Nat Molomo /’Marafaele Mohloboli
A Maseru chief has filed an urgent High Court application for the disbandment of the National Emergency Command Centre (NECC). The NECC is an inter-ministerial taskforce set up by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to spearhead the national response to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Chief David Mochochoko of Monyahane, Maseru, argues that Mr Thabane acted illegally in creating the NECC without an act of parliament. He argues that its functions should be taken over by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) which is the rightful organ to spearhead the fight against Covid-19.
He alleges that since its establishment the NECC has “carelessly” misused and “wasted” M20 million from the public purse.
“The applicant has no alternative remedy to prevent the wrongs, irregularities, illegalities and malicious acts of the aforementioned structure (NECC) and therefore redress is sought in the courts of law,” Chief Mochochoko states in his court papers filed on Monday 11 May 2020.
The case will be heard on Tuesday 19 May 2020.
Prime Minister Thabane, the Minister responsible for the DMA (Prime Minister’s office), Health minister Nkaku Kabi, Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and Attorney General Haae Phoofolo are the first to fifth respondents respectively.
Chief Mochochoko wants the court to order that “the decision by Mr Thabane…to establish the command centre (NECC) be declared unlawful as it was not made on the basis of an act of parliament”.
“…The committee, group, workshop, structure or body referred to as the command centre be disbanded.
“…The respondents be ordered to address, deal with, manage and or administer the Coronavirus pandemic…in terms of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act of 1997.”
Chief Mochochoko also wants the court to declare that the DMA “is the proper and lawful organ that has power and authority to deal with the… Coronavirus pandemic”.
In his accompanying affidavit, Chief Mochochoko states that the NECC was established without an enabling act of parliament shortly after Mr Thabane declared a nationwide lockdown which was in place from 30 March to 5 May 2020.
He states that ever since its establishment, the NECC has attracted controversy over several issues including its terms of reference, the extent of its powers and its budget.
He alleges that to date the NECC has wasted more than M20 million of public funds and yet there is still no testing facility for Covid-19 in Lesotho.
Lesotho, which recorded its first Covid-19 case on 12 May 2020, relies on South Africa for testing.
Chief Mochochoko alleges that the NECC failed to prevent 48 South Africans who have not been tested for Covid-19 from illegally entering the country to work at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) in Polihali, Mokhotlong.
“I submit that the command centre is a wasteful organ which has not produced anything to date to protect the lives of Basotho except to cause economic and health disaster. It is still planning. It is wasting money. I submit that so far, the command centre has wasted more than M20 million yet there is no testing facility that exists in Lesotho.
“I submit that 48 South Africans who have not tested for Covid-19 have got into Lesotho…This is due to the failure by the incompetent…command centre to make practical recommendations and to provide working solutions…They (South Africans) are likely to infect Basotho as they come from a highly infectious country.”
South Africa has the highest Covid-19 infections in Africa. It had recorded more than 13 530 cases and close to 250 deaths by yesterday.