Civil servants union in turmoil

MASERU — The Lesotho Public Service Staff Association (LEPSSA) which represents government workers is in turmoil after members resolved to dissolve the association’s executive committee last month.

The members are accusing the executive committee of misusing and embezzling funds.

They also accused the executive committee of misusing property.

On May 10 the LEPSSA members appointed an interim committee to run the association.

The old committee filed an application at the High Court challenging the legality of the meeting that ousted them from office and appointed the interim committee.

While the old committee was awaiting the court’s decision the interim committee then sought and was granted a High Court order barring the old executives from using the association’s cars and properties.

The order was granted on May 22.

Advocate Kuena Thabane who represented the interim committee in their application said the interdict was necessary to stop the misuse (of property) and to avoid the association’s bankruptcy.

“I have considered this application and bona fide find it to be urgent on the following: Abuse and misuse of association funds and resources is rampant,” Thabane said.

“Secondly, there is fear that with the rate at which resources are being abused and misused the association will go bankrupt soonest.”

The High Court’s decision in favour of the interim committee has however not stopped the old committee from fighting to retain office. High Court judge ‘Maseforo Mahase on Tuesday this week said she will deliver judgment on the old executive’s application on July 10.

The application was not argued in an open court but in Mahase’s chambers on Tuesday.

Mahase’s judgment will determine whether the members’ decision to oust the executive committee was illegal or not.

The executive committee’s argument is that the meeting which elected the interim committee was unconstitutionally convened and as such did not have powers to dissolve the executive committee.

The vice-president of the executive committee Mohale Thipe said in his court papers that that the meeting was convened without following procedures.

He said the interim committee was therefore illegitimate.

“The said interim committee is unconstitutional in as much as the three-year term of office of the present executive committee had not come to an end,” Thipe said in his affidavit.

 “The procedures for convening a meeting with powers to remove the present executive committee which-so-ever were not followed.

“I therefore submit that the alleged interim committee is both unconstitutional and unlawful.”

In his responding affidavit the president of the interim committee, Afelile Sekhamane, said Thipe should not be part of the proceeding because he was not elected to his post.

“The deponent was put into office through a nomination made on the 26th of October 2008 to fill in in a capacity that was left by the previous vice president Deliwe Kambule,” said Sekhamane.

He said the old committee was “itself elected in an annual general meeting wherein only 70 members were present out of a total scribed LEPSSA membership of 7 000 at the time”.

“The committee is itself illegitimate,” Sekhamane said.

LEPSSA’s problems moved a gear up in January when the association kicked its executive secretary S’khulumi Ntsoaole out of office on allegations that he had embezzled funds and abused property.

Ntsoaole was booted out following an audit which the executive committee said indicated that the association’s books were not in order.

The audit report revealed that Ntsoaole was responsible for 34 fraudulent transactions.

When contacted for comment Thipe said the interim committee has not contacted the executive committee to inform about the decision to remove them from office.

Thipe said members of the interim committee only approached LEPSSA’s employees to tell them that that they were in charge.

“We have not met with them on this issue. We then approached the court for an order stopping them from entering the offices,” he said.

Thipe said the allegations that the executive committee was misusing the association’s funds were too broad.

He said the allegations should be specific so that he understands what funds the members were referring to.

“They have not directly told us how we have misused the money,” Thipe said.

LEPSSA survives through its members’ monthly contributions of M10 for each member.

The president of the interim committee Afelile Sekhamane yesterday told the Lesotho Times that despite the court order which prohibited members of the executive committee to use funds and the association’s resources, some executives had used the association’s vehicle.

He said the vehicle was damaged in an accident in Mafeteng on Saturday.

“The vehicle was driven despite the court order. Unfortunately it overturned and it is now damaged beyond repair,” Sekhamane said.

 “After we suspected some misappropriation of funds and misuse of resources in the association we carried out some investigation.

“The investigation revealed some embezzlement of funds. Loans were granted amongst members of the executive committee. We also discovered huge amounts of money spent on the executive committee members as sitting allowances.”

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