MASERU- Ts’eliso Lesenya’s appointment as Ministry of Public Service Principal Secretary, last month has been written in the stars since his childhood.
His rise to the top started in 1985 when at the tender age of eight he was a champion for the International Youth Day as a Basotho National Party (BNP) to leading the party’s youth league between 2011 and 2015 and, later appointed the party’s Executive Secretary responsible for administration.
To top it all, Lesenya has worked closely with BNP leader and Public Service Minister Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, who is the most senior minister in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Tom Thabane.
This week, the Public Eye puts in its crosshairs Lesenya’s personal, political and academic journey, which led to him bagging the post of PS, making the 40-year old the prime administrator of the civil service.
“I must admit it’s a mammoth task being where I am, especially against the background of a pending overhaul of our various institutions through a planned reform process,” Lesenya says.
His ministry as the “mother ministry”, Lesenya says, will be heavily involved in ensuring that the reform programme is “in place and implemented to the letter”.
However, Lesenya is unfazed by the challenges, confidently saying he has “what it takes to move things forward”.
“With the support of my fellow colleagues in the ministry, the stewardship of the Public Service Minister and my experience and background in administration, together with my academic qualifications, I have what it takes to ensure that we transform Lesotho into a better place, that the public service is, by large delivering services expeditiously to the people, enhancing economic growth,” Lesenya says.
On how he manages to divorce himself from his political interests in the execution of his official duties as PS, Lesenya is quick to say that it takes being “ethical and principled” but again adds that that “the post of PS is in itself political”.
“The essence of working for the ministry in itself, is ensuring that I divorce myself from politics, that we view Basotho from a patriotic and not political perspective. Again, if we politicise our work, we’re jeopardizing delivery, which is not in the best interests of this coalition government,” he says.
“I’m a victim of discrimination in the civil service. In 2002 when I completed my first degree, I was blacklisted because of my BNP politics, and couldn’t get a job in the civil service. And when I was finally employed, I was transferred to the bundus where no civil servant wanted to work.”
“But when you employ someone to this kind of post, it must be an individual who understands and is familiar with government’s vision and is willing to implement it. You look at their academic attributes, employment history and ability to implement.”
Lesenya admits his job is not without challenges, placing emphasis on the high unemployment rate estimated at more than 9 000 graduates registered with the civil service for job openings that the country’s currently grappling with.
“There are challenges we are faced with, such as dealing with the high unemployment rate predominant among educated youths. Eradicating the scourge of unemployment is a task we must accomplish as part of contributing to economic growth,” Lesenya says enthusiastically.
Lesenya studied for a BA degree in International Relations and History at Wits University, and then moved to the University of the Free State (UOFS) where he pursued an Honours Degree in Political Science in International Relations.
“I’ve just completed a Master’s degree in International Relations and Democratic Politics with the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom,” Lesenya says, breaking into a smile.
He has worked for the Ministry of Local Government as Community Council Secretary in Mokhotlong, was transferred to Berea where he held a similar post and later worked for the same ministry in Butha-Buthe.
In 2015 he resigned from the civil service to contest that year’s poll in his native ‘Maliepetsane constituency, but lost to Democratic Congress (DC) candidate.
The defeat compelled him to take a breather for a year from politics for an overseas scholarship to study at Westminster University.
“I’ve only just returned from the UK and was lucky to land my current post on my return. I must stress that pursuing an education is vital because it opens doors for you,” Lesenya says.
Lesenya is a passionate BNP supporter, whose politics are deeply rooted in the party’s ideology, primarily influenced by his parents’ involvement in the party’s structures.
“From inception I’ve always been a BNP member. In 1985 I could truly relate to my membership of the BNP, at the tender age of eight. It was International Youth Year where youth participated in different activities in order to commemorate and honour that year,” Lesenya says.
He took a liking for the politics of the BNP because his family was already deeply rooted in the party’ with his mother working in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“As children growing up in Roman Catholic schools, we realised that the church’s membership was also deeply rooted in BNP politics, hence we grew up cultivating our politics along that line.”
Then in 1998, at the age of 21 Lesenya began to fully participate in the party’s structures, first managing the election campaign of then BNP leader Rets’elisitsoe Sekhonyana.
But later when Lesenya joined the civil service, he says he was compelled to cut down on his political activities, but resumed active participation in party politics in 2011, when Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane took over the leadership of the BNP.
“I felt it was befitting that I supported Chief ‘Maseribane’s leadership in pursuit of the growth of the BNP. Hence, I contested for the presidency of the youth league and won that race. I held the post until 2015, when the NEC appointed me as the party’s Executive Secretary,” Lesenya says.
Lesenya’s mandate as BNP Executive Secretary, involved assisting the office of the party’s Secretary-General in ensuring that decisions of the NEC were implemented. He also liaised with internal and international structures, to facilitate for development within the party, and ensuring that we created opportunities that would be beneficial for the party.
“We established relations with the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), engaged with our long-term friend the ANC as well as the Conservative Party of Great Britain and the DUA (Democratic Union of Africa) member states,” he says.
“Of course, some the activities began with me as the youth league president and carried them with me as I rose through the structures.”
It was during Lesenya’s tenure as executive secretary, that he got the prestigious Chevening Scholarship, to pursue his Masters in International Relations and Democratic Politics with the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom.
As BNP youth league president, Lesenya says he prides himself in the fact the party’s numbers at the polls increased, saying it was largely because of his leader Chief ‘Maseribane’s charisma and the revamped youth league under his (Lesenya’s) youth league leadership.
“In the elections of 2007 we had three seats in parliament and 23 000 votes. In 2012 we had five seats and about 29 000 votes, meaning they peaked. Then in 2015 the graph further increased, when we had seven seats and 36 000 votes. That was attained through the mobilization of the youth and our role as a collective,” Lesenya says.
“We also participated in international conferences that facilitated for the training of the youth in various fields, such the DUA, where the youth were trained in campaigning management and how to lobby for votes, and mobilizing resources and funding. I also fought to ensure that the youth were taken into serious consideration within the party.”
Lesenya’s ambition, he concludes, is “being the best I can be in life, putting my skills to good use in everything I do and reaching new heights career wise”.