As Chief Executive is suspended
MASERU – Communications, Science and Technology Minister Keketso Sello has suspended the chairman of the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) Motanyane Makara with immediate effect. “You are suspended with immediate effect as chairman of the board and member for the following reasons which are all calculated as misconduct,” Sello said in a letter to Makara dated May 27, 2021.
“I personally called you at 08:20am and you did not take my calls. You did not return those calls and, on that basis, I am forced to believe this was deliberate based on the events that earned thereafter,” he added. Makara’s suspension could be seen as one of the range of changes to be made to the leadership of LCA.
Public Eye was told yesterday that the LCA board on Tuesday decided to suspend the authority’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) ’Mamarame Matela against Makara and other board members’ wishes. Makara seems to be sitting the CEO’s suspension out, waiting to see what will happen, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
Efforts to get a comment from Makara were unsuccessful yesterday. Sello confirmed to Public Eye yesterday that he wrote a letter suspending Makara from the LCA board. LCA is a statutory body, established in June 2000, with the mandate of regulating the communications sector in Lesotho. Its mandate entails: granting licenses to operators, promoting fair competition, approving tariffs, empowering and protecting consumers, among others. According to section 3(3) of the Communications Act of 2012, in the performance of its duties, LCA “shall be independent and not subject to control by any person or authority”.
Observers may argue that a chairman of a statutory body which is supposed to be independent cannot be suspended for merely not returning minister’s calls but Sello’s three-page letter further indicated that the suspension was part of anti-corruption efforts at LCA.
“You are also or likely to be the person of interest in the ongoing investigation which the Ministry has asked the DCEO to probe in relation to the award of the tender of more than M500 million for the C-MART System which has been awarded to GVG under some dubious circumstances,” the minister wrote. “This is more reason why you cannot sit in the Board as a Chairman and a member particularly at the time the board is charged with dealing with the very same issue,” he added. The suspension letter constrains Makara’s actions significantly.
It reads: “While under suspension you shall not interact with LCA staff and members of the board except with written permission. You are instructed to hand over all the work and properties of LCA that are in your custody.” Sello also told Makara that the Communications Act of 2012, which states that a board member shall hold office for a term of three years, gave him powers to remove any member. Section 8 of the Act states that the minister may remove any members from office for misconduct, physical or mental incapacity.
If the minister has reason to believe that a member should be removed, the Act states that the minister shall state in writing, the reasons for the removal. “A member shall be given an adequate opportunity to respond to the allegations against him by the minister,” the law reads. Sello told Public Eye last night he suspended Makara for refusing to hand over to him resolutions of an urgent extraordinary board meeting which was allegedly held at LCA on Tuesday this week.
“That was an urgent meeting but two days have passed without him submitting the resolutions yet I need to know urgently the resolutions of that meeting,” he said. Explaining further why he was no longer willing to see Makara continue as chairman of the LCA, Sello stated in the suspension letter that he issued, dated 26 May 2021, requesting Makara to submit to him a report of the board sitting which took place on May 25, at LCA. He said he had requested Makara to submit such a report not later than 14:00pm of the same day, May 26.
“This letter was transmitted to you through your email address and sent to your WhatsApp contact number at 13:41pm. You replied to the Ministerial Secretary through WhatsApp audio wherein you said you cannot file the report for reasons mentioned therein which I find very wanting on credibility for the reasons which I shall visit later below,” he said.
He revealed that the 14:00hrs at which Makara said he could not be in a position to file the report, he was at and was seen at LCA. “This letter is caused to be written to you at 08:00am on 27 May 2021 and up to now the office of the Minister has still not received any report of the Board sitting which proceeded on the 25 May 2021 as an extra-ordinary sitting.
“It is very baffling that the board sitting was called on grounds of extreme urgency but the report of that sitting is very delayed,” he said. “Having seriously considered all the issues and events penned”, the minister added, “you are suspended from the LCA Board both as Chairman and the Member of the Board pending your removal which shall be considered in line with Section 8(2) of the Act.”
In line with Section 8(3) of the Act, he gave Makara until not later than Friday, June 4 2021 to respond “issuably to the allegations raised above which are all calculated as acts of misconduct on your part as much as they reveal amongst others insubordination and failure to discharge your duties as the Chairman of the LCA Board of Directors.”