Why ministers were fired

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MASERU — The three cabinet ministers who were fired by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili this week are victims of the fierce political battles that have rocked the ruling party.

The three ministers who are also senior members of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s national executive committee were sacked on Tuesday, two days after the party failed to hold a special conference.

Mothetjoa Metsing, the party’s secretary general, was fired as communications minister.

Motleheloa Phooko, the LCD’s public relations officer, was relieved of his duties as minister in the prime minister’s office.

Khotso Matla, the editor of the party’s newspaper Mololi, was dismissed as deputy trade minister.

Sources said the fact that the three were not replaced was an indication that this was not a normal reshuffle.

That the dismissals came a day after the botched special conference was also an indication that Mosisili’s decision had nothing to do with competence, the sources said.

This paper understands that the dismissal letters Mosisili wrote to Metsing, Phooko and Matla did not give reasons for the decision to fire them.

Metsing, according to a source close to the LCD issues, has had running battles with Mosisili since he was appointed secretary general in 2009.

“Metsing has gone through hell since he took that office,” the source said.

“The leader seems to have decided from day one that he does not want to work with him.”

The source said Matla could have been targeted because of his writing in Mololi while Phooko was sacked for refusing to work with youth and women league members that had forced their way into the credentials committee on Saturday night.

Metsing, Matla and Phooko are believed to be members of a camp that has been fighting a faction led by Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki.

Sources said Moleleki’s faction has Mosisili’s support.

A senior party official told the Lesotho Times that it was inconceivable that Mosisili’s decision to fire the three ministers was based on their performance.

“Their terms are almost over so why would he rush to fire them? This has nothing to do with their work but the politics of the party,” the source said.

“The cases of Metsing and Phooko are also difficult to understand because he left them in their positions when he fired four ministers and one deputy in 2010. The question now is at what point did he decide that they have suddenly failed?”

“As for Matla it’s a mystery how a deputy minister could be fired while the minister remains. How do you measure the performance of a deputy minister without looking at their work in relationship to that of their minister?”

She said there is a strong view in the party that the three ministers were “easy targets in the battle against the executive committee”.

“This is just a continuation of a political clean-up campaign that started in 2010. The executive committee members are being targeted.”

Metsing was in the news last year after whistle-blowing website Wikileaks reported that he was not happy with Mosisili’s decision to hang on power.

The cable revealed that Metsing told former US Ambassador to Lesotho Robert Nolan that he was concerned with Mosisili’s “dictatorial” behaviour.

The cable was filed in December 2009 by Elizabeth Power, the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission.

It said Metsing expressed concerns about Mosisili’s “decision not to retire at the end of his current term and his “dictatorial” behaviour in keeping a tight rein on party activities”.

According to the cable Metsing sought the meeting with Nolan on November 12, 2009.

“Metsing stated that despite his position as LCD secretary general, he has never been consulted by Mosisili about party policy or activities.

“Instead, Mosisili appears to receive guidance and support from hardliners in the party such as Minister of Local Government Pontso Sekatle,” the cable said.

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