By Bongiwe Zihlangu
MASERU — Joshua Setipa, the chief executive officer of the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), has been suspended pending investigations into his management of the country’s premier investment promotion and economic development showcase.
Trade, Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Sekh’ulumi Ntsoaole, confirmed Setipa’s suspension yesterday saying he had taken the decision to send Setipa home on the advice of the LNDC board.
The suspension is with immediate effect.
“It was at the instigation of the LNDC board that I took the decision to suspend him . . . ,” said Ntsoale without detailing the reasons for the suspension. He said a final decision on Setipa’s future at the corporation will depend on the outcome of the board’s probe.
Setipa also confirmed the news of his suspension. He said he had just arrived from a private trip to China when he found the letter of suspension at his office.
In the letter, Ntsoaole stated that Setipa would be suspended with effect from December 11 until April 2014 “while we launch an investigation into your management decisions”.
“In the letter I am told that the minister has taken the decision to suspend me with effect from today (yesterday) until April 2014 while an investigation is launched into some of my management decisions,” Setipa told the Lesotho Times.
Setipa said the letter instructed him to have “vacated your office and the building by 5p.m. today (yesterday)”.
Setipa, who holds degrees in business and finance and commands vast experience in international trade issues, declined to comment on what could have precipitated his suspension saying he could not speculate because he had not discussed the matter with Ntsoaole.
“He did not give me the opportunity to talk to him so I can’t say more,” Setipa said.
However, authoritative sources said Setipa’s suspension “had been long time coming” over his management style which one official described as “arrogant and autocratic”.
The source said Setipa had either differed or ignored board instructions on various issues including on the critical issue of outsourcing the management of the LNDC’s vast property empire. Setipa had also fired key senior personnel “unprocedurally” . The fired staff had appealed to the board over their “unlawful” dismissals.
One official said Setipa would also be investigated over his alleged interference in the administration of tenders at the LNDC.
“The fact that he (Setipa) fired people in circumstances that some board members saw as unprocedural did not sit well with the board. Some of the dismissed workers have been heavily lobbying the board,” the source alleged.
Ntsoaole said the decision to suspend was reached after the LNDC board of directors advised him to suspend Setipa with the aim to “investigate how he has been managing the LNDC”.
“If we establish any irregularities, measures will be taken against him. But whatever decision we take will be based on the magnitude of the irregularities,” Ntsoaole said.
“In the event that we establish minor irregularities, we will probably just issue him with a warning. But if the outcome is serious, we’ll act accordingly. Our decision will solely be based on the magnitude of what we find.”
Ntsoaole said Setipa has been suspended with full benefits.
Trade, Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister Principal Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, requested that the board be accorded space “to deal with the issue” while declining to provide reasons for the suspension.
“Allow me just to say that we will be discussing all issues over which we have suspicions with the board tomorrow (today). I cannot comment further,” Mphaka said.
Setipa began work at the LNDC in January 2011, replacing Peete Molapo.
One school of thought is that he is largely seen as a protégé of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and the All Basotho Convention (ABC) ministers in the coalition “had never been comfortable with him.”
“They are suspicious of his politics. When you gain power, you must entrust your own people with powerful positions . . . The LNDC is a powerful institution and the temptation by the new rulers to put their own man at its helm is irresistible and falls within the broad nature of politics,” said one authoritative source.
The job of LNDC CEO carries a lot of clout because of the vast economic power it controls. Not only does the corporation facilitate investment and economic development into Lesotho, it also manages the government’s interests in a number of lucrative projects in areas as diverse as tourism, manufacturing and property.
With his wide experience and knowledge in diplomacy, trade policy, capacity building and global economic policy, Setipa, upon his appointment, had been widely seen as the right candidate to steer the LNDC ship into the future. But the suspension casts a dark spell on his tenure at the corporation.