators were not appointed to  more ministerial positions and we made a decision to defect to the Democratic Congress,” the woman says in the clip.

“We need to make Ntate Tom (Thabane) see that we are not fools. It’s unfair that he did not reward our loyalty and decision to stick with the party through thick and thin.”

However, any lingering doubts about the legislators’ loyalty to the party were put to rest on Sunday when Mr Mohlajoa moved to reassure Dr Thabane.

“I would like to assure that there is no one else but you (Dr Thabane). You have the full support of this district,” Mr Mohlajoa said.

He said unemployment and poor infrastructure topped the list of challenges in the district and called on the government to build at least three factories to create 3000 jobs in the district.

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