THE recent cabinet reshuffle turned out to be colourful, resplendent and fun-filled affair not only because of the flashy state-of-the art vehicles of some of those who were sworn-in but also because of one elderly Mosotho lady, Mahalia Jackson.
The more famous Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer. Dubbed the Queen of Gospel, the legendary Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was internationally acclaimed for her work as a civil rights activist until her death at the age of 61 in 1972.
But Lesotho has its own Mahalia Jackson and although she may not be as famous as her American namesake, she certainly got her moment in the sun and she will be remembered for adding lustre to Monday’s swearing-in ceremony at the Royal Palace in Maseru.
The ceremony will also be remembered for the swearing-in of former Democratic Congress secretary Semano Sekatle as the new Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture.
Soon after his swearing-in, Mr Sekatle announced his defection to the ABC. He said he joined Prime Minister Thabane’s ruling ABC because the latter had appeared “at just the right moment” and rescued him from the “lion’s claws” as the DC national executive had sought to bury him alive.
And the lively Ms Jackson, a staunch ABC supporter from the Stadium Area constituency in Maseru, had everybody in stiches when she stated that Mr Sekatle’s defection to the ABC was inevitable because he had to run away from a “boy” at the Democratic Congress (DC) and hide under the “warm ABC blanket”.
“I told you to run away from that boy and join the warmth of the (ABC) blanket,” Ms Jackson said, sending everyone, including Mr Sekatle into bouts of laughter.
In all, four ministers and one deputy minister were sworn-in at the Royal Palace in Maseru on Monday in the reshuffle which also filled in the three ministerial vacancies that had been vacant for more than three months.
The vacancies arose after Dr Thabane fired then Tourism Minister, Motlohi Maliehe, in August this year while Defence and National Security Minister, Sentje Lebona, resigned on 13 September this year. The third vacancy arose after ‘Mamotsie Motsie resigned from her post as Minister of Forestry and Land Reclamation on 22 August this year.
Former Local Government Minister Habofanoe Lehana is now the Minister of Trade and Industry — a position that was previously occupied by Mr Mapesela who has been moved to the Defence portfolio.
Mr Litšoane Litšoane was appointed to replace Mr Lehana at the Local Government ministry while Malimong constituency legislator Leshoboro Mohlajoa was sworn in as the Minister of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation.
The Stadium Area legislator, Mokherane Tsatsanyane was sworn-in as the Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport.
Former Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport, Tšehlo Ramarou, has been transferred to the post of Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
However, it was the appointment of Mr Sekatle which caught the eye.
For so long a stalwart of the congress movement where he worked with outgoing DC leader and former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili from the latter’s time at the Basotho Congress Party, then the Lesotho Congress of Democracy and the DC, Mr Sekatle’s appointment was the major talking point after the latest reshuffle.
Last weekend, speculation had been rife that Mr Sekatle and his wife, Pontšo Sekatle, had both defected to the ABC and would be both rewarded with ministerial appointments.
On Monday, Mr Sekatle said his wife was “still with the DC for now but she has also been accused of destabilising the party”.
The DC has been experiencing high levels of factionalism stemming from several senior members’ disgruntlement with outgoing leader, Pakalitha Mosisili’s perceived preference for the relatively inexperienced Mathibeli Mokhothu to succeed him as party leader.
Ahead of its elective conference next month which will choose Dr Mosisili’s replacement, the DC has been split into two main camps. One faction, known as Melele, is said to favour deputy secretary Tlohang Sekhamane who is set to battle with current DC deputy leader Mokhothu for the DC leader’s post.
Mr Sekhamane is a former finance minister and former member of parliament for the Mokhotlong #79 constituency.
The other faction, known as Liphakoe, is said to have thrown its weight behind Mr Mokhothu in his quest to succeed Dr Mosisili. Mr Mokhothu is the official leader of the opposition in parliament and he is the member of parliament for the Qhoali #68 constituency.
Many DC members and other observers consider Mr Mokhothu to be a greenhorn when it comes to politics and some of the DC members feel that Dr Mosisili made a grave political blunder by allegedly favouring Mr Mokhothu ahead of more seasoned DC veterans.
This is what Ms Jackson alluded to on Monday when she said that Mr Sekatle’s defection to the ABC was inevitable because he had to run away from a “boy” at the DC.
Ms Jackson however, reserved some of her comments and loudest praise for Mr Tsatsanyane who is also the ABC’s Stadium Area legislator.
She blew a small whistle and followed this up with chants in praise of Mr Tsatsanyane.
“You (Mr Tsatsanyane) have worked so hard and you deserve this. You have been working harder than some of those in government
“Palama koloi Mokherane le uena u ke u ikutloise, u be u buleloe mamati, u ke u katoe ka lithunya (loosely translated to mean, ‘Now it is your turn to have the car door opened for you, enjoy the rides and have your own armed security’, an elated Ms Jackson said.
After the ceremony, Ms Jackson and other ABC supporters took the celebrations into the city centre where a motorcade that comprised flashy cars and motorbikes with personalised registration numbers branded Stadium Area #31 cruised through the streets with loud music playing from huge mounted speakers.
“This is our day as the Stadium Area electorate,” said one gentleman who declined to be identified.
“We have been waiting too long for Ntate Thabane to give our leader a respectable. He (Mr Tsatsanyane) has worked very hard for the ABC. Everybody ABC member knows what he has done for the party.
“He helps needy people in the constituency with food parcels and money to seek medical help. He makes significant contributions when there are funerals even in other constituencies. He releases his buses to transport ABC supporters in and outside Maseru.
“He deserves this appointment. We are happy but we would happier if becomes a minister one day,” the ABC supporter added.
Mr Tsatsanyane may have only been made deputy minister but Ms Jackson and fellow ABC supporters certainly made the swearing-in ceremony an occasion that the former will forever cherish.
And as an elderly woman who has seen it all, Ms Jackson fittingly had a parting shot for all the newly ministers, “serve the nation well. It is our taxes that pay you”.