Min­is­ter ends Gup­tas saga

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

Prime min­is­ter Pakalitha mo­sisili does not want “the Gup­tas” as his spe­cial ad­vi­sors and gov­ern­ment had since de­cided to re­voke diplo­matic pass­ports is­sued to three mem­bers of the su­per-rich but con­tro­ver­sial South African fam­ily.

Home Af­fairs min­is­ter Lekhetho rakuoane, who made the rev­e­la­tion in Par­lia­ment this week while seek­ing ap­proval of his min­istry’s m290millil­ion bud­get for the 2015/2016 fi­nan­cial year, fur­ther said he had “per­son­ally” looked into the “cir­cum­stances” un­der which the pass­ports were is­sued.

Dur­ing his short-lived ad­min­is­tra­tion which ended midstream with the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, then Prime min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane ap­pointed Atul Ku­mar Gupta, his nephew essa Omar Aziz and another South Africa-based busi­ness­man of in­dian ori­gin re­lated to the Gup­tas, as his spe­cial ad­vi­sors.

in an in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times’ sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion, the Sun­day Ex­press, in Septem­ber 2014, the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) leader de­fended the ap­point­ments fol­low­ing wide­spread crit­i­cism led by Le­sotho’s then main op­po­si­tion party, the Demo­cratic Congress (DC), led by Dr mo­sisili.

in ad­di­tion to own­ing Sa­hara Com­put­ers, which has since be­come one of the largest in­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy groups in South Africa, the Gup­tas are also into min­ing, real es­tate, avi­a­tion, media and the leisure in­dus­try. How­ever, their re­la­tion­ship with cer­tain South African politi­cians has been the sub­ject of many un­pleas­ant ar­ti­cles in the South African media, hence the DC’S anger that Dr Tha­bane had de­cided to of­fer the fam­ily such priv­i­leged posts.

How­ever, Dr Tha­bane told the Sun­day Ex­press he needed the Gup­tas to mar­ket Le­sotho in the mid­dle east and that the pass­ports were meant to fa­cil­i­tate their job, adding: “i have ap­pointed them to mar­ket Le­sotho in coun­tries where they have in­flu­ence…. 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…….”

But Ad­vo­cate rakuoane on mon­day told the Na­tional Assem­bly that the new premier, Dr mo­sisili, had em­pha­sised that he did not need “the Gup­tas” and that their Le­sotho diplo­matic pass­ports should be with­drawn.

The min­is­ter was re­spond­ing to a ques­tion by DC mpha­rane Con­stituency leg­is­la­tor, mafer­eka Phutuh­elo, who had asked “whether some­one called Gupta who was wrongly is­sued with a Le­sotho diplo­matic pass­port still had the doc­u­ment”.

Ac­cord­ing to Ad­vo­cate rakuoane, he “per­son­ally” in­ves­ti­gated cir­cum­stances un­der which the pass­ports were is­sued and also con­sulted the min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs about the is­sue.

“The min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs au­tho­rises who should get diplo­matic pass­ports, and my min­istry then is­sues the doc­u­ments.

“We are work­ing to­gether with the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, through the min­is­ter in the Prime min­is­ter’s Of­fice (Kimetso Mathaba) in deal­ing with the Gup­tas mat­ter and with­draw­ing the diplo­matic pass­ports. The Prime min­is­ter has made it very clear that he does not want the Gup­tas as his Spe­cial Ad­vi­sors, which is why we are work­ing to en­sure those pass­ports re­turn home to Le­sotho,” said Ad­vo­cate rakuoane.

On the bud­get, Ad­vo­cate rakuoane in­formed par­lia­ment the money would en­sure an in­crease in the pro­duc­tion of na­tional iden­tity Doc­u­ments, birth cer­tifi­cates and elec­tronic pass­ports whose num­ber was 306 874; 718 766 and 156 059 re­spec­tively as at march 2015.

“We are look­ing for­ward to im­prov­ing the min­istry’s op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency and also strength­en­ing our rev­enue-col­lec­tion.

“We are also go­ing to com­put­erise our four re­main­ing ma­jor ports of en­try and en­hance ser­vice de­liv­ery.

“We are also go­ing to com­mence large-scale reg­is­tra­tion and mark­ing of live­stock in all 10 dis­tricts of the coun­try. This 2015/2016 bud­get would also en­able us to com­plete the birth and id reg­is­tra­tion ex­er­cise,” Ad­vo­cate rakuoane said.

Atul Ku­mar Gupta.

Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs lekhetho rakuoane.

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