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Fired commissioners bounce back

Pascalinah Kabi

MASERU — The High Court has granted commissioners running sport in the country a reprieve to remain in office.
This follows a decision by Sports Minister Mathabiso Lepono to expel the commissioners from the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) last month.
The LSRC’s 14-man executive last week filed an urgent application seeking to reverse Lepono’s decision.
The minister relieved the commissioners of their duties saying their three-year term came to an end on September 30.
The commissioners were informed of the decision through a letter written by the principal secretary in the sports ministry, Makalo Theko, on October 13.
In the letter, Theko said the commissioners could no longer continue to hold office because their term had elapsed.
But the commissioners on Wednesday sought an interdict against the minister saying they had been prematurely removed from office.
The commissioners argued that their term of office was instead supposed to end yesterday.
Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, representing the commissioners, said the High Court had on Friday granted his clients a reprieve.
“The High Court has passed an order that the commissioners be reinstated until the outcome of the case is finally passed,” he said yesterday.
Mda said the commissioners’ lawsuit against the minister will be heard in the High Court on Friday.
The court papers also cited the LSRC, its chief executive, the sports ministry’s principal secretary and the attorney-general as respondents.
All national sports associations affiliated with the LSRC are also named as respondents in the papers.
Elections for LSRC commissioners are held every three years.
The commissioners are arguing that even on the assumption that their term had indeed expired on September 30, “we would still be entitled to a three-month period within which to arrange the elections of the incoming members of the first respondent (LSRC)”.
“After the lapse of three years of their appointment commissioners remain in office as trustees and caretaker commissioners until the incoming members have been put in place,” read the court papers.
They argue that Lepono’s decision was “fraught and riddled with enormous irregularities and illegalities”.
“Fourth respondent (the minister) has effectively removed us from office and/or rendered us nugatory without affording us any prior hearing,” the commissioners said in the court papers.
“Whether our respective terms of office had expired or not we were entitled to be heard before fourth respondent could intervene in the manner she did.
“Our respective terms of office have not expired.”
The commissioners alleged that the minister had “unlawfully deprived us of our rights and honour to continue to contribute in sports and culture in our respective capacities as commissioners”.
They added that their “status in the sports community has thus been impaired to our great prejudice”.
The commissioners are also bitter that Lepono’s decision deprived them of benefits that come with being a commissioner. 
“Indeed, the said intervention effectively deprived us of all the benefits in the Act that accrued to us by reason of being commissioners,” they said.
They also want time “to carry to finality the programme we put in place in preparation for the commission election”. 
The commissioners are led in their fight by LSRC president Tsietsi Lebake.
In the court papers, Lebake made other revelations that gave away the internal politics in the LSRC.
For instance, he tells of the chaos that ensued at the LSRC annual general meeting on October 11 where Lesotho’s national sports associations passed a vote-of-no-confidence against the Lebake-led commission.
The associations demanded that the commissioners present unaudited financial statements for the April to September 2009 period.
“When I over-ruled these proposals the meeting degenerated into mayhem, such that I had no option but to close it,” Lebake said in the papers.
Lebake also attached to the court papers a letter that the sports associations wrote to the minister on October 11 informing her of their decision to pass a “motion of no confidence in the current LSRC committee”.
In the letter, the national sports associations said Lebake’s committee had failed to produce an audited report for the expenditure related to the All Africa Games held in Algeria in 2007.
They also told the minister that the committee had failed to produce the 2008/09 management letter.
The associations also cited Lebake’s decision to close the annual general meeting, a move they described as “unprecedented and unexpected”.
“We therefore request through your kind office that you afford our request your urgent attention to avoid a potential crisis.”
Lebake then wrote to the minister on October 15 denying most of the allegations made by the associations.
“I am disturbed by palpable lies contained in a letter even titled (petition) by delegates of the congress on 11th October 2009,” he said.
“This is nothing but a ploy to derail a smooth process of elections that we are in the middle of but very unfortunately the ministry did not see (it that way).”
Lebake said it was not true that the commission had refused to provide the report but that they had differed “in opinion only on the procedure to present the report covering a period between April and September”.

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