MASERU — The government has recalled a diplomat who had been posted to South Africa after revelations that he was facing a criminal charge.
Makhabane Leluma, a former Defence Ministry official, has been given two months to pack his bags and prepare to come home to answer the charge.
The principal secretary in the foreign affairs ministry, Tebello Metsing, confirmed to the Lesotho Times this week that Leluma had been recalled.
“It is our duty to recall any official in embassies who is to appear in court or any tribunal to answer criminal charges,” Metsing said.
Leluma had earlier been tipped for a diplomatic posting in Libya but this was stopped following the civil strife that erupted in that country in February last year.
Metsing said Leluma was recommended directly by cabinet and the foreign affairs ministry merely implemented the recommendation.
But in a shocking twist to the case, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year reported that Leluma had been assigned to the diplomatic post when he was still facing a criminal charge involving air-conditioners tender at Makoanyane Barracks.
The PAC, chaired by Marematlou Freedom Party leader, Moeketse Malebo, alleged that Leluma was appointed despite strong misgivings by the principal secretary for defence and national security, Mahali Lebesa.
The committee alleged Lebesa was opposed to Leluma’s appointment and even warned her counterpart in the foreign affairs ministry not to allow him to go for the diplomatic assignment.
“The Chief Accounting Officer for the Ministry of Defence and National Security has written a savingram of 5th October 2011 to the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Relations conveying the Public Accounts Committee’s dismay that Mr Leluma has been posted to embassies whilst involved in a criminal case,” read part of the PAC report.
The PAC also says the foreign affairs principal secretary, Tebello Metsing, had earlier requested concurrence for special assignment of Leluma to hold the position of third secretary but Lebesa had turned down the request saying: “I am unable to provide your good office with his concurrence and personal file.”
“In spite of this communication between the two principal secretaries Mr Leluma was in fact posted to the embassies as third secretary leaving behind a criminal case which had to be postponed on 9th August 2011 because Mr Leluma was not present,” says the report.
The PAC says there are two questions the case of Leluma begs.
“What was the interest of the principal secretary in forcing a posting to the embassy of an officer who had a criminal charge behind him?” the committee asked.
“Secondly, how is it that he ignored the fact that the principal secretary for defence and national security had refused to grant concurrence for the promotion of Mr Leluma on the grounds of his criminal involvement?”
The PAC recommended that Metsing should bring Leluma back to Lesotho to answer the charges.
“Foreign service regulations would not permit of the action taken by the ministry,” the PAC said.
Metsing has however said cabinet was not aware of the pending criminal case against Leluma at the time of his appointment to the embassy.
He said the cabinet was not aware of the case because the defence ministry had cleared him for posting.
Although the PAC report was not passed in parliament its recommendations on Leluma still stand.