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M5.6 million for King’s birthday

Business

‘Neheng Mofoka

The cabinet has approved a M5,6 million budget for preparations of this year’s King Letsie III’s 60th birthday celebrations, following three years of low-key festivities. 

The king is turning 60 years on July 17, and this year’s ceremony is scheduled to take place in Maseru at the Setsoto Stadium. 

Government Secretary (GS) Lerotholi Pheko said in a recent savingram that the cabinet has approved a M5,604,232.50 expenditure request from the Ministry of Local Government Chieftainship, Home Affairs, and Police for this year’s celebrations.

The last time the king’s birthday was celebrated with the usual fanfare of traditional performances was in 2019, and the ministry had budgeted M2.6 million for the ceremony.

From 2020 to 2022, low-key celebrations were held for the king’s birthday due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These included prayer sessions led by the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL).

During that period, the budgets allocated for King’s birthday celebrations were diverted towards boosting public services such as in the health sector, which was overwhelmed by the weight of the pandemic.     

Briefing journalists on Monday this week, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government, Tumelo Raboletsi, said the government was keen to avoid corruption and drama in awarding of tenders for this year’s preparations for the king’s birthday celebrations.

Raboletsi said corruption, especially in awarding of catering tenders, had in the past destroyed the country’s dignity. 

“We are going to do everything in our power to make it a success. You all bear witness that there has often been drama around the awarding of tenders for the celebrations, and we do not want a repeat of that this time around,” he said.

“We have been given a strict directive of ensuring that this year’s celebration goes smoothly without any drama,” he added.

As usual, leading up to the king’s big day, civilians and members of disciplined forces with outstanding service will be presented with awards by the king, on July 12.

A church service will also take place at St Louis Roman Catholic Church, then followed by lunch for dignitaries and the general public in Matsieng on July 16.

On his part, the Minister of Local Government, Lebona Lephema, implored all Basotho to celebrate with the King on his big day.

July 17 is officially marked in Lesotho as a public holiday dedicated to celebrating the king’s birthday.

“My people, let us humble ourselves and be grateful to His Majesty for turning 60 years in good health. Let us take this opportunity to remember that we are one nation so that we make this celebration a success,” Lephema said.

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