War of words over SA per­mits

Lesotho Times - - News - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Min­istry of Home Af­fairs has con­demned Free Move­ment Con­sul­tants for charg­ing Ba­sotho af­ter as­sist­ing them to make on­line ap­pli­ca­tions for the Le­sotho Spe­cial Per­mit (LSP) be­ing of­fered by South Africa.

The LSP was ap­proved in Oc­to­ber last year by the South African gov­ern­ment and is valid for four years — from 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2020. Its pur­pose is to reg­u­larise the stay of Ba­sotho who had been re­sid­ing il­le­gally in South Africa and al­low them to work, study and op­er­ate busi­nesses in the neigh­bour­ing coun­try.

How­ever, many Ba­sotho are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to fill the LSP ap­pli­ca­tion form on­line — a sit­u­a­tion Free Move­ment Con­sul­tants (PTY) Ltd has since cap­i­tal­ized upon to of­fer as­sis­tance at a fee of M150.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s founder, Te­boho Kolobe, Free Move­ment Con­sul­tants was born af­ter real­iz­ing most Ba­sotho were com­puter-il­lit­er­ate.

“We saw an op­por­tu­nity for job-cre­ation while si­mul­ta­ne­ously help­ing our peo­ple to get through the stren­u­ous pro­cesses of fill­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion forms,” said Mr Kolobe.

Be­sides charg­ing M150 for the on­line ap­pli­ca­tion, ap­pli­cants can also pay the M970 ap­pli­ca­tion fee through the con­sul­tancy’s bank ac­count. The ap­pli­cants are then given proof of pay­ment which helps them secure an ap­point­ment with Home Af­fairs South Africa at their near­est Visa and Per­mit Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre.

How­ever, the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs does not ap­prove of Free Move­ments’ ac­tiv­i­ties.

“It is very sen­si­tive and against the law for these peo­ple to be tak­ing money from ap­pli­cants. Every­one has to pay through Stan­dard Bank in South Africa; that’s the ar­range­ment and noth­ing else.

“Peo­ple should be care­ful about the things they do out of des­per­a­tion,” said Home Af­fairs Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (PS) Bore­na­habokhethe Sekonyela this week.

Chief Sekonyela also warned LSP ap­pli- sul­tancy ac­quired an of­fice at the post of­fice along Kingsway in Maseru “when we are the ones who have been leased that space.”

“We were told that they sub­leased be­cause they said they would of­fer one-stop ser­vices but what is sur­pris­ing is that our rent has not been re­duced as should be the case. We are con­sult­ing our le­gal team and want them to evac­u­ate the space.”

But Mr Kolobe said he was sur­prised to learn of the min­istry’s al­le­ga­tions when he had held a meet­ing with Min­is­ter Ad­vo­cate Lekhetho rakuoane and Chief Sekonyela on 5 Jan­uary to dis­cuss the same is­sue.

Free Move­ment has also con­sulted its le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, r A Sepir­iti Cham­bers who have since writ­ten to the Le­sotho Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity to di­rect ra­dio sta­tions which hosted the min­istry on the is­sue to han­dover such record­ings with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

“Our client is the only com­pany in the King­dom of Le­sotho that as­sists Ba­sotho to reg­is­ter and ap­ply for spe­cial per­mits on­line,” reads part of the let­ter.

The let­ter states that although the Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs did not men­tion the name of the com­pany in the var­i­ous ra­dio pro­grammes he was hosted, “the pub­lic un­der­stood the said pub­li­ca­tion to be re­fer­ring to our client and that has prej­u­diced the oper­a­tions of our client be­cause the said pub­li­ca­tion is false and in­tended to tar­nish our client’s rep­u­ta­tion and im­age.”

Mr Kolobe al­leged that the fight was in fact “a po­lit­i­cal war be­tween me and Min­is­ter rakuoane”.

“I feel sorry for him be­cause I am not go­ing to back down as I am do­ing ev­ery­thing by the book. I am only try­ing to make a clean liv­ing and not de­fraud­ing any­one as it has been claimed.”

Mr Kolobe also showed the Le­sotho Times copies of its Trader’s Li­cence and a tax clear­ance cer­tifi­cate.

Min­is­ter rakuoane could not be reached for com­ment as his phone rang unan­swered yes­ter­day.

Home Af­fairs min­is­ter Ad­vo­cate Lekhetho Rakuoane.

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