Le­sotho re­vokes Gupta pass­ports

CityPress - - News - CAI­PHUS KGOSANA cai­phus.kgosana@city­press.co.za – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Pi­eter Malan

The Gup­tas have been fired as spe­cial ad­vis­ers to the prime min­is­ter of Le­sotho, and their diplo­matic pass­ports have been re­voked.

Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili has re­moved the po­lit­i­cally con­nected Atul Gupta and his nephew Essa Omar Aziz as his spe­cial ad­vis­ers, and has can­celled the pass­ports they ob­tained con­tro­ver­sially last Au­gust.

His spokesper­son, Mo­tumi Rale­joe, told City Press that Mo­sisili had no use for them.

“The prime min­ster said he doesn’t need them as ad­vis­ers. The home af­fairs min­is­ter was left with no op­tion but to tell them that their ser­vices are no longer needed by the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, and there­fore they had to give back the diplo­matic pass­ports,” he said.

For­mer prime min­is­ter Tom Tha­bane ap­pointed Gupta and Aziz as spe­cial ad­vis­ers in Au­gust, say­ing he needed them to mar­ket Le­sotho in the Mid­dle East.

Tha­bane said he had been in­tro­duced to the Gup­tas by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

“These peo­ple [the Gup­tas] are good friends of the ANC and we have good re­la­tions with the ANC,” he was quoted as say­ing.

“I ap­pointed them to help scout for in­vest­ment in my coun­try. They have in­flu­ence in a num­ber of coun­tries that can help Le­sotho.”

The Le­sotho Times re­ported that Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Lekhetho Rakuoane told Par­lia­ment that he had in­ves­ti­gated the cir­cum­stances un­der which the Gup­tas were hired.

“We are work­ing to­gether with the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice in deal­ing with the Gupta mat­ter. The prime min­is­ter has made it very clear that he does not want the Gup­tas as his spe­cial ad­vis­ers,” Rakuoane re­port­edly said.

Asked what ser­vices the Gup­tas had pro­vided, Rale­joe said he did not know.

“That’s a mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion. We don’t know and we are not in­ter­ested,” he said.

He could not im­me­di­ately say how much the Gup­tas had re­ceived as spe­cial ad­vis­ers, or if they had been paid at all.

Rale­joe said Mo­sisili had not met or spo­ken to the Gup­tas since be­com­ing prime min­is­ter.

“They are con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures in your coun­try. The prime min­is­ter didn’t want to get in­volved in that,” he said.

Atul Gupta could not be reached on the phone yesterday. The Gup­tas’ spokesper­son, Gary Naidoo, was also un­avail­able.

Mean­while, the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing again af­ter a for­mer head of the de­fence force was shot dead ear­lier this week.

The de­fence min­istry said Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, head of the de­fence force for a short time last year un­der Tha­bane, was shot dead dur­ing an op­er­a­tion on Thurs­day evening to ar­rest “con­spir­a­tors in an al­leged coup”.

A man who iden­ti­fied him­self as Ma­hao’s brother told a lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion that his brother was in a car with his two sons when sol­diers in three ve­hi­cles stopped the car and fired at him. His as­sailants threw his body on to a bakkie be­fore driv­ing away.

The latest in­ci­dent is one of many over the past few months that fur­ther threaten the al­ready frag­ile po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

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