Moleleki ready to play long game

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

DEMO­CRATIC Congress (DC) deputy leader Monyane Moleleki has vowed to hold the na­tional bud­get “at ran­som” in the Na­tional Assem­bly un­til gov­ern­ment an­nuls its ve­hi­cle fleet ser­vices con­tract with Bid­vest Bank Limited.

Ad­dress­ing a rally held in Ha Rale­joe, in his Machache con­stituency, Mr Moleleki said he would have re­mained a min­is­ter if Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili had “acted de­ci­sively” and stopped the “cor­rupt” award­ing of the multi-mil­lion mal­oti con­tract to the South African firm.

The DC deputy leader also said Ba­sotho should ex­pect to see “a cer­tain min­is­ter” be­ing charged for “cor­ruptly award­ing the fleet ser­vices ten­der to Bid­vest con­trary to the coun­try’s pro­cure­ment reg­u­la­tions”.

In ad­di­tion to DC sup­port­ers, the rally was also at­tended by mem­bers of the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho. Mr Moleleki has ad­mit­ted talks to­wards form­ing gov­ern­ment with the op­po­si­tion were on­go­ing.

Mr Moleleki, along with the DC’S Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC) mem­bers aligned to his Liru­rubele (but­ter­flies) fac­tion, last week pulled out of the seven-party gov­ern­ing coali­tion.

The other part­ners in the coali­tion formed af­ter the 2015 snap gen­eral elec­tions in­clude the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy, Mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party, Ba­sotho Congress Party, Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Party, Le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress and Pop­u­lar Front for Democ­racy

The DC NEC cited the coali­tion gov­ern­ment’s al­leged fail­ure to unite the po­lit­i­cally-po­larised na­tion, cor­rup­tion, nepo­tism and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tions with de­vel­op­ment part­ners as some of the rea­sons for the de­ci­sion.

Mr Moleleki and four other newly-ap­pointed min­is­ters and deputies also re­signed from gov­ern­ment, say­ing they were heed­ing the NEC’S call to with­draw from the coali­tion.

The min­is­ters who re­signed in­clude DC Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Ralechate ’ Mokose (Forestry and Land Recla­ma­tion), Pub­lic Works and Trans­port Deputy Min­is­ter ’Man­thabiseng Phohleli, Law, Con­sti­tu­tion and Hu­man Rights Min­is­ter Mokhele Mo­let­sane, and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Deputy Min­is­ter Kotiti Li­holo.

Mr Moleleki, Mr ’Mokose, Mr Mo­let­sane and Mr Li­holo also moved to the Na­tional Assem­bly’s cross­bench last Fri­day to sig­nify their with­drawal from the gov­ern­ment.

Apart from the lead­er­ship succession feud be­tween the DC’S Liru­rubele and Lithope (loosely trans­lated to girl­friends) fac­tions, the party was also split in the mid­dle over the Bid­vest deal.

The Liru­rubele fac­tion has ac­cused mem­bers of Lithope – which is linked to Dr Mo­sisili – of cor­ruptly in­flu­enc­ing the award­ing of the deal in Bid­vest’s favour. Their ire was mainly di­rected at for­mer Fi­nance Min­is­ter Dr ’Mam­phono Khaketla, whom they ac­cused of dis­re­gard­ing due process in award­ing the ten­der to Bid­vest at the ex­pense of joint ven­ture com­pany, Le­be­lonyane, that had been rec­om­mended for the con­tract.

Dr Khaketla, who was last week reshuf­fled to the For­eign Af­fairs port­fo­lio, has ve­he­mently de­nied al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and has since de­manded M6 mil­lion from her ac­cusers, DC youth league ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers Thuso Litjobo and Le­tuka Chafotsa, as com­pen­sa­tion for the “defam­a­tory state­ments” they al­legedly made.

Gov­ern­ment ini­tially awarded Bid­vest a six month con­tract, from 1 Oc­to­ber 2015 to 31 March 2016, but de­cided to ex­tend its mar­riage with the South African com­pany, sign­ing a new con­tract hire agree-

ment with Bid­vest Bank Limited in Au­gust 2016 with­out an open ten­der process.

On the ba­sis of the orig­i­nal ar­range­ment, the gov­ern­ment had promised to ex­clude Bid­vest from its ten­der to find a new fleet man­age­ment firm to re­place Avis. How­ever, the gov­ern­ment can­celled the ten­der process, pre­fer­ring in­stead to ex­tend its orig­i­nal short-term deal with Bid­vest into a long-term four-year con­tract.

Le­be­lonyane has since chal­lenged the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to award the con­tract to Bid­vest be­fore the courts.

Mr Moleleki said MPS in his camp would not help pass the na­tional bud­get as long as Bid­vest re­tained the con­tract. The bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions are usu­ally held in Fe­bru­ary since Le­sotho’s fi­nan­cial year starts in April.

“We won’t pass the 2017/2018 na­tional bud­get un­til the gov­ern­ment re­scinds its con­tract with Bid­vest Bank Limited,” he said.

“We are an­gry and dis­gusted by the ram­pant abuse of state cof­fers as a re­sult of this cor­rupt agree­ment with Bid­vest. So much cor­rup­tion has been tol­er­ated by this coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

“One ex­am­ple is the fer­tiliser pro­cure­ment process for last year’s sum­mer crop­ping sea­son that was han­dled cor­ruptly. The most dis­gust­ing, how­ever, is the fleet ser­vices con­tract that is bankrupt­ing the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho.”

With­out elab­o­rat­ing, Mr Moleleki said Ba­sotho should ex­pect to see a “cer­tain min­is­ter charged for cor­ruptly award­ing the fleet ser­vices ten­der to Bid­vest”.

“Just wait and see if we won’t see, within the space of two weeks, a cer-

tain min­is­ter be­ing hauled be­fore the courts and charged with cor­rup­tion over this is­sue of award­ing the fleet ser­vices ten­der to Bid­vest.

“That min­is­ter will not be charged by Ma­haletere (Moleleki’s nick­name), but will be charged by an of­fice of the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho that deals with fraud and cor­rup­tion is­sues. Just mark my words and see how long it will take for this to hap­pen,” he said, seem­ingly re­fer­ring to an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences into the ve­hi­cle fleet con­tract.

Mr Moleleki ac­cused Dr Mo­sisili of fail­ing to de­ci­sively deal with “ram­pant cor­rup­tion” in the Bid­vest deal.

“If the prime min­is­ter had lis­tened when we coun­selled him to take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion on the ram­pant cor­rup­tion, I could still be a min­is­ter. It was very hard for my leader to take ac­tion on this is­sue,” he said.

“We could not let our party be tainted by cor­rupt deeds while it is in gov­ern­ment hence the de­ci­sion to with­draw the party from the coali­tion gov­ern­ment.”

“We are fight­ing cor­rup­tion in the pub­lic ser­vice and cor­rup­tion must fall!” said Moleleki to a rap­tur­ous ap­plause from the gath­er­ing.

Mr Moleleki stressed they had not joined the op­po­si­tion but only pulled out of gov­ern­ment.

“We are not on the op­po­si­tion’s side, but just sit­ting on the cross bench. There is only one law that we in­tend not to sup­port, and that is a law re­quired to pass the bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions for the next fi­nan­cial year to gov­ern­ment min­istries.

“If we pass this fi­nan­cial year’s bud­get, the money would be taken to pay Bid­vest’s never end­ing hefty charges on the gov­ern­ment.”

He said bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions were un­avoid­able, hence the gov­ern­ment would have no choice but to lis­ten to their de­mands.

“Gov­ern­ment will not have a way out on that one. Even if they were to pro­rogue par­lia­ment, there will have no choice but to re­con­vene the Na­tional Assem­bly so they can re­quest us to pass the coun­try’s bud­get,” said Mr Moleleki.

“They have been seiz­ing funds al­lo­cated to other min­istries and de­part­ments so they can pay Bid­vest. We will not pass the na­tional bud­get un­til we have forced Bid­vest to leave the coun­try.”

He added: “Cab­i­net has al­lo­cated about M600 mil­lion over the course of a year which was not part of the ap­proved na­tional bud­get. A huge chunk of that money is be­ing used to pay Bid­vest.”

Mr Moleleki also touched on the Amnesty Bill, 2016 which, in its cur­rent form, would see mem­bers of Le­sotho De­fence Force, Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ser­vice, Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and “any other per­son” be­ing granted amnesty for of­fences com­mit­ted be­tween Jan­uary 2007 and December 2015.

He said the draft law would be a means of rec­on­cil­ing Ba­sotho and guaran­teeing sta­bil­ity and peace.

“We will vote with gov­ern­ment and sup­port a law for the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of all Ba­sotho, a law in­tended to par­don all Ba­sotho,” said Mr Moleleki.

“If we want peace and sta­bil­ity in this coun­try, all peo­ple who are im­pli­cated in var­i­ous crimes should be granted amnesty.”

DC leader Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili (right) and his deputy Monyane Moleleki.

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