‘Re­solv­ing SA bor­der cri­sis the main pri­or­ity’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

BARELY a week af­ter his ap­point­ment, Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Lekhetho Rakuoane was thrust in the fray of the re­cur­ring turf wars be­tween South African and Le­sotho trans­port op­er­a­tors and the de­por­ta­tion of Ba­sotho from the neigh­bour­ing coun­try. Added to that, the min­istry faces many chal­lenges in the pro­vi­sion of na­tional iden­tity cards and pass­ports as well as ram­pant stock theft in the coun­try­side. In this wide rang­ing in­ter­view, Ad­vo­cate Rakuoane talks to Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter Billy Ntaote about the strate­gies he will em­ploy to re­solve th­ese and other chal­lenges be­dev­illing the min­istry.

LT: Ba­sotho im­mi­grants re­turn­ing to their work­places in South Africa on Mon­day were once again left stranded fol­low­ing a bor­der block­ade caused by the con­flict be­tween trans­port op­er­a­tors. How are you go­ing to en­sure free move­ment of peo­ple across the Le­sotho-south Africa bor­ders amid such chal­lenges?

Rakuoane: For­tu­nately, I was able to talk to Trans­port Min­is­ter Tsoeu Mok­eretla speed­ily, as the con­flict was un­der his purview, and the po­lice were also ready to as­sist in the mat­ter. Through the in­ter­ven­tion of the po­lice and Trans­port min­istry of­fi­cials, the is­sues which caused the con­flict be­tween the op­er­a­tors are be­ing ad­dressed to en­sure op­er­a­tions at the bor­der are not af­fected once again by the con­flicts.

We have agreed with the min­is­ter (Mok­eretla) to make the nec­es­sary ar­range­ments so we can speed­ily meet with our South African coun­ter­parts and begin talks over th­ese mat­ters. We re­ally need to find a long last­ing so­lu­tion that would en­sure Ba­sotho im­mi­grants work­ing in South Africa can­not be blocked from en­ter­ing South Africa or leav­ing Le­sotho for any rea­sons. When we went to meet His Majesty King Let­sie III, we agreed that one of my pri­or­ity as­sign­ments would be to ad­dress the chal­lenges that our peo­ple con­tinue to face at the bor­ders.

LT: How will the gov­ern­ment im­prove the con­di­tions for the move­ment of Ba­sotho into South Africa?

Rakuoane: Im­me­di­ately af­ter get­ting the nec­es­sary brief­ing about the op­er­a­tions of the min­istry and set­tling into of­fice, I will then ar­range a meet­ing with my South African coun­ter­part Malusi Gi­gaba. We will then get to hear the chal­lenges they face with re­gards to im­mi­grants from Le­sotho while we also point out our is­sues of con­cern. I be­lieve such a meet­ing would go a long way to­wards ad­dress­ing the chal­lenges we are cur­rently sad­dled with.

LT: Your min­istry’s im­age has been mired by al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and fraud in the award­ing of the ten­der for the pro­vi­sion of na­tional iden­tity cards and elec­tronic pass­ports to the Is­raeli com­pany Nikuv In­ter­na­tional Projects. How are you go­ing to work with Nikuv go­ing for­ward?

Rakuoane: As I said, I am still get­ting ac­quainted with the min­istry. How­ever, as a re­sult of the con­flict be­tween the min­istry and Nikuv in the past that re­sulted in the stop­page of pro­duc­tion at some point, we ended up hav­ing a peace deal that saw a new pro­posal be­ing drawn up. There was no new con­tract that was signed with the com­pany.

What we have is a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) that is meant to en­sure we move for­ward and have a work­ing agree­ment. How­ever, the MOU is an in­terim mea­sure to en­sure that we can con­tinue to work and is­sue both IDS and pass­ports to Ba­sotho.

The new agree­ment is still in the pro­posal form as we speak. There are still some is­sues we have to in­cor­po­rate in the pro­posal for it to meet our de­mands. Th­ese doc­u­ments have just been brought to my at­ten­tion as we speak and I will soon be study­ing the whole agree­ment be­fore it is fi­nalised.

LT: Live­stock farm­ers in Le­sotho have raised con­cern about the high lev­els of stock theft. What is your strat­egy to en­sure Ba­sotho can iden­tify their live­stock and re­cover them more eas­ily even in sit­u­a­tions where they would have been smug­gled into South Africa?

Rakuoane: The im­ple­men­ta­tion of some of the strate­gies will be de­pen­dent on the avail­abil­ity of funds. If the bud­get al­lows us, we will speed up the process of brand­ing the live­stock and en­sur­ing that an­i­mal farm­ers also un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of the process.

What is, how­ever, sur­pris­ing is that I, as a farmer, don’t even know how th­ese mark­ings look like on an­i­mals. So we have a huge task of ed­u­cat­ing our farm­ers about the brand­ing of an­i­mals us­ing the new sys­tems. We need to con­sci­etise and mo­bilise our peo­ple on this mat­ter speed­ily.

LT: What is your as­sess­ment of the man­ner in which the min­istry has been run sub­se­quent to com­ing into of­fice?

Rakuoane: I have re­alised that this min­istry needs to fo­cus more on peo­ple’s needs and also on the is­sue of live­stock reg­is­tra­tion which is in­te­gral in end­ing stock theft. I have also ob­served that the pro­duc­tion of na­tional iden­tity cards, pass­ports and the civil reg­istry are meet­ing their tar­gets. I want to be­lieve that the other sup­port ser­vices are work­ing as hard as the afore­men­tioned de­part­ments as we can see their out­put on a daily ba­sis. Some of th­ese de­part­ments are be­ing run as projects and we have found out that the min­istry needs to fin­ish them in line with the dead­lines set for them, es­pe­cially the is­suance of na­tional iden­tity cards.

LT: There are al­le­ga­tions that the public ser­vice has been politi­cised. How are you go­ing to deal with this per­cep­tion in your min­istry and en­sure the public ser­vice does its work with­out par­ti­san considerations?

Rakuoane: To some peo­ple, the gov­ern­ment we have to­day was not ex­pected nor even de­sir­able. So the real test for the public ser­vice will be whether it can work in the in­ter­ests of cer­tain po­lit­i­cal par­ties or serves ev­ery gov­ern­ment since it is His Majesty’s gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, since my ar­rival, I have ap­pealed to em­ploy­ees in the Home Af­fairs min­istry to en­sure they pass this test with distinc­tion and show that they are public ser­vants who serve in His Majesty’s gov­ern­ment with­out bias or any in­cli­na­tions to­wards any po­lit­i­cal party. They need to pass this test with distinc­tion and show that they are like a welloiled ma­chine that con­tin­ues to op­er­ate amid changes in the driv­ers. They are sup­posed to show that they are a pro­fes­sional public ser­vice of His Majesty. The only de­lay­ing fac­tor is the im­ple­men­ta­tion of our seven party gov­ern­ment pol­icy which is now await­ing the ap­pend­ing of the signatures of the lead­ers.

LT: How best should the public ser­vants work­ing un­der your min­istry ap­ply them­selves to show that they are com­mit­ted to serv­ing the any gov­ern­ment?

Rakuoane: If our gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy doc­u­ment was ready for public con­sump­tion, we could have clearly shown them our ex­pec­ta­tions in line with the doc­u­ment. How­ever, there is an ur­gent need for the whole public ser­vice to work ac­cord­ing to sys­tems and not ac­cord­ing to per­son­al­i­ties or as­sump­tions. They need to move away from the view that work should be car­ried out in a cer­tain way ac­cord­ing to the dic­tates or as­pi­ra­tions of cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als.

I have al­ready urged the min­istry to put in place guide­lines that clearly stip­u­late how work is sup­posed to be car­ried out in the min­istry so that we have proper sys­tems that guide our daily ac­tiv­i­ties and not just as­sump­tions de­pen­dent on per­son­al­i­ties.

We aspire to see the whole public ser­vice hav­ing clear sys­tems to end th­ese per­son­al­ity-based pro­ce­dures. This would go a long way to­wards im­prov­ing the public ser­vice. It would also be a new stan­dard that this gov­ern­ment would have brought into the public ser­vice so that even if gov­ern­ments change there would al­ways be a public ser­vice ready to serve in line with the gov­ern­ment sys­tems and pro­ce­dures.

We also need to en­sure there is real en­gage­ment with other stake­hold­ers in civil so­ci­ety in the al­lo­ca­tion of our du­ties on a daily ba­sis. We need to give the en­gage­ment of stake­hold­ers in our work the dig­nity it de­serves as our work can­not be left to us alone as public ser­vants.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Lekhetho Rakuoane takes his oath of of­fice last Mon­day.

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