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Majoro fires LCS boss Mothepu

5

Nthatuoa Koeshe

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has fired 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.

The dismissal is with effect from 24 July 2020.  LCS head of legal affairs, Chabana Majara, has been appointed as acting commissioner.

Principal secretary in the Ministry of Law and Justice, Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae, and Mr Mothepu himself confirmed the dismissal in separate interviews with the Sunday Express yesterday.

“I can confirm that I have been dismissed by the prime minister with effect from yesterday (Friday),” Mr Mothepu said.

“In fact, I received two letters yesterday. One was from the Law and Justice Minister (Professor Nqosa Mahao) informing me that he had recommended my dismissal to the prime minister.

“The other letter was from the prime minister informing me that he was dismissing me.” Mr Mothepu said he had already vacated the LCS office after his dismissal.

Rtd Col Mothae said Mr Mothepu was dismissed on Friday.

“Yes, he (Mr Mothepu) was dismissed by the prime minister on Friday and Chabana Majara has been appointed acting commissioner.

“Only the prime minister can respond to questions (on Mr Mothepu’s dismissal) because the correspondences on the matter were between my principals (Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao) and him (Mr Mothepu). All I can say is that Mothepu has indeed been dismissed from the LCS,” Rtd Col Mothae said.

Mr Mothepu’s dismissal was done on the recommendation of Prof Mahao.

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, the ex-premier who still 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 and his replacement with Dr Majoro.

“I hereby inform you that…I intend to advice the Right Honourable Prime Minister to remove you from office in the interest of efficiency,” Prof Mahao stated in his “show cause” letter to Mr Mothepu.

“Your conduct and deportment before that important constitutional organ of state was deplorable, contemptuous and fell far below the standard expected of an officer occupying the high position of commissioner.

“Consistent with the contempt you apparently displayed towards the ombudsman, you ignored a plethora of recommendations the ombudsman made to the extent that they affected the LCS.”

Prof Mahao also accused Mr Mothepu of ignoring a May 2019 Court of Appeal judgement which nullified some of the promotions Mr Mothepu had made within the LCS.

“As the commissioner, you simply ignored that judgment of the highest court in the land by failing to reverse or recommend the reversal of the promotions and in so doing you showed contempt for the courts of law and that conduct is unbefitting of an officer of the standing of the Commissioner of Correctional Services.”

Commissioner Mothepu had been given until 6 July 2020 to respond to Prof Mahao’s “show cause” letter.

He did not give details on his response to the plethora of allegations raised against him when this publication contacted him for comment yesterday.

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 Mr Mothepu and some of the senior officers were illegally promoted to their positions possibly on political grounds.

Mr Mothepu had been acting commissioner from June 2017 when Mr Thabane came to power. He was appointed substantive LCS boss on 31 May 2018. He had 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, subsequently released a 59-page report, detailing among other things, how Mr 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 hand 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 Mr 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 Mr Mothepu did not implement those guidelines.

Shortly after the ombudsman’s report, Mr Mothepu trashed it. He told the Lesotho Times that the ombudsman was out of order and misguided. He alleged Adv Thoahlane was serving someone else’s interests rather than those of the office he occupied.

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