Maope breathes fire

Maope breathes fire

MASERU – Kelebone Maope, Lesotho’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), is rolling up his sleeves to fight his suspension. Given that Maope is a lawyer, the battle is likely to be a gruelling one. Thus far Maope is only holding on to his position because of an interim order issued by the High Court.

Yet even then some of his powers as Ambassador and Permanent Representative have been curtailed. But as is clear in the following interview with thepost Maope is ready for a fight. He says he is not going to allow his rights to be violated. We started by asking him about the court case.
I am challenging the suspension because it was done without consultation. In other words, I was never given an opportunity to be heard.

The interim order for the High Court is that I can continue as the head of the mission managing its affairs but I cannot represent the country at UN meetings. I will remain the chief executive of the mission but I don’t have the ambassador’s role when it comes to my work at the UN.
I honestly cannot tell you why I have been suspended because the letter doesn’t spell that out. I am yet to be told what this misconduct they are talking is about.

But surely you must have your own suspicion or speculation as to why you have been suspended?

I am not really sure but I can tell you that when the Prime Minister was here in September for the UN General Assembly the minister (Makgothi) was just hostile.
I don’t know why he was like that because he is someone I had never met. It was my first time to meet him.
I suspect that the fallout could have come as a result of two incidents that happened during the prime minister’s visit in September. The first happened at a reception function that had been organised for the prime minister and his entourage.
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.

What followed is that the First Lady then took to the podium and started attacking me. She accused me of not properly treating Basotho here in the US. 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. The Minister and his principal secretary (Monyane) then visited my 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.

Have you discussed the suspension with the minister?

I have not because he does not seem to want to have a meaningful discussion with me. When he was here he was dismissive of anything I wanted to say. I could not even brief him on anything that was happening at the UN. He was just dismissive.
I don’t know why he was like that. I however met the principal secretary (Monyane) when he was here in September. I even had lunch and dinner with him at one time. It was a cordial meeting.

What I however notice was that during the visit I and the other ambassador here in the US were being side-lined. That is something that I accepted.

Has your suspension affected Lesotho’s mission to the UN?

It could have adversely affected my diplomatic colleagues who are probably distressed by the situation.
As for the UN I think it is important to understand that the UN work does not stop. We don’t have holidays here.
We work even during the Christmas break. It is continuous conference.
If I am not attending those sessions it means the country is missing out on the work being done and sessions. My absence from there therefore means that Lesotho is losing out.

How has it affected you personally?

I think I am handling the situation very well. I have been through worse things in my life. I understand why this is being done to me.
This is just a fight over jobs and opportunities. They want me to vacate the office so that they can appoint their own person.
This happens because there are very few opportunities in our country. I am only worried about the reputational damage this might have had on Lesotho.
The rumour might have spread and this is not good for the country. But I must point out that I do have rights as a person. I cannot allow my rights to be violated by anyone.

Have you heard any indication as to who is going to take your position?

I have not but what I know is that I am being moved to make way for someone else. That is obvious. Our biggest problem as a country is that it doesn’t have economic opportunities for its people.
We are going round and round thinking that we have a political problem when what we really have is an economic problem that has translated into a political problem.
Our political leadership has so far failed to realise that the problem is the economy and not the politics. I say this in general terms without specifically referring to this current government.
After independence we struggled with the Apartheid regime. When South Africa gained independence we failed to recover from the effects of Apartheid.

Staff Reporter

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