Letlotlo hits back at party NEC
LESOTHO People’s Congress (LPC) leader Molahlehi Letlotlo has scoffed at demands by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) that he should quit as Social Development minister for allegedly abusing the position.
The NEC held a press conference in Maseru on Wednesday during which they accused Mr Letlotlo of disrespecting the LPC’s decisions since his ministerial appointment in March last year, among other alleged wrongdoings. The press conference was attended by deputy leader Mabusetsa Makharimele, secretary-general Moipone Piet and spokesperson Bokang Ramatšella.
In their statement, the officials called on Mr Letlotlo to voluntarily resign, failing which Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili should then relieve the minister of his duties.
The LPC has one seat in the 120-seat National Assembly, which made it possible for the party to form government alongside the Democratic Congress, Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Marematlou Freedom Party, Popular Front for Democracy, National Independent Party and Basotho Congress Party after the 28 February 2015 snap election.
Mr Letlotlo’s alleged wrongdoings include holding LPC rallies in contravention of an “agreement” by the coalition parties to only hold joint rallies.
“He (Mr Letlotlo) went against the agreement made by leaders of the coalition not to hold party rallies and have public meetings together,” the statement read.
“However, Honourable Letlotlo continued to hold party rallies where he spoke ill of other coalition leaders in Tšoana-Makhulo and Mokhethoaneng.”
The LPC NEC also accused the minister of abusing his government-issued vehicle by taking it to a party in Tšehlanyane in November last year.
“Government vehicles are supposed to be safeguarded and retain their respectability. However, Honourable Letlotlo’s vehicle was used to ferry people to a drinking party in Tšehlanyane where its doors were opened with loud music being played on its radio,” read the statement.
Mr Letlotlo’s ministerial trips abroad, the NEC also charged, were now for his “personal enjoyment rather than work-related”. They took particular issue with a Facebook post the minister made while he was on an official trip to Brazil in October last year.
On the post, Mr Letlotlo took a picture of his bed during his stay at the Allia Gran Hotel in Brazil and captioned it: “Night you lovely fellows!”
He is also accused of employing youths from the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) in his ministry instead of LPC members, unilaterally dismissing senior party members, and confiscating the party’s property including the official stamp and letterheads, among other alleged offences.
“It has also come to our knowledge that there are some people who have plans to assassinate some members of the committee,” Mr Ramatšella said, adding that they were yet to report the matter to the police since “nothing had materialised from our previous reports”.
“The aforesaid reasons and evidence are enough for Honourable Letlotlo to resign or be fired. We base this assertion on section E6 of the Coalition Agreements which states: ‘A Minister will be dismissed from Cabinet in the event of losing the confidence of his or her own party as indicated by the Leader of the relevant Party to the Prime Minister. In the event of the Prime Minister losing confidence in a Minister, such a Minister will be dismissed after consultation with the Leader of such a Minister’s party’.”
However, a defiant Mr Letlotlo told the Sunday Express on Friday that the NEC could not remove him from his ministerial position.
“It is not possible. They do not have the power, authority or even status to make me resign,” he said.
On the accusation that his official vehicle was used at a party, Mr Letlotlo said: “I wasn’t even in the country on the date my official car was in Tšehlanyane. I was in Addis Ababa on 8 November 2015, and then went to Beijing, China, before going to Ethiopia where I presented a report on the Convention on the Rights and Welfare of Children on 13 November 2015.
“My driver is ironically a son of one of the members of the NEC who participated in the press conference.”
Mr Letlotlo also denied taking the party’s stamp and letterhead.
“I didn’t take anything. They should have stated the date on which I allegedly took the stamp and letterhead,” he said.
“I heard that some property was missing from the office. However, no one has notified me as the leader of the party, and I hear they reported the case to the police.”
On the charge of unilaterally dismissing senior party members, the LPC leader said the NEC unanimously relieved Mr Ramatšella of his party spokesperson duties.
“During a meeting we held on 5 October 2015, it was decided that the spokesperson’s position should be filled, with ‘Makopano Sekhobo, who was already a NEC member, assuming the post,” said Mr Letlotlo.
“The party’s constitution does not empower the leader to remove NEC members from their positions. It’s the decision of the NEC, so the claim that I removed Ramatšella as party spokesperson is totally misguided.”
He also dismissed allegations of hiring ABC members in the Social Development ministry, saying only the Public Service Commission could do so.
“Who are those ABC members I am accused of hiring? I don’t have the authority to hire people. Appointments are made by the Public Service Commission and not me,” the minister said.
On the contentious party rallies, Mr Letlotlo said they had been planned “long ago” by the NEC.
“In any case, leaders of the coalition parties never agreed not to hold public meetings,” he said.
“As for my Facebook post, what’s wrong with taking pictures? I report to Cabinet after every official trip on my activities and not to the NEC.”