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‘From Minister to chief’

The rise and fall of Mophato Monyake

Mohloai Mpesi

Mophato Monyake is that guy who committed a political blunder that saw him plummet and fall from grace with a thud when he jumped ship leaving the ruling Tom Thabane-led All Basotho Convention (ABC) to form his own party Progressive Democrats (PD) in 2014.

He was notably the Minister of Justice and Correctional Service who went beyond the normal call of duty in ensuring that multiple serial murderer Lehlohonolo Scott was re-incarcerated after he had escaped lawful arrest on counts of murder.

Monyake, 61, is said to have, at the time, even gone on to engage private investigators to ensure that Scott had his day in court to answer for his sins, a feat which had irked fellow ministers to a point that Monyake was basically pushed out, as it had rumoured that Scott’s arrest might have brought it some big names in the then administration to the fore, thus risking going down with. Scott was indeed re-arrested, charged and given a life sentence eventually, which he is currently serving at the Maseru Maximum Correctional Institute although he remained mum about his other elite accomplices apart from his late mother.

Now Monyake is back in the scene of leadership, but this time around, not as a political hobnob but a traditional leader and heir to the chieftaincy of Makhoaba, Ha Lengolo in Thabana-Morena constituency, Mafeteng.

Monyake who is an engineer by profession, ascended to the seat of chief and was duly inaugurated at an event held in Mafeteng last week.

In an exclusive interview with Newsday this week, he pointed out that it was time that the long-drawn decentralisation policy be put in place in order to protect the interests of the minority grassroots dwellers against the elite especially political, who have access to finance.

He said the minority suffer lack of development while the superior elites fail to budget for development and answer to local communities’ struggles such as poverty.

The former Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) Secretary General said he is going to devote himself to developing his community since the politicians are unwilling to do so.

He said he is going to ensure that the road is made, carrying out the responsibility to navigate the 5km road from Thabana-Morena to Ha Panta and other villages around it.

“I took it upon myself to ensure that the road is build,” he said.

Monyake assumes the chieftainship position after his father Lengolo Bureng Monyake’s demise in 2018. According to him, the obligations that are rightfully supposed to be executed by the chiefs are pegged on the overburdened and visionless government.

“The chief duties are now curtailed by the Local Government community councillors because they plan the developmental activities while the chiefs are left with a few.

“So the chiefs are only mandated to mark leases and fields.

“The role of a chief in a democratic system or dispensation is very limited and a lot of work is done by councillors,” he said adding that the so-called community councillors and Members of Parliaments are visionless politicians.

“Selibe Mochoboroane as the Member of Parliament for Thabana-Morena has his hands tied, whereas we were expecting that the development has to be handled by somebody with responsibility and budget to ensure that water, electricity, roads and other infrastructural duties are carried out, they are instead placed in the hands of councillors,” he said.

“I am planning to make a road from Thabana-Morena to Ha Panta, we don’t have a road because that road is very dangerous and in bad shape. So the question is who is going to build us a road here because I, as a chief, don’t have a budget, I only have to raise this issue with Councillors to our request on the budget for the sake of this place.

“So these issues are handled politically, it is a big problem to solve the problems of our communities,” he said as he took swipe at the Thabana-Morena Member of Parliament, Selibe Mochoboroane, whom he says has failed to play an active role in addressing the community issues during his three terms in parliament. 

“Mochoboroane has been in Parliament for almost three terms now but we don’t have a road there. I have to take it upon myself with other chiefs to make a road, where I get the money is entirely upon me.

“I tried to approach many structures that could help but there is no difference, all is politically motivated,” he said.

He said besides the fact that the authority is submerged in an abyss of ignorance towards decentralisation, there is also no allocation of budget to finance the local government initiatives, and also the fact that those in authority have covered themselves with the powers, negates the country’s developmental progression.

“Politicians are afraid of decentralisation, they have always centralised power to themselves. Once you decentralise power, it removes certain control from then. With a proper decentralised government, the nation goes very far.

“The office of the chief has no funding to fund the developmental activities, it is the role of local government. What we can do as chiefs is to submit our requests to the local government regarding the changes we want to see. I have lost a lot of people; some stay in Mafeteng, some are at Thabana-Morena because we don’t have roads and we didn’t have electricity which was installed not long ago.

“Lack of water is a big problem, taps get broken and people go for a lengthy period of time without water, they go through struggle to get good water.

“The nation has to be careful about who they elect, because they tend to elect people who do not change things around and provide services. They have to be responsible for their electing fingers. One’s responsibility is to be mindful when they go into the voter’s box and choose those who will implement their developmental objectives,” he said.

“Without the roads, we can’t see people building shops, they will come and go as there is no public transport there. The taxis return at Thabana-Morena because of bad roads.

“When I joined politics I realised that many politicians didn’t have a vision about this country in terms of economic growth by creating jobs and use the resources of this country to benefit our people.

Monyake divulged that he joined the ABC with the illusion that it would lead the country to greener pastures since its then leader, Motsoahae Thomas Thabane was an experienced politician having worked with different administrations and political leaders.

 “When I joined ABC I was still Secretary-General of Marema-Tlou party. MFP was not having an impact on people, it was not recognised. I decided to quit my job as Secretary general and went to South Africa to work there.

“But when I heard of the formation of ABC, I thought that because the founder of it has been involved in many political parties and governments like Ntsu Mokhehle, Mosisili.

“I understood that having been from different governments, he would have a better vision from the past leaders and I decided to join him and put my shoulder to the wheel and see to it that we develop the country. But I was disappointed to realise that the party doesn’t have clear policies intended to help the country from its problems, for example, they are doing nothing about local government because local government is the core of the country’s development.

“For me I believe that each district must have a district government which is well funded in order that the district development activities are carried out, in this way, we are not going to see many people flocking to Maseru. Many people are leaving districts to Maseru because there are No developments that gives people work.

“We have got diamonds but as late as this government, there is still no mining policies. Botswana diamonds are much cheaper than Lesotho’s yet ours are not doing anything to boost our economy.

“We need people with a long term vision so that we can achieve something in the next five years,” he said.

“We have two main leaders; ABC and DC but you don’t hear them saying anything about what they want to accomplish before their term is finished.

“Comparing the current budget speech with the previous ones, I can say we are stagnant.

“I still have passion to see this country progressing but the question is the platform now, I am looking for a platform that I can launch into and apply my expertise. ABC was a good platform but it is a party without direction now.

“Decentralisation is key to the development of any country,” he said.

“The chief doesn’t have power in governance except to mark animals, give IDs, et al, those are the activities delegated to the office of chiefs. People come to my office because they know I can’t take sides. My vision is to see developments taking place but I am not going to rely on government, we are going to get out of our way and seek for people who will help us in developing our area, which is their responsibility (government), how can you elect some uneducated man without vision and service delivery who only knows how to chant political songs to create development structures? Just because he or she is following a certain political party and will be elected as a councillor. How do we expect to develop this country through such people?” he asked.

Meanwhile approached for a comment, Member of Parliament for the Thabana-Morena constituency Selibe Mochoboroane rubbished all the allegations citing that the electricity has been installed in many communities in his constituency.

“Roads and electricity have been constructed since the time when I became Member of Parliament in 2012. Yes, it is true that the mentioned road to Ha Panta has not been repaired but the work is distributed to different communities accordingly. We can’t cover the entire constituency at once,” he said.

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