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Matekane resigns from Covid-19 initiative

  • as private sector ends its funding for Covid vaccines,
  • meanwhile, govt disbands NACOSEC.

Limpho Sello

BUSINESS mogul-turned-politician, Sam Matekane, has resigned from the chairship of the private sector fund for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The fund has also stopped procuring Covid-19 vaccines, with Mr Matekane saying they felt they had done their part to assist the government and henceforth, the state was in a position to go it alone.

Dubbed Sesiu Sa Letšoele Le Beta Poho, (unity is power), the fund was set up in January 2021 by Mr Matekane and several other private companies including Alliance Insurance, Standard Lesotho Bank, Nedbank Lesotho, First National Bank Lesotho and Bohlokoa Financial Services. It was aimed at procuring Covid-19 vaccines to complement the government efforts to fight the pandemic.

Through the initiative, 16 380 people were jabbed against Covid-19. The fund also generated jobs for 40 Basotho youths.

In a weekend press briefing at his Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) headquarters in Maseru, Mr Matekane said the initiative would no longer be procuring vaccines but remain in place to pursue other charitable activities.

He said he had stepped down as chairperson but would however, stay on a trustee of the fund. His resignation comes barely two weeks after he formed his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party.

“We have officially closed down the Sesiu vaccination initiative and we will no longer participate in the procurement and distribution of vaccines,” Mr Matekane said.

“When the private sector established Sesiu, vaccines were scarce but the vaccines are widely available now. Therefore, we are handing over to the government to manage everything.

“I have also resigned as the chairman but I will remain a trustee. It should however be noted that Sesiu will continue to exist as non-profit organisation and it will continue to do charitable work,” Mr Matekane added.

He said they still had M6000 left over and they are contemplating donating it to one of charity organisations in the country.

Meanwhile, the government has disbanded the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC).

In a weekend interview, Health Minister Semano Sekatle said NACOSEC had been set up on a temporary basis to deal with the Covid-19 emergency.

Now that the virus was under control, secretariat would return to their permanent posts in other government departments, Mr Sekatle said. They will be recalled if the need arises, he said. Henceforth, the Covid-19 fight would now be spearheaded by the Ministry of Health’s Disease Control department, he added.

NACOSEC was established by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in June 2020 to replace the discredited inter-ministerial National Emergency Command Centre (NECC), whose members were accused of diverting funds to non-core activities instead of using them to fight the pandemic.

It was initially under the leadership of Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) Commissioner General, Thabo Khasipe, but he found the going tough as he was starved of funds to mount serious Covid-19 awareness programmes, recruit and pay an adequate number of health professionals to fight the scourge. Nor could NACOSEC procure sufficient consumables for testing the public for the virus.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Khasipe threw in the towel after only a few months at the helm of the secretariat.

Despite its sterling work which has helped curb the spread of the pandemic, NACOSEC was never far from controversy with some government officials as well as the Acting Auditor General, Monica Besetsa, saying it had illegally been established.

Ms Besetsa said the establishment of NACOSEC and its predecessor, the NECC, led to the duplication of functions with the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) which was established by an act of parliament to coordinate the response to disasters including public health emergencies like Covid-19.

Instead of creating these two entities, the government should have empowered and supported the DMA to combat the spread of Covid-19, Ms Besetsa said in her audit report for the 2019/20 financial year.


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