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Temporary relief for Mokaeane

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Mohalenyane Phakela

HIGH Court Judge ‘Maseforo Mahase has temporarily barred the government from recalling Lesotho’s High Commissioner to London, Rethabile Mahlompho Mokaeane.

Justice Mahase on Thursday issued the interim order for Ms Mokaeane to remain in London and continue enjoying her full benefits until her application challenging the government’s decision to recall is finalised by the courts.

“The recall of the applicant be stayed and the applicant should enjoy all rights, privileges and benefits attaching to her position pending finalisation of this application,” Justice Mahase ordered.

The order was granted after Ms Mokaeane’s lawyer, Molise Molise, had approached the High Court on the same day.

The Foreign Affairs and International Relations Principal Secretary (PS), Thabang Motoko, the Ministry of Public Service and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first to third respondents respectively in the application.

The two parties are expected to appear before the High Court on 30 August 2021 to map the way forward regarding the case.

Ms Mokaeane received her letter of recall a fortnight ago.

Her recall letter, authored by PS Motoko, simply stated that she had been recalled with effect from 1 September 2021. She was expected at the head offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations in Maseru to take up a new post as a “resident ambassador”.

Although no reasons were given for her recall, the move was most likely precipitated by Ms Mokaeane’s outburst three weeks ago, wherein, she told one of her subordinates, ‘Mantolo Motloheloa, that she would get her comeuppance when the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party is dumped out of government.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro is the deputy leader of the ABC and his main coalition ally is Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC).

Ms Mokaeane is a member of former Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD). She briefly served as Deputy Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation in the previous four party coalition which was led by ABC leader, Thomas Thabane.

She was subsequently posted to London under the AD ticket. Other parties in the previous coalition, which lasted from June 2017 to May 2020, were the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). Thomas Thabane-led

The AD was not included in the current coalition anchored by the ABC and DC. This as punishment for Mr Moleleki’s steadfast support for Mr Thabane even after he had been rejected and forced to step down from the premiership by his own ABC party.

Despite the ouster of her party from government, Ms Mokaeane was retained as the country’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Her position had however, become untenable due to her incessant highly publicised fights with her subordinates, particularly, Ms Motloheloa, over the handling of finances at the embassy in the UK.

Ms Motloheloa holds the post of third secretary at Lesotho’s UK embassy.

For more than a year, the two have fought a bitter war over the disbursement of embassy funds.

Matters came to a head two weeks ago when Ms Motloheloa approached Ms Mokaeane to sign vouchers authorising the former to pay her rent.

In the leaked audio recording of the two women’s heated conversation, Ms Mokaeane is heard telling her subordinate that she will only sign the vouchers after Ms Motloheloa has paid the former High Commissioner’s medical and car insurance bills. The embassy’s procedure is that the High Commissioner’s bills have to authorised and paid out by the third secretary.

When her subordinate insisted that there was no money for the vehicle repairs and insurance, Ms Mokaeane reiterated that she would not authorise Ms Motloheloa’s rent vouchers as well.

She then took the opportunity to warn Ms Motloheloa that that the current ABC-led government would eventually collapse and Ms Motloheloa would be left out in the cold.

In her High Court application filed on Thursday, Ms Mokaeane argues that her recall was unprocedural in that she was not given a hearing prior to the recall. Nor was there a three months’ notice given as per the provisions of her contract, she argues.

“I aver that I was served with the RM2 (letter of recall) without a hearing,” Ms Mokaeane states in her court papers.

“The court shall readily see that this is prejudicial in that it gives me a very short and limited time to wind up my affairs in London. I aver that in this equation there are minor children involved whose schooling is at stake. The government has not paid my children’s school fees. It would be unfair to leave the London High Commission with a debt hanging on my neck.

“It is wrong and unlawful that the recall in these circumstances was done without any hearing whatsoever. I am in London with my minor children. They need references to be able to find other schools. The government has not paid their school fees. The school will not provide references unless the owing school fees are paid.”

Ms Mokaeane adds that she has a pending case before the Court of Appeal wherein she is suing the government for its failure to pay the school fees as part of the benefits due to her in terms of her employment.

“The government owes me in respect of additional allowances on top of the owing school fees for my children. The government has not made any arrangements for my luggage to be transported to Lesotho. I am being given an unreasonable period to leave London. In terms of the contract I have with the government, I must be given three months’ notice when being recalled.

“My immediate recall is therefore highly prejudicial from the family, social, financial and children’s welfare perspective. Let alone the fact that the said recall is illegal as it is done without the involvement of the Ministry of Public Service.

“I have to inform the court that all my diplomatic benefits have been taken away. I submit that such rights cannot be taken away without a hearing. I am being prejudiced. I am enduring additional prejudice in that even prior to the conclusion of my leaving London, the first respondent (Motoko) has appointed another officer to act in my position. This happened even before I could arrange a hand over ceremony.”

The recall of Ms Mokaeane comes barely three months after she had been hauled before a disciplinary hearing over her alleged incompetence.

Ms Mokaeane insists she is innocent and she was acquitted by the June 2021 disciplinary hearing, chaired by Home Affairs PS, Tumelo Raboletsi.

“I am being punished for the reason that I have won the disciplinary case. A recall is not to be used as a punishment. I aver that the appointing authority and the Public Service have not confirmed my recall. These are all acts of the first respondent (Motoko). It is unlawful because he is acting ultra vires (outside his powers).”

Ms Mokaeane therefore wants the High Court to order that, “the recall of the applicant be declared null and void for violating the rules of natural justice in that the applicant was not given a hearing prior to her recall.

“That it be declared that the applicant’s recall without following the three months’ notice stipulated in the contract of appointment is unlawful.”

 

 

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