THE principal secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service, Advocate Lebohang Mochaba, has directed the ombudsman, Advocate Leshele Thoahlane KC to halt his inquest into the controversial promotions that were effected by the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Commissioner Thabang Mothepu in May this year.
Adv Mochaba recently wrote to Adv Thoahlane informing that his (Adv Thoahlane’s) inquest was not in the public interest and she accused him of allowing his office to be used by elements bent on bringing the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) into disrepute.
Yesterday, Adv Thoahlane branded Adv Mochaba’s directive as an “unfortunate attempt to obstruct the office of the ombudsman from carrying out its lawful duties”.
He said he would soon respond to Adv Mochaba’s letter.
In her letter, Adv Mochaba directed Adv Thoahlane to cancel the hearings into the LCS issues which started in May this year.
“The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service hereby respectfully and kindly informs your noble office that after a careful consideration of the ombudsman’s proceedings…the ministry has come to a decision that it is no longer in the public interest for the Commissioner (Mothepu) to appear before the Ombudsman,” part of Adv Mochaba’s letter dated 31 July 2018 reads.
Adv Mochaba’s directive comes against the background of an inquest that Adv Thoahlane is conducting concerning the affairs of the LCS.
Adv Thoahlane and LCS Commissioner Thabang Mothepu have been involved in highly publicised fallout after the former commenced hearings to ascertain the criteria that was used by the latter in promoting 50 LCS officers in May this year.
Adv Thoahlane initiated the hearings in the aftermath of complaints by some LCS officers that they had been overlooked for promotions on political grounds.
And Adv Mochaba recently expressed her misgivings over the hearings, saying in her letter that, “The ombudsman’s inquiry appears to be used to bring the Lesotho Correctional Service into disrepute, discredit and contempt”.
Adv Mochaba said the ombudsman was motivated to conduct the inquiry to assist some disgruntled and ill-disciplined officers to attain their objective of being promoted.
She said this was borne out by the fact that the hearings were only convened after one LCS officer, Sergeant Bokang Ramotena, approached the ombudsman to complain that Commissioner Mothepu had overlooked her for a promotion.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Sgt Ramotena also accused Adv Mochaba of conniving with Commissioner Mothepu to promote Ms Mochaba’s “unqualified and inexperienced husband” at her (Sgt Ramotena’s) expense.
Commenting on the ombudsman’s inquest, Adv Mochaba stated that “the office of the ombudsman is being used to impugn the good image of the LCS and assail the good character of the Commissioner of the LCS”.
“(The inquiry) seems to have been an assistance (sic) to some of the disgruntled and ill-disciplined officers of the LCS to attain their desired promotional positions contrary to the ethos and principles governing the LCS.
“This is proved by the fact that the inquiry came a few weeks after one Sergeant Ramotena approached the ombudsman in writing requesting him to assist her to be promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent.
“We therefore, found it contrary to acceptable public policy for the Commissioner of LCS to continue to appear before the office of the ombudsman and aid in promoting officers who may not be qualified for such promotions,” Adv Mochaba wrote.
Adv Mochaba further said that it was unfortunate that “some elements within the office of the ombudsman can use that noble office to pursue their own personal agenda”.
She said in any event the hearings were not appropriate as the complainants had not exhausted all the grievance procedures within the LCS before approaching the ombudsman.
“Furthermore, the Ombudsman continues with the inquiry despite the fact that he has been informed that the officers complaining to him still have not followed the avenues provided to them by the governing rules.
“The purported inquiry had complainants who ran away from the following the grievance procedures laid down by the LCS but used the processes of the ombudsman to derelict the official duties.
“We find this absolutely appalling and damaging to the very essence of the discipline into the security agencies of the country that the ombudsman has decided to substitute our administration by his own administration contrary to the law.”
Adv Mochaba also accuses the ombudsman of denying the LCS an opportunity to respond to the inquiry in the absence of the media despite that the fact that the LCS informed him that it is a security agency whose affairs “cannot be disclosed in the public media”.
“We find it totally unacceptable to hold an investigation in the media over sensitive issues of public security,” Adv Mochaba states. Adv Mochaba added that it was against this background that the hearings should be stopped.
“The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service has issued an instruction to the commissioner not to appear before the ombudsman.
“It is in the public interest and our key responsibility to preserve the good image of the LCS and its commissioner and also safeguard against placing our national security on the knife edge,” Adv Mochaba states.
Her letter is copied to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Service, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Law, the Attorney General, the chairperson of the Law and Public Safety parliamentary portfolio committee and the commissioner of the LCS.
Yesterday Adv Thoahlane told the Lesotho Times that it was “very unfortunate that all these accusations have been levelled against us and we have forwarded the letter to the parliamentary portfolio committee on law”.
“We shall be responding to the letter and what we see is that she (Adv Mochaba) is obstructing the office of the ombudsman from conducting its lawful duties especially now that she has even directed LCS officers not to cooperate with us,” Adv Thoahlane said.