MASERU — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s decision to reshuffle cabinet on Wednesday was driven by the need to reassert control and deal decisively with the factionalism rocking the ruling party, analysts have said.
The analysts said the reshuffle was aimed at containing the bitter factionalism threatening the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s 13-year grip on power.
The reshuffle was also meant to demonstrate that he was still firmly in charge, the analysts said.
Mosisili axed four ministers and an assistant minister in the biggest shake-up of his cabinet since he assumed power in 1997.
The last cabinet reshuffle was in 2001 when he fired his then deputy Kelebone Maope.
Those who lost their jobs were Labour Minister Refiloe Masemene, Trade and Industry Minister Popane Lebesa, Tourism Minister Lebohang Nts’inyi, Agriculture Minister Lesole Mokoma and the assistant minister in the education ministry, ‘Malijane Maqelepo.
Four of the five ministers are said to be aligned to a faction of the ruling party that is vying to succeed Mosisili if and when he steps down.
The faction is said to be led by Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.
Metsing, who himself survived the axe, has however vehemently denied that he is leading any faction.
Analysts said the reshuffle was clearly targeted at weeding out ministers aligned to Metsing while preserving those aligned to his great nemesis Monyane Moleleki.
A political science lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), Motlamelle Kapa, said the reshuffle was one way by Mosisili of dealing with the factional fights within the LCD.
“The reshuffle has to do with the factional fights within the LCD,” Kapa said.
“The fact that the party’s youths rallied around people like Popane Lebesa is a clear indication that people are disgruntled.”
Kapa, who is the author of The Politics of Coalition and Formation of Democracy in Lesotho, said the reshuffle could trigger a split within the LCD.
“It is no secret that in Lesotho, particularly in the LCD, we always see a split in the ruling party, especially towards elections.
“The reshuffle could have been done to contain the imminent split.
“But we should also allow for the possibility that the reshuffle itself might result in a split.”
Kapa added that Mosisili could have reshuffled his cabinet as he had an eye on the next elections in 2012.
“The government may be equally concerned about the limited service delivery, the fact that things are not going as they should,” he said.
“Let us take agriculture for example. Ralechate ‘Mokose is known for being a hard worker, hence his appointment to the agric ministry.
“The government is hoping that by the next election there should have been evident transformation in the agric ministry and in other ministries as well to help them garner votes.”
Tlohang Letsie, a political science lecturer at NUL, said the reshuffle could have been motivated by both the factionalism in the LCD and the apparent lack of “service delivery across government ministries”.
Letsie said if it was motivated by the need to improve service delivery then it was badly timed as there was very little time left before the country goes to the next general elections in 2012.
“In terms of service delivery, I do not see how the reshuffle would be expected to make any difference with the time left before the next general election,” Letsie said.
“Again, all the ministers whom the public had serious concerns with regarding service delivery and bad performance have survived the axe.
“The home affairs, sports and finance ministries topped the list of non-performing ministries and whose conduct has resulted in adverse effects on Basotho.”
Letsie said he was of the opinion that the reshuffle was done simply to show who really “cracks the whip”.
“It is an exercise by the prime minister, using his constitutional prerogative, to ensure that he still has a grip on the ruling party,” he said.
Letsie said Mosisili was also careful not to weaken the LCD by firing Metsing who is the party’s secretary-general.
“The expectation was that Metsing was to be the first to go. But he spared (him),” Letsie said.
“He had to guard against making a decision that would have been to the detriment of the LCD while at the same time showing that he still wields power within the ruling party.”
Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) president Lira Theko said the prime minister had a constitutional right “to reshuffle cabinet”.
“He appoints and fires based on each minister’s performance. But it is a pity that when he does it, it is not in consultation with the public,” Theko said.
Theko said for the prime minister to appoint into cabinet individuals who did not have constituencies was an indication that he “does not have confidence in MPs elected by popular majority”.
“This means we now have to watch as decisions affecting us on a daily basis are made by people who have no constituencies of their own,” Theko said.
“This might lead to MPs having grievances about the PM’s criteria of selecting ministers.
“After all, they are the very people who put him in the position he holds today.”
Two of the three newly appointed ministers — Leketekete Ketso and ‘Mannete Ramaili — were both recently appointed senators.
‘Maphoka Motoboli has been a senator since 2007.
Professor Nqosa Mahao, who is the executive dean of the College of Law at the University of South Africa, said the reshuffle should be seen in the light of recent attempts “to dissolve the party’s national executive committee”.
“Forty-two LCD constituencies have expressed lack of confidence in all members of the party’s executive committee except for Mosisili and his deputy,” Mahao said.
“The Moleleki faction went out to the constituencies to lobby support in order to consolidate itself.
“The reshuffling therefore has nothing to do with the public’s needs but purely the factionalism in the LCD.”