The five members of the Lesotho Communications Authority are said to have been appointed outside the bounds of the Communications Act 2012, Sources close to the Authority revealed to Newsday.
The Board according to section 6 of the Act is supposed to have a chairman and five members all elected by the minister of communications, who is currently Chief Thesele â€˜Maseribane.
The selection according to the sections is supposed to be appointed according to subsections (5) and (6) which require the minister to â€˜publish in a manner calculated to be readily accessible to potential candidates, an invitation to submit recommendations or expression of interest for appointment, and the minister may specify the supporting information that shall be provided.â€™
â€˜The minister shall appoint to the board, persons who represent a diverse range of relevant professional skills, experience and views relevant to the communications sector,â€™ the act says.
â€œWhen you look at what the act says and who sits on the board, it is very clear that the minister did not follow the governing act to its totality,â€ a source close to the minister said.
The source revealed that of the five members, a Phakiso Molise, who is also an active member of the Basotho National Party (BNP) has a criminal record following his conviction of murder, attempted murder and kidnaping.
â€œSection 7 (c) which reads â€˜The minister shall not appoint any person to be a member (LCA Board) who has been convicted of a criminal offence, but the minister went against the Law and appointed Phakiso Molise.â€
Another source from within the communications ministry told this paper that although the minister followed Section 6 subsection (2) which required that the vacancy be advertised, the minister appointed irrelevant people.
â€œAlmost all the members of the board do not meet the set requirement for members of the board.
â€œThe minister issued public notice and the notice indicated that candidates were required to have knowledge, qualifications or experience in the areas of Economics, Telecommunications/ Electronic Engineering, Law, Computer Science or Information Technology, Finance and Accounting, Broadcasting or Business Practice,â€ the source said,
The public advert was published on 6 June 2018.
LCA board members are MotÅ¡elisi Ramakoae who is the Chairman, Phakiso Molise, Motanyane Makara, Keneuoe Mohale, Seth Griffiths Lerotholi, Bokang Maitin Lehutso and Mamarame Matele who is also LCA CEO.
â€œFollowing the issuance of the public notice according to procedure, there was supposed to have been a panel of interviewers to screen the members but this board was not interviewed. It was appointed by the minister.
â€œThis is alarming because of the powers vested on the board in controlling and governing all decisions by the Communications Authority which is supposed to be autonomous. This appointment has already caused a string of challenges from within the Authority,â€ the source said.
According to the Communications Acts the Authority does not receive funds from the governmentâ€™s consolidated funds, but survives from annual telecommunications fees from local providers and companies.
Sources privy to both the Authority and the ministry spoke to Newsday noting the current sitting LCA board is illegal.
â€œWe are being governed by people who are not supposed to be sitting in the board and this is highly affecting the independence of the authority,â€ a source from LCA said.
In a criminal case: Phakiso Robert Molise vs the state, a Court of Appeal judgement of 2002 found Molise guilty of Murder, Attempted murder and kidnapping.
When contacted to comment on his sit in the board as per section 7, Molise lashed out that those with a problem should approach the courts of laws and sue.
â€œI was not prosecuted but persecuted under political vendettas. I still have a pending appeal before the court which has over 20 years now and it seems to not being taken into consideration, and now this; If there is anyone who feel I donâ€™t deserve the sit in the board, they should approach the courts of laws and challenge my appointment.
â€œI was legally appointed and I qualify,â€ he said.
Molise confirmed that he was imprisoned for 12 years under the murder, attempted murder and kidnapping charges which he labels â€˜persecutionâ€™ and not prosecution.
He told this paper that the charges were malicious and were challenged.
â€œI cannot be identified as a criminal because of the nature of my arrest and imprisonment. I was Kidnapped from South Africa and imprisoned then charged. I was never afforded the opportunity to be extradited and all those are issues still pending before court, 20 years later. I served 12 years yes, but I stress that I am not a criminal and anyone who wants to challenge my appointment, take it up with the courts. At least I will know who is coming after me,â€ he said.
Former minister of communications Khotso Letsatsi when speaking with Newsday in a separate interview told this reporter the law was established to help guide the minister in executing his duties in office.
â€œIt is very important to follow the guidelines set by the law. I cannot speak for any other minister, but during my tenure, when I appointed members of the board to fill the vacant sits, I used the act as a guiding tool and I elected qualified people to join the already qualified people who were sitting on the board,â€ he explained.
â€œThere is a huge need to honour professionalism so as to maintain the autonomy of the LCA. With the prevailing situation, the independence of the LCA is in jeopardy. It poses a challenge and raises questions to decisions that will be made by the board,â€ Letsatsi said.
Selibe Mochoboroane who is also a former minister of the communication ministry told Newsday he never elected a board but was told the sitting board members were all qualified.
â€œEvery ministry has a legal department which advises the minister on points of law before decisions are made, and similarly, the LCA has a legal office which I believe has a role to play. I donâ€™t want to believe that both these two offices allowed the minister to break such a clear law, and we are talking in a sense where perhaps the minister was not aware of the legal bounds.
â€œHowever, the section is very clear and needs no interpretation, thus the minister can be assumed to have deliberately broken the law so as to offer the appointments as political kickbacks. He needs to be held accountable for this clear offence,â€ Mochoboroane said.
He charged that all the decisions by the current board are illegal and challengeable.
â€œAll decisions by this board are illicit because people who are sitting there are illegal according to the law, and this means automatically the independence of the Authority should be questioned. It is no more serving its mandate but political mandates of the minister who ignored the law to satisfy his political agendas,â€ Mocoboroane said.
Numerous attempts to getting the side of the sitting minister â€˜Maseribane failed.
This reporter left the minister a message which he read without response.
His phone rang unanswered with a late message saying â€œSorry I canâ€™t talk.â€