LESOTHO Communications Authority (LCA) board chairperson Motanyane Makara has been dismissed with effect from 31 May 2021.
Mr Makara’s dismissal follows hot on the heels of his 27 May 2021 suspension by Communications, Science and Technology Minister Keketso Sello.
He had been suspended on allegations of misconduct and insubordination after he failed to answer the minister’s telephone calls last Tuesday. He said the minister had called him to demand the resolutions of the board meeting which had been convened to discuss the minister’s recommendation to suspend LCA chief executive officer (CEO) ’Mamarame Matela. Mr Sello wants Ms Matela suspended for alleged corruption in the awarding of a M500 million tender to Global Voices Group (GVG) SA — a South African company contracted by the LCA last December to supply it with a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system.
“I can confirm that after being suspended last week and given until 4 June 2021 to defend myself against the minister’s allegations, I have been fired from the LCA board,” Mr Makara said in an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday.
“I was served with my dismissal letter on Monday. I have not yet decided my next course of action. I have to think carefully lest I act hastily and irrationally. I need to carefully consider my cards before taking any action,” Mr Makara added.
Mr Makara said he had voted against Mr Sello’s recommendation to the board to suspend Ms Matela. He said the minister had no power to give them orders but merely make recommendations which could either be accepted or rejected by the LCA board.
Ms Matela denies any wrongdoing in the awarding of the tender of GVG and insists Mr Sello is only pushing for her ouster on trumped up corruption charges because she had turned down his sexual advances on several occasions.
She also alleges that the minister is out to get GVG because the South African company did not yield to his demands for a M3 million bribe. (See story above).
She has reported to the minister to the police and a case has opened against Mr Sello. Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli yesterday told the Lesotho Times that they had concluded their investigations “and all that is left is to hand over the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions (Hlalefang Motinyane)”.
Mr Sello was not reachable for comment yesterday. Last week, he vehemently denied the allegations and insists Ms Matela is making them to spite him for pushing for her suspension to facilitate an investigation into her alleged corruption in the awarding of the tender to GVG.
Some government sources have said in addition to the alleged corruption, the LCA saga is also about party politics.
Ms Matela and most of the LCA board including Mr Makara are allegedly members of the Basotho National Party (BNP), a junior partner of Dre Majoro and Mr Sello’s ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).
They were all appointed during BNP leader Thesele Maseribane’s time at the helm of the communications ministry. Chief Maseribane was moved to the Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing portfolio in a 3 February 2021 reshuffle. Political parties in Lesotho’s successive coalitions since 2012 have been known to appoint their own members or allies to head key institutions in the ministries under their control. Some sources said that now that the LCA falls under the main ruling the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the party wants her replaced by an ABC member.
The sources also said Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, who is also ABC deputy leader, has been unhappy with Ms Matela and had contemplated firing her over a host of issues, particularly her allegedly poor handling of the authority’s dispute with mobile communications giant Vodacom Lesotho.
Last August, she attempted to revoke Vodacom’s operating licence, a move that Dr Majoro said would have paralysed the country’s economy as most of the major institutions and companies rely on the Vodacom network to offer their services. The move, which would have also rendered thousands jobless, was blocked by the High Court which issued an interim order against the revocation. The case is pending before the courts. The case — according to sources — as well as allegations of impropriety in the awarding of contracts to service providers by the LCA- are some of the reasons why the premier wants her fired.
The sources said Mr Sello, who is from Dr Majoro’s ABC party, has been tasked by the premier to get rid of Ms Matela on account of her alleged shenanigans and BNP affiliations.
Commenting on these allegations, Mr Makara said, “I can’t deny that I am a member of the BNP but that has nothing to do with my job. I applied like everyone else and I was appointed because I am qualified.
“On the issue of the CEO Matela’s suspension, it is true that I voted against it. It’s not because I wanted to snub the minister but because it was the right thing to do. I did everything by the book and besides the minister can only make recommendations to the Board and not give directives,” Mr Makara said.
The board is yet to make a decision on whether or not Ms Matela should be suspended in line with Mr Sello’s recommendation. Ms Matela has petitioned the High Court to stop the minister from ousting her.