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PSs appointments war takes nastier turn

  • as Zaly blasts Majoro, labels him “a mere caretaker” PM who’s competing Thabane’s term
  • says he can’t make administrative appointments of his own but abide by Thabane’s decisions

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE war over the appointments of principal secretaries (PSs) has taken another ugly turn with ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) member Nonkululeko Zaly derisively labelling Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro a mere “caretaker” prime minister who is “restrained by the law from taking key decisions deviating” from those of his predecessor, Thomas Thabane.

Ms Zaly makes the claim in her court papers filed last week challenging Dr Majoro’s decision to revoke her appointment by Mr Thabane as principal secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Ms Zaly was first appointed Communications, Science and Technology PS in Mr Thabane’s first government in 2012 and fired in 2016 by the successor Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition.

Exactly a month before the collapse of his four parties’ regime, Mr Thabane on 20 April 2020 re-appointed Ms Zaly, this time to the Home Affairs portfolio. According to the appointment letter authored by government secretary Moahloli Mphaka on behalf of Mr Thabane, Ms Zaly was supposed to start work on 1 July 2020.

Mr Thabane had not anticipated the collapse of his government which happened a month later on 20 May 2020. He had been clinging in defiance of calls by the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC) to step down after he and his wife, ‘Maesaiah, were named as prime suspects in the 14 June 2017 murder of Mr Thabane’s ex-wife, Lipolelo.

He was eventually forced to step down after the ABC’s NEC resolved to withdraw the ABC from the then governing coalition and form a new coalition with the Democratic Congress (DC). Dr Majoro came in at the head of the new regime and he is deputised by DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu.

In terms of the two parties’ coalition agreement, each party can only appoint its members as PSs of ministries presided over by their members.

The home affairs minister is the DC deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa. In terms of the two parties’ deal, his PS should come from his own DC party and not from the ABC.

As a result, Mr Letsosa refused to allow Ms Zaly into office when she reported for work on 1 July 2020.

Dr Majoro subsequently revoked Ms Zaly’s appointment on 29 July 2020 and appointed Tumelo Raboletsi as new home affairs PS.

The premier initially wrote to the PSC on 24 July 2020 stating that the appointment of Ms Zaly was done by the previous regime and was contrary to the current coalition partners’ agreement on the appointment of PSs and should therefore be revoked. Mr Mphaka duly wrote to Ms Zaly on 29 July 2020 informing her that her appointment had been revoked.

However, she has refused to accept Dr Majoro’s decision and has since filed a High Court application for reinstatement.

Dr Majoro, Mr Raboletsi, Mr Mphaka, Public Service Commission, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Director of Human Resource in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Principal Secretary in the Public Service ministry and the Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo are the first to ninth respondents respectively.

Ms Zaly wants the court to declare her the “rightful holder of the position of principal secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs”. She wants the court to nullify Dr Majoro’s decision to revoke her appointment by Mr Thabane.

She also wants Mr Raboletsi to be barred from carrying out the duties of home affairs PS.

In her founding affidavit, Ms Zaly states that she was lawfully appointed PS by Mr Thabane and the PSC.

She states that Dr Majoro was wrong to fire her on the basis of the ABC-DC coalition agreement which she was allegedly not given an opportunity to view or challenge.

Ms Zaly also argues that Dr Majoro is only a “caretaker or regent prime minister” who is only finishing Mr Thabane’s term which would have ended in 2022 had he not been pushed out by his own party.

She argues that as caretaker prime minister, Dr Majoro cannot make independent decisions to undo decisions made by Mr Thabane who was a substantive prime minister.

“The current caretaker or regent prime minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro has unduly and illicitly delayed my occupation of the office by purporting to appoint the second respondent (Mr Raboletsi) to the position.

“The first respondent (Dr Majoro)’s conduct is contrary to the inheritable previous appointment of his predecessor, Dr Thomas Thabane, hence a nullity. The first respondent (Dr Majoro) ignored my appointment on the alleged grounds that my appointment is contrary to current coalition agreement without specifying in what respects.

“I am not in the possession of the alleged coalition agreement. I was never afforded an opportunity to make representations before the decision appointing the second respondent (Mr Raboletsi) was made. The said decision affects me in my status, proprietary, livelihood and privileges.

“I am advised and verily believe that my appointment was in line with the constitution and cannot be outlawed by the alleged coalition (ABC-DC) agreement. The coalition agreement must be consistent with the constitution and not otherwise.

“The nature of Dr Thabane’s decision (to appoint her PS) is administrative and not political. Even if it was political, it would still affect the applicant’s vested rights. Consequently, the first respondent (Dr Majoro) is bound to inherit all the contracts and delicts of his predecessors…

“The prime minister (Dr Majoro) is in law a caretaker and is by law restrained from taking key decisions deviating from the inheritable decisions of his predecessor (Mr Thabane).

“The purported filling of the position I am currently occupying violates or poses a threat of violation to my vested status, livelihood and proprietary interest.

“The first respondent (Dr Majoro)’s action of my purported ouster amounts to unlawful and arbitrary dismissal,” Ms Zaly argues.

Ms Zaly joins PSs ‘Mabotle Damane (Communications, Science and Technology Ministry) and ‘Maseithati Mabeleng (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation) in filing court applications to challenge Dr Majoro’s moves to oust them from their positions.

The fight over the PSs is increasingly becoming dirty and is likely to damage Dr Majoro’s relations with some of the key Thabane-era government appointees including Mr Mphaka.

Dr Majoro has blasted Mr Mphaka for allegedly “unilaterally” and “fraudulently” renewing the contracts of PSs Damane and Mabeleng earlier this year.

Dr Majoro made the allegations against Mr Mphaka in a replying affidavit filed last week to oppose Ms Damane and Mabeleng’s High Court application to stop the premier from removing them from office.

Dr Majoro said Mr Mphaka had no legal authority to renew PSs’ contracts.  That power was vested in him as prime minister and he acted in consultation with the PSC, he argued.

His claims are supported by the PSC chairperson, Moshoeshoe Sehlooho, who also deposited an affidavit in which he accused Mr Mphaka of “consistently arrogating to himself” powers he did not have to advise the PSC to renew the PSs’ contracts.

Mr Mphaka hit back at Dr Majoro, saying the PSs’ contracts were renewed by Mr Thabane and not by him.

“The matter is now before the courts of law,” Mr Mphaka told the Lesotho Times this week.

“The courts will interpret who is wrong or right in this matter. But I wish to indicate that the contracts of principal secretaries were renewed by the prime minister (Mr Thabane) in terms of the law and Majoro was not the prime minister at the time.”

Dr Majoro’s robust rebuke of the GS in his court affidavit will likely cast the spotlight on his working relationship with Mr Mphaka, who was known to be very close to Mr Thabane and his controversial wife ‘Maesaiah.  The GS’s post is a key pillar of the entire administrative apparatus of government. A close working relationship between a prime minister and a GS is therefore essential.

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