- Three days after his dismissal as minister, ABC wants to suspend Hlaele for alleged fraud
It never rains but pours for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s son-in-law, Lebohang Hlaele, who was recently slapped with a ‘show cause’ letter why he cannot be suspended from the ruling All Basotho Convention, pending an investigation.
Hlaele is accused of fraud by the party’s National Executive Committee, just three days after he was unceremoniously dismissed from his ministerial post in law and constitutional affairs portfolio by the father-in-law.
Hlaele was dismissed alongside his social development counterpart, ’Matebatso Doti, on February 18.
Their sin, as currently speculated, was their victory into positions of secretary general (Hlaele) and deputy publicity secretary (Doti) in the much frustrated newly elected NEC following the party’s controversial elective conference on February 1 – 2.
Lesotho’s prime minister reserves a constitutional right to appoint and fire ministers as he pleases, and without owing an explanation to anyone.
It is the outcome of the elections that has since given the ABC a fresh face, particularly with the election of Professor Nqosa Mahao as new deputy leader, but the very results have ripped the party apart and exposed rooted factionalism.
The old NEC has refused to vacate office and handover administrative powers to the new committee, challenging the outcome. The matter has kept the Lesotho High Court busy, pending finalisation.
Dr Thabane, who remains the party leader after his position was uncontested, is believed to favour the old NEC over the Mahao-led team.
The ‘show cause’ letter dated February 21 and endorsed by the outgoing Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele, gives Hlaele an ultimatum of three days to respond why he cannot be suspended from the party for fraud.
But until Tuesday February 26, Hlaele had not responded to the letter. In fact, he told the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism he was yet to receive it.
“I have not received the letter. I have only seen such on social media. It is only after I have received the letter that I shall consider what to do,” Hlaele said.
In the letter, Ntsekele noted the old NEC “has learned that on 11 February 2019, you (Hlaele) wrote and signed a letter in which you said that NEC convened and decided to use the legal services of K. J Nthontho Attorneys on behalf of the party and its NEC”.
“It is further alleged that you have certified this suspected fraudulent letter with a fake stamp, as that of the party has always been in possession of the Secretary General (Ntsekele), who has never allowed you to use it.”
Before he was elected secretary general in the new NEC, Hlaele was deputy to Ntsekele in the old committee.
Ntsekele continued that “the ABC NEC is therefore concerned about this issue and as a result, decided in its sitting of the 18t February 2019 (the same date Hlaele was fired as minister) to conduct an investigation on the matter.
“You are therefore instructed by the NEC to show cause in three days, why you cannot be suspended while the NEC conducts investigations against you,” reads part of the letter.
Meanwhile, the ABC trio of Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry Minister), Keketso Sello (Mining Minister) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (legislator for Rothe Constituency), has since filed a High Court application seeking invalidation of the election results on grounds the total number voters per the outcome does not tally with the total number of party delegates that was present at the conference.
They warn of “chaos and bloodshed” if the court cannot cancel the results and order fresh elections to be conducted in a space of three months.
Two of the three applicants have lost elections where Lehana contested for deputy secretary and lost to Health Minister Nkaku Kabi, while Sello lost to Tlali Mohapi for the treasurer’s post.
The court has since issued an interim order suspending validation of the election results, pending finalisation of the matter before Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase.