Le­sotho al­ready Ben­e­fit­ting From Gup­tas: Mo­lapo

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

HOME Af­fairs Min­is­ter Joang Mo­lapo says Le­sotho is al­ready ben­e­fit­ing from Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane’s decision to ap­point mem­bers of South Africa’s con­tro­ver­sial Gupta fam­ily as his spe­cial ad­vi­sors.

Dr Tha­bane ap­pointed Atul Kumar Gupta, his nephew Essa Omar Aziz and another South Africa-based busi­ness­man of In­dian ori­gin his spe­cial ad­vi­sors in July this year and is­sued them with diplo­matic pass­ports “to fa­cil­i­tate their work of mar­ket­ing Le­sotho in coun­tries where they have in­flu­ence”.

How­ever, the ap­point­ments were met with fierce crit­i­cism from op­po­si­tion politi­cians, who de­manded the with­drawal of the pass­ports but the premier stood his ground, in­sist­ing the doc­u­ments were es­sen­tial in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the ty­coons’ work in se­cur­ing in­vest­ment for Le­sotho.

Speak­ing at a break­fast meet­ing held at a lo­cal restau­rant last Satur­day, Chief Mo­lapo said Le­sotho was al­ready reap­ing the re­wards of the Gup­tas’ ap­point­ment “as the coun­try now has ac­cess to for­merly in­ac­ces­si­ble Mid­dle East­ern fun­ders”.

“We had diplo­matic re­la­tions with coun­tries in the Gulf re­gion as early as 1977. My fa­ther was also the first Am­bas­sador to Kuwait in 1970s.

How­ever, since 1998 un­til to­day, we, as a coun­try, have not had much suc­cess com­pared to what we gained in the past from this diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship,” Chief Mo­lapo said.

“For in­stance, we were funded by th­ese Gulf coun­tries to build Moshoeshoe I In­ter­na­tional Air­port, but we have not utilised this re­lat i o nship fully since then.” Chief Mo­lapo added that the “Western ap­proach” to diplo­matic re­la­tions was dif­fer­ent to that of Gulf states “hence the need to have peo­ple like the Gup­tas” to mar­ket the coun­try in that re­gion.

“We have not had any ac­cess to Gulf coun­tries, so as a gov­ern­ment, we felt that we needed peo­ple who have con­nec­tions to Arab states, such as the Gup­tas.

They were ac­tu­ally in­tro­duced to us by sources close to our gov­ern­ment,” he said.

“The Gup­tas are billionaires and their only sin was land­ing their own aero­plane at an army base in South Africa (in May 2013). How­ever, they are the right peo­ple to gain us ac­cess to those in­ac­ces­si­ble fun­ders.

“Since the Gup­tas’ re­la­tion­ship with our gov­ern­ment, there are a lot of doors that have started to open which were never opened to Le­sotho in the past and we, as a coun­try, are go­ing to be ben­e­fit­ting from that.”

Chief Mo­lapo ac­cused for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili and his party, the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) “of be­hav­ing as if our coali­tion gov­ern­ment should be bound to follow his for­eign pol­icy route”. “Th­ese peo­ple had their own diplo­matic and for­eign poli­cies that they fol­lowed when they were in gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, they fail to un­der­stand that we can­not follow the same poli­cies.”

Mean­while, Dr Tha­bane has since de­clared he would not apol­o­gise for his decision to make the wealthy Gup­tas his spe­cial ad­vi­sors.

“I have ap­pointed them to mar­ket Le­sotho in coun­tries where they have in­flu­ence…,” said Dr Tha­bane in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times.

“Th­ese peo­ple (the Gup­tas) are good friends of the ANC (South Africa’s rul­ing African Na­tional Congress) and we have good re­la­tions with the ANC…IT’S no se­cret that we are good friends of the ANC

“I was in­tro­duced to them by the ANC Pres­i­dent (Ja­cob Zuma) and other ANC of­fi­cials….i then ap­pointed them to help scout for in­vest­ment for my coun­try.

They have in­flu­ence in a num­ber of coun­tries that can help Le­sotho. They have un­der­taken to hunt for in­vestors for us…….”

Dr Tha­bane fur­ther said any sug­ges­tions that he had favoured the Gup­tas — who have made a for­tune in South Africa through shrewd in­vest­ment in min­ing, air travel, en­ergy, tech­nol­ogy and the me­dia — in ex­change for per­sonal re­turns were to­tally wrong and un­ac­cept­able.

“I have not taken a penny from the Gup­tas. I am not cor­rupt.

Check with all the banks the world over … I have not re­ceived any money from them.

…I am merely us­ing my of­fice to get de­vel­op­ments go­ing for my coun­try…,” said Dr Tha­bane.

The premier fur­ther said the Gup­tas had also in­di­cated they wanted to invest in the min­ing sec­tor in Le­sotho and he was fa­cil­i­tat­ing things for them.

“I will not bury my head and shy away from the Gup­tas….i won’t apol­o­gise to any­one for as­sist­ing them. Any­one who wants to come and invest…i will as­sist them…,” said Dr Tha­bane.

Atul Kumar Gupta

Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs Joang Mo­lapo

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