Kaya: a victim of bedroom politics?

Kaya: a victim of bedroom politics?

MASERU-RECENTLY fired as health minister amid talk that he was a victim of bedroom politics within the Prime Minister’s home, Nyapane Kaya is reluctant to discuss the reasons behind his dismissal from Cabinet.
But the All Basotho Convention (ABC) MP for Mechechane constituency is willing to talk about one thing: the role of a spouse in a professional set-up.

As principal at Khukhune High School before joining fulltime politics, Kaya worked with his wife, who as a teacher was his subordinate.

“We agreed on one principle, that our relationship as husband and wife would not derail our progress at school as principal and teacher,” the 54-year-old Kaya tells thepost in an interview last Thursday at parliament grounds.
“It’s one thing that helped me gather principle and discipline. I didn’t want her to interfere in the running of the school,” he says.

It is a lesson he hopes those who hold political power can take to heart.
A wife can have a hand in derailing a politician’s progress in whatever he wants to achieve “and some politicians have unfortunately fallen into the trap”.

“It needs courage, principle and discipline to ensure that at work you are not influenced by your spouse to do things you would not want to do, things that will derail you on the good path you are taking,” he says.
He refuses to directly link these statements to the fate that recently befell him. But others may have little doubt to whom the statements are referring.

He has been a centre of attention recently after he was fired and some have claimed that he was let go from his portfolio because he refused to dance to the tune of his boss’ wife.
Some MPs, such as the Butha-Buthe MP Motlohi Maliehe, alleged that Kaya refused to play ball when First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane wanted him to dish out tenders to her friends. The Office of the First Lady has vehemently denied the allegations.

The same MPs were accusing Prime Minister Thomas Thabane of allowing his wife to interfere in the affairs of the government to an extent of actually directing the duties of Cabinet ministers.
Kaya has never confirmed or denied the allegations in public.

Avoiding talking about his alleged bad experiences with the First Lady, Kaya says he believes discipline is the most important quality in all spheres of life, a guiding power when one is tempted to compromise their principles.
Describing himself as a disciplined politician, Kaya says he owes it to his upbringing by parents who cherished such values.

Like any other Mosotho boy in the rural areas, Kaya grew herding livestock and attending school at the same time – a tough balancing act that he says taught him to manage his time and responsibilities.
Born in Makhoakhoeng, Liqhobong, in Butha-Buthe, Kaya says he was the only child in a family of 10 who pursed education as his brothers and sisters became disinterested in school.

“My father wanted all of us to go to school but I was the only one who lived up to his dream,” he says.
“In fact, in the whole village I was the only one who did what others were not doing. They were joining initiation schools or plainly not pursuing their education. I did the opposite,” he says.

He describes his village as composed of “typical Basotho traditionalists”.
“I’m the only one who surprised my peers.”
He says because of discipline, he got a first class pass in Standard Seven and at Junior Certificate.
After passing Junior Certificate, his parents could not afford to pay for his further studies and he ended up joining the mines in South Africa in 1984.

Shortly after that he married ’Malebohang Kaya, also a Junior Certificate holder.
Kaya decided to further his wife’s education and he enrolled her at a local school until she completed her Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC).
He also supported her when she went to the National University of Lesotho (NUL) to study education.
After his wife graduated, Kaya completed his high school education and passed COSC with first class.
He registered with the NUL and came back armed with an education degree, and worked as a Geography and English teacher.

He had a short stint at Lesotho High School before moving to his home district where he became a principal until 2015 when he joined fulltime politics.
Kaya says he demonstrated discipline as a teacher and principal at Khukhune High School, where for years he worked with his wife.

“At school I was a principal and she was a teacher, nothing more. I think this is how things should be when married couples work together,” he says.
He says when he left teaching he thought he could use politics to bring changes he wanted to see “but in politics challenges are so serious than I had anticipated”.

“A formidable background became a springboard for me. I am guided from the world of experiences,” he says.
He says the life of a politician requires discipline and holding fast to one’s core values and being courageous.
As an MP, people look up at him to fight corruption and improve their lives. Helping people should be a calling for all politicians, he says.

“Unfortunately, not all of us see things that way. There are many that are here (in politics) for different purposes, including the purpose to steal from the government,” he says.
Kaya is a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which routinely grills government officials suspected of misusing public funds.

“Working in the PAC has opened my eyes. I have realised that the whole nation has a problem. There is something wrong with our psyche as a nation,” he says.
“The manner in which these people plunder the government (coffers), across all sectors is frightening.”
“They plunder it vertically and horizontally, so much that every aspect of our life in government is tainted by corruption.”

He says he wishes that the whole nation “will understand the kind of predicament we are having”.
“If only we understand the problem we can face it. We must make people aware of the extent of the rot in government offices so that they can take action against it,” he says.
He says once people join hands, “the politicians will only have to tow the line”.

Kaya says corruption springs from senior political party officials and spreads to party members who hold high positions in government until it reaches Parliament.
He is also against partisan politics.

At times, ruling party MPs oppose progressive motions to deal effectively with corruption in government “merely because it has been brought or raised by an opposition member”.
He cited the example of the famous motion that was suggested by Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane for a lifestyle audit.
“It was such a good motion but my fellow parliamentarians in government rejected it merely because it was from the opposition,” he says.

Kaya says he was caught in-between.
“My conscience couldn’t allow me to vote against that motion and at the same time I did not want to vote against my party,” he says.
“I had to recuse myself because I didn’t want to vote against my principals.”

If confronted with a similar situation in future “I will listen to my conscience and vote correctly”.
“I don’t want to be remembered in history as someone who rejected things that would benefit my people,” he says.
Already, there are government policies he is unhappy with. One of them is the policy of having students pass on to the next class despite failing their previous examinations.

“The government is trying to save money at the expense of the future of this nation,” he says.
“The government says it becomes costly to continue funding education of children who repeat classes and its solution is that they should all pass to the next class,” says Kaya, adding: “Do not make education poor to save money. This is the greatest mistake ever.”

Education, it seems, is still in his blood. Kaya, who obtained honours and masters degree later as a grown up, says he is pursuing a doctorate at the NUL “so that when I retire I can continue contributing to Basotho children’s education”.
“I don’t want to be in politics for long,” he says, still refusing to talk about his alleged tiff with the wife of the boss.

Caswell Tlali

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