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‘Matekane heading to Tarshish’


Mohloai Mpesi

Opposition leaders have lambasted Prime Minister Ntsokoane Samuel Matekane for his leadership and likened him to the biblical character Jonah who tried to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh and was swallowed by a big fish on the way.

When he announced the establishment of his new party, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), on March 22 last year, Matekane said the party was anchored on the premises of democracy and meritocracy.

He said the party would revolutionalise Lesotho’s economy by employing three tenets of inclusivity, accountability, and transparency.

The main aim of the movement, Matekane said, was to address the country’s ailing, debilitating governance, as well as the economic and political state.

The RFP then went on to win 56 out of 120 parliamentary seats – five seats short of an absolute majority – in the national assembly elections which were held on October 7.

Because the impressive win fell short of a majority required to govern alone, Matekane announced a three-member coalition government comprising RFP, Alliance of Democrats (AD), and the Movement for Economic Change (MEC).

He was inaugurated as prime minister on October 28, last year.

Former deputy prime minister and leader of the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC), Mathibeli Mokhothu, told Newsday yesterday that “the conduct of government since assuming the levers of power leaves much to be desired”.

Mokhothu said: “Their main agenda since pre, during, and post-elections has been on meritocracy. This conceptualisation appears to have eluded the government.”

Leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Machesetsa Mofomobe, said the Matekane-led government had “failed dismally” to deliver on the promises it made.

“The government is directionless for everybody to see. They promised to do things differently from the past administrations but they are not different, there is nepotism and wastage of public coffers through international trips. They are doing the same things,” Mofomobe said.

“There is no meritocracy at all if the prime minister can wake up one morning, draft a letter to terminate someone’s contract, and give them their remaining salary for only three months.

“Even before one goes to court for intervention, another person has been hired in that position, employed on nepotism without following due processes,” he added.

Mokhothu and Mofomobe, in separate interviews, sought to equate Matekane to the biblical character Jonah who tried to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh and was swallowed by a big fish on the way.

The plot is familiar: God tells Jonah to go to the great Assyrian city of Nineveh and cry out to the inhabitants to repent of their wickedness.

Jonah instead goes down to the port city of Jaffa, and boards a ship going west, in the opposite direction for Tarshish. A violent storm arises, threatening to sink the ship.

Through the casting of lots, it is determined that Jonah’s disobeying his God is the cause of the storm and the precarious position of passengers and crew. He is, therefore, cast overboard and swallowed by a big fish.

Mokhothu and Mofomobe said Matekane had broken his contractual obligation to the citizens.

According to Mokhothu, it was obvious before the elections that Matekane was not walking the talk.

“Just before elections, the RFP lost two major cases where some candidates argued that they were democratically elected while the NEC in most cases had approved candidates without merit.

“A good example here is the RFP candidate for Hloahloeng who could not read and write yet the RFP NEC (national executive committee) had approved him while a Ph.D. holder from Matlakeng was deselected and had to approach the courts and won,” he said.

“These were some cases that show that the government or the party had endured major challenges even before it could start governing. Their four months in government have been coloured by major policy “U” turns and policy muddling, to say the least. 

“They came up with a 100-day program which they could not even report anything about since nothing was done apart from firing civil servants and losing cases. The government is actually now bogged down with numerous cases in courts where it is being dragged by the neck by some irregularly fired civil servants,” he added.

Mokhothu was deputy prime minister from 2020 until after the elections last year. He was a minister between 2015 and 2017.

He told Newsday yesterday that under Matekane’s administration, progress towards meritocracy “has been zero, to say the least”.

He said as opposition parties, they were expecting the government to make Lesotho a society governed by people selected according to merit.

“Unfortunately, this has not materialised up to now and there is no hope that it will happen. The government has not hired people on merit,” he said.

“Far from it, the three PSs (Principal Secretaries) and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) Director that the government has hired were never subjected to interviews. Probably that is why one of them is still providing lectures at Botho University while still PS,” he added.

Mokhothu was adamant that the RFP government had since abandoned the “meritocracy rhetoric” and instead adopted “political affiliation appointments”.

“It is clear that the policy of meritocracy is dead in the water. The government does not even have plans in place to practice or even formulate merit-based policies.

“The RFP was indeed able to lure people with its meritocracy rhetoric. The whole thing was fallacious from the beginning to the end. How do you preach what you do not practice? The meritorious policy was just a fallacious grandstanding and nothing more and nothing less.”

Mokhothu’s remarks dovetailed with those of Mofomobe – also a former minister.

Mofomobe said a lot of people that were employed by the government recently, were those close to the RFP’s secretary general, Nthati Moorosi who is also the minister of information, communications, science, technology, and innovation.

Moorosi told this publication that RFP had not broken its word on its meritocracy principle.

The party, she said, still strongly believes that awarding of government positions is justified when it is done based on assessments of ability and effort.

All the positions filled recently were advertised except in circumstances where vacancies were filled on a temporary basis.

Vacancies in government will be advertised and those interested will apply and be hired transparently based on their qualifications and ability, she said.

Moorosi also vehemently denied a claim by Mofomobe that all people employed by the government recently were those close to him.

“He is not being truthful and cannot provide evidence for such allegations. I do not even have the authority to employ people. So what he is saying is not true,” she said.

Mofomobe, like Mokhothu, also said that Moshe Mosaase, PS of tourism, in the ministry of trade, industry, business development, and tourism started working at the ministry while he was still working at Botho University.

“So this government is even worse than the previous government,” he said.

“They have lists of youths from their constituencies which exclude the youths from other political parties. I have heard that they are planning to recruit the youths for the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS),” he said.

“Basotho were not only deceived by the promise of meritocracy but by many other hard-to-achieve promises. For example, the Prime Minister said when the government does not have money he will use his equipment, why is he not fixing the Mpilo road? Many roads across the country are destroyed but he does not use his equipment to fix them as he promised,” Machesetsa said.

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