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Majoro a principled man: Mofomobe

by Sunday Express
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  • BNP leader says ABC’s Kabi is surrounded by dangerous people,
  • says govt ministries are a breeding ground for corruption.

BASOTHO National Party (BNP) leader and Small Business Development Cooperatives and Marketing minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe says he is supporting Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in his fight to remain in power because the latter is a principled man. While he (Machesetsa) is friends with both Dr Majoro and his nemesis, All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Nkaku Kabi, he has pledged his support to the former in his fight to remain premier. This because Dr Majoro is principled while Mr Kabi is surrounded by dangerous people. Mr Machesetsa said this in an interview with the Sunday Express (SE)’s special assignments editor, Bongiwe Zihlangu. In the wide-ranging interview, Mr Machesetsa also speaks on the recent formation of business mogul, Sam Matekane’s party, Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) saying the businessman must be prepared to harm his business interests though his entry into politics. Below are the excepts of the interview:

SE: Business mogul and billionaire Sam Matekane has just ventured into politics. What is your take on this latest development? How is it likely to impact the political landscape?

Mr Mofomobe: I just want to say to Ntate Matekane “welcome to Lesotho politics. Welcome to dirty dancing”.

Ntate Matekane’s decision to venture into politics is going to tarnish his image and have repercussions on his business. Here we are talking about a mining magnate who is doing multi-billion maloti businesses with the government through his mines. Let’s say he succeeds and assumes high office; does it mean he will be doing business with himself?

I have also looked at the calibre of people following him into this new party. I have seen prominent businessmen who are in different fields of business. Aren’t we building an empire of crooks here? I just see a team of oligarchs looking to loot.

Again, I am shocked by the people surrounding Ntate Matekane, the first being the former Central Bank Governor (CBL) Retsélisitsoe Matlanyane, who in my opinion did injustice to the bank throughout her tenure there. Lesotho’s economy, in part, is where it is because of her incompetence. The other person is former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara. You will recall that prior to her exit from the judiciary, she was exposed for corruption where she abused her position to rent a house for a fee that was way above what she was entitled to. Her integrity was tarnished.

Then we have former government secretary (Tlohang Sekhamane) under former premier Pakalitha Mosisili’s pre-2012 government. Under his watch, corruption took root in the PM’s office where prices for the procurement of commodities were exaggerated so that some people could get kickbacks. Each one of these people has a tainted history.

These people surrounding Ntate Matekane are controversial. Indeed, we cannot overlook Ntate Matekane’s philanthropic work, through which he has gone all out to extend help where it was needed. All the same, he should be ready to play dirty because we are not going to make it easy for him. I doubt he has skin thick enough to survive in this harsh environment. And he might as well forget about politics if he fails at the polls in October.

SE: How would you describe your leadership journey thus far?

Mr Mofomobe: Nobody told me that it would be easy. Leadership across the board is difficult because there are always sides and sometimes you are compelled to make decisions that don’t satisfy everyone. Yes, there are times when you must sacrifice certain people no matter how close they are to you if their conduct compromises your and the integrity of the party. It comes with the territory.

But I should say that my journey thus far has been a success story. The rate at which young people are streaming into the party is amazing. I seem to appeal to the youth. I am shocked but satisfied at the same time because this flow translates into the party’s growth.

When I assumed the leadership role, BNP only had two artistes and that did not sit well with me because you know how critical music is in Lesotho’s politics. I can safely say that has changed because now we have 11 groups. This tells you that unlike my predecessor, I appeal to more people. I don’t mean to beat my own drum. I am not overrating myself but mine is a success story.

Look, I have stood the test of time. I have more than demonstrated that I am the perfect fit for this party. I have been in the NEC for 11 years and have been elected by the people in every election being elevated from one position to the other in the leadership structures of the BNP. It’s because the people have confidence in me.

SE: We understand that BNP is in the process of finalising formulation of its 2022 election campaign manifesto. What are your focus areas?

Mr Mofomobe: Our manifesto’s focus is primarily on revitalising Lesotho’s economy. We acknowledge that ours is a corrupt country, and that the economy cannot thrive in such an environment. We must give bodies such as the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) the autonomy it needs to execute its mandate efficiently. We need a corruption tribunal whose judges will focus solely on corruption.

To uproot corruption in the civil service, government must deploy undercover agents across ministries to expose perpetrators. Our ministries are a breeding ground for corruption because of the calibre of senior officials we have, such as principal secretaries. And, when corruption is embedded, it fights back when you try to uproot it, so much that even a cabinet minister who attempts to fight it ends up losing their job. That is the sad reality.

We must also grow the private sector. We have the partial guarantee scheme at the Small Business Development ministry which has been unsuccessful in creating new entrepreneurs. How do expect to have a thriving economy when we can’t contribute to its growth? The manifesto proposes new means of job creation through encouraging Basotho to be dynamic in their way of thinking, so that they can create their own brands.

SE: Recently, three BNP proportional representation MPs seemingly rebelled against you by giving indications that they would vote with the side seeking to unseat Prime Minister Majoro. Does it have anything to do with tensions in the party?

Mr Mofomobe: I will not lie and say there are no problems but I was able to quickly diffuse it. My MPs had been infiltrated by some senior MPs seeking to remove the prime minister. The senior MPs made BNP MPs promises to lure them into supporting the no-confidence vote against government. I had to convince them that the ABC leader, Nkaku Kabi, would not succeed in his bid to topple Majoro. I had done my homework and established that no cabinet minister would want to leave government. I knew that there were deals in place that should not be tampered with to keep our government intact. However, I was also fair to them in that I made it clear that they had two options: to vote along the party line or with their consciences.

SE: There are concerns within the BNP that the national executive committee (NEC) you work with is incompetent and that you need a new one to boost your performance. What is your response?

Mr Mofomobe: The NEC is being vilified for the recommending the suspension of former secretary general, Tsépo Lethobane, on charges of abuse of office, fraud and corruption. Eight people, including my principal secretary, Bereng Makotoko once came to my house to dissuade me from implementing Lethobane’s suspension. He is their friend, and they were trying to protect him.

In short, I have confidence in the current NEC. We have been planning our successes together.

SE: You are viewed as a confrontational person who does not think before he speaks. Your truth is often viewed as offensive. Does this bother you?

Mr Mofomobe: I am who I am. I was taught a long time ago that the teller of the truth has no friends. I’d rather tell it like it is than allow myself to be controlled by fear of losing friends. I am not afraid to push for change. I was at the forefront of the removal of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from office. I was clear that I hated former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane’s influence and control of government by virtue of her proximity to the premier. She was my friend at the time but still I made it clear that I would not tolerate her conduct and the bad reputation she was giving our government at the time.

I don’t care much about what people think of me. If what I say is clear and has evidence to back it up, I will do as I like. You will recall that when it was not fashionable to confront the army for their atrocities, I came all out to deal with the former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Tlali Kamoli. I have never held back and have no intention of doing so now.

SE: You have been labelled a Majoro puppet for supporting and standing up for him when he is being vilified. What kind of relationship do you enjoy with him?

Mr MOFOMOBE: Majoro is my dog. He’s my friend whose good intentions for Lesotho I am privy to. They are not ill, unlike the ill intentions of those who are trying to remove him from power. Kabi is also a good friend of mine, but I had to choose sides and went with Majoro to protect the country from mass looting and the resuscitation of the likes of the Frazier Solar scandal. Kabi is surrounded by dangerous people, and I would not want to endanger Lesotho by opening the door to corruption.

Majoro is hated because he has always resisted signing deals that could have plunged Lesotho into financial crisis during his tenure as the Finance minister. Let me just give you an example: there was a time when there were plans to buy a new fleet for former Prime Minister Thabane. The price was inflated by M1, 2 million so that some people (names withheld) could get kickbacks. When he refused to sign, he was threatened with expulsion. I went to the State House to confront the engineers of the corruption. I told them that I would expose their rot if they touched him. They had no choice but to let it go. I would rather have Majoro, who is deemed to be stingy with this country’s monies, than entertain corruption.

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