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Mochoboroane disputes salary freeze 

 

Bongiwe Zihlangu

FIRED Communications, Science and Technology minister Selibe Mochoboroane has disputed Accountant-General Rankoe Mphaka’s claims his salary and benefits have been suspended “pending a court outcome to determine his legal status”.

The Sunday Express’ sister paper, the Lesotho Times, obtained documents in which Mr Mphaka reportedly stopped Mr Mochoboroane’s remuneration — including that of his staff such as private secretary, office tea-lady, maid and gardener.

According to Mr Mphaka, the remuneration had been suspended following a “casualty return”, informed by Mr Mochoboroane’s letter of expulsion from cabinet and a government gazette to that effect.

“The letter of expulsion and the government gazette are triggers of the valid casualty return,” Mr Mphaka had said.

This was despite Attorney-General (AG) Tšokolo Makhethe (King’s Counsel)’s advice that since Mr Mochoboroane’s dismissal is now before the courts of law, it would be illegal to withhold his ministerial remuneration.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had filed an urgent application in the High Court on 7 November seeking an order to compel Mr Mochoboroane to vacate the ministerial post with the case deferred to 16 March 2015 by Justice Teboho Moiloa.

However, speaking to the Sunday Express, Mr Mochoboroane said it was “absurd” for Mr Mphaka to claim he was now being paid an ordinary MP’s salary and his personal staff, who form part of his benefits, were not being paid.

“All I can say is I received my full minister’s salary this month,” said Mr Mochoboroane, adding that, “and by the way, if I didn’t get my minister’s salary this month, how come all my staff got theirs?”

Mr Mochoboroane was relieved of his ministerial duties on 16 October 2014 for alleged insubordination. The move followed lack of coverage of the premier’s activities by the state media, Radio Lesotho and Lesotho Television (LTV), allegedly after a directive by the  Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Thabana-Morena Constituency No 52 MP.

However, Mr Mochoboroane’s principal and LCD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, rejected the dismissal since he said it was not agreed upon by the three parties in government which also include Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention and Basotho National Party led by Thesele ‘Maseribane.

As a result, Mr Mochoboroane has since continued to perform the functions of Communications, Science and Technology minister.

Meanwhile, the ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS), Tšeliso Khomari, has also jumped into the fray slating Mr Mphaka for his alleged failure to “execute his duties with responsibility”.

The PS said it was “reckless” of Mr Mphaka to speak from an official position that the minister did not get his salary.

“People in positions of responsibility should live up to expectations and their responsibilities,” Mr Khomari said.

“We live in an era of sad politics, where people in high positions do all they can to mislead the nation.

“But be rest assured that as long as the court has not made a ruling, minister Mochoboaroane will continue to get paid his salary.”

Following Mr Mphaka’s request for the AG’s advice on Mr Mochoboroane’s case, Advocate Makhethe said holding Mr Mochoboroane’s salary and benefits and barring him from executing the duties of a minister when no final decision on his legal status had been determined.

“In my view, the issue of whether Honourable Mochoboroane MP should continue in office and accordingly, receive remuneration is now sub-judice, as it is unavoidably and inextricably intertwined with the very key issue, which the courts have to decide, being whether his dismissal from the office was lawful,” AG Makhethe advises.

Asked on his comments on the AG’s letter, Mr Mphaka had said he was not privy to its contents and was “yet to study it”.

Mr Khomari has since accused Mr Mphaka of being insincere, saying the accountant-general already had the document with him on 21 November and even called Mr Mochoboroane “to tell him about the AG’s advice”.

“We are amazed that Mr Mphaka can claim to have not seen the document, a week after he received the AG’s legal opinion on Mr Mochoboroane’s issues, which was issued on 20 November,” Mr Khomari said.

“Like I’ve said already, we’re in a situation where people simply choose to change the ballgame and feed the public untruths.

“Mr Mphaka had the document on Friday, 21 November and told us about it. But it’s weird for him to claim to not have seen it.”

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