. . . as busi­ness­man ac­cused of so­lic­it­ing bribe threat­ens to lodge M 1.5m law­suit against DC

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

AN un­prece­dented feud in the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) over a lu­cra­tive gov­ern­ment ten­der has es­ca­lated dra­mat­i­cally with a busi­ness­man ac­cused by the party’s youth league of so­lic­it­ing for a M4 mil­lion bribe on be­half of Fi­nance Min­is­ter Dr ’Mam­phono Khaketla de­mand­ing an im­me­di­ate pub­lic apol­ogy from the party’s na­tional lead­er­ship or M1.5 mil­lion in com­pen­satory dam­ages for defama­tion of his char­ac­ter.

In a strongly-worded let­ter to DC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Ralechate ’Mokose this week, the busi­ness­man, Thabo Napo, who is also a staunch DC sup­porter, de­manded to know whether the youth league con­vened its press con­fer­ence last week, at which it made the sen­sa­tional claims, with the bless­ings of the party’s na­tional lead­er­ship.

Mr Napo then de­mands that the party con­venes a press con­fer­ence to re­tract the state­ments made by its youth league, take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against youth league lead­ers or pay him M1,5 mil­lion in dam­ages, fail­ing which he would take his own party to court.

Mr Napo is­sued his de­mands as chief gov­ern­ment spokesman, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi, vowed this week there was no go­ing back on the de­ci­sion by the gov­ern­ment to award the fleet ten­der to a South African com­pany, Bid­vest Fleet Ser­vices.

The min­is­ter said the gov­ern­ment had al­ready signed a con­tract with Bid­vest and was now in the process of tak­ing de­liv­ery of the first batch of 300 ve­hi­cles en­vis­aged un­der the deal that will in­volve about 1 200 ve­hi­cles. The gov­ern­ment’s stance, as pro­nounced by Mr Let­satsi, seems to have dealt a se­vere blow to a joint ven­ture com­pany com­pris­ing of Fleet Ser­vice Le­sotho (Pty) Ltd and Le­be­lonyane (Pty) Ltd (Fleet Ser­vices), which is claim­ing the right to op­er­ate the fleet con­tract and has been un­re­lent­ing in stak­ing its claim.

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary move last week, the DC youth league con­vened a press con­fer­ence to de­nounce one of the party’s se­nior mem­bers, Dr Khaketla, ac­cus­ing her of ditch­ing a ten­der process that should have been awarded to the joint ven­ture com­pany be­cause the com­pany al­legedly re­fused to pay her a M4 mil­lion bribe through Mr Napo.

The claim has now stirred a hor­net’s nest in the DC with Mr Napo de­mand­ing that the party’s lead­er­ship take equally ex­tra-or­di­nary mea­sures to come to his de­fence and re­buke the youth league.

Mr ‘Mokose de­clined to com­ment on Mr Napo’s de­mands when con­tacted this week. But DC ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, Tsie Seko­ere, con­firmed to the Le­sotho Times he had re­ceived the let­ter and for­warded it to Mr ’Mokose, “be­cause it was ad­dressed to him”.

The DC youth league, led by its pres­i­dent Thuso Litjobo and sec­re­tary-gen­eral Chafotsa Le­tuka, launched a blis­ter­ing at­tack on Dr Khaketla at last week’s press con­fer­ence, ef­fec­tively ac­cus­ing her of gross cor­rup­tion in the man­ner in which she han­dled the gov­ern­ment fleet man­age­ment ten­der.

The gov­ern­ment had since can­celled the ten­der process, opt­ing to in­stead ex­tend its orig­i­nal six month con­tract with Bid­vest into a new four-year con­tract for the South African com­pany to man­age the fleet. The joint ven­ture com­pany is now seek­ing a re­ver­sal of the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion in the courts, ar­gu­ing that it should have been awarded the ten­der.

The firm claims it had been short­listed for the ten­der af­ter scor­ing the high­est num­ber of points, 81.85 against 68.21 for the other short­listed bid­der, Avis Fleet Ser­vices, trad­ing as Seahlolo.

The DC youth league was adamant dur­ing the press con­fer­ence that Dr Khaketla had short-cir­cuited the ten­der process to award a four-year deal to Bid­vest be­cause the joint ven­ture com­pany had re­fused to ac­cede to her re­quest for a M4 mil­lion bribe which the league claimed was made on the min­is­ter’s be­half by Mr Napo, who was de­scribed by the DC youths as the min­is­ter’s “per­sonal friend”.

Mr Le­tuka claimed that Dr Khaketla had been heard claim­ing the joint ven­ture com­pany would get the ten­der “at Nyenye’s Cross” (a com­mon Se­sotho phrase mean­ing that one never gets any­thing eas­ily) un­less the com­pany ac­ceded to Mr Napo’s re­quest. Mr Le­tuka said the de­ci­sion not to award the con­tract to the joint ven­ture com­pany had severely prej­u­diced Ba­sotho as award­ing the con­tract to Bid­vest would re­sult in cap­i­tal flight to South Africa, an al­le­ga­tion de­nied by Mr Let­satsi who in­sisted that Ba­sotho would still ben­e­fit un­der the terms agreed with Bid­vest.

Among Mr Napo’s de­mands is for the party to take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against Messrs Litjobo and Le­tuka.

Mr Napo has also de­manded the DC lead­er­ship holds a press con­fer­ence to re­tract all state­ments made by its youth league and apol­o­gise to him within seven days from 28 July 2016, the date on which his lawyer, Ad­vo­cate Le­peli Mo­lapo, dis­patched a let­ter of de­mand to DC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Mr ’Mokose.

Signed by Ad­vo­cate Mo­lapo, the let­ter to the DC partly reads: “We are the le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Thabo Napo, a well-known and es­tab­lished busi­ness­man cur­rently em­ployed as Manag­ing Di­rec­tor of a com­pany called Sei­thati Clean­ing Ser­vices and Mat­soat­lareng Car Wash, and also their share­holder. Our client is fur­ther a very ac­tive mem­ber in pol­i­tics and, through his ac­tivism, has gar­nered a lot of sup­port in the com­mu­nity as an af­fil­i­ate for the political party, Demo­cratic Congress, and these sup­port­ers have a lot of faith and trust in our client.”

The let­ter then ex­plains how as a staunch sup­porter of the DC, Mr Napo’s rep­u­ta­tion had been badly wounded by the claims that he tried to so­licit a bribe for him­self and the Min­is­ter.

“When this state­ment was made by these mem­bers of the Ex­ec­u­tive Youth League Com­mit­tee (sic) of the Demo­cratic Congress, they knew very well that this state­ment was not true be­cause our client is not a mem­ber of gov­ern­ment nor does he hold any in­flu­ence over the hon­ourable Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, and nei­ther did such a meet­ing take place.

“Our in­struc­tions are to de­mand, as we hereby do, that you should con­firm whether in­deed the two mem­bers of the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of the Demo­cratic Congress Youth League, be­ing an­swer­able to the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of the Demo­cratic Congress, were act­ing un­der your di­rec­tive to hold the said press con­fer­ence, pre­pare and dis­trib­ute the said defam­a­tory press re­lease which de­picted our client as a cor­rupt per­son who so­lic­its bribes on be­half of hon­ourable min­is­ters of gov­ern­ment of the day is os­ten­si­bly cor­rupt through its mem­bers (sic) of cab­i­net.

“We humbly re­quest for this clar­i­fi­ca­tion be­cause in a press in­ter­view held on 27 July 2016 at Ra­dio Le­sotho, the Pub­lic Re­la­tions and Me­dia Of­fi­cer of the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of the Demo­cratic Congress did not re­fute or dis­tance the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee from the con­tents of the press re­lease by the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of the Demo­cratic Congress Youth League but merely showed the dis­plea­sure (sic) that the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee will ad­dress in a com­ing meet­ing with­out com­ing out forth­right to con­demn the ill-dis­ci­pline by the youth league mem­bers and re­fut­ing con­tents of the press re­lease.

“On this ba­sis, pur­suant to the re­sponse or non-re­sponse to this our let­ter (sic), our in­struc­tions through the prin­ci­ple of vi­car­i­ous li­a­bil­ity are to de­mand, as we hereby do, that you im­me­di­ately call an­other press briefing wherein you are re­quired to re­tract the con­tents of the press re­lease is­sued on 26 July 2016 by the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of the Youth League of the Demo­cratic Congress and you ac­cord­ingly pub­licly apol­o­gise to our client over and above tak­ing dis­ci­plinary mea­sures against these youths, Thuso Litjobo and Chafotsa Le­tuka, and fur­ther re­im­burse him for the le­gal fees in­curred thus far.

“In the event that our first de­mand is not ac­ceded to within seven day of this our let­ter, we are in­structed to de­mand that our client be com­pen­sated M1.5 mil­lion as dam­ages for defama­tion of char­ac­ter, fail­ing which our fur­ther in­struc­tions are to in­sti­tute a civil ac­tion to claim com­pen­sa­tion and in that event we shall also claim for a costs order.” The let­ter is also copied to Mr Litjobo and Mr Le­tuka.

Min­is­ter Khaketla has per­sis­tently re­fused to com­ment.

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