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Mahao humiliated

ENERGY Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao was forced into a humiliating climb-down last week after the prime minister ordered him to cancel the launch of an electrification project in Mokema constituency. Professor Mahao, the Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader, was scheduled to officially launch the power project at around 10am last Thursday.

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Invitations had been sent out to the villagers in Mokema and Koro-Koro where the power project was set to be implemented.

And a few weeks earlier Professor Mahao had taken a group of contractors on a tour of the villages as they prepared to tender the rural electrification project expected to cost the government M22 million.

thepost can reveal that at around 7am on Thursday, three hours before Professor Mahao’s event, Prime Minister Sam Matekane called all coalition partners to an impromptu meeting at the State House.

Sources say after brief discussions on other issues Matekane then turned to Professor Mahao’s event.

“The prime minister said while the people of Mokema and Koro-Koro deserve electricity, procurement procedures should be followed to the letter,” said a source privy to the details of the meeting.
“He (prime minister) then ordered Mahao to cancel the launch and allow procurement procedures to be followed before the launch.”

The source said Matekane appeared annoyed that Professor Mahao seemed to have been taking the lead in the implementation of the project instead of letting officials in his ministry drive the procurement.

“I believe the prime minister was just saying the minister should not be seen to be involved in the procurement and management of such projects because it gives the wrong impression that politicians are pushing their own interests and agenda,” said the source.

Professor Mahao however denied that the prime minister had instructed him to cancel the launch.

He said he was the one who postponed the launch.

“I am the one who postponed the launch because the organisers did not tell me the dates in advance,” Professor Mahao said.

“I will soon announce when the launch will be.”

It is not clear if the prime minister’s order is in any way linked to the feuds that Professor Mahao has been having with his principal secretary Tankiso Phapano.

But the order further undermines Professor Mahao’s grip on the Ministry of Energy.

It also further damages the already frosty relationship between Professor Mahao and the prime minister.

The BAP believes Matekane is siding with Phapano in his battles with Professor Mahao.

They point to the fact that Matekane repeatedly rejected Mahao’s and the party’s pleas to transfer Phapano to another ministry.

In response to the BAP’s latest request to reassign Phapano, Matekane said the appointment of principal secretaries was his prerogative and not that of coalition partners.

And to show that political partners cannot force his hand, Matekane left Phapano at the Ministry of Energy when he reshuffled some principal secretaries a few days after rejecting the BAP’s request.

There are now signs that relations between the BAP and the ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) are strained, with the BAP’s secretary general, Lepolesa Makutoane, recently telling a local newspaper that Matekane wants to seize the Ministry of Energy.

Although the RFP has vehemently refuted this allegation, impeccable sources have told thepost that the RFP feels the ministry was a price too high to pay for getting the BAP’s support.

RFP insiders say the feeling in the party is that it gave up the ministry when it was desperate for numbers to save its government.

“Besides, the ministry is one of the most important in the current government because of the focus on renewable energy. You just have to look at the current budget to see how much money will be pumped into energy projects this year,” said an RFP insider.

“I and some senior RFP members believe such a strategic ministry cannot be run by a junior partner in the coalition. It is the RFP that should drive the ministry for strategic reasons. It (ministry) is too important to be left to other parties.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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