Home NewsLocal News M8.4 million golden handshake for Sopeng 

M8.4 million golden handshake for Sopeng 

by Lesotho Times
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…as former NRA boss, Adv Motanyane, replaces him at LHWC 

Moorosi Tsiane 

THE government has agreed to pay the former Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) chief delegate, Themba Sopeng, a whopping M8.4 million for terminating his contract prematurely. 

The M8 401 778.28 golden handshake was reached last Thursday as an out of court settlement after Mr Sopeng had challenged his “dismissal”. 

Mr Sopeng had dragged the government to court over the termination of his contract a fortnight ago, seeking a review of its decision to terminate his employment at the water commission. 

He further prayed for compensation for the “patrimonial loss” resulting from the government’s “unlawful and illegal conduct”. 

The government, Ministry of Natural Resources and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa were cited as first to third respondents respectively in the matter. 

The Ministry of Natural Resources had appointed Mr Sopeng as its chief delegate at the LHWC for a period of 36 Months with effect from 1 May 2022 to 30 April 2025. 

However, Mr Sopeng stated in his court papers that he learned from the advisor to the Lesotho Highlands Water Authority (LHWA), Masupha Sole, in December last year that the government intended to replace him. 

“Effectively, he (Sole) said, the government will not be renewing any contracts of employment regarding its delegates in the LHWC. As far as the position of the chief delegate was concerned, he stated the government wanted a new person. 

“I indicated to Mr Sole that I was not in a position to fight with the government as long as the government respected the contractual obligations and that I was willing to enter into any negotiations with the government and that once an agreed arrangement has been signed by the parties, I was willing to exit the position of the chief delegate. I must disclose that there were discussions and negotiations on the subject matter, protracted as it was until sometime on 13 March 2024,” said Mr Sopeng. 

But Mr Sopeng claimed he was startled on 21 March 2024 when he learned that Minister of Natural Resources Mohlomi Moleko had written to his South African counterpart, Senzo Mchunu, that he (Sopeng) was no longer Lesotho’s chief delegate, and that he had been replaced by Mafiroane Edmond Motanyane with effect from 31 January 2024. 

Adv Motanyane served as the National Reforms Authority (NRA) chief executive officer from September 2020 to April 2022 when it was dissolved. 

Faced with the new developments, Mr Sopeng then rushed to court to challenge his “dismissal”, arguing that the government’s decision to terminate his contract had to be reviewed because “parties were still at the negotiation stage to mutually terminate the contract”.  They had not signed any mutual termination agreement to end or terminate his employment contract. 

“Since 13 March, when I made the counteroffer and awaited the Ministry of Natural Resources to revert to me on my counter-proposal, the Principal Secretary (PS) Relebohile Lebeta and the government never afforded me an opportunity or heard me on the need or necessity to terminate my employment as the chief delegate. The abrupt termination without notice is procedurally improper and irregular.  In the circumstances, the government did not treat me fairly and trampled on my rights to a fair hearing. These rights are also entrenched in section 8 (12) of the Constitution,” Mr Sopeng submitted. 

However, when the matter was supposed to be heard last week before Justice Keketso Moahloli, Mr Sopeng’s lawyer Advocate (Adv) Katleho Nyabela, and Adv Tebello Mochesane representing the government, informed the judge that the parties had concluded an agreement of “amicable separation”. They therefore asked the judge to endorse the M8.4 million settlement as an order of court. 

Justice Moahloli duly adhered to the request and issued an order stating that, “The above settlement between parties is hereby made an order of court”. 

According to the settlement agreement Mr Sopeng will get M3 603 837.76 as gratuity for the period that he shall have served up to 30 April 2024. He will also pocket M3 572 635.65 as salary for the eight of 12 remaining months of his contract and M1 225 304.82 as gratuity “derived from the said eight months’ salaries, pro-rated as per clause 6(b) of his current employment contract”. 

“The payments shall be made after having deducted the applicable taxes. The payment date for all the monies shall be on or before 30 May, 2024. Mr Sopeng will surrender the LHWC mobile phone and motor vehicle for the remaining one year in his contract. 

“The parties agree that this mutual separation represents the complete agreement between them and that following the payment of all monies agreed to herein. No other liability will arise as a result of this Mutual Termination Agreement,” reads the agreement. 

 

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