MASERU-THE search for the chief executive of the National Reforms Authority (NRA) has been plunged into controversy after politicians allegedly hijacked the process.
While the NRA was conducting public interviews this week, a storm was brewing behind the scenes.
thepost can exclusively reveal that most of those interviewed this week were not on the original list of candidates submitted by the Institute of Development Management (IDM), which the NRA hired to manage the recruitment.
Sources at the authority revealed that some names have been removed from the IDM’s list and preferred candidates have been added. Most of those on the authority’s final list had failed to make it to the IDM’s shortlist.
Letters have been filing back and forth between the IDM and the authority as they strongly disagree on how to proceed. But while they argue a legal battle looms over the recruitment.
Last night former Mines Minister Lebohang Thotanyana, whose name was removed from the IDM list, filed an urgent High Court application to block the recruitment.
Thotanyana claims the fact that his name was plucked off the consultant’s list shows that there is some chicanery that has tainted the process.
The allegations of tinkering with the shortlist and Thotanyana’s lawsuit are likely to embarrass the authority that should otherwise be leading by example to show the change it seeks to make in the public service.
The IDM has since raised concerns with the NRA, refusing to be associated with the new list as well as the interview questions and panel.
In a September 4 letter to the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Law, IDM alleges that the NRA changed both the selection criteria and the shortlist it submitted.
In his letter the IDM’s country director Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko,told the principal secretary of law that the institution can not associate itself with the final list that does not include other names.
The IDM’s list for the chief executive’s position had nine candidates whose CVs had been scrutinised by human resources experts. The NRA’s list has five candidates, some of whom were not even considered by IDM.
It is alleged that some of the candidates were disqualified at the preliminary stages because they lacked the prerequisite experience and qualifications.
The NRA however changed the criteria, resulting in some of the candidates on IDM’s list losing points and those it had excluded gaining more marks to make it to the final list the authority interviewed this week.
That is how Thotanyana was removed from the final list even though he had been shortlisted by the IDM.
Dr. Letholetseng Ntsike, the Independent Electoral Commission’s director of elections, was excluded from the NRA list despite making it to the IDM list.
So was Majakathata Mokoena-Thakhisi, the former principal secretary of Public Works.
Mahashe Chaka, the former director general of the Land Administration Authority, suffered the same fate. So did Justice Tšukulu, Tšeliso Nteso, ’Mota Nkuatsana.
Only Koenane Leanya and Mawinnie Kanetsi survived the chop from the IDM list.
The NRA then added Mafiroane Motanyane, Selebalo Ntepe and Tšiu Khathibe to its own list.
Sources at the authority told thepost that the same changes happened to the IDM’s list for the deputy chief executive.
From the IDM’s list, the authority removed Thabang Mothepu and Mofilisa Letsoela and Kanetsi. Added were Khiba Mohapi and Motanyane.
The only ones who survived from the IDM list are Motlatsi Kolisang, Khathibe and Leanya.
Khathibe now appears on both lists but the IMD had shortlisted him for the deputy’s position only.
The IDM shortlisted Kanetsi for both positions but the NRA has her on the chief executive’s list only.
Motanyane, who is said to be related to a senior government official, did not make it to the IDM’s lists but is now vying for both positions under the NRA list.
The IDM’s letter said given the changes to the list the institute wanted to be withdrawn from observing the recruitment procedure “since it will not be in a position to write any report of the process it did not assess nor instigate in terms of good practices”.
It said it will also not participate in the preparation of interview questions as well as the examination to be administered during the interviews and preparation of scoring”.
It further recommended that the deliverables of its contract be revised to align with the new developments that had changed their role in the recruitment.
The institute however said it remained “committed to providing any further assistance once it is cleared in writing that the NRA would like to take over from the contractor that was supposed to be a deliverable”.
The NRA’s chairman Pelele Letsoela responded to IDM on September 7 denying the allegations and rejecting the recommendations.
Letsoela said IDM’s contract will not be reviewed and the institute still has an obligation to write the final report. He insisted that the IDM should also observe the process even though it was no longer in full control of the recruitment.
Letsoela described the IDM’s recommendation to have the deliverable changed as “unacceptable”, insisting that the NRA had not taken over IDM’s role.
He said he hoped the IDM will “get over this misunderstanding and continue with its commitment to provide the expected technical assistance to the process of recruitment as provided for in the Contract and Memorandum of Agreement”.
IDM’s Dr Nko this week confirmed his letter to the Ministry of Law but refused to discuss the contents.
“There is no collapse in the relationship. It was just a matter of seeking clarity. IDM is still a consultant and remains committed to complete the assignment,” Dr Nko said.
“We remain committed to working at the highest level of professionalism and integrity to give the expected results of the best possible standard and output”.
It appears that while the IDM and NRA were arguing, Thotanyana was getting ready to enter the fight. On September 12 Thotanyana wrote to Letsoela complaining that his name had been removed from the IDM list.
Thotanyana alleged that the authority instructed the IDM to abort the process.
“The shortlisting of the candidates for the position of the chief executive was undertaken by the appointed top echelons of the authority and this leaves a huge shadow of doubt on the credibility of the process given that the recruitment process by an independent consultancy institution was aborted without any justifiable grounds,” Thotanyana said.
He said he could not be arbitrarily disqualified.
Letsoela responded the next day, saying the IDM was never directed to abort the process.
He said it was not true that the top echelons of the NRA shortlisted the candidates.
Instead, he said, it was the NRA Selection Panel that made the shortlist with the IDM’s assistance. Insisting that the process was transparent, Letsoela warned Thotanyana not to try to stop the interviews through the courts because that will further delay the reforms.
He said Thotanyana, as a prominent politician, would not want to have the stigma of having delayed the reforms.
“Please also consider that a lot of expenses have already been incurred in the preparation of the interviews,” he said.
But yesterday Thotanyana filed an urgent application to stop the recruitment.
He is asking the court to stop the appointment of the chief executive until his case is finalised.
He also wants the authority to provide the record of the proceedings, deliberations and correspondences relating to the shortlisting criteria, scoring and his disqualification.
Thotanyana also wants his disqualification reviewed and set aside as unlawful.
Last night Letsoela said he was not aware of Thotanyana’s lawsuit.
He however said the recruitment process was going on smoothly.
“The process is complete and we are just making finishing touches,” Letsoela said.
He denied that IDM had raised concerns about the recruitment.
Lawyer in trouble
A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.
It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.
Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.
Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.
According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.
The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.
During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.
His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.
Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.
He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.
Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.
Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.
Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.
Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.
He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.
The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.
Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.
Trio in court for killing ‘witches’
THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.
Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.
They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.
The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.
Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.
Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.
He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.
“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.
He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.
They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.
Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.
He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.
Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.
He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.
Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.
He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.
“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.
He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.
Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.
The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.
Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.
“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.
He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.
“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.
He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.
Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.
He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.
The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.
“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.
He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.
Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.
He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.
Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.
He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.
“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”
He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.
Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.
He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.
Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.
“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.
The case continues.
Opposition fights back
THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.
Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.
But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.
The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.
Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.
Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.
It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.
The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.
The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.
“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.
“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”
“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”
The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.
The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.
“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.
He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.
“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.
“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”
He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.
“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.
Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.
“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.
Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.
“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.
“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”
The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.
The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.
Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.
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