Storm over PM’s son-in-law



Moshe Neo Kao

Billy Ntaote

A MOOTED appointment of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s son-in-law to a diplomatic post in Switzerland has torched a storm with opposition parties accusing the premier of nepotism.

However, Dr Mosisili’s spokesperson has dismissed the allegations as baseless, saying the son-in-law’s nomination had nothing to do with the prime minister since he had the requisite qualifications for to serve as an envoy.

Dr Mosisili’s son in law, Moshe Neo Kao, was initially designated for the position of Lesotho’s ambassador to Switzerland which would entail taking up residence in Geneva.

However, the Switzerland government raised concerns over Mr Kao’s nomination citing the fact that he was a permanent resident in the European country, and thus ineligible for the immunities that are granted to a diplomat.

The Swiss authorities stated that the they would only grant the agreement after Mr Kao has handed over his letters of accreditation to the General Director of the United Nations Office (UNO) in Geneva.

According to a letter from the Swiss government bearing a stamp of its Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Kao held a “B permit” for permanent residency in the country.

Dated 9 December 2016, the letter starts by acknowledging communication by Lesotho’s Foreign Affairs ministry on 10 November 2016 requesting an agreement for Mr Kao’s appointment as the Mountain Kingdom’s envoy to Switzerland.

Part of the letter reads: “The Department takes note that Mr Moshe Neo Kao holds a B permit and is therefore permanently resident in Switzerland. Furthermore, his curriculum vitae states that since 2014 he has been working as an independent consultant in Geneva.”

The Swiss authorities then explain how the appointment would contravene the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18 April 1961 given that Mr Kao is a permanent resident of Switzerland.

Article 38, paragraph 1 of the convention reads: “Except insofar as additional privileges and immunities may be granted by the receiving state, a diplomatic agent who is a national or permanently resident in that State shall enjoy only immunity from jurisdiction and inviolability in respect of official acts performed in the exercise of his functions.”

The Swiss government stresses that it does not grant any further privileges and immunities to people with permanent residencies in conformance with the convention.

“Holders of B permit, as in the case of Mr Moshe Neo Kao, are subject to unlimited tax liability as well as to social security charges and don’t benefit from any other privileges or immunities,” the letter asserts.

“Mr Moshe Neo Kao would therefore not benefit from immunities for acts performed in a private capacity; he would neither benefit from customs privileges for the importation of personal goods, nor from tax exemptions (such as exemption from direct or indirect taxes, including VAT exemption or any other tax exemption).”

Mr Kao would also have no right to CD plates usually reserved for diplomats for his private vehicle and no right to employ private domestic staff under the conditions of the Private Household Employees Ordinance of 6 June 2011.

The Swiss government also highlights that a diplomat is not allowed to be engaged in any professional or commercial activity.

“The Department furthermore draws the attention of the Ministry on Article 42 of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations stating that a diplomatic agent shall not in the receiving State practice for personal profit any professional or commercial activity,” the letter asserts, adding that even if Mr Kao was accredited to the United Nations Office (UNO) only, “he would be bound to submit to the Vienna Convention as well”.

According to the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Mr Kao works at the Geneva-based organisation as an Independent Trade and Development Consultant.

His profile states that he has “extensive experience” in trade policy and international development in a variety of environments and organisations with different specialisations.

Mr Kao is also said to have provided advisory services in Geneva for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group on development issues. He also reportedly provided advisory service to the Ministry of Trade on EIF (Enhanced Integrated Framework) project as well as supporting the Permanent Mission of Lesotho in Coordinating the African Group at the World Trade Organization (WTO) towards the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.

“Prior to working as an independent consultant, Moshe was Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Lesotho in Geneva where he led the Mission and advanced government policies on trade and development issues within UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), WTO, ITC (International Trade Centre) and other trade-related institutions. This also included negotiating and advising government on policy issues including assessing their implications on international trends,” further reads the profile.

Sources close to the matter yesterday told this paper that Mr Kao had since been earmarked to head Lesotho’s Permanent Mission to the UNO in Geneva and other international agencies after the Swiss government raised concerns about the ambassadorship.

The developments have, however, drawn the ire of opposition parties which were represented by their youth leagues during a press conference held yesterday.

According to Alliance of Democrats (AD) Youth League President Thuso Litjobo the designation of Mr Kao as Lesotho’s ambassador to Switzerland was ample evidence of Dr Mosisili’s “nepotistic tendencies”.

“We know that nepotism has been Ntate Mosisili’s modus operandi for a long time and many here today surely wish they could either be his sons or daughters or even married to his family so as to these lucrative opportunities,” said Mr Litjobo.

However, Dr Mosisili’s spokesperson Motumi Ralejoe dismissed the opposition parties’ assertion, saying Mr Kao had a right to be appointed to any position he is qualified to hold.

Mr Ralejoe said Mr Kao’s issue with the Swiss authorities was under the purview of the Foreign Affairs ministry and had nothing to do with Dr Mosisili.

“Every Mosotho has a right to be given a job anywhere if they have the requisite qualifications and credentials. I believe that anybody who has applied for a job in government has had their credentials tested and assessed thoroughly,” said Mr Ralejoe.

“Appointments of the country’s foreign diplomats are the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it is unjust on the prime minister to suggest he had his hand in this appointments.”

Contacted for comment, the Foreign Affairs Ministry Principal Secretary Tšokolo Maina said he would respond to questions about Mr Kao’s situation in a face-to-face interview today.

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