Cooperative Lesotho Limited (Co-op Lesotho) Manager, Thabo Shale, on Friday received a five-day ultimatum from the Commissioner for Cooperatives, ’Maphamoli Lekoetje, to show cause why disciplinary action cannot be taken against him.
Mr Shale is accused of several cases of maladministration, which he allegedly committed he rejoined Co-op Lesotho last month.
Mr Shale was suspended Ms Lekoetje in September last year, pending an inquiry into his alleged mismanagement and embezzlement of the organization’s funds. The suspension was nullified by the court and he returned to work on 17 December 2015.
Ms Lekoetje alleges since his reinstatement, Mr Shale had destabilized the organization, which is an arm of the ministry responsible for supervising all the country’s cooperative societies.
According to a letter dated 29 January 2016 and addressed to Mr Shale, Ms Lekoetje noted: “Since you came back to Cooperative Lesotho in December 2015, you have been making it difficult for the organisation, its employees and the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing (MSCM) to perform their duties and responsibilities effectively and efficiently at the society.
“You wrote letters of termination of employment to Ms Nthatisi Taoana and Mr Khotso Lebusa with immediate effect on the 25th January 2016. The reason you gave for this action was that ‘…Cooperative Lesotho is at its infant stage and is struggling financially’. I fail to understand how a cooperative that was registered in 1981 can be in its infancy after 35 years of its establishment.
“If Cooperative Lesotho is in the mentioned financial status, my expectation would be you reporting the matter to the Commissioner for Cooperatives Development who has put that cooperative under administration and is in charge of all the affairs of the society. My expectation is that we would discuss the situation and work out a solution to re-capacitate the society instead of terminating people’s employment without a hearing, notice and, on my part, transparency on the criteria used to select them among other employees.”
According Mrs Lekoetje, Co-op Lesotho was in the process of winding up its operations “and the Honourable Minister (Thabiso Litšiba) has instructed that financial preparations of accounts be made for the winding up process. The following people were assigned this task, namely Mrs ’Malijeng Kampong, District Cooperative Officer of Butha-Buthe district, Ms ’Mafeane Thatjane, District Cooperative Officer of Mohale’s Hoek district, Mr Khotso Lebusa and Ms ’Mamaeketsa Molefi, both from Cooperative Lesotho.”
She added two other officers, namely Katiso Seola and ’Makhotso Phali, were supposed to collect information from the cooperative’s warehouses.
“It was reported to my office yesterday, 28 January 2016, that you have expelled the two District Cooperative Officers from Cooperative Lesotho, thus disrupting their work and have denied Katiso and ’Makhotso from going to the warehouses to collect information,” Ms Lekoetje wrote in the letter.
The expulsion of Mr Lebusa, she said, was also hampering progress in the implementation of the winding-up process due to his qualifications as an accountant.
The commissioner further noted the ministry was conducting research on the status of cooperatives in Lesotho in preparation for the effective implementation of the Cooperatives Societies Amendment Act of 2014.
She said one of the officers, ’Mamohato Peete, who was coordinating this activity, reported to the commissioner’s office that Mr Shale had not allowed her access to information needed by consultants from Cooperative Lesotho and “in this way, disrupting progress in the completion of the assignment.”
The commissioner indicated employees of Cooperative Lesotho had also reported that Mr Shale often told them that “the action” he took was in consultation with the minister.
“You have been knowingly making false statements about him, putting his name in disrepute,” Ms Lekoetje added.
She said on 28 January 2016, Mr Shale introduced a group of people to the staff “whom you said were board members.
“There has not been clarification on where and how you met these people, who they are, their selection criteria, relationship with cooperatives and how you ended up deciding to introduce them to the employees as board members, giving the staff misleading information knowingly and even asking that they be given sitting allowances,” she said.
Ms Lekoetje added a report made in September and October 2015 indicated “poor financial management at Cooperative Lesotho during your term of office, showing that diligence was not applied in the management of the same since the suspension of the Board in 2014. You are therefore requested to show cause why, within five working days from today, disciplinary action cannot be taken against you.”
Ms Lekoetje on Friday confirmed writing the letter, adding disciplinary processes against Mr Shale were already being prepared.
On his part, Mr Shale yesterday confirmed receiving the letter but said he would give his side of the story “later”.
“I will not give you my side of the story now. You can go on and publish your story. I can only respond to these allegations against me next week for your next publication. What I can only say is that I am the manager of Co-op Lesotho.”
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