MASERU – Government and J&M Properties have reached an out of court settlement that will see the company relinquishing management of, and vacating the Lesotho National Convention Center (LNCC). J&M Properties had dragged government’s Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture to court over its decision to terminate an agreement between the two. The company was engaged on a five-year deal to manage the LNCC, commonly known as ‘Manthabiseng.
However, the agreement to extend J&M’s contract by a further two months was made an order of court yesterday. Advocate Lebakeng, who represents government in the case, told Public Eye yesterday that the two parties reached an agreement.
“We have agreed that the company should leave ‘Manthabiseng in September.” J&M Properties rents out the immovable property at ‘Manthabiseng, and in turn pays a monthly rent of M39 000 to the Lesotho government. The LNNC was in April declared the COVID-19 National Emergency Command Center. The declaration, according to government, meant that the center would not be used for any other business but for COVID-19 related activities and thereby terminated the sublease agreement with J&M.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Moliehi Ntene, communicated the decision to terminate the contract to J&M in a letter. “Reference is made to our meeting held on the 24 June 2020 here at the ministry, wherein we discussed the constraints of our agreement in the wake of COVID-19 and the declaration by Government of Lesotho National Convention Centre (LNCC) as the National Command Centre for COVID-19. We, therefore, terminate the agreement with yourselves pursuant to clause 12 of our sublease agreement,” reads part of Ntene’s letter in part.
It further states, “we shall communicate a date at the earlies for conducting an audit contemplated in Clause 12.2 of the agreement. Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture wishes to pinpoint that it does not by the termination affected herein waive any rights enjoyed by itself under the law.” The letter prompted J&M to approach the courts of law and argued that termination of their agreement was unlawful. They allege that government, through the ministry, does not have a basis on which they terminated the agreement.
J&M asked the Commercial Division of the High Court of Lesotho to interdict and prevent the minister, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane and Principal Secretary Ntene from terminating the sublease agreement, and that they be interdicted and prevented from evicting them from the building. Also, J&M Properties asked the court to order the parties (J&M and government) to comply and perform their obligations under the sublease agreement. It is not yet clear weather government will engage another company or will run the center itself.