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Minister fires PS from LNDC board

…accuses PS of mutiny and sabotage

Keiso Mohloboli

THE long-running feud between the Minister of Trade and Industry, Tefo Mapesela, and his ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS), Thebe Mokoatle, took a new twist last week after Mr Mapesela sacked the PS from his position as chairperson of the board of the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), the Sunday Express has established.

Mr Mapesela confirmed the dismissal of Mr Mokoatle in a recent interview with this publication, saying he had written to the PS to inform him of the decision. He however, refused to disclose why he had relieved Mr Mokoatle of his duties, saying as minister, he had the authority to appoint or dissolve the LNDC board without giving reasons.

“It is true that I removed him (Mr Mokoatle) from the chair of the LNDC board,” Mr Mapesela told the Sunday Express.

“I signed the dismissal letter on Wednesday and I don’t even have to give reasons (for the dismissal) because the law gives me all the powers to appoint or dissolve the board without forcing me to give any reasons.”

Although he would not disclose the reasons for sacking Mr Mokoatle, it would appear the decision is closely linked to the latter’s alleged failure to ensure the Chief Executive Officer of the LNDC, Mohato Seleke, was given an official contract of employment since his appointment in November 2017.

“The PS seems to be on a mission of insubordination and sabotage. He has acted all incompetent and there is no excuse for that. For example, I signed for employment contract of the CEO of the LNDC in November 2017 and asked Mr Mokoatle to present it before the board but he has not done that.

“The LNDC CEO has not been given his contract up to now and common sense would get one worried as to how the CEO who has been in office since November 2017 is being paid without employment contract,” Mr Mapesela said.

Mr Mokoatle said that he was in a meeting and promised to later contact this publication to give his side of the story. He had however, did not honour his promise by the time of going to print.

For his part, the LNDC CEO, Mohato Seleke, would not be drawn into saying whether or not he had been given a formal contract of employment.

He said it would not be prudent to comment on the matter as he was only a civil servant and junior to the Minister and the PS.

“Questions relating to the employment of the CEO and his terms of service are best handled by the board of directors.

“The issue of what the minister said about the principal secretary should not warrant my response because they are both my bosses. Confirming or refuting these allegations inevitably places me in an awkward position with them. It would be awkward with either the minister, the principal secretary or the (LNDC) board,” Mr Seleke said.

Last week Mr Mapesela also accused Mr Mokoatle of insubordination in an interview with this publication, saying their fall-out began after they took office in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 snap national elections which ushered in the four party coalition government that is led by Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane.

“When I took over at the ministry I commissioned an internal audit because I had my suspicions that there was misuse of public funds and I asked Mr Mokoatle to take over the exercise after he was appointed,” Mr Mapesela said, adding, “But up to now he has not given me a report on the matter”.

Government sources have previously told this publication that the Mapesela-Mokoatle feud is just one of several such power struggles among ministers and their principal secretaries. The sources say that most of the conflicts were down to the fact that the ministers were not consulted in the appointment of principal secretaries to their ministries, leading to situations where a minister and his PS often worked at cross-purposes “with each pulling in his own direction”.

Mr Mapesela’s tiffs with Mr Mokoatle also came to the fore when the two publicly clashed over the latter’s continued use of a Toyota Prado as his official vehicle.

Last week, Mr Mokoatle, raised eyebrows after blocking the entrance of the ministry’s offices with the Prado vehicle in an apparent protest against Mr Mapesela who had ordered the security details to ensure that the former was not allowed to leave with the car.

Speaking on the incident, Mr Mokoatle said the drastic action to bar the PS from driving off in his official vehicle had been taken after the latter had allegedly defied a cabinet decision for several months which enjoined principal secretaries to stop using the Toyota Prado model cars as they were expensive to maintain.

He said even after he informed Mr Mokoatle of the cabinet decision and further advised him to seek the Minister of Finance’s permission to sell the car, “He never wrote that letter and continued using the car”.

“I told him that he was the only PS driving a Prado vehicle and that this was in defiance of the cabinet.

“So I then told the security personnel to ensure that once he arrived at work with the car on Tuesday, they should not allow him to leave with it.

“Upon hearing about this, he left the car at the entrance, with the windows open and the vehicle was blocking the entrance so that no one could drive in and out of the premises.”

Mr Mapesela has since approached the Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, to discipline Mr Mokoatle over the issue. Mr Mphaka confirmed that the minister had asked him to handle the matter, saying, “I am already dealing with it”.

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