There is no end in sight in the protracted feud between the Lesotho High Commissioner and the Third Secretary to the United Kingdom, London, Rethabile ‘Mahlompho Mokaeane and Phomolo ‘Mantolo Motloheloa.
The matter which involves school fees of the High Commissioner’s children that have not been paid up to date, and was the subject of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Nyapane Khaya and Teboho Sekata this week signalled a sour relationship between the two diplomats.
According to Motloheloa who was speaking from London, Mokaeane clearly told her that she doesn’t like her and doesn’t want to work with her when she arrived at the embassy in April 2019- Motloheloa arrived before Mokaeane in January of the same year.
In a letter read by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Colonel Tanki Mothae on Wednesday before PAC, Motloheloa sought urgent intervention on December 4, 2019 in regard to her unpaid rent instigated deliberately by the High Commissioner.
“The letter indicates that Mokaeane refused to pay the latter’s rent owing to the fact that she also refused to pay school fees for her children.
“I would like to bring to your attention that my rent was due on the November 29, 2019. I have submitted all necessary documents to the High Commissioner who clearly indicated that she will not pay my rent unless I pay school fees for her children. She further insisted that she will pay rent only after I have paid salary for December 2019.
“I humbly request your intervention as the landlord is stressing me with legal action if I do not pay before end of business today. It is worth mentioning that as a young diplomat, this situation is unbearable for me and my family,” Motloheloa said in the letter.
Speaking to PAC, Motloheloa said she made vouchers of school fees of £10 000 (about M200 000) that was available but the High Commissioner refused to endorse it.
Mokaeane indicated that her children’s school fees of last year’s second and third quarters have not been settled and that she sought answers regarding the usage of last year’s fiscal allocation from the Third Secretary to no avail.
“There is no change until now, I asked the Third Secretary to explain the issue of last year’s money allocation in terms of the school fees because there had never been payments of the second quarter and third quarter,” she said while being quizzed by PAC.
“There was no money for rent and wages for that year and I have not received the answer from the Third Secretary until now, because the parliament allocated money, there must be an explanation of how the money has been used.
However, replying to the letter that was previously addressed to the then PS regarding the rent issue, M0kaeane refuted the allegations that she denied to pay rent for the Secretary, charging that Motloheloa’s behaviour was foul-tasting.
“It is noted with big concern that the urgent intervention that is sought by the Third Secretary failed to make connection with the reality on the ground in the High Commission of London Lesotho.
“Your office will recall that during your trip to London with the honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, I reported to you ‘m’e PS of the unbecoming behaviour that unfortunately never ended. I am of formal opinion that your office is condoning this unpalatable behaviour of the Third Secretary though it is very clear to me that there is an influence from more highly coloured officer who is behind her,” Mokaeane said.
“I report to your office from the onset that my children were unable to enrol in public school upon my arrival in London. The Third Secretary is the senior officer in diplomatic cadre of Lesotho, maliciously wants to terminate my children’s education on account that the school fees funds are unavailable.
“The school fees funds available were budgeted for seven children, and it seems like my three children took all the funds that were aimed to covering seven children initially. She further wanted to take all my children out of private school,” she said.
She explained that her children’s school fees of over £19 148 per child is something not sinister.
“I arrived here on 2019 April, we started looking for school but unfortunately the schools had already commenced. When you seek for school, it would be within a certain bureau not outside that. Just because it is England it doesn’t mean you can take your children everywhere, you have to look for certain schools.
“My children do not attend outrageously expensive schools; it is the same school that my children would attend if I was in Maseru. If the school is expensive it depends on what that unaffordability is compared to when Loti is equalled to 20 pounds. Same as when I send my child to a private school in Maseru and paying M30 000 in a year, that means you multiply that M30 000 by 20.
“Children get enrolled in April and there are terms and conditions, I made PS of that time aware that there was no way I could send children to school in April and took them out in September,” she continued.
The Principal Secretary stated that the High Commissioner asked for permission for her children to attend the private school since her endeavours of securing a public school were unsuccessful.
“On May 3, 2019 the High Commissioner wrote to the Foreign Affairs, ‘Tanki Mothae please be informed that my kids, Hlompho Mokaeane, Karabelo Mokaeane and Refiloe Mokaeane got admission after receiving a decline from so many schools that I have applied for.
“Your good office is informed that the public schools that applications were sent for my three daughters have regretted that they are at full capacity until September. However, there is an option to look for privately owned schools that are readily available to enrol the kids immediately. You are therefore, highly informed that the High Commissioner is left with no option but to consider the privately owned school’.
“On 15th of May 2019, reference is made to your letter dated May 3 and 9. Authority is made for the above mentioned children as a temporary arrangement until September 2019. The ministry is expecting all the children of diplomats in London to be enrolled in public schools as the government is currently facing financial crises,” he said.
Mothae further indicated that the government allocate funds depending on the affordability of their purse. He said the ambassadors were made aware of the financial rough patch that the nation was facing, thus a need to opt for schools with little to no fees was advised.
“The government has the obligation as these children’s school fees have not been paid. On the Diplomat benefits, there is no specific amount of school fees; even so, the parliament allocated money looking at the number of children whose parents are on mission.
‘In England, public schools are the most qualified and they are free, but because of the unclear law of Lesotho which determines which schools children should attend in the foreign land, so their parents takes them to the private schools which is costly.
“We have indicated that the diplomats’ children should be taken to public schools because of the financial implications. The High Commission submit their budget but if their request cannot be afforded it is recommended that we pay with the little that we have, if we pay beyond what we have then we are committing a crime.
“We make our budget as the Ministry, we requested around M5oomillion but we were allocated only M421million meaning we have a variance of M100million, meaning we have to work within the given budget. We communicated with the embassies that we don’t have the money and they should use the money wisely,” he said.