Maope fights suspension

Maope fights suspension

MASERU – A legal battle looms between the government and Kelebone Maope, Lesotho’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations (UN).  Maope, 73, was suspended on December 20 for alleged misconduct which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it is now investigating.
But last Friday Maope – a lawyer-cum-politician who has extensive experience in government – got a reprieve after the High Court issued a temporary order blocking some aspects of his suspension.

Maope had filed an urgent application seeking to stop the suspension on account that it was done without giving him a hearing.
He also wants the court to order the ministry to stop the investigation.  The High Court’s interim order was however not an outright victory for Maope because it only allows him to remain in office as chief executive of the mission in New York but did not block his suspension as a representative to the UN.

That means, according to the order, while he can manage the office he cannot represent Lesotho at any UN meeting. In other words he cannot perform his political role as an ambassador to the UN but remains a manager of the office.
The trial has been set for January 19 and Maope’s legal team is waiting for the government to file its papers.

The suspension letter written by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nkopane Monyane, does not give much detail on Maope’s alleged transgressions. Monyane told Maope, who was appointed in 2013 and is in his second three-year term, that his suspension is meant to “enable the ministry to conduct extensive investigations relating to the alleged misconduct on your part”.

“Please note that during the suspension period, you will still be entitled to your full monthly salary and to use your official residence,” the letter said.
Monyane said during the suspension Maope is barred from using his office or any other property controlled by the Lesotho government in the United States.

“You are, however, prohibited to enter the premises of Lesotho-New York and/or to use any other property owned or leased by Lesotho New York including an official car which will continue to serve the mission’s daily operation.”  The letter also instructed him to be available anytime the ministry required him.

“You are, therefore, directed to immediately hand over all the duties and responsibilities to the Minister Counsellor who shall remain in charge during your suspension.” Monyane was reluctant to give specific details on the allegations against Maope when contacted for comment this week.
“We cannot share with the media the details of the investigations about Maope’s behaviour,” Monyane said.

He however said Maope’s suspension was linked to “some unacceptable behaviour that he showed during the Minister of Law’s visit at the International Criminal Court of Justice conference held in New York in December last year”. Yesterday Maope said he was not going to allow his rights to be violated.

He said although he is yet to be informed of the nature of the alleged misconduct he suspected it has something to do with what happened when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attended the UN General Assembly meeting in the US in September.
He believes it had something to do with his fallout with Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi at a reception dinner organised for Thabane and his delegation.

“When it was time for the minister to speak he deferred to the First Lady who was part of the entourage. I thought that was highly irregular because the Prime Minister’s wife did not have a role to play at the function,” Maope said.
“What followed is that the First Lady then took to the podium and started attacking me. She accused me of not treating Basotho here in the US properly. She also accused me of not meeting the Prime Minister. All those allegations were baseless.”
“I did not respond to those allegations. It was just abusive. The reception then broke up in confusion.”

Maope said the Minister and his principal secretary (Monyane) then visited his house in the company of a presenter from a local private radio station.
“I opened my house to them because I thought they were touring Lesotho’s houses in the US. But I later found that they were there for other reasons because they were literally ransacking my house. They were going into bedrooms.”

“The purpose of that visit was later revealed after the radio presenter later launched an attack on me when they returned home. The presenter accused me of living in luxury while other ambassadors were struggling.”

But Makgothi told thepost last night that Maope’s suspension had nothing to do with those two events.
“I would not want to go into the details of the suspension because there is a court case and internal processes have not yet been concluded but what I can only say is that this has nothing to do with the September incidents that he mentions,” Makgothi said.

“Instead it has something to do with what happened during the International Criminal Court of Justice conference very late last year. I would not wait four months to take disciplinary action against him. The September events are irrelevant in this case.”

l Read a detailed interview with Maope and the Minister’s response to his allegations on Pages 4 and 5.

Majara Molupe

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