… as premier & party spokesperson fight over contract of Mafeteng council boss.
A FRESH fight has broken out in the ruling but strife-torn All Basotho Convention (ABC).
The new fight pits Prime Minister and ABC deputy leader Moeketsi Majoro against party spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and unnamed party members from the Mafeteng district. The conflict is over whether or not to renew the contract of the Mafeteng District Council Secretary (DCS), Teboho Tauhali.
The combative Mr Masoetsa has thrown his weight behind the district party members who are against the renewal of Mr Tauhali’s contract on allegations that he is corrupt and has allegedly misappropriated council funds.
Mr Tauhali is resisting attempts to push him out and has allegedly told party members and council staff that he enjoys the support of Dr Majoro. Never one to shy from a fight, Mr Masoetsa has confronted Dr Majoro over his alleged support for Mr Tauhali and told the premier that his relationship with the Mafeteng district secretary borders on corruption. This has provoked an angry response from the premier who has since demanded to know whether Mr Masoetsa and the unnamed party members have declared war on him.
The messy fight between the premier and the party spokesperson is captured in leaked WhatsApp exchanges between them which were seen this week by the Lesotho Times.
According to well-placed party and government sources, Mr Tauhali’s contract expired on 30 June 2021. His bid to have it renewed has so far hit a brick wall after the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy’s Director of Human Resources, Seeiso Moholobela, wrote a damning report against him in May this year.
Ms Moholobela’s report raises corruption allegations against Mr Tauhali as well as accusations that he has created discord among staff members.
In her memorandum to the Local Government and Chieftaincy Principal Secretary (PS) Nonkululeko Zaly, Ms Moholobela states that “a litany of transgressions was alleged and levelled against him (Tauhali)”.
“For instance, the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) supervises the construction work as a whole. However, he is unable to supervise senior technical officers (STO) who refuse to take orders from him and or report to him. They allege that they will take orders straight from the DCS (Tauhali). This is despite the fact that administratively, STOs are answerable to CTO. He (Tauhali) intimidates staff and goes to sideline them without any justifiable cause.
“Recently, he has forcefully taken away the Council vehicle from the driver without any explanation and went on to interdict him from ever driving the vehicle. He misuses the Council property. There is strong allegation that he (is) using the Council tipper trucks to ferry quarry and sand for the construction of his personal home. This is without any authorisation from the Council. This affects the progress of road construction by the Council.
“He singlehandedly changed the roads construction plan by the Council. He has diverted part of the yellow plant from Tšana-Talana Community Council to Metsi-Maholo Community Council. As a result, road construction at Tšana-Talana has taken approximately five years to finish. The delay, which has been caused by diversion of the plant, has affected other Community Councils and disrupted the District Council plan. This is, in simple terms, misappropriation of funds. Last but not least, the said officer has unlawfully engaged construction workers who should be paid on a daily basis from 2018,” Ms Moholobela states.
Her report was written after Mr Tauhali had applied for the renewal of his contract in response to the local government ministry’s call for suitable candidates to apply for the post.
Government sources have told this publication that the recruitment processes have been finalised and the ministry has lined up one Nthunya Rasekoai to take over. However, his engagement has been put on hold after Mr Tauhali allegedly sought Dr Majoro’s intervention to ensure he retains his job.
Authoritative government sources allege that Mr Tauhali enjoys a good personal relationship with Dr Majoro and wants the premier to use his powers to instruct local government Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse to ensure he is re-appointed at the expense of Mr Rasekoai.
“Ntate Majoro has since told Moramotse to halt the recruitment processes to allow him (Majoro) to apply his mind to the matter,” a source said.
“This is despite that ABC members and the Mafeteng business community have made it clear that they don’t want to work with Tauhali. They made their feelings known to Ntate Majoro when he visited the district last month.
“They even approached Ntate Masoetsa to complain about Ntate Majoro who they accuse of not taking their concerns seriously,” the source added.
The Lesotho Times has seen WhatsApp communication between Dr Majoro and Mr Masoetsa, wherein the latter tells the premier to immediately refrain from involving himself in the recruitment saga. Mr Masoetsa subsequently confirmed that he engaged Dr Majoro on the issue.
“Morning Ntate, the Mafeteng community has sent the report to me which I have shared with SG (ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele) in relation to the contract renewal of the DCS (Tauhali), whom they accused of ill-discipline and misuse of the government fleet,” Mr Masoetsa says in his message to Dr Majoro.
“They (Mafeteng community) tell us that DCS (Tauhali) made an audio clip in which he tells them that he talked with you (Majoro) and his contract will be renewed through you.
“The community says if this will happen through your interest (sic), you (Majoro) must know that it will not be in their interest and they are prepared to fight you and Tauhali with everything at their disposal. I was also contacted by the media to comment on this contract renewal. I pretended not to know anything as I was informed that those positions have been advertised and the candidate will be chosen on merit, not personal interests.
“I therefore propose that even if you did act as alleged, please reconsider the conflict that might arise between you and the party. This will really compromise you as they warn that your relationship with Tauhali emanates from corruption. Please leave this matter with the relevant ministry and minister to do their responsibility (sic) for the sake of unity within the leadership of the party. Can you allay my fears because I promised the media that I will respond this afternoon after consulting with you,” Mr Masoetsa further states.
Dr Majoro gives a terse response in Sesotho, demanding to know whether Mr Masoetsa was declaring war on him.
“Ehlile le phatlalatsa ntoa Ntate Masoetsa? (are you really declaring war Ntate Masoetsa?),” Dr Majoro asks, to which Mr Masoetsa responds by saying he does not understand the premier’s question.
“I don’t understand Honourable, who we are to declare war,” Mr Masoetsa says.
“I am fighting this issue in the media so that it is not painted in a bad light. As my leader in the party, it is my responsibility to defend the party and its members. Since these issues have been brought to our attention, we have a right to assess the danger they pose to the party and government. I am seeking clarity from you Ntate to explain whom we are declaring war against?”.
Mr Masoetsa this week confirmed engaging the premier over the issue.
“I talked to the prime minister about this matter and he said that it appeared as though I was declaring war against him. It is my responsibility as the public relations officer to protect the party as I indicated in my conversation with him.
“The posts were advertised as we had instructed and people applied. It is therefore our expectation that the ministry must work by the book and only appoint qualified people,” Mr Masoetsa said.
Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme yesterday said it was odd that Mr Masoetsa had chosen to involve himself in DCS recruitment processes which were the purview of the local government ministry.
“Our response is very brief. Issues regarding the recruitment of the DCS are handled by the responsible ministry which is Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs in this case.
“However, it is odd that Mr Montoeli Masoetsa inserts himself on recruitment issues, which the responsibility of the relevant ministry,” Mr Moseme said in a brief interview with this publication.