LNDC CEO fights suspension
Trade and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa yesterday suspended Lesotho National development Corporation ( LNDC) Chief Executive Officer Kelebone Leisanyane for alleged maladministration.
The move came exactly a week after the minister took similar action against the corporation’s Board of directors less than one year into its three-year term “to allow for a restructuring exercise”.
Mr Setipa had ordered Mr Leisanyane to vacate his LNDC office by 10am yesterday and “refrain from entering the premises” until investigations into the allegations against him were complete.
But Mr Leisanyane yesterday told the Lesotho Times he had since obtained a High Court restraining order against the minister hence he was still in office.
He would not give details about the court order.
However, the Lesotho Times has since established Mr Leisanyane was first slapped with a letter asking him to “show cause” why he should not be suspended pending the outcome of the investigations.
The letter dated 9 May 2016 reads: “You are hereby invited to give reasons, on or before end of business on 10 May 2016, why you cannot be suspended from your duties pending the outcome of investigations into the following allegations of mismanagement:
Your failure to ensure that factory shells in Nyenye, Tikoe and Mohales’s Hoek Industrial sites are occupied despite a number of investors having presented their infrastructural needs to the LNDC.
Your failure to act in the best interests of the LNDC regarding the allocation of LNDC property at the Papal Stand (Sethaleng).
Your failure to ensure the development of a Special Economic Zone policy before beginning of the new financial year for submission to cabinet for approval despite national need for such a document.
Your failure to secure an investment for the establishment of a knit fabric mill.
Your said reasons should be submitted directly to me before close of business on Tuesday, 10 May 2016.”
On Tuesday, Mr Leisanyane, through his lawyers Tšenoli Chambers, asked for a week to reply to the letter but after the minister had not acknowledged receipt of the correspondence by 2:30pm, followed up with a proper response.
The lawyers wrote: “We had asked for seven days for which to respond and our letter was delivered to your office at 11am on May 10 and to which we sought your reaction by 14:30 hours.
“However, we have not received any reply. Our client has therefore acted under immense pressure to try to meet the deadline of May 10 end of day.
“But that is done without prejudice to his right to be afforded reasonable time to respond. Our instructions are to bring to your attention that the contract of employment is between our client and the LNDC represented by its board Chairman.
“In terms of his contract, our client is accountable to the Board of Directors and administratively answerable to the Board Chairman.
“The contract further states that our client shall serve under the direction of the Board of directors through the Chairman of the Board. But the said chairman has not been copied the letter.
“Based on the above salient points which form the basis of the client’s contract and which are clearly not exhaustive, our view is that your letter is legally and practically flawed as our client cannot be held accountable to you outside the parameters of the laws and the employment contract.
“It logically and legally follows therefore that our client is not under any obligation or duty to give reasons with regard to what you term allegations of mismanagement.
“In the same vein, it is our client’s position that both the contract and LNDC Act do not give you power or authority to suspend him”.
After this terse response, Mr Setipa wrote to Mr Leisanyane again, informing him that he was suspending him with immediate effect and on full pay.
“I had requested that you give me reasons why you cannot be suspended and you have failed to do so,” the minister noted in the letter.
‘Instead, I received a letter from your lawyers requesting seven days to respond. Regrettably, I am unable to grant you more time for the following reasons: Firstly, the purpose of suspension is to allow further investigations into the alleged conduct; secondly your continued presence will cause you to interfere with the investigations and po- tential witnesses.
‘I am enjoined to take precautionary measures to safeguard the LNDC on behalf of government, more so when you have held meetings with staff where you have alleged the legality or otherwise of my act of suspending the Board.
‘However, the suspension does not, in any way, imply that you are guilty of misconduct.
‘Upon receipt of this letter, kindly leave the LNDC headquarters premises and your office not later than 10am today. Please also refrain from entering the LNDC headquarters.”
Asked about the suspension, Mr Leisanyane said he had blocked it through the High Court interdict but said he could not say more on the issue as the case was now before the court.
“everything is in the hands of my lawyers and I remain in office,” Mr Leisanyane said.
Mr Setipa would also not say much on the suspension, but revealed he had also terminated the Principal Secretary’s position as LNDC Board chairperson.
“I can confirm that I have suspended him and terminated the PS as the Board chairman which is not new as the Board had already been suspended. I cannot delve into the details of the suspension letter as there are surely going to be arguments and counter-claims following this,” Mr Setipa said.
“All I did was protect the corporation by these decisions. There are reasons that I cannot reveal right now why I did this. But what is important is for the LNDC not to be affected or tainted by this process. We are protecting the corporation.”
The minister emphasised he had no reason to drag the image of the LNDC through the mud.
“The old board members made false accusations against me when we had misunderstandings and I cannot drag the corporation in the mud like they did,” said Mr Setipa.
Mr Leisanyane was appointed LNDC CEO in December 2014, succeeding Mr Setipa who had left the government’s trade and investment showpiece under acrimonious circumstances two years into a five-year contract.
Mr Setipa had joined the LNDC as CEO on 10 January 2012 and left “by mutual consent” on 30 April 2014. He had been suspended by the Board on 11 December 2013 pending investigations into his management of the parastatal.
After leaving the corporation, Mr Setipa was unveiled Maseru Central Constituency candidate for the Lesotho Congress for democracy (LCD) in the 28 February 2015 snap elections.
He lost the election to an All Basotho Convention candidate, but was thrown a political lifeline when he was nominated to the Senate, paving the way for his appointment to cabinet in March last year.
Trade and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa.