Ministers caught in army jobs storm

Ministers caught in army jobs storm

MASERU – TWO cabinet ministers have been caught in an embarrassing jobs storm after they were accused of using their political weight to push for the recruitment of their supporters into the army.
Tefo Mapesela, a former Defence Minister who was last week shuffled to the Ministry of Forestry, denied that he wielded any influence around the recruitment of youths by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

Education Deputy Minister Mothepu Mahapa was also accused by some youths of promising to give them jobs in the army.
He also denies the charge.
In an audio clip seen by thepost this week, the youths demanded answers from Mapesela after their names failed to make it onto a list of individuals who have been recruited into the army.

Mapesela is heard in the leaked audio clip responding to a question from a young man from his Mokhotlong constituency.
The man asked Mapesela what could have happened to their names and the minister’s answer was that he had prepared a list of those to be hired but once he was reshuffled it was thrown away.
“They threw it away and made their own list,” Mapesela said.
Mapesela said he was also surprised that a list of hired soldiers was announced on Friday during the national Independence holiday.
It is that private conversation that has now torched a storm.

The audio clip would suggest that Mapesela was pushing his weight for youths from his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to get first preference when the army embarks on a recruitment drive.

This week a cornered Mapesela battled to extricate himself from the mess. He told a local radio station that the army had a clear recruitment policy saying there was no way he could influence who was recruited by the LDF.
He said the policy requires the army to advertise positions and specify the age restrictions. He said after the applicants are selected they would be subjected to rigorous interviews.

“Interviews are done by a committee made up of people from the Ministries of Education, Justice, Public Service and the LDF,” he said.
He said after that stage, the successful applicants must also pass medical examinations.
Mapesela insisted the army will never recruit new soldiers outside this policy.
He said the army never works on the basis of a list when recruiting.
He said there is never a time when the ministry goes out to look for people they will hire.

“Our ministry would never take a list,” he said.
He said hiring a soldier is a serious responsibility which needs care as that individual must understand clearly how the army operates.
“There are no conflicts at all between the minister and principal secretary,” he said.

He said the biggest problem was the massive unemployment in Lesotho resulting in everything being politicised.
He said he just talked about recommendations when he spoke to the youths.
“The recommendations were just meant to gain political mileage not that there was a list. It was just making those recruited to feel like I had a hand in it,” Mapesela said.

He said he did not expect members of his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to leak the clip as he was talking to them as their MP.
“It was not meant for public consumption but for the All Basotho Convention family to truly understand how things work.”

Mahapa, who is the MP for Tele constituency, was also heard in the clip firing salvos at youths who were demanding answers from him.
He bluntly told the youths that he was not responsible for recruiting soldiers into the LDF.

But Mahapa was quick to tell thepost in an interview on Tuesday that he was “just trying to make it seem like he had an influence when the army is recruiting”.
He said he was just luring the AD youths in the constituency to trust him.
“I do not have power to influence army recruitments,” he said.

Mahapa said there is a misconception that when someone is a minister, he or she will have power to hire individuals.
“If they see you not hiring them, they then lash out at you making it seem like you had an alternative,” Mahapa said.
Mahapa said there was no prepared list for army recruitments.
Yesterday the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Tankiso Phumaphe Phapano, said allegations that the recruitment into the army was done based on a list compiled by MPs were not true.

Nkheli Liphoto

 

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