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Fired LCA chair relaunches reinstatement bid

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Mohalenyane Phakela

FORMER Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) chairperson, Motanyane Makara, has filed a fresh application for reinstatement.

Mr Makara was fired for alleged incompetence and insubordination by then Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Keketso Sello, on 31 May 2021.

His dismissal came barely four days after he had been suspended by Mr Sello after he failed to answer the minister’s telephone calls. He subsequently said the minister had called him to demand the resolutions of the board meeting which had been convened to discuss the minister’s recommendation to suspend LCA chief executive officer (CEO) ’Mamarame Matela. Ms Matela has since been suspended for alleged corruption in the awarding of a M500 million tender to Global Voices Group (GVG) SA — a South African company contracted by the LCA last December to supply it with a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system. Ms Matela and Mr Makara both lost their bid to reverse the suspension and sacking in the Labour Appeal Court last month.

Judge Polo Banyane, who presided over the matter, ruled that the Labour Appeal Court lacked jurisdiction over the matter.

Mr Makara has now relaunched his reinstatement bid in the High Court. The LCA, LCA Board of Directors, new communications minister Samuel Rapapa and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first to fourth respondents respectively.

Mr Rapapa, who replaced Mr Sello in a 4 June 2021 cabinet reshuffle, appointed one, Puleng Lebitsa, to replace the fired Mr Makara with effect from 1 July 2021.

Ms Lebitsa’s appointment letter is attached to her affidavit which she filed this week to oppose Mr Makara’s application.

In his court papers, Mr Makara argues that he was fired without a hearing. He also argues that he should still be LCA chairperson because his contract only expires in June 2023.

“In the present circumstances where I have appeared before a disciplinary enquiry and where there is no recommendation from the Public Service Commission, the decision to terminate my appointment is unlawful and invalid,” Mr Makara argues.

“This taints both the first and second respondents with bad faith. I challenge them to discover the record of their views, findings and conclusions in order to fortify my submission that my appointment to the board was terminated without any semblance of a genuine disciplinary enquiry which found me guilty of any misconduct. There is no doubt that we need transparency in the operations of LCA.

“In my view, transparency connotes openness, frankness, honesty and absence of bias. I am interdicting the Minister from taking any step to cause for the appointment of my replacement because by purporting to terminate my appointment, the minister misdirected himself. I am also interdicting them from replacing me with anybody when this court is still seized with the snippets of Mr Sello’s conduct.

“My reinstatement ought to have long been granted to minimise any risk that may result to the LCA. The respondents have always sought to have any claims decided on technical objections and outside the trial of the merits in a way that was that was intended to compromise my rights,” Mr Makara further argues.

Ms Lebitsa courter-argues that Mr Makara’s application has been overcome by circumstances in that she has been appointed on a substantive basis. She argues that she was lawfully appointed and that Mr Makara was also lawfully dismissed.

“The prayer which he (Makara) seeks that the Minister should be interdicted, prohibited and restrained form proceeding to appoint any person as the chairperson of the LCA has no merit. This prayer is academic because I have been appointed as the substantive chairperson of the LCA. In the same manner, the applicant (Makara) has been removed by the minister acting in terms of the LCA Act.

“Once the applicant was removed from office, this court is not entitled to order that he should be permitted to continue discharging his obligations, which do not exist now that he has been removed from office. He should not be granted this relief given that it is going to give respondents practical problems in that there would be two chairpersons. This would be highly undesirable and courts of law are not entitled to grant orders that are not likely to be complied with due to impracticality.

“In any event, courts should not involve themselves in administrative actions except to the extent that it could be said such administrative actions are unlawful. Without any proof of illegality as in the present case, the court does not have the powers to intervene in a matter that is purely administrative.

“It follows that the relief sought is not only moot and academic, the court is not entitled, as a matter of policy, to involve itself in administrative issues of the LCA. The minister is entitled to remove a chairperson in terms of section 10 of the LCA Act,” Ms Lebitsa argues.

The court is yet to set a date for hearing the application.

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