Mochoboroane’s salary frozen
THE government has suspended Selibe Mochoboroane’s salary and benefits following his dismissal as Communications, Science and Technology minister last month, the Lesotho Times has learnt.
The decision to stop the remuneration — including that of his staff such as private secretary, office tea-lady, maid and gardener — was made after the Ministry of Finance’s legal team questioned whether it was still lawful to keep him on the ministers’ payroll despite being fired by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 16 October 2014, allegedly for insubordination.
According to documents the Lesotho Times has managed to obtain, the legal team, under the guidance of Accountant-general Rankoe Mphaka, subsequently sought advice from Attorney-general ( AG) Tšokolo Makhethe (King’s Counsel) on the issue, as well as Mr Mochoboroane’s continued performance of ministerial functions.
However, despite Advocate Makhethe’s advice that since Mr Mochoboroane’s dismissal is now before the courts of law, it would be illegal to withhold his ministerial remuneration, Mr Mphaka has stopped the payment.
Dr Thabane 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.
Mr Mphaka told the Lesotho Times yesterday: “Since the prime minister issued his letter of expulsion and a government gazette to that effect, Mr Mochoboroane has been getting a member of parlia- ment (MP)’S salary.
“Payments pertaining to him as a minister have been stopped, but he’s still getting an MP’S salary because he’s still a member of parliament.
“We made what we call a casualty return, informed based on authority, in this case being the 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.”
Asked about the advice given by the AG regarding the issue, Mr Mphaka said although he had not yet seen the response, it was him who had recommended that advice be sought from Advocate Makhethe “as the most relevant person to interpret the situation”.
“We sought the AG’S advice because we were in a dilemma as Mr Mochoboroane was still in office exercising his powers as minister despite the directive by the PM, with people who were supposed to evict him seemingly unable to do so,” Mr Mphaka said. “We had stopped payments pertaining to him as a minister, as I’ve said already, but there was also political pressure, based on the coalition government’s agreement.”
M r Mphaka added since he was yet to see the communication from Advocate Makhethe, “I can only make a decision once I have seen the contents of the advice”.
“I am yet to hear from the Principal Secretary (finance ministry) and study the wording of the advice because that’s very important.
“Only when I am content with the advice, can we then make a decision,” Mr Mphaka said.
Asked whether he had spoken to Mr Mochoboroane about the remuneration issue, Mr Mphaka said the Thabana-morena Constituency No 52 MP only called him once to com- plain about an officer in the finance ministry, who would not process some payment due to him.
“It was a civil telephonic discussion and I said I would look into it and that was that.
“Even the Minister of Finance, Dr Leketekete Ketso, also called me about it, and we were civil in our brief conversation,” Mr Mphaka said.
Meanwhile, in his response to the request on whether it was legal to continue treating Mr Mochoboroane as a minister, AG Makhethe tells finance ministry Acting Principal Secretary (PS) Khosi Letsie:
“The issue of whether or not Hon Mochoboroane MP, should serve as minister, and receive benefits of office, is very much inseparable from the core issue of the validity of his dismissal, a matter to be decided by the court.
“If, therefore, for whatever reason the government were to also concern itself with executive determinations as to whether Hon Mochoboroane MP is to continue in office and receive benefits in the interim period of the pendency of litigation, in this case that would bear all the hallmarks of executive usurpation of the powers of the courts of law.”
The AG warns in his letter dated 20 November 2014, that it would be in violation of the court’s decision to delay the application to a date decided on by the court, if the ministry were to cut the minister’s benefits, 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.
“The fundamental purpose of the sub-judice rule is to protect the authority, independence, dignity and effectiveness of the courts of law.”
He adds: “The rule, in essence, requires that matters pending before courts are to be left to the courts to decide without undue interference.
“For the government, the aspect of protecting the authority, independence, dignity and effectiveness of the courts is a constitutional imperative.”
AG Makhethe further states from the point of view of the subjudice rule, he would advise that government exercises patience and restraint “lest it is seen to be undermining the independence, authority, dignity and effectiveness of the courts of the realm”.
“I actually understand that, indeed to date, the government has been circumspect and has not attempted to pre-empt the decision of the court, by some rash action along the lines of self-help.”
Moreover, he continues, after considered thought, he advised government that pending the finalisation of the court case, “Hon Mochoboroane should be allowed to continue (as has already been done, anyway) to be in office as minister, and remunerated accordingly.
“What is of momentous importance in this case, is a decision on the legal validity of the dismissal; thereafter everything else will fall into place, in accordance with the decision itself.”
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Mr Mochoboroane proved futile yesterday.
suspended communications Minister selibe Mochoboroane.