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Knives out for Motsephe

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MASERU-THE battalion of critics within the Basotho National Party (BNP) have sharpened their long knives against ‘Malineo Motsephe.
They want her out of the electoral race, pronto.

They argue that at 72, Motsephe is way past her sell-by date politically. Instead of seeking the highest office in the BNP, Motsephe should be safely ensconced in retirement, playing with her grandchildren.
Where has she been all these years? Why enter the race to lead the party when others her age are now seriously contemplating retirement?

These are persuasive arguments that Motsephe will have to bat off if she is to come out victorious after the June 11-13 BNP internal elections.
But Motsephe is not taking the criticism lying down.
She is fighting back.
My advanced age is no handicap, she says.
In fact, age comes with wisdom – which has been in short supply in the BNP in recent years, she counters.

The BNP has been in mortal decline precisely because we mortgaged the party to younger leaders who had no wisdom, she says.
“The party is where it is now because we gave it to young people without a proper succession plan,” she says.
‘With my wealth of experience I can help revive the party while working with younger people.’
At 72, Motsephe will be the oldest candidate among six party heavyweights vying to succeed Thesele ’Maseribane as party leader.

‘Maseribane’s term ends in June.
The other five are ‘Machere Seutloali, a 36-year-old woman, current deputy leader Machesetsa Mofomobe, Lesojane Leuta, Advocate ‘Mota Nkuatsana and Professor Lehlohonolo Mosotho.
The BNP, which was one of the leading lights in Lesotho just after independence in 1966, has been in mortal decline since it was ousted from power in a bloodless military coup in 1986.

When democracy was eventually restored in Lesotho, the BNP performed dismally in national elections, with the electorate viewing it as “damaged goods”.
The party won a single constituency in the 2015 elections. It had last won a seat in the 1993 elections.
Ever since 1993, the BNP has relied on the Proportional Representation (PR) electoral model to sneak in a few MPs into parliament where their influence has been heavily diluted.
To stay relevant, the BNP has since 2012 relied on coalition agreements with larger parties.

Motsephe says she wants to change the party’s electoral fortunes and bring the glory days back to the party. Given where the BNP is at the moment, that’s a steep mountain to climb.
“The old people have become disgruntled with how the young ones have been doing things in the party. We want to take the BNP to the good, old days by merging the young and old.”
Motsephe says her vision is to grow the party. She admits that the party has lost significant support over the years.

Most of their supporters have become disenchanted with politics.
“Some are sitting on the fence and no longer vote in elections because they are loyal to the BNP,” she says.
“The first thing is to rekindle the loyalty of BNP members,” she says. “I want to ensure that they are motivated to register to vote with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).”

Motsephe says she does not “like seeing the BNP being at the mercy of other political parties after elections”.
As a smaller political party, the BNP has very little bargaining power during coalition negotiations. The result is that the party has failed to push its own agenda during coalition governments.
“The BNP should not be dragged into coalition governments. It is a shame for a big party like the BNP that has done so much for the country that it cannot win a single constituency during elections.”

Motsephe says she wants to correct this anomaly.
To restore the BNP to glory, Motsephe says she wants to see the party going back to the basics – by setting up strong democratic structures.
With strong structures restored at ward, branch and constituency level, the BNP would be well-positioned to reclaim its glorious past, she says.
Apart from restoring party structures, Motsephe says she also wants the voice of women respected within the party.

“I want to make sure that the women’s voice is heard,” she says.
Motsephe says it is wrong that women have been marginalised and pushed to the periphery within the BNP.
“The current president is a man, his deputy is a man, the secretary general is a man, the chairperson is a man, with only one woman who is the treasurer of the party. We are going to change this so that the party is gender-sensitive.”

Motsephe argues that the BNP “has very strong democratic structures” which have now been corrupted.
“If elected I want to correct these anomalies and enhance the participation of all card-carrying members of the party,” she says.
She wants to see clear structures for the youth league, the women’s league and the national executive committee.
“Structures make a very democratic BNP but currently these structures are not following what the party constitution dictates.”

While she admits that she has a mountain to climb if she is to win the presidency come June 13, Motsephe remains confident that she will win.
“I am very confident,” she says. “My history in the development of Lesotho, in the church and while working for UN agencies has given me enough skills for mobilizing people into action.”
“I know I can lead and I am confident that with the support of the churches and youth organisations, I can garner their support.”
But what if you lose, we ask her?

“I will back the winner. My loyalty is to the BNP and will respect the voice of the voters.”
Like any political contestation, the fight for the presidency is likely to turn nastier. Brickbats are already being thrown at Motsephe.
Her fellow contestants have also had to bear withering criticism as the fight gets dirtier.
But for Motsephe especially, the criticism has been vicious. Her advanced age and her gender have become the source of the ill-feeling.

“They think I am becoming too ambitious and are saying they can’t be led by a woman,’ she says.
It is a message that Motsephe finds extremely offensive.
Having grown up under the tutelage of BNP leader, Chief Leabua Jonathan, such sexist attitudes run counter to the spirit and ethos of the great party, she says.

“But I am not surprised because they are African men steeped in the ways of the past. I want to prove them wrong and show them that women can also lead.”
She says currently “there is no law the bars women from seeking the highest political office”.
Motsephe is not bothered by the criticism, especially that as a woman she has no role to play in Lesotho’s national politics.
Instead, she thinks the criticism is misdirected “since she has better programmes than the men contestants”.

“This is the time the BNP should start thinking of electing a female candidate as party leader.”
Yet despite the explosive campaign and back-biting, Motsephe is still preaching a message of unity and oneness in the BNP.
“We are all members of one family and have the same purpose – reviving the BNP to be where it should be.”

Motsephe was born in Berea in 1948. They were eight children. Her mother was a domestic worker while her father worked in the mines in the ambulance department in South Africa.
While other girls were expected to do the dishes and other domestic chores, Motsephe would find herself resisting this. Instead, she would go and herd the cattle.
“Traditionally, as girls we were trained to be submissive and naturally I am not a submissive person. I was rebellious by nature even in those early years,” she says.

When she was around 20, Motsephe fell in love with the BNP which was then under Chief Leabua Jonathan.
“The BNP was strong in mobilising young people. It set up Young Farmers’ Clubs where they instilled love of agriculture in young people.”
While working closely with the BNP, she began to fight laws that diminished the role of women in society.

Women were seen as minors. For instance, they could not buy land or open a bank account unless they had permission from their husbands.
Through her interactions with civil society, she began to appreciate the mammoth task that faced women in dismantling obstacles that impeded the rights of women.
“We began to lobby the government to remove these obstacles that discriminated against women. We also fought for maternity leave.”

Staff Reporter

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Suspension was malicious, says Nko

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MASERU – A gunshot wound and an attempted murder charge have not stopped Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko from starting a new fight.

The suspended Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) boss is rolling up his sleeves for what promises to be an epic legal battle to be reinstated.

In an application filed in the High Court this week, Dr Nko argues that the LTDC’s decision to suspend him had a “glaring element of bad faith and malice”.

He says the suspension was procedurally flawed because there was no complainant to instigate it and he was not granted a hearing.

Dr Nko was suspended after he was involved in a shooting incident with guests at an event at a Hillsview guest house on December 27.

He is alleged to have rushed home to take his gun after an argument with some of the guests. Dr Nko and a guest sustained gunshot wounds in the scuffle that ensued.

Reports say the guests were trying to wrestle the gun from Dr Nko when the shots were fired.

The LTDC’s board suspended him two days later, alleging that he had failed to attend an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the incident.

The suspension letter was written by Nonkululeko Zaly who was the chairperson of the LTDC board by virtue of being the principal secretary in the Ministry of Trade.

Zaly, who has since been fired following corruption investigations, also approached the court to force the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to return the assets confiscated during a raid at her house.

Dr Nko, in his court papers, accuses Zaly of usurping the board’s powers to suspend him. He says there was never a board resolution to suspend him.

The extraordinary meeting, he alleges, was a “prearranged dishonest scheme between certain members of the board and social media personnel which were part of the ruse deliberately designed to compromise” his interests.

Dr Nko says the board called him to the 29 December meeting when he was on sick leave and then suspended him without hearing his reasons for failing to attend.

He complains that Zaly wrote his suspension letter on the basis of mere allegations even though she had remained principal secretary and chairperson of the board when the corruption investigations against her were in full swing.

He queries why he was being suspended when Zaly was allowed to hold on to her job.

Zaly appears to have been belligerent when Dr Nko’s lawyers contacted her to query the suspension.

She told the lawyers, in a letter, that their queries were based on misinformation. She also dismissed the lawyer’s request for a record of the board meeting that decided to suspend Dr Nko.

“We are therefore not going to honour any of your demands and if your client is not satisfied, he is free to approach any appropriate forums to pursue these baseless issues,” Zaly said in her letter.

The lawyers say that response shows that Zaly was hell-bent on suspending their client.

Dr Nko wants the High Court to order the LTDC board to reverse the suspension, stop his imminent disciplinary proceedings and release the records of its December 29 meeting.

He also says the board is already conducting investigations on the incident to use as evidence against him in the disciplinary hearing.

Staff Reporter

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thepost columnist wins award

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Maseru – Two scholars associated with the National University of Lesotho have been awarded the 2022 Thomas Pringle prize for the best literary article published the previous year.

Chris Dunton, who is a columnist for thepost, and Lerato Masiea have won the prize, which is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa, for their article “Between rocks and hard places: the controversial career of A.S. Mopeli-Paulus,” which was published by thepost.

Dunton was previously Professor and Dean of Humanities at the NUL and for some years cwrote a column for this newspaper titled “Left Side Story.” Masiea is a lecturer in the NUL’s Department of English and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of the Free State.

Their prize-winning article was published in the journal English in Africa (vol.48 no.3, 2021, pp47-64). In it the authors explore the writings and life of the South African Mosotho author Mopeli-Paulus.

As their title indicates, their subject was a controversial figure, who degenerated from being an opponent of the apartheid regime (he was, notably, one of the leaders of the Witzieshoek Cattle Rebellion, for which role he was incarcerated in the Pretoria Central Prison) to being a high-ranking accomplice in the Bantustan system.

He was a prolific writer in both English and Sesotho (at one point he referred to the compulsive desire to write as a kind of madness!), his best-known works being the poetry-collection Ho tsamaea ke he bona (from time to time a set-text in Lesotho schools), the novel Blanket Boy’s Moon and the autobiography The World and the Cattle.

Dunton and Masiea’s article covers all his writing, published and unpublished (his papers are freely accessible at the William Cullen Library, Wits University) and is especially concerned with the question of cross-border identity.

Mopeli-Paulus was born in Monontsa, South Africa, in the lost territories—much in the news recently—and remained a South African citizen all his life. The dust-jacket for his first novel, Blanket

Boy’s Moon — which was an international best-seller — carries his name with the tag “Chieftain of Basutoland”, but this was a mistake.

Nonetheless, Mopeli-Paulus identified very strongly with Lesotho and has much to say — some of it fanciful, even spurious — on concepts of Sotho identity.

Dunton and Masiea explore this issue in detail, as it remains a topic of crucial importance even today.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane to boot out PS

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MASERU – THE Sam Matekane government is getting ready to get rid of Principal Secretaries appointed by the previous administration.

First to be axed is Nonkululeko Zaly who Matekane fired as a PS for the Ministry of Trade on January 11.

Zaly, who is challenging the decision, suffered a blow yesterday when the High Court refused to hear her case on an urgent basis.

Her case will now have to join the long queue of hundreds of others pending in the High Court.

Lefu Manyokole has been replaced as the PS of the local government ministry.

The axe is also likely to fall on government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, and Foreign Affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko.

The four have been the subject of a graft investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

Their homes and offices have been raided and properties seized as the anti-corruption unit investigates allegations that they received millions in bribes from contractors. The four are likely to be the first to be shown the door.

Indications are however that Matekane could be readying to purge the government of principal secretaries inherited from the previous government. Matekane hints at that impending clean up in his dismissal letter to Zaly.

“You will agree with me that as a Principal Secretary, yours was a political appointment,” Matekane said in the letter that Zaly claimed not to have received in her court papers.

“It follows therefore that the working relationship between yourself and the person appointing you, the Prime Minister in this case, is mainly based on utmost trust and confidence.”

“The trust and confidence components become even more important under the obtaining circumstances where the new government, of which I am the head, has just been installed.”

Matekane told Zaly that his government came with new ideas and policies at the top of which is to fight corruption.

He said he was aware that the DCEO had seized certain documents in Zaly’s possession “evidencing a commission of crime and that you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your possession of those documents”.

“This has eroded all the trust and confidence I had in you as the Principal Secretary and there is no way I can continue with you at the helm of any government ministry,” Matekane said.

Highly placed sources in the government have told thepost that Zaly’s exit is just the beginning of a shake-up that will continue for the next three months as Matekane seeks to bring in new people he trusts and share his vision with.

Meanwhile, Moahloli Mphaka, the government’s special adviser in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission this week told the High Court that there is a plan to fire him and two other senior officials.

Mphaka made the allegations in an urgent application to force the commission to pay his salary and that of Thabang Thite, and Bahlakoana Manyanye who are also part of the lawsuit. Thite and Manyanye are assistant advisers in the commission.

Mphaka told the court in an affidavit that on December 22 last year, the Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko told them that his superiors had instructed him to terminate their contracts.

The reason, Mphaka said, is the fact that they are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) members hired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. He said the government’s delay to pay their December salary was meant to frustrate them into resigning.

Nkheli Liphoto

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