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Official car seized in factional fight

Caswell Tlali

MASERU – Topollo Lephatšoe, a senior manager in the Cabinet Office, will now have to catch a taxi or pound the streets of Maseru on foot after the government withdrew his official vehicle accusing him of using it to campaign for a faction fighting Prime Pakalitha Minister Mosisili.
Lephatšoe, the director of the poverty reduction programme in the Prime Minister’s office, was told to surrender the vehicle on Tuesday last week.
He claims he was told there was a report that he had used the vehicle to canvass support for a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) faction that is led by Mothetjoa Metsing in Mafeteng district.
Metsing, who is the secretary general of the LCD’s beleaguered executive committee and fired last month as communications minister, leads a faction that is fighting against the one led by Natural Resource Minister Monyane Moleleki.
Moleleki is said to be Mosisili’s pawn in a factional battle that has left the ruling party split.
Lephatšoe says he was accused of campaigning for the Metsing’s faction when he visited Mafeteng, his home area, on February 12.
He believes Sports Minister ’Mathabiso Lepono, who is also from Mafeteng, is the one who reported to the Prime Minister’s office that he had been using his official car to promote the anti-Mosisili faction in the constituency.
He says Lepono was having a political rally in Mafeteng when he went there “for business” on February 12.
Lephatšoe says he was surprised when cabinet’s principal secretary for administration, Thato Masiloane, confronted him on February 20 and accused him of having used the car for political purposes.
Despite his protestations he was told to surrender the car the next day.
Since then he has been using taxis.
He told the Sunday Express that he is sure Lepono was behind the report to the cabinet office because he clashed with her after she instigated the arrest of two LCD youths in Mafeteng in December.
The youths who were arrested after Lepono claimed that they had insulted her through text messages are close to Lephatšoe.
It is Lephatšoe who hired a lawyer to represent one of the youths who is being charged with insulting Lepono.
Lephatšoe believes the animosity started when he contested in the primary election to select a candidate that will represent the LCD in Mafeteng’s Likhoele constituency in the upcoming election.
Lephatšoe lost to Water and Sewage Authority’s public relations officer Khotso Letsatsi who Lepono is alleged to have strongly backed.
He says that political battle and the arrest of the youths soured his once cordial relationship with Lepono.
Lephatšoe says what hurts him the most is that he was in Mafeteng on official business while “Lepono was the one using government vehicles to transport people to her political meeting”.
“Sometime before the car was taken from me I was in Mafeteng at the invitation of the local council where they asked me to provide self-help training for the local people,” Lephatšoe said.
“I then asked the council chairman to prepare a list of people I would train. The chairperson said I should come on the following weekend to collect the list.”
“When I went to Likhoele to collect the list, I realised that it was on a day Minister ’Mathabiso Lepono was holding a party public gathering and I used the chance to go there to listen to her talk. I never campaigned for anything,” he said.
“After all, I belong to the Likhoele constituency and I am entitled to attend public gatherings. It was by coincidence that I went there on a day that the minister was holding the gathering for LCD members”.
“I was on duty on that day and the person I was going to collect the list from had attended the same gathering. So, even if I wanted to avoid a political party gathering while driving a government car it was just not going to be possible.” Lephatšoe said instead of him it is Lepono who should be accused of misusing government vehicles.
“Her ministry’s vehicles, not her official ministerial cars, were taking people to the gathering which she had not held in her position as a minister but because of her seniority as the LCD member in the constituency,” Lephatšoe added.
He said the principal secretary did not bother to call him to verify if the allegations were true.
“When I tried to object I was told that I was not qualified to be allocated a government car in the first place.”
“When I asked her to write that down she said nothing was written when the car was given to me and therefore nothing will be written when it is taken away.”
Masiloane was said to be off sick when the Sunday Express visited her office for a comment on Friday.
Lepono told the Sunday Express on Friday that she was not the one who had reported about Lephatšoe’s abuse of the vehicle.
She said Lephatšoe “openly misused the government vehicle and anybody who was disgusted by that could have complained to the Prime Minister’s office”.
“Did your sources say I was the only person who saw him?” Lepono said.
“I do not understand why I should be the only person who might have reported him for misusing government vehicle when he did it openly for everybody to see.”

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