MKM another skele­ton from congress closet

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

THE MKM saga is yet another stink­ing skele­ton to come out of the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD), later Demo­cratic Congress (DC), closet.

The long drawn-out saga like, many oth­ers that I will en­deav­our to high­light in this col­umn, is one of the many mon­u­men­tal fail­ures un­der­taken un­der the LCD/DC gov­ern­ment over its 15-year ten­ure.

The mas­sive business be­he­moth was set-up un­der the watchful eye and ac­qui­es­cence of the said gov­ern­ment. In as far as the set­tin­gup of the fu­neral con­tri­bu­tion scheme was con­cerned, it was a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment for the en­tire na­tion.

There is no doubt about that. How­ever, as for the bank­ing and in­surance business, the Court of Ap­peal de­clared it was il­le­gal. This was in vi­o­la­tion of the Fi­nan­cial In­sti­tu­tions Act, 1999 and the In­surance Act, 1976.

MKM was shut-down in Novem­ber, 2007 after the Cen­tral Bank of Le­sotho (CBL) ap­proached the court stat­ing that the firm, in­ter alia, was op­er­at­ing an in­surance and bank­ing business in vi­o­la­tion of the afore­men­tioned pieces of leg­is­la­tion.

The CBL fur­ther com­mis­sioned in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­ducted by South African firm, Price­wa­ter­house Coop­ers, which re­vealed that of the M400 mil­lion in­vested by de­pos­i­tors, MKM could only ac­count for M100 mil­lion in as­sets that in­cluded build­ings and ve­hi­cles.

The CBL then ap­plied for MKM’S liq­ui­da­tion in the High Court ar­gu­ing the company was in­sol­vent as its li­a­bil­i­ties were much more than its as­sets. The ap­pli­ca­tion was granted by the High Court and up­held on ap­peal, by the Court of Ap­peal, in Oc­to­ber, 2011.

The fate of MKM was, there­fore, fi­nally sealed, legally at least, dur­ing the ten­ure of the LCD-DC gov­ern­ment. In fact, by his own ad­mis­sion, then fi­nance min­is­ter in the congress gov­ern­ment, Ti­mothy Tha­hane, re­port­edly ad­mit­ted this week that he in­sti­gated, to­gether with the late gov­er­nor of the CBL, le­gal pro­ceed­ings against the company. The for­mer min­is­ter says at some stage in the un­fold­ing of the saga, owing to threats against his life and that of his fam­ily, he with­drew his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the saga.

It is common knowl­edge that politi­cians, es­pe­cially cab­i­net min­is­ters, are al­ways in dan­ger of be­ing at­tacked and there­fore pro­vided with state se­cu­rity round the clock.

If Dr Tha­hane thinks this is ad­e­quate enough rea­son for his sud­den with­drawal from the saga, which he in fact ini­ti­ated, then he thinks this na­tion leaves in a fool’s par­adise.

In short, he is un­der­min­ing our in­tel­li­gence as a na­tion. Why did he not re­sign from cab­i­net al­to­gether?

The only rea­son­able in­fer­ence that can be drawn from this lame ex­cuse is the sim­ple one that he re­alised this was an in­tractable saga. Fur­ther­more, he most likely took into ac­count the fact that the 2012 gen­eral elec­tions were to be held in a few months’ time.

Th­ese elec­tions would usher-in a new gov­ern­ment that would, im­me­di­ately upon as­sum­ing of­fice, in­herit the poi­soned chal­ice of the MKM and a litany of other congress eco­nomic fail­ures.

The then DC gov­ern­ment and, in par­tic­u­lar, the then min­is­ter of fi­nance would not risk their po­lit­i­cal ca­reers and, there­fore, their re-elec­tion at the up­com­ing polls, by en­mesh­ing them­selves in the in­tractable MKM saga.

If they con­tin­ued their en­gage­ment in the MKM saga just prior to the elec­tions, they would never be re-elected. They, there­fore, let the saga re­main un­der the rud­der un­til they were re-elected. Co­in­ci­den­tally and con­ve­niently the saga is rais­ing its ugly head again when a gen­eral elec­tion is on the hori­zon. Yet the congress bri­gade is try­ing to use it for po­lit­i­cal mileage.

The fact of the mat­ter is the MKM saga is not a cre­ation of this gov­ern­ment. It is a cre­ation of the pre­vi­ous LCD-DC gov­ern­ment that ac­qui­esced to its es­tab­lish­ment.

In fact, the congress gov­ern­ment was long ad­vised there were some se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tions of the law in the bank­ing and in­surance op­er­a­tions of MKM. Th­ese are the words of the for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter. Yet, that gov­ern­ment did noth­ing to bring il­le­gal business to ac­count.

How­ever, it know­ingly fa­cil­i­tated the il­le­gal op­er­a­tions of MKM, as de­clared by the Courts, by al­low­ing civil ser­vants to take out stop or­ders so they may invest in the scheme.

In fact, the majority of the de­pos­i­tors in this scheme were from the dis­ci­plined forces, po­lice, army, prison ser­vices, pub­lic ser­vants and even then gov­ern­ment’s cab­i­net min­is­ters.

In a strange co­in­ci­dence, when then DC cab­i­net came to know that MKM was about to be liq­ui­dated, some au­thor­ity ad­vised all the cab­i­net min­is­ters to with­draw their de­posits and in­ter­ests from the scheme.

This they sur­rep­ti­tiously and self­ishly did with­out warn­ing the en­tire na­tion. The lifetime sav­ings of the al­ready im­pov­er­ished Ba­sotho were sucked into the scheme for­ever. Their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives never in­formed the hap­less and un­sus­pect­ing na­tion of the im­pend­ing dis­as­ter.

That is the LCD-DC congress bri­gade for you. They never care for this in­ter­ests of na­tion. They care only about them­selves. They are an ar­ro­gant move­ment whose only in­ter­est is self-ag­gran­dize­ment.

The bot­tom line is MKM is a na­tional in­sti­tu­tion that ben­e­fits all Ba­sotho ir­re­spec­tive of po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion. No self-re­spect­ing politi­cian needs to make po­lit­i­cal mileage out of a well-in­ten­tioned but some­how mis­man­aged business gone hor­ri­bly wrong, to go down the drain or into the hands of for­eign­ers.

MKM needs po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion to save it so that M400 mil­lion owed to poor Ba­sotho can be re-paid to them. Gov­ern­ment needs to fig­ure-out how to save the sit­u­a­tion. It is in the best and sus­tain­able in­ter­ests of all Ba­sotho that MKM is saved, though it is a tough ask.

In more or less sim­i­lar mag­ni­tude, here are some of the mas­sive stink­ing skele­tons from the congress gov­ern­ment closet that still haunt this na­tion to this day. They are, in no or­der of mag­ni­tude or pri­or­ity.

First, the multi-mil­lion maloti, Block Farm­ing Scheme that was in­tended to ben­e­fit poor farm­ers but ended up ben­e­fit­ting mem­bers of the LCD-DC gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment was ca­joled to act as guar­an­tor. To this day, those loans have not be re­paid by the con­cerned congress politi­cians.

Sec­ond, con­trary to rec­om­men­da­tions to the con­trary, the congress gov­ern­ment closed Queen El­iz­a­beth II Hos­pi­tal in Maseru. In­stead of pre­serv­ing it as the Maseru dis­trict hos­pi­tal the clo­sure re­sulted in the mas­sive and un­man­age­able in­flow of pa­tients at the newly-opened Queen ‘ Mamo­hato Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal. Queen II was only re-opened about a month ago by the coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

Third is the elec­tion of Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli to the army com­mand three months prior to the 2012 gen­eral elec­tions. As a re­sult, in keep­ing with his men­tors and po­lit­i­cal mast ter’s wishes, Lt Gen Kamoli re re­mains ob­sti­nate de­spite a le le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment gazette or or­der­ing his re­lin­quish­ing comm mand of the army.

To Lt Gen Kamoli’s el­e­va­tion add Se­libe Mo­choboroane’s re­fusal to be fired from His Majesty’s cab­i­net. De­spite a le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment gazette, as is the pro­ce­dure, re­mov­ing him from his post, Mr Mo­choboroane is re­fus­ing to va­cate of­fice.

And to add in­sult to in­jury, h he dis­re­spects His Majesty an and the congress bri­gade sup­ports both men to the hilt. Fourth, un­der the LCD-DC gov­ern­ment, cor­rup­tion was ram­pant and had reached un­con­trol­lable lev­els. Key among the al­legedly cor­rupt in­di­vid­u­als, are Cab­i­net min­is­ters and of­fi­cials of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. In fact, if truth be told, the coali­tion gov­ern­ment is on the way-out be­cause of its tough stance on cor­rup­tion.

Fifth, Nikuv Na­tional Iden­tity and Pass­port multi-mil­lion maloti scan­dal. The M300 mil­lion-plus project was snatched from un­der the noses of the then Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Au­thor­ity (MCA), who were ad­min­is­ter­ing it by the then congress gov­ern­ment only to mess it up with a se­ries of cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. To this day, this mas­sive project still haunts the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment.

As if that was not enough, this na­tion is forced to pay over M30 mil­lion main­te­nance of the dys­func­tional sys­tem and presently no pass­ports are be­ing printed se­verely hin­der­ing cross-bor­der move­ment and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ev­ery Mosotho.

Sixth, the Na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, af­fec­tion­ately called ‘Man­thabiseng Cen­tre, is leak­ing like a sieve to the ex­tent that it has for months ceased host­ing any events. Sev­enth, Moshoeshoe I In­ter­na­tional Air­port, our only air­port, has long been de­clared by the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion un­safe for air­craft to use due to many years of ne­glect and non-main­te­nance. Only South Africa Airlink ven­tures to use our flag­ship air­port and this only a re­gional air­line.

There are many more mon­u­men­tal fail­ures that suc­ces­sive congress gov­ern­ments have been re­spon­si­ble for. The MKM saga is only one of the many. If you do not know the num­ber of the many congress fail­ures and their detri­men­tal ef­fect on the (eco­nomic) well-be­ing of this na­tion, watch this space for more startling rev­e­la­tions.

Many more shock­ing ones are on the hori­zon wait­ing to be un­ravel. Th­ese ones are just the tip of the ice­berg in the congress mis­gov­er­nance.

MKM burial so­ci­ety founder Si­mon Thebe-ea-khale

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