MASERU – Employees of the ministry of small business development and cooperatives will throw a farewell party today for the former minister, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane, who resigned last week. While the ministry’s information officer, Nyakallo Ntšinyi, yesterday denied this Public Eye has seen a copy of an internal memo inviting workers to the party.
“All ministry employees are invited to a farewell party for the Minister as he has been appointed Lesotho’s ambassador to Italy,” ministry’s Deputy Principal Secretary (DPS), Lepota, said in a memo last Friday. “The party will be held on August 13, 2021, at 15:30 at the home of Minister Thesele ’Maseribane,” Lepota added. She said the ministry will also to give ’Maseribane a parting gift “which will remind him of us when he is overseas”.
Employees on salary grades K–L were asked to contribute M200 each for the farewell party while those on grades J–H and G–E were asked to contribute M100 and M50, respectively. Those on grades D–C and B–A were required to pay M30 and M20, respectively. Ntšinyi told this paper yesterday that this was an internal memorandum but indicated that the farewell party was not going to go on as communicated in the memo.
“That internal memo has been made available to the media without the permission of the either the DPS or myself as information officer and that is wrong. There is not going to be any party,” she said. Social gatherings of any size, in homes or public spaces, are strictly prohibited under the current covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
The ban includes holding private parties or gatherings with families or friends not living together at home or in public spaces such public recreational areas (parks). These strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus were announced by Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro on July 22 this year. Majoro told the nation that due to the increasing number of new infections, cabinet had decided to put the country on the purple colour code stage of the Covid-19 risk mitigation restrictions.
If the farewell party for ’Maseribane goes ahead, it will be in violation of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations. People at get-togethers hardly comply with official guidelines like physical distancing norms and wearing of masks. As at August 11, Lesotho had 13 682 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 391 deaths related to the virus. The United States of America (USA) last week urged its citizens to avoid travelling to Lesotho and other 15 destinations reporting high transmission of the coronavirus.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), destinations that fall into the “very high” risk category have had more than 500 cases per 100 000 residents in 28 days. Lesotho met this definition. The Prime Minister’s office announced on Thursday last week that ’Maseribane had resigned as minister of small business development and cooperatives.
“Office of the Prime Minister wishes to inform the general public that Honourable Thesele ’Maseribane has tendered his resignation from a ministerial portfolio of Small Business Development and Cooperatives,” the office said in a statement. It added: “His resignation letter was received by the Prime Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, on Thursday, 05 August 2021.”
In his resignation letter, ’Maseribane had stated that: “After being formally informed by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday 03rd August 2021 that the Italian government has responded positively to the government of Lesotho’s request to become the Lesotho Ambassador to Italy, I have come to a conclusion to inform you that from the 06th August 2021, I will resign from my ministerial post as to facilitate the process for the new assignment.”
His looming deployment to Italy has raised dust in the country. In a letter to Italy’s ministry of foreign affairs, one organisation called Patriotic Basotho Movement (PBM) said it was opposed to ’Maseribane’s deployment to Italy as ambassador, describing him as a “criminal”.
PBM said because of his “criminal acts”, his integrity has been unquestionably tainted and highly compromised. The movement cited a murder case which it says is pending in the High Court in which Chief ’Maseribane allegedly shot dead a Maseru resident, Kelly Mahase during the 1998 political turmoil. The movement further claims ’Maseribane is suspected of instigating the political upheavals in 1998.
“He successfully paralysed the government, the result of which was loss of life, injuries, massive and rampant looting, destruction of property and arson,” it said. It noted that as a result, a commission of inquiry was established later in 2000 to investigate the events and the findings include, among others, that ’Maseribane was a principal instigator of violence and political mayhem, adding that he has not been cleared of all the charges.
’Maseribane is the former leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP). The party’s current leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, who is also deputy minister of foreign affairs and international relations dismissed the letter saying it was written by faceless people.