MASERU – Embattled Senate president ’Mamonaheng Mokitimi who was demanding damages from five principal chiefs and a senior senate official for accusing her of immoral conduct, fraud and financial wrongdoing has dropped the libel suit without explanation.
Mokitimi filed the suit in January demanding Senate Chief Research Officer ’Mota Nkuatsana and the chiefs behind a petition seeking her ouster from the Senate pay her M25 000 for besmirching her name.
In papers filed in the Magistrate Court in Maseru on January 17, 2019, Mokitimi had been suing Nkuatsana and the chiefs namely; Tumane Matela of Makhoakhoeng, Mojela C. Makhaola of Qacha’s Nek, Bereng M. Bereng of Rothe, Rets’elisitsoe Mopeli of Ha Mopeli in Butha-Buthe and Qeto Sekonyela of Malingoaneng.
Mokitimi was miffed the six had made scurrilous allegations against her in their petition that was “made and intended to tarnish and defame plaintiff”.
The notice of withdrawal of the lawsuit dated May 21 notes that Mokitimi would settle costs of the suit.
“Kindly take notice that the plaintiff hereby withdraws this matter and tenders’ costs,” reads the notice of withdrawal.
According to Mokitimi’s affidavit, before the petition in question was submitted to the Senate, the six were requested to furnish the office of Vice President of the Senate, Ts’epo Monethi, with supporting documents that would support their allegations.
“However, the defendants failed to supply the documents,” reads the affidavit.
Mokitimi’s lawsuit followed Nkuatsana’s suspension and subsequent showdown between the duo in a January 2019 expose, where the former accused Nkuatsana of being “on my case” while the latter alleged that the President of the Senate had committed serious financial misconduct when she allegedly “instructed Clerk to the Senate Selete Molete and Financial controller Nts’epase Makara to revise the 2018/19 Senate budget against the same year’s Appropriate Act”.
According to the petition, Mokitimi should be removed from her position as President of the Senate to deter future Presidents from indulging in similar behaviour.
The petitioners were unhappy that the 2018/19 annual budget had been reviewed and the bulk of the funds were channeled towards international travel and subsistence.
In the petition, the chiefs said they were unhappy with Mokitimi’s election and hinted public funds had been misappropriated.
The chiefs were also “determined to show that the Senate views professional impropriety with repugnance and do resolve to petition the President of the Senate”.
“This very year of 2018, in a typical recidivist-style, the Honourable President in partnership with the de facto Clerk of the Senate, and with a common purpose of achieving self-aggrandisement by deliberately misappropriating the approved budget of 2018/19, and specifically manipulated a host of other votes to benefit two votes, namely; votes 421011 and 421012, which are; Fares International and Subsistence International respectively,” read the petition.
“Evidence will show that the de facto Clerk to the Senate (Selete Molete), with ‘sanction’ by the Honourable President of the Senate ‘Mamonaheng Mokitimi, caused the Financial Controller Nts’epase Makara, to unilaterally revise the Approved Budget (without the Senate Budget Team) to the detriment of many other votes and programmes, and to the benefit of the two votes herein mentioned.”
They further alleged that as a result of revised budgets, within the first six months of the allocation of the main budget by parliament, the Senate was already broke and unable to function.
“Upon analysis it will be clear why the two mentioned votes were the primary beneficiaries of such manipulations of the approved budget, in such a way that during the first half (within six months) of the current financial year (2018/19) the Senate Head 39 was in a state of paralysis,” the petitioners said.
“The available figures show that from manipulating and distorting other programmes, votes 421011 and 421012 (Fares International and Subsistence International) benefitted to the tune of M976 569.”
They added: “The next most logical question pertaining to this manipulation is: what was so pressing in international travel that necessitated practical paralysis of the Senate? Have the programmes budgeted for been fulfilled as a result of the so-called ‘Revised Budget’?”
Without mentioning names, they further alleged it was clear that the revised budget was tailored to “benefit a few individuals within the institution of Senate”.
“It is worth noting that the said votes benefitted just a few individuals within the institution of Senate, most notably those who are perceived to be the Honourable President’s inner circle, especially the suspected paramour-cum-Private Secretary,” the petitioners said.
“Contrary to the directive by the Office of Government Secretary that Private Secretaries of Honourable Ministers and Presiding Officers of the two houses of Parliament should cease to travel with their principals, the Private Secretary to the Honourable President accompanies her to practically every trip abroad.
“It is interesting to find out whether the 2018/19 Senate Budget had provision for such. It is our assertion that all these have sent a particular negative signal to the civil service in general and to the Senate personnel in particular, and have without doubt, put the honourable House into dispute.”
The petitioners also accused Mokitimi of defrauding the Senate between 2004 and 2012 when she was the institution’s HIV and AIDs co-ordinator. They accused her of extending assistance earmarked for senate staff living with HIV to non-employees.
“Wherefore, your petitioners humbly pray that this honourable house will find it in its wisdom that the act by the then Senate HIV and Aids Co-ordinator (now Madam President), be declared abusive of office, fraudulent in conduct, financially wrong and default on good morals and loyalty,” the petitioners said.
As such, they said they were demanding: “That the Honourable President be relieved of her services as a result of such an act and that the criminal investigation regarding the same be initiated and prosecuted by office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and be effected forthwith”.
Before seeking legal recourse, Mokitimi had earlier told this paper that she had sought the intervention of the Senate’s Ethics Committee and that the said petition had also been referred to the same for interrogation.
Coming to Nkuatsana, an incensed Mokitimi said the Senate’s Chief Researcher Officer had a problem with respecting authority and that he seemed to suffer from the “superiority complex syndrome”.
“And, he has had a problem with presiding officers that came before me. He needs to approve things. If he doesn’t get the last word in, then he tends to question things because they were not approved by him,” Mokitimi said.
“And, it seems that he is interfering in the affairs of the offices of the Financial Controller and Clerk. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with the affairs of his office or any other department except for those two.”
According to Mokitimi, Nkuatsana’s motive to expose the “so-called” corruption in the Senate was suspect, because if he genuinely thought there was something wrong he could have reported his concerns to the police and DCEO, for investigations to be launched.
“If he had a noble motive, he could have called in those departments to investigate the corruption and financial misconduct he is alleging. But he hasn’t done that. Instead, he is running to the media,” Mokitimi said.
“I am sure the Clerk will also tell you how the revision came about because it happens everywhere. That is why the revised budget was approved by the ministry of finance.
“To prove that it was not done illegally and that it was devoid of deceit, it has been included in the 2018/19 Appropriation Act.
“The go-ahead to revise the budget was done because the Ministry of Finance was content with the justification provided by the FC and Clerk.”
Addressing the accusation that she was sitting on the petition by the five Senators who are Principal Chiefs, Mokitimi described it as a document meant to “humiliate and insult me”.
“Maybe ’Mota Nkuatsana wanted to find ways to humiliate and insult me and used the principal chiefs to drive his agenda. I also wonder what criteria he used to select those chiefs he could use to advance his cause. I mean, how did he manage to, out of 33 senators, choose five to insult me?” she quipped.
Mokitimi denied sitting on the petition but that she, instead, passed it on to Vice-President Ts’epo Monethi who announced it to the Senate but that upon inspection and closer scrutiny “he decided that it did not meet requirements of a petition as per the Senate Standing Orders”.
“The Vice President then advised the petitioners to revise and add more evidence to support the allegations made in the paper to ensure that it met requirements to be debated in the house without putting the reputation of the Senate into disrepute,” Mokitimi said.
“But the said instigators of the petition failed to respond to the Vice President although he had written them letters requesting a review of their document. The Vice President then announced that since the chief had failed to fulfill the requirements made, then the document had fallen off as it could not be discussed in the Senate.
“Despite that ruling, the petitioners continued to demand that the petition be debated in the house, and that was an indication that there was pressure from the primary instigator of the document, to push to have it discussed.
“One of the petitioners at some point said the document was not theirs but that they were merely supporting a staff member.”
Mokitimi further told this paper that she had also sought legal advice from the office of the Attorney General and that since the petition used expletives to describe her, it had since been referred to the Senate’s Ethics Committee.
“The fate of the petition, according to the Vice-President, is that it is no longer a petition but a document containing humiliating language and expletives that should be dealt with by the ethics committee.
“The petition is with the ethics committee and I have also sought its intervention because I had been humiliated and insulted. That’s the fate of that petition,” Mokitimi said at the time.