…insists he did not vacate ministerial post following advice from premier
LESOTHO Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy spokesperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, says he only ignored his dismissal as Communications, Science and Technology Minister after being told to do so by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Mr Mochoboroane made this allegation in an answering affidavit filed before the High Court this week in response to a lawsuit brought against him by Dr Thabane, the government secretary and attorney general.
In the application filed on Friday last week, Dr Thabane wants Mr Mochoboroane to vacate the ministerial post as he fired him on 16 October 2014.
Dr Thabane also wants Mr Mochoboroane to vacate government’s Maseru West residence, and hand over state property in his possession, which includes vehicles and a cell-phone.
However, High Court judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa, on Monday dismissed Dr Thabane’s claim that the matter should be treated as urgent on the grounds that it was brought to court almost a month after Mr Mochoboroane had defied the expulsion.
The judge then postponed the case to March next year.
But in his answering affidavit, Mr Mochoboroane explained why he continued occupying the office despite the prime minister’s expulsion letter.
“I first met the prime minister on17 October 2014 during lunch-break, being the day Parliament was re-opened.
“The prime minister was sitting at the same table with the Deputy President of South Africa (Cyril Ramaphosa), president of the senate, speaker of the national assembly, and the deputy prime minister.
“The prime minister left his table and came to a table where I was sitting with Minister (‘Makabelo) Mosothoane and Minister (‘Matebatso) Doti.
“When he got to the table, he told me that I should proceed with my normal ministerial duties and ignore the letter he had written me, and that he was attending to the matter.
“He spoke briefly and I thanked him. He returned back to his table. We even commented about the matter with Honourable Mosothoane after he had left.
“I thought it was fitting that he had said this in the presence of Honourable Mosothoane, in as much as in a letter written to the deputy prime minister (Mothetjoa Metsing), she had been appointed as caretaker in the ministry, pending a replacement being provided by the honourable deputy prime minister and leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD),” Mr Mochoboroane stated in the affidavit.
What remained, Mr Mochoboroane added, was for Dr Thabane to repeal the Gazette which removed him from office.
He further argued: “I have indeed not challenged the said instruments in light of the agreements reached between his excellency the deputy president of the republic of South Africa, the right honourable prime minister and honourable deputy prime minister, that I should continue in office and that the first applicant (Dr Thabane) would advise His Majesty to accordingly cause the repeal of the two legal notices Nos 83 and 84 of 2014.”
Mr Mochoboroane refuted Dr Thabane’s allegations that he refused to cooperate, noting: “I did not publicly state that I would not cooperate nor have there been any negotiations made with me.
“The agreement to let me continue to operate as minister was made earlier on and I did not have to embark on any act of defiance.
“I have continued on the fiat of the first applicant (Dr Thabane) to work as a Minister.”
He also stated that on 16 October 2014, he was informed by Mr Metsing that he had not been consulted about the decision to terminate his appointment and that there had been no agreement on the issue.
Mr Mochoboroane’s argument derives from the agreement upon which the coalition government was founded in 2012, which provided for consultation between the three coalition partners regarding key decision-making.
Mr Mochoboroane further referred the court to Mr Metsing’s supporting affidavit which he said confirmed his lawful occupation of the ministerial position.
In his supporting affidavit, Mr Metsing criticised Dr Thabane for what he considered consistent violation of the Coalition Agreement which brought the tripartite government comprising the premier’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and LCD, to power after the 26 May 2012 general election had produced a hung parliament.
Mr Metsing noted in his supporting affidavit: “The first applicant, as prime minister and leader of the ABC, has consistently and persistently acted in violation of the Coalition Agreement on the basic issues of consultation and collective responsibility.
“For the present however, we are concerned with the purported dismissal of honourable Mochoboroane.”
Narrating the events which led to Mr Mochoboroane’s dismissal, Mr Metsing stated: “During a Cabinet meeting of 17 October 2014, cabinet ministers from the ABC led by honourable Minister Maliehe, asked whether a minister who had disrespected His Majesty should be allowed to remain in Cabinet.
“Since the issue arose without notice, I asked that it could not be raised without notice and that we had an option of proceeding with the Cabinet meeting without referring to it; or to postpone the meeting so that a proper notice could be given or allow the Coalition Leaders (Dr Thabane, Mr Metsing and BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane) to discuss the issue outside Cabinet as it was not a matter for Cabinet.
“At this time, we did not know what minister was being referred to or what the allegations against him were.”
Mr Metsing added it was agreed that the coalition leaders should discuss the issue among themselves on 9 October 2014 at State House at 8am, but alleges his coalition partners did not turn up.
He noted: “On 9 October 2014, I presented myself at State House at the agreed time. Honourable (Thesele) ‘Maseribane never turned up. The right honourable prime minister was said to be ill and could not see me. I had to leave.
“At 9am, the same day I had an appointment to appear before His Majesty, and on doing so I reported the issue raised in Cabinet and the decision that was taken thereat as outlined above, including a failed meeting that was scheduled for the same morning.
“As was his right, His Majesty demanded that the Respondent (Mr Mochoboroane) should appear before him so that he could brief him on the issue.”
Mr Metsing further noted in his affidavit that the following Tuesday, the coalition leaders told the ministers that they did not meet to discuss the issue. The three coalition leaders were excused from the meeting and the Minister of Public Service Motloheloa Phooko took charge by chairing the Cabinet meeting, Mr Metsing added.
Mr Metsing further said the coalition leaders held their own meeting where they called Mr Maliehe to explain the nature of his complaint against Mr Mochoboroane.
He stated that Mr Maliehe told the leaders he was complaining about utterances Mr Mochoboroane had made over a local radio station where he allegedly said “the right honourable prime minister had not properly advised His Majesty the King on the issue of the removal of the commander of the LDF (Lesotho Defence Force) Lieutenant General Tlali Komoli.”
Mr Metsing contends they agreed to call Mr Mochoboroane to present his case before them but not that day. The date on which Mr Mochoboroane should appear before them was never fixed, he added.
“Before that could happen, I heard over Harvest FM that honourable Mochoboroane had been expelled from his position of minister,” Mr Metsing stated.
He also said after the radio announcement, he received a letter from Dr Thabane informing him that he had expelled Mr Mochoboroane and that he should submit a replacement at once.
“I tried to contact the first applicant (Dr Thabane) on his cellular phone without success.
“I then sought and was granted audience before His Majesty and brought the issue to his attention.
“I explained that this was done contrary to, not just our Coalition Agreement requiring prior consultations and agreement, but the due process that was agreed to be given to respondent (Mr Mochoboroane).”
He argued Mr Ramaphosa intervened on the issue as he was in the country at the time.
Mr Metsing added Dr Thabane said Mr Mochoboroane should continue as minister and undertook to ensure the gazette that removed him from office was repealed.
“On the same day, Honourable Mochoboroane informed me that the Prime Minister had confirmed that he should proceed with his duties as Minister and ignore the letter he wrote him,” he stated.
Meanwhile, although the hearing date was set for March next year, Mr Mochoboroane’s lawyer, Motiea Teele, told the Lesotho Times Justice Moiloa had considered hearing the case next month.
“The judge has considered bringing the matter forward to the 12th of December. But this is yet to be communicated to the other side,” he said.