Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has fired Defence and National Security Minister Lekhetho Mosito barely two weeks after appointing him to the post.
Although Dr Majoro did not give reasons for the move, Mr Mosito this week bared his soul to the Lesotho Times. He said the writing had been on the wall for him since last Tuesday when the premier told him that he was under immense pressure from ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) apparatchiks to fire him.
Mr Mosito, the ABC’s legislator for the Likhetlane constituency, said Dr Majoro had even apologised for his imminent ouster. He said the premier told him that he had no choice but sacrifice him to save his own position after senior ABC officials had threatened to oust him as prime minister if he did not get rid of Mr Mosito.
The hitherto little-known Mr Mosito was appointed defence minister in place of the former incumbent, Prince Maliehe, who was given his marching orders in a 3 February 2021 cabinet reshuffle. The reshuffle grabbed headlines for the dismissal of Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) leader Keketso Rantšo from the Labour and Employment portfolio and the reassignment of her Basotho National Party (BNP) counterpart Thesele ‘Maseribane from the Communications, Science and Technology ministry to the Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing portfolio.
This and the reshuffling of other ministers by Dr Majoro, allegedly without consulting and informing the ABC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), angered a faction of the NEC. The faction argued that Ms Rantšo and Chief ‘Maseribane should not have been touched because their parties were key allies whose seats have enabled the ABC to form governments in 2012, 2017 and in 2020.
The faces of that ABC faction are party secretary general Lebohang Hlaele and spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa. They later claimed that last week’s NEC meeting had resolved to recall Dr Majoro for this decision and his refusal to work with the NEC since August 2020.
This was however disputed by their erstwhile ally, deputy leader Nqosa Mahao, who said the premier remained intact and his position was not threatened in any way.
The fallout over the cabinet reshuffle did not stop there. Outspoken Agriculture and Food Security Minister, Tefo Mapesela, also blasted the premier for appointing Mr Mosito who he described as a “rebel” and a “goat” who was allegedly loyal to ousted former prime minister and current ABC leader, Thomas Thabane.
Mr Mapesela also alleged that Mr Mosito was a “thief” who had stolen guns from the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) armoury during his time as a soldier in the 1990s.
Consequently, Mr Mosito was not fit to be defence minister, let alone a minister, Mr Mapesela said.
On 5 February 2021, the very day Mr Mosito was sworn-in, Mr Mapesela led a delegation of prominent ABC members including Deputy Water Minister, Lepota Sekola, to State House to convince Dr Majoro to reverse Mr Mosito’s appointment.
Others who were part of the Mapesela delegation are MP Fako Moshoeshoe, ‘Mathato Phafoli (chairperson of the ABC’s parliamentary caucus) and ABC chief whip in parliament, Mankoe Maime.
Nothing was ever said about the outcome of that meeting but on Monday, Dr Majoro booted out Mr Mosito. For being fired after serving for only 12 days, the Likhetlane legislator has earned the dubious distinction of being the country’s shortest serving minister.
“I write to inform you that pursuant to the provisions of section 87 (7) (d) of the constitution of Lesotho, His Majesty King Letsie III has noted and accepted my advice to release you from the office of minister in the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho,” Dr Majoro said in his 15 February 2021 letter to Mr Mosito.
“In this connection, your appointment as a minister ends on 15 February 2021. I take this opportunity to thank you heartily for the work you rendered as a minister in His Majesty’s government.”
Dr Majoro followed this up with a press release, saying King Letsie III had accepted his advice to fire Mr Mosito “effective from today, 15 February 2021”.
Although Dr Majoro’s letter did not give reasons, Mr Mosito has himself said he was not surprised by Dr Majoro’s decision to fire him.
He told this publication that the premier had confessed to him that he had no choice but let him go due to immense pressure from unnamed ABC officials.
“I was not shocked at all when I received the dismissal letter because the signs were there from day one that I was not viewed as a suitable candidate by some of the ABC MPs who even gave Dr Majoro an ultimatum to reverse my appointment or face ouster.
“Last Tuesday, the prime minister summoned me to a meeting and personally told me that he was sorry that he had to dismiss me. He said he was under immense pressure to sack me or face ouster himself. We had a cordial conversation and I accepted things for what they were.
“I wasn’t surprised when I was eventually served with the letter of dismissal because I was now psychologically ready. There is no bad blood between the prime minister and I. I have nothing against him, after all he exercised his powers as prime minister. In fact, I feel sorry for Ntate Majoro because he had no option but to do what he did to save himself from being ousted,” Mr Mosito said.
He refused to name the ABC officials who pushed for his ouster. However, it is public knowledge that Mr Mapesela actively pushed for Mr Mosito’s ouster. The two are now locked in a legal battle after Mr Mosito filed a M3 million defamation lawsuit against Mr Mapesela’s over the latter’s claims that he was a” rebel” and “thief” who stole LDF guns which were allegedly subsequently used in the massacre of civilians in Maputsoe in the 1990s.
This week, Mr Mapesela gave an uncharacteristically subdued response to Mr Mosito’s dismissal.
“I didn’t push for his removal. I don’t even know the reasons for his sacking. I have nothing personal against him. It’s just that I am a man of principle who knows the meaning of loyalty,” Mr Mapesela said of Mr Mosito’s sacking.
He however, suggested that Mr Mosito should be disqualified from contesting next year’s elections on account of his alleged criminal past.
“The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should start implementing its legal provisions and vet people before they can be elected into any public office.
“This institution, not us party members, has powers to disqualify candidates before they even get into the election race,” Mr Mapesela said.
On his part, ABC spokesperson Masoetsa said, “we don’t have any interest in Prime Minister Majoro’s business or how he conducts himself as he has already indicated that he doesn’t work with the NEC”.
“The decision betrays lack of consistency and it shows that he doesn’t have a backbone as prime minister.
“However, we are gravely concerned that he is toying around with His Majesty’s good name and integrity by giving him mixed advice. He advises the King to appoint someone to cabinet and shortly afterwards advises him to undo the same appointment.
“This shows that he does not take the King seriously.
“We don’t even know the reasons for Mr Mosito’s removal but we can only speculate that it could be due to Mr Mapesela’s utterances. All political parties and the IEC have an assignment to vet people before they are appointed to public office. We have many other prominent politicians who have criminal cases like Mr Mosito,” Mr Masoetsa said.