Storm over spy boss’ new contract

Storm over spy boss’ new contract

MASERU-THE contract for the National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane has been extended to 2023 amid bitter objections from the opposition.
Ralenkoane’s initial appointment to the powerful post in 2017 was met with fierce criticism from the opposition after he stood as a candidate in elections for the BNP that year.

His contract was extended last week by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro.
Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s spokesman, Mosito Moqhekoana, told thepost that Ralenkoane “will continue to be in office for the next three years”.
The decision to renew Ralenkoane’s contract has angered the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

The party has consistently argued that Ralenkoane’s appointment as the spooks’ boss was in violation of Lesotho’s constitution.
The LCD argues that Ralenkoane is an active politician and therefore does not qualify to serve as the NSS boss.
The party’s spokesman, Teboho Sekata, told thepost that “it boggles one’s mind that the government had the audacity to pick a politician who openly stood for elections and lost”.

Ralenkoane stood for election in the Kolo constituency under the Basotho National Party (BNP) flag in 2017. He however lost heavily to a candidate from the Democratic Congress (DC) party.
The LCD argues that as an active BNP official, Ralenkoane is tainted by his affiliation to the party and is not neutral enough to serve as the intelligence guru.

Ralenkoane’s BNP, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) were in a coalition government that was led by Thomas Thabane.
It was Thabane who appointed Ralenkoane as the NSS boss amid howls of protest from the opposition.

Hardly a year after he took over, Ralenkoane fired 77 spies who had been recruited under the previous government led by Pakalitha Mosisili in which the LCD was a coalition partner.
Ralenkoane’s argument was that the then NSS head, Colonel Tumo Lekhooa, had not followed correct procedures when he recruited the 77.

He also complained that they had been trained militarily and so were not suitable for the civilian job of spying.
Sekata, however, says that move showed that Ralenkoane was purging the spies based on their political affiliation.
He says the agents were fired because they were associated with the congress movement, a historical opponent of Ralenkoane’s BNP.

Sekata argues that the government has failed dismally by re-appointing Ralenkoane as the NSS boss.
“We are currently on the verge of reforming our laws including security institutions,” Sekata said.
He complained that Ralenkoane is a BNP member and supporter who does not even hide that fact.

“He also contested for elections under the BNP in 2017 at Kolo,” Sekata said.
He said anyone who does not believe that Ralenkoane is indeed a politician should go to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) offices and check the lists of constituencies and those who contested the elections.
He also complained that appointing a politician will entrench old political habits that have been the cause of Lesotho’s instability over the last five decades.

Sekata said when Ralenkoane was first appointed NSS boss, he was the first to publicly oppose his appointment in Parliament.
He said he asked the then minister of defence, Sentje Lebona, why a politician was being given such a sensitive post.
Sekata said while the ABC’s infighting was raging a faction led by Professor Nqosa Mahao claimed the decision to appoint Ralenkoane was initiated by the rival faction that was led by Thabane.

He said the DC also used to preach the same message that security institutions should be apolitical.
“I am now surprised and embarrassed that the same person is again being appointed in the presence of the DC as a coalition partner,” Sekata said.
“No one would expect the DC as a congress party to take part in hiring such people,” he said.

He said the fact that Ralenkoane fired secret agents based on their political affiliation was a stain on his reputation adding he is therefore not fit for the position.
In May 2019, High Court judge Justice Semapo Peete ruled that Ralenkoane had acted unlawfully by terminating the employment of the secret agents.
The matter is pending before the Court of Appeal.

The LCD also tried to challenge Ralenkoane’s appointment in Parliament but the move fell flat after Speaker Sephiri Motanyane shot it down.
The LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing had sought Parliament’s intervention in what he called a misuse of power by Thabane and a clear violation of the Constitution.

Metsing wanted Parliament to reverse and nullify the appointments of Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and Ralenkoane.
Metsing also queried Ralenkoane’s appointment citing the latter’s unsuccessful run for a parliamentary seat in the 2017 elections when he represented the BNP in the Kolo constituency.
Efforts to speak to Ralenkoane yesterday failed.

Nkheli Liphoto

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