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Mahao moves to fire LCS boss Mothepu

Nthatuoa Koeshe

NEWLY appointed Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao has flexed his muscles by commencing processes to dismiss Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Commissioner Thabang Mothepu over a host of issues including the latter’s alleged irregular appointment by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Prof Mahao wrote to Commissioner Mothepu on 2 July 2020 demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be dismissed from the LCS over his alleged irregular appointment by Mr Thabane who leads the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC). Incidentally Prof Mahao fell out with Mr Thabane after the latter rejected his candidature and subsequent election as deputy leader of the ABC.

However, Prof Mahao, who enjoys the support of the party’s powerful national executive committee (NEC), had the last laugh when he masterminded the ouster of Mr Thabane from the post of prime minister on 19 May 2020. Mr Thabane was succeeded by the ABC’s Thetsane legislator and former Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro on 20 May 2020. The latter appointed Prof Mahao to his cabinet. Prof Mahao has not wasted time in going after Commissioner Mothepu who was allegedly irregularly appointed to the top job by Mr Thabane.

Commissioner Mothepu has until Monday 6 July 2020 to respond to Prof Mahao’s letter. In a brief interview yesterday, Law and Justice principal secretary Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae confirmed the ultimatum to Commissioner Mothepu.

“I can confirm the existence of such a letter from the minister of law to Commissioner Mothepu. However, I am unable to answer your questions because I am on the road as we speak,” Rtd Col Mothae said.

Commissioner Mothepu also confirmed being slapped with the “show cause” letter.

“It is true that I received a letter from the minister (Prof Mahao).

“I have been given seven days to ‘show cause’ why I should not be dismissed. There are three main issues that have been raised including allegations that my appointment was irregular. It is also alleged that I failed to implement the recommendations of the ombudsman as well as allegations that I am being contemptuous of the court decisions,” Commissioner Mothepu said.

Acting on complaints by some LCS officers that promotions were not made on merit in the institution, Retired ombudsman, Advocate Leshele Thoahlane, conducted a 2018 inquiry and found that Commissioner Mothepu and some of the senior officers were illegally promoted to their positions possibly on political grounds.

Commissioner Mothepu had been acting commissioner from June 2017 when Mr Thabane came to power. He was appointed substantive boss on 31 May 2018. He courted controversy after making 50 promotions in the LCS in May 2018 while he was still acting commissioner. Some aggrieved LCS officers then petitioned the ombudsman complaining that they were overlooked for promotions on political grounds.

Adv Thoahlane, who began his inquiry in May 2018, then released a 59-page report, detailing among other things, how Commissioner Mothepu was himself parachuted to the top job despite the existence of a substantive commissioner, ’Matefo Makhalemele, who was on annual leave at the time.

“At the time of the inquiry there were two LCS commissioners (Mothepu and Makhalemele) as Makhalemele had, during her interview with the ombudsman, proved that she was still a Commissioner as she was still earning her salary and associated benefits,” Adv Thoahlane states in his report.

“She (Makhalemele) confirmed that she was just on annual leave while Mothepu on the other had informed the ombudsman that he had been confirmed as the LCS commissioner. This made no sense legally and otherwise and displayed the highest degree of confusion in the LCS authorities.

“If there could be confusion at that level it definitely meant confusion in the entire (LCS) institution. This (having two commissioners) was not only a burden to the public purse but it also meant that Mothepu’s appointment as a commissioner while the substantive holder of that position was still in office was illegal and so were any decisions he made thereafter, including the decisions to promote officers.”

The report also states that Commissioner Mothepu was not only inexplicably allowed to jump two rungs to land the top post, but he was also promoted despite the fact that he was actually on punishment for illegally releasing some prisoners who had been detained in connection with unspecified political issues.

Adv Thoahlane’s 2018 report recommended that the LCS should put in place clear promotion guidelines for its officers to be adhered to at all times. This ought to have been done within two months of the ombudsman’s report but it appears Commissioner Mothepu has allegedly not implemented those guidelines.

Shortly after the ombudsman’s report, Commissioner Mothepu told this publication’s sister Lesotho Times newspaper that ombudsman was out order and misguided. He said it was clear Adv Thoahlane was serving someone else’s interests rather than those of his office.

It appears he still had not implemented any of the recommendations hence the “show cause” letter from Prof Mahao.

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