“Resign or we unleash Kamoli on you . . .”
IT just cannot be easy being Moahloli Mphaka at this stage. The government secretary’s post (the equivalent of Chief of Staff in the USA or secretary to the president/prime minister and cabinet in other jurisdictions) is one of the most venerable positions in government. In Lesotho’s case, the government secretary (GS), is the administrative head of the entire state machinery. Owing to the enormous importance of this position, every sitting Prime Minister naturally wants to throw his blue or yellow eyed boy into this plum office.
We of course all know that Ntate Mphaka was appointed by Cyclone Tom and is still largely seen as Ntate Thabane’s “yellow eyed boy”. After a brief stint as principal secretary at the Trade and Industry ministry, Ntate Mphaka was shuffled to become acting government secretary before being appointed substantively after the ignominious exit of the former GS, the acutely handsome former diplomat Motlatsi Ramafole.
After assuming the position, Ntate Mphaka dutifully did Cylcone Tom’s bidding, ensuring that everyone who stood in the Cyclone’s way was dispatched quickly with preferred candidates being appointed.
Naturally all Thabane allies, now being dispatched by Ntate Size Two, would also naturally have been Mphaka’s allies.
One would have expected that after reassuming office, Ntate Size Two would have wanted to first take-out Mphaka from office and appoint his own preferred acolyte. The problem of course is that the GS and principal secretaries are supposed to be professional appointments, at least in theory, appointed to office on specific contractual terms unlike ministers, who are political appointees and serve at the whim and caprice of the prime minister.
So it would be illegal for any new government to come in and just fire a GS or PS before their contractual time expires, without any justa causa. Mphaka, thus, still has a good three if not four years of his contract pending. So are the other PSS appointed by Thabane.
Even though he was appointed by Cyclone Tom and is seen as the latter’s yellow eyed boy, Mphaka now finds himself in the unenviable position of having to do Ntate Size Two’s bidding. I thus just cannot imagine what will be going through Ntate Mphaka’s mind when he sits down to pen those acerbic letters that he has been dispatching to various of his allies now targeted by Size Two.
I just cannot imagine the feelings for Ntate Mphaka penning that letter to Maaparankoe Mahao effectively telling him that he is a phony commander and firing him from the helm of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and further demoting him from lieutenant general to brigadier. This after having told the same Maaparankoeeeeeeeee a short while ago that he was an excellent soldier and was being elevated to lead the LDF with effect from 29 August 2014. Of course Ntate Mphaka always claims, and legitimately so, that he is acting on behalf of the PM. That doesn’t however remove the stench from his signature to these letters.
I therefore feel for Ntate Mphaka. I just cannot imagine his feelings penning a letter to Khothatso Tšooana telling him that he has transformed the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) into utter “rot”. Or to Lefu Manyokole at Health accusing him of engaging in “almost criminal behaviour” at that important ministry.
All these people were immensely close to Thabane and to Mphaka himself. So it must be an intense feeling being compelled to turn against your allies.
Ntate Mphaka must now be a man who hates his job the most. If I were him, I would have written these letters with my feet.
We can try to speculate on why all these letters are being written. All the people who have received them so far at least have some significant amounts of time left on their contracts. Firing them without just cause would leave the government liable to paying them hefty amounts. The government can’t buy their contracts either because it is perennially bankrupt.
The best case scenario therefore, it seems, is to scrounge for any misdemeanours they have committed while in office, institute disciplinary proceedings against them in terms of the law and fire them. If you are fired in this way, the government does not have to fork out anything to compensate you. This, of course, seems to be the case with Tšooana, Manyokole and other Thabane-appointed PSS yet to receive their acerbic Mphaka letters. Tšooana is being asked to retire from office long before his contract expires. If he retires, the government is again not obliged to pay him a hefty package. Maparankoeeeee was never wanted in the first place. The easiest option would have been to buy his contract and force him to retire. But it appears it is unfathomable for Ntate Size Two to let this man walk away with bags of cash.
All those who have received these Mphaka letters seem to be digging in their heels. They want their moolah. My greatest fear is that, judging from the harsh tone of the letters, they will result in protracted legal battles that will drain more money from our emaciated fiscus. So what is the best way forward?
If I were Ntate Size Two, I would summon all those unwanted PSS and sit with them at State House over my most favourite whisky. I would then tell them: “Gentlemen and ladies, you are products of the previous regime. My new regime is now in power. Let’s all be honest. We want to appoint our own people as all politicians do. Please vacate your offices forthwith. We will buy the remaining parts of your contracts. But we don’t have cash. We will pay you as and when we have the cash.
Alternatively, we can pay you in kind. We can organise you parcels of plots in your districts to allow you to plough crops and rear some pigs. In other words we can help you become successful farmers. Alternatively, we can assist you venture into our most accomplished industrial sector… .,the car wash industry…. We will help you connect hose-pipes onto your cash wash stalls in addition to helping you pave your car wash stalls. If you insist that you don’t want to be paid in kind and you want cash, I will sign “we owe you pledges” on behalf of the government. We will pay you as and when we get the cash. If our government gets out of power before you get your money in full, then tough luck.
You will forfeit your money….. All these are very attractive options I have given you. If you don’t take any of them, you leave my new coalition government with no option but to unleash Ntate Kamoli on you… As for you Ntate Mphaka, you are an accomplished ac- countant. Go back to your practice and make tonnes of cash there from your consulting business…..if you don’t want, then Ntate Kamoli is also on his way to your home….. Finish and Klaar”.
Upon hearing the conclusion of Ntate Mosisili’s statement, I am sure all the unwanted men and women will immediately bolt out of State House, trashing their whiskey back to their offices to take their bags and run. For them, the consequences of facing Ntate Kamoli would be too ghastly to contemplate. Mphaka would immediately save himself the embarrassment of appending his signature to those long rambling letters. New appointees would come in and the business of government would hopefully proceed without the distraction of long letters and the probable legal battles.
Still on the subject of Ntate Kamoli, it was interesting seeing Mr Size Two frothing at that press conference this week and warning the United States and the European Union that they had no right to interfere in the sovereign issues of Lesotho.
“Lesotho has not sought to interfere in the appointment of an army commander of an army in any foreign country”, thundered Mr Size Two. Sovereignty, it must be noted, is a word often bandied by African leaders. They use it to justify anything. Mr Size Two’s venom was a direct response to US Ambassador Ntate Harrrington’s recent pronouncement that the decision to reinstate the “divisive figure” of Tlali Kamoli to the helm of the LDF was a bad decision. Mr Harrington’s pronouncements have been backed by the European Union which has come out strongly against the current security situation in the country which has seen all three opposition leaders fleeing.
So it seems Mr Size Two really wants to stand up to Uncle Sam. Can he really? Lesotho vs USA. That’s an interesting match. My advice to Ntate Size Two is that some battles are just not worth fighting, or even pretending to fight. If I were him, I would focus on restoring confidence and stability in the country and then win all key allies like the USA over.
Mr Harrington was very clear that his country would not hesitate to take appropriate action if the security situation does not improve and more innocents like Tšosane continue being gunned down. Let’s, for instance, assume that we don’t placate Uncle Sam and he proceeds to cut aid and take us out of AGOA as he did to Swaziland and as the unions here have speculated.
That would mean the loss of about 40 000 jobs, leaving government as the only employer. That spells doom to Lesotho and the probable end of Ntate Size Two’s coalition. So I would never go there. But let’s assume that Uncle Sam opts for an Iraqi repeat and decides to bomb Maseru and fly in a few marines to restore order as what South Africa did in 1998. That might sound a far-fetched option, but if it were to happen, Scrutator would welcome it as it would be the best opportunity for Ntate Kamoli to now prove his mettle as a soldier and justify why we need the LDF.
GS Moahloli Mphaka