Defiant Lesotho High Commissioner to UK to remain in Office

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By Mamello Mosaefane

Lesotho’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Rethabile Mokaeane, will remain in office after she acquired an urgent High Court order suspending her recall from the High Commission in London until the court has heard her case to finality.

In her court papers, Mokaeane wants the Principal Secretary of foreign affairs, Public service ministry and the Attorney General to show cause why Mokaeane’s recall to the foreign Affairs Ministry to take a position of Resident Ambassador cannot be considered null and void and thereby a violation of rules on natural justice in that the applicant was not given a hearing prior her recall.

She also wants the High court to declare her recall without following notices stipulated in the contract of appointment as unlawful.

In an interim court order, the High Court said Mokaeane’s recall is stayed, with her enjoying all rights, privileges and benefits attaching to her position pending finalisation of her urgent application before the court.

Mokaeane in an interview lamented the unfavourable working condition at the Lesotho High Commission in London.

Key to her reservations about the derelict state of the foreign mission she has been posted to lead is that the government has not paid school fees for her children, and she has been without a High Commissioner’s Official vehicle and her medical bills have been unpaid without clear reasons.

In a letter dated 18th August, Mokaeane was expected to assume full duties and responsibilities of a Resident Ambassador, with effect from the 1st September 2021.

She, however, told KDNews that she is not coming back home until her contract ends in April 2022, adding she is prepared to protect her rights.

Mokaeane told KDNews in an interview her research has established that it was the first time for an Ambassador of Lesotho to be recalled home to a junior position.

She argued that if there were problems at the mission she was posted to with the staffers she works with she could have at least been switched with another ambassador posted to another mission now that the London mission staff does want to work with her.

“The government could have at least done some peaceful negotiations with me, tell me they do not want me here anymore since the government that brought me has collapsed and discussed this with me, not what they are doing now,” She said.

Mokaeane also said she has always endured unfavourable working conditions at the mission since her arrival, with her junior Third Secretary being used by former principal Secretary of foreign affairs to make her life a living hell at the mission.

According to her, the disputes she has had with the Third Secretary emanates from her refusing to pay for her children’s school fees and denying her benefits that include among others having an official vehicle as to the High Commissioner.

“I spent two (2) years here without a car, but that is the benefit I should have as a high commissioner,” Mokaeane said.

She further added that the foreign affairs ministry has no respect for rule of law, citing former Principal Secretary Retired Colonel Tanking Mothae who had allowed for one Motloheloa’s child to have school fees paid while studying in South Africa “notwithstanding the section that says ambassadors should have their children fees paid only in a country where their parents are posted”.

In his defence before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), however, Mothae told the committee that fees in South Africa are cheaper than in London, hence his approval amid what the law dictates.

Mokaeane also said, her refusal to do many things that she considered unlawful resulted in her being called for a disciplinary hearing.

It was after testimony before the PAC that Mokaeeane said she realised Motloheloa was being used by Mothae when she testified against her on “false” allegations.

“I am saying these were false allegations because I was found innocent on that long list of charges that had been preferred against me,” she told KDnews.

Mokaeane has confirmed she received the recall letter, though she said she was not told the reasons for the recall.

She also said it is surprising that she is expected to be back home in such a short time, without even being given a normal 14-day period to prepare for her return.

She however said she does not believe neither her disputes with her colleagues nor the matters that let to her disciplinary hearing caused her recall, as she was found innocent by the enquiry on all the issues she was accused of.

Mokaeane was in June given a disciplinary hearing by foreign affairs, following her taking her disputes with her colleagues to Public Accounts Committee; accusing them of mismanagement of funds.

“I was taken before the enquiry for disciplinary with a 7 pages long list of accusations,” she said.

It was revealed in the PAC that Mokaeane refused to approve for Third Secretary’s child to have the school fee paid for in South Africa while she is in London.

She told PAC she refused to approve because it is against the law to do so, arguing that children should only have their school fees paid for in a country where their parents recite.

PAC chairperson’s analysis on the London mission issues, according to Mokaeane is that the government owes her money for her children school fees.

“I am not only saying this. The chairperson of PAC said it on radio Lesotho that the government of Lesotho owes me money for my children school fees,” she said.

Commenting on her recall to Lesotho, Mokaeane said public service is degrading arguing, normal basis, people are on normal basis given 3 months to prepare to leave, while she has been given only 11 days for preparations to her new position in the country.