How Maope, Makgothi fell out

How Maope, Makgothi fell out

MASERU – AMBASSADOR Kelebone Maope and Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi allegedly had an ugly shouting match in New York in December over a logistical issue.It is that harsh exchange of words that triggered the government’s decision to suspend Maope for “gross misconduct” just before Christmas.

The government has since withdrawn the suspension allowing Maope to continue his work as Lesotho’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations. But Makgothi told thepost this week that the matter is far from over.
He however refused to talk about his argument with Maope.

An investigation by this paper has however revealed that the heated conversation happened in early December when Makgothi arrived in New York for the International Criminal Court conference. Makgothi was accompanied by an entourage of other government officials.

An official who was in the entourage told thepost that trouble started when the minister realised that Maope’s office had sent a minivan to collect them from the airport. He said the minister called Maope to ask why the embassy had not sent him an official vehicle which was supposed to be the ambassador’s official vehicle.

“The minister told the ambassador that it was protocol that a minister should get the official vehicle from the embassy,” the source said.
“Maope said he had not sent his official vehicle because he thought a van was ideal since there were many people.”
He said the minister “who now looked irritated told Maope that protocol dictates that he should have his own vehicle as a minister”.
“The minister told the Ambassador that even if there were many people he should have still dispatched the official car because that is how things work.”

“The ambassador then asked the minister where he was going to get the money to pay overtime for the other driver.”
The source said the minister then asked Maope how much was the overtime and the ambassador said it was US$120.

“That is when the minister lost it. He asked the ambassador why he was complaining about US$120 when he was staying in a house for which the government was paying US$17 500 every month,” the source said. From thereon they were just shouting at each other, the source said.

The minister later used a vehicle belonging to one of the senior officials at the embassy, according to the source.
Maope confirmed that he had an argument with the minister but said he was not to blame. He said when the minister arrived at the airport he had already allocated his official vehicle to Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara who had arrived on an earlier flight.

“I explained that the chief justice was using my car so we only had the utility vehicle. The minister objected to that and said he wanted the car. He was not prepared to listen to what I was saying,” Maope said.
“The minister then started using offensive language. It was a nasty conversation. He said I must start packing to leave my job because I would be fired.”

“I don’t know how old he is but he is a young man. I am quite senior to him. I then ended the call because he was being disrespectful.”
Makgothi said he could not comment on his private conversation with the ambassador because it was part of an internal investigation.
He was however more forthcoming on the reasons why the government withdrew the suspension.
He said the ministry had realised that Maope’s suspension letter was “vague and open-ended in that it did not explain the alleged misconduct in detail”.

The second reason, he said, was that since Maope approached the court the minister thought it would drag on for years.
“We also felt that due process had to be followed in that precedence says a person has the right to be heard even before the suspension,” Makgothi said.

“It sounds absurd because that means you are doing the same process twice but that is how it is.”
He said the ministry will proceed with the investigation before the disciplinary proceedings.

Staff Reporter

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