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Maseribane resigns, off to Italy

by Sunday Express
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’Marafaele Mohloboli

SMALL Business, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister Thesele Maseribane has resigned with effect from 6 August 2021.  As first reported by the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times publication, Chief Maseribane’s resignation is meant to facilitate his redeployment as Lesotho’s ambassador to Italy.

The former Basotho National Party (BNP) leader’s place as proportional representation legislator in the national assembly will be taken by ‘Machere Seutloali.

In his 6 August 2021 letter to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Chief Maseribane says that he is resigning after being informed by Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Matšepo Ramakoae that the Italian government had accepted the Lesotho government’s decision to appoint him as ambassador to the European country.

“After being formally informed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on 3 August 2021 that the Italian government has responded positively to the Government of Lesotho’s request (for me) to become the Lesotho ambassador in Italy, I have come to a conclusion to inform you that on 6 August 2021, I will resign from my ministerial post to facilitate the process for the new assignment,” Chief Maseribane states.

Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, confirmed that the premier had received Chief Maseribane’s resignation.

Mr Moseme said Labour and Employment Office Minister, Moshe Leoma, will act as small business minister.

BNP leader and deputy foreign affairs minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, said Chief Maseribane will soon be departing for Italy and his parliamentary seat would be taken by former BNP youth leader, Ms Seutloali.

He said the party had already informed the Speaker of the National Assembly, Sephiri Motanyane, that Ms Seutloali was the party’s choice to replace Chief Maseribane and “and all that is left is for her to be sworn in”.

Now that Chief Maseribane is leaving cabinet, it remains to be seen whether Mr Mofomobe will be promoted to a full minister as some people have been speculating on social media.

Chief ‘Maseribane will take over from Bothata Tsikoane. It is not clear what the Majoro government intends to do with Mr Tsikoane who was transferred from India to Italy last year.

The BNP is a junior partner in the Majoro-led coalition which is anchored by the premier’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC).

Chief ‘Maseribane handed over the BNP leadership baton to Mr Mofomobe in June this year. This after the latter triumphed in the party’s violent leadership elections that were characterised by the fatal shooting of an elderly female party member and the injuring of a male member in Maseru. Mr Mofomobe beat Professor Lehlohonolo Mosotho and Lesojane Leuta for the top party job.

According to BNP and government sources, Chief ‘Maseribane had unsuccessfully attempted to coax the BNP national executive committee (NEC) to amend the party’s constitution to allow him to stand for a third term. But his efforts were rebuffed and some of the party members even filed a successful High Court application to force him to step down and pave way for the leadership elections.

Now that he would no longer be BNP leader, the sources said Chief ‘Maseribane feared that whoever replaced him might influence the party to demand that he be removed from his powerful post as minister. He wanted a soft landing hence he negotiated with the ABC who were only willing to oblige with an ambassadorial post as a reward for the BNP’s longstanding alliance with the ABC, the sources said.

Under Chief ‘Maseribane, the BNP has been a close ally of the ABC for more than a decade.  In the wake of the 2012 elections, the BNP helped ABC leader Thomas Thabane to form a government even though the latter’s party had won fewer seats than the DC then led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. The BNP and the Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) teamed up with the ABC to form a government which lasted until early 2015 when Mr Metsing fell out with Mr Thabane.

Prior to that, Chief ‘Maseribane had stood in solidarity with the ABC during and after the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against Mr Thabane.

Chief ‘Maseribane even joined Mr Thabane in exile and they only returned in 2017 to contest the June 3 2017 elections precipitated by the collapse of the then Mosisili administration on 1 March that same year.

Thereafter, Chief ‘Maseribane agreed another coalition deal with the ABC. Joining him in the Thabane-led four party coalition which lasted from June 2017 to May 2020 were the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Keketso Rantšo-led Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

Even when Mr Thabane was ousted by his own party and replaced by Dr Majoro last May, Chief ‘Maseribane remained an ABC ally. He was initially rewarded with the Communications, Science and Technology ministerial portfolio. He was subsequently moved to the small business portfolio in a 3 February 2021 cabinet reshuffle which also saw the dismissal of Ms Rantšo from her Labour and Employment portfolio.

Chief ‘Maseribane had survived in the Majoro cabinet despite strong disapproval from some senior ABC members who insist that the BNP should not have been rewarded with any ministerial or government posts because the ABC would have still formed government even without the BNP’s five seats.

At the inception of the current government, the ABC had 52 seats while the DC had 27.

Despite some defections last year and an April 2021 split, the ABC still has the most seats- 35- while the DC now has 29. The coalition is anchored by several small parties giving the government a healthy 80 seats in all.

Chief Maseribane was unreachable for comment on his mobile phone.

Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Ms Seutloali said she was ready to be an MP.

“I have made strides in the political arena from the grass roots level where I was involved in youth and women empowerment.

“Now that I am going to be a member of parliament where I will be able to influence and make decision, there is no reason why I should will sit back and not fulfil my passion for empowerment women and youths. This is an opportunity to serve my people as best as I can,” Ms Seutloali said.

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