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Maseru councillors sue Minister Litšoane, PS

Nat Molomo

MASERU mayor Mpho Moloi and five other city councillors have filed an urgent application in the High Court to interdict the Local Government and Chieftainship minister, Litšoane Litšoane, from interfering with their duties.

The five other councilors are Tholang Sefojane, Lebohang Ramathe, Nthabeleng Ntšasa, Tlali Lebesa and Thabo Hlehlisi.

Mr Litšoane, Local government principal secretary, Khothatso Tšooana and the MCC are among 15 respondents in the lawsuit.

Among other things, the six councillors want the minister to be interdicted from convening a disciplinary hearing against Ms Moloi for alleged insubordination.

They also want Minister Litšoane (first respondent), Local government principal secretary, Khothatso Tšooana (second respondent) and the MCC (third respondent) to be “interdicted from interfering with the applicants’ rights and privileges that include their right to earn monthly salaries, occupation of houses they currently occupy, use of premises assigned for executing normal duties in the course of their appointment as councillors”.

They also pray that the court declares that Mr Litšoane acted “wrongfully and illegally where he is playing all roles as the complainant, investigator, prosecutor and judge at the same time”.

In his founding affidavit, the applicants’ lawyer, Advocate Thatho Chabana, says that the minister is continuously violating rules of natural justice.

The councillors are also fighting to have Mr Litšoane barred from dissolving the MCC tender board and appointing a new one.

Mr Litšoane recently told the media that he had dissolved the MCC tender board because it was illegally constituted as it had councillors sitting on it and awarding tenders in contravention of the Local Government Act of 1997 which specifically prohibits councilors from being part of the tender panel.

Ms Moloi, and some of her fellow city councillors subsequently held their own press conference a fortnight ago where they accused the minister and the principal secretary of seeking to tarnish their images by spreading “false claims” that they had helped themselves to council money to pay themselves loans and salary advances. She also accuses them of having an underhand agenda of trying to influence tenders in the MCC in favour of their acolytes.

In her court affidavit, Ms Moloi says the tender panel was dissolved and the decision announced in the media without giving them a hearing.

She also refutes allegations she disrespected the minister by walking out of their meeting with him as she had driven to the MCC offices to use the toilet and found the minister leaving on her return. She said she had to use the council toilets because the toilets at the venue of the meeting were dirty.

The case is expected to be moved in the High Court tomorrow on the day Mr Litšoane had set for the disciplinary hearing against Ms Moloi.

Ms Moloi is accused of contravening the Maseru Municipal Council (MMC) code of conduct by residing in a staff house at the expense of council staff.

She is also accused of compromising the integrity of the council by encouraging or participating in a conduct that caused maladministration at the council.

A fortnight ago, Mr Litšoane addressed a press conference where he alleged that councillors and officials of the MCC diverted M3, 5 million meant for development projects to pay themselves loans and salary advances.

Mr Litšoane also announced that he had also dissolved the MCC’s tender panel for contravening the Local Government Act of 1997.

Mr Litšoane said the illegal diversion of funds had badly affected the council’s cash flows to the extent that the MCC was unable to pay its employees their July 2019 salaries. As a result, the ministry had to divert M500 000 meant for an electrification project to help pay those salaries.

But the MCC has vehemently denied the minister’s allegations in what has now become a public battle for the control of the MCC.

Ms Moloi and her colleagues said Mr Litšoane was misinformed. The councillors have in turn levelled corruption allegations against Mr Litšoane. They also called his move of dissolving the tender panel suspicious considering that it had already started processes for the tendering of the Mpilo highway extension.

 

The Maseru mayor said there was nothing amiss with the councillors sitting on the tender board. She vowed they would disregard its “purported” dissolution and continue with the business of awarding tenders, among them, the tender for the construction of new Mpilo highway.

“We were shocked to hear that the minister has decided to dissolve the tender board. There are so many other committees in the MCC and it is strange that of all these, he chooses to dissolve the tender board when it is in the middle of processes to award tenders for the construction of the new Mpilo highway. By so doing he invites us to believe rumours doing the rounds of interests to torpedo the proper adjudication of this tender and corruptly sway it to certain favoured people.

“I would like to make him (Mr Litšoane) aware that his decision to dissolve the tender board is just a joke. Just like him, we are all here with a mandate from the people who elected us. For him to decide to dissolve the tender board is just a huge joke,” Ms Moloi said two weeks ago.

On his part, the chairperson of the MCC tender board, Metsing Mothetsi, said its “purported” dissolution was a unilateral decision taken without their input. It was still to be formally communicated to them, he claimed.

“We just heard over the radio that the MCC tender board has been dissolved. We do not have a problem with the honourable minister’s (Mr Litšoane) powers (to take action) but he should have engaged us on a formal level. He still has not informed us that the board has been dissolved.”

Mr Mothetsi said they found it puzzling that Mr Litšoane was only acting against them now when they were in the middle of awarding tenders for the Mpilo road. He said this was despite the fact that the same minister had never questioned them for awarding tenders in the past.

 

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