Ambassador sues Foreign Affairs PS over transfer
Nat Molomo | Mohalenyane Phakela
LESOTHO’s Ambassador to Italy, Lineo Molise Mabusela, filed an urgent High Court application for an order to block the Foreign Affairs and International Relations Ministry’s principal secretary, Mamonyane Bohloko, from transferring her to India in January 2020.
Ms Mabusela, who assumed the post during the tenure of the previous Pakalitha Mosisili-led coalition in 2016, accuses Ms Bohloko of orchestrating the transfer to victimise and frustrate her.
Ms Mabusela wants the court to nullify her transfer letter written by Ms Bohloko on 16 October 2019, saying the decision is unreasonable in that she has performed extremely well in boosting Lesotho-Italy relations.
She also argues that her son’s studies in Italy would be affected by her transfer as his school term ends in June each year. Ms Bohloko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General are the first to third respondents in the matter respectively.
Ms Mabusela wants the court to block her transfer because “it (the transfer) has been actuated by malice and in bad faith by the first respondent (Ms Bohloko) in breach of the constitution and the laws of Lesotho”.
“The first respondent (Ms Bohloko) did not afford me a hearing before effecting the transfer and there has never been a time when the government decided to transfer me from Italy….,” the diplomat contends in her papers.
In terms of interim reliefs sought, Ms Mabusela wants the court to stop her transfer pending the finalisation of her application.
Ms Mabusela says that when she assumed the post in 2016, the government was on the verge of closing the Italy post due to financial constraints but she had managed to turn that around to the benefit of the Lesotho.
Among other things, she states that she successfully negotiated the appointment of His Majesty, King Letsie III, to be a Goodwill Ambassador for Nutrition by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in December 2016.
Ms Mabusela accuses Ms Bohloko of personally frustrating her performance as the ambassador to Italy and even insulting her.
“The cause of action in this matter centres on the first respondent (Ms Bohloko) who has manifested a very difficult character and attitude,” Ms Mabusela states in her application.
“Instead of communicating with me as head of mission, she (Ms Bohloko) would communicate and give instructions to most junior officers in the hierarchy of the embassy. Around February 2019, she did not communicate her intended visit but instead made arrangements with the third secretary without my knowledge. When confronted about that, she would verbally abuse me, calling me a thief or prostitute. She even denied a minister who was there (in Italy) the right to use a car. She would take and use the embassy cars without my approval mainly for shopping, an activity she would spend much of her time doing in Rome.
“The Minister of Agriculture (Mahala Molapo) was in Rome and had a car and driver for the purpose of travelling around the city to execute his roles. The first respondent (Ms Bohloko) then instructed the driver to take her around in violation of protocol… frustrating the minister who was kept waiting for hours at the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
“The first respondent had on one occasion told me that she would deal with me and that I will know who she was just because she was confronted with her own wrong doing.”
Ms Mabusela states that Ms Bohloko started processing her transfer to India in March 2019 when she wrote her a letter to report to India on 1 June 2019.
She said the letter did not state when the decision to transfer her was taken, nor does it say who decided to transfer her and why.
She states that the transfer never materialised after she raised the issue of her son’s school terms which end each June. She also states that she is no longer able to communicate with Ms Bohloko after the latter blocked her on her mobile phones.
“On 16 October 2019, I was again slapped with another letter of transfer to New Delhi, this time with instructions to report there in mid-January 2020. Again the letter does not take into consideration the fact that my son will be taken out of school in the middle of the term.
“On 19 November 2019 I was shocked to listen to the PS Foreign Affairs make serious allegations about me before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where she deliberately lied to members of PAC saying the embassy car was involved in an accident while being driven by my husband. She did not only distort the truth but she also deliberately withheld information about the accident that happened to the government vehicle on 30 June 2018.”
Ms Mabusela states in her application that Lesotho has benefited from her “selfless and considerate” efforts since assuming the post in 2016.
“Upon my arrival in Rome, I discovered that Lesotho maintained an observer status (in some key entities) for three decades. I therefore started to engage in activities to ensure that Lesotho has a footprint in the organisations.
“For the first time in history, Lesotho became a member of the FAO Council in 2016. I managed to negotiate an appointment of His Majesty as a Goodwill Ambassador for Nutrition- a role he assumed in December 2016. Recently His Majesty’s role as Special Ambassador for Nutrition has been renewed under the new FAO director general.
“Lesotho also became a member of the executive board of the World Food Programme (WFP) after being an observer for 40 years. At the moment, Lesotho is serving as an alternate president of the executive board of the WFP, the highest level Lesotho could ever reach. We also served in a committee on a legal body that is responsible for advising the management and council of FAO.
She says it was on account of her excellent performance that she was not recalled when other ambassadors who were appointed by the previous government were recalled when the current Thomas Thabane-led regime came to power in 2017.
Sher said her contract was even extended by a further three years in February this year.