Lesotho needs an apolitical civil service

Lesotho needs an apolitical civil service

THIS week, the government summarily dismissed the bulk of principal secretaries who were appointed by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led administration.
We are not surprised by that move. We saw it coming. It has become a political ritual for any new government that takes over power to dismiss key individuals appointed by its predecessor. This has played itself out particularly since 2012.

After Mosisili’s first electoral loss, the new administration led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane wielded the axe on principal secretaries and ambassadors, amid howls of protest from the former ruling party.
When Mosisili bounced back into power in 2015, it appeared as if it was payback time with the new government recalling PS’s and ambassadors who were appointed by Thabane.

The trend is continuing unabated this season after Thabane’s electoral triumph last June.
We are not oblivious to the political thinking behind the swift changes in the government ministries.

The thinking is that the PS’, who were appointed by the previous administration, would be conflicted and their loyalties would be divided.
To keep them in such key positions would be politically suicidal.

The new government argues it needs its own people to drive government policies and programmes.
The result is that the government would have to pay off the principal secretaries at what is likely to be a huge cost to the taxpayer. It is a price the government appears willing to pay.

There is no doubt that the coalition government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is moving quickly to consolidate its grip on power.
As reported in our recent issues, there have been further shake-ups in the police and the National Security Service (NSS).
The government obviously thinks it needs its own people whom it can trust to drive its programmes.

All these changes are normal and are not wrong in themselves. Any new government would do the same.
But are there any lessons that can be drawn from the dismissal of the principal secretaries?
We think if there is any lesson to be learnt, it is that Lesotho needs a competent and professional civil service that is apolitical.
Its loyalty must be towards the government of the day.

Of course this will trigger howls of protest from party supporters who expect to be rewarded with plum jobs even if they do not hold the requisite qualifications for the jobs. A depoliticised civil service will ensure the best brains are picked for positions of principal secretaries. That way there would be no need to push for their ouster after every change of government.

That will ensure stability and continuity for government ministries. Lesotho needs technocrats to run government ministries and not just political appointees. Lesotho needs to depoliticise its civil service to ensure individuals are appointed to these key positions on the basis of their qualifications alone. If that is done, we would have taken giant strides in addressing the constant challenges associated with a new administration taking over power.

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