Big fight over King’s cake

Big fight over King’s cake

MASERU – TWO Butha-Buthe based catering companies are at each other’s throats over a tender to supply a cake for King Letsie III’s birthday.
Bolaoane Mpakanyane of Katleho Foods and Mpho Tenei of Perfect Choice Décor and Florist filed an urgent application in the High Court seeking an order to be awarded the contract to supply the cake.

The applicants lodged the case separately with different lawyers. Through their lawyers, the two companies have asked the High Court to interdict Khauhelo Mofolo from entering into a contract with the Ministry of Home Affairs. Khauhelo Mofolo, who is a Senior Private Secretary to His Majesty the King, is the seventh respondent in this case. They argue that Mofolo has already entered into a contract with the government to supply the cake and want the contract declared null and void. They say Mofolo should not be entitled to be paid from public funds.

They allege that the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie, touted Mofolo to supply the cake when he had not made a formal expression of interest.
They also argue that Mofolo is from Maseru not Butha-Buthe. They want the court to deal with the matter on an urgent basis because the King’s birthday is next Tuesday.
They have also asked the court to interdict the Ministry of Home Affairs from awarding jobs related to the provision of services such as the supply of tents, tables, décor, toilets, catering services and turf.

They said the ministry should also be interdicted from awarding services for gas heaters, cake, water, billboards, the public address system and any associated services to companies or service providers who do not come from Butha-Buthe district. They argue this is in line with the established practice or government policy on King’s birthday celebrations.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) spokesman Serialong Qoo said the fight over the tender is a clear indication of the corruption that is enveloping the government.
“Even some ministers, including Prime Minister himself, have conceded that this government is corrupt,” Qoo said.
He also said government ministers were slowly morphing into businessmen who are now competing with the masses.

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) spokesman Teboho Sekata blamed Alliance of Democrats (AD) supporters for fuelling the fight over the King’s birthday cake, a charge that was dismissed by the party’s spokesman, Thuso Litjobo. Litjobo said his party is not involved in the fight for the tender.

“Even those who say I am fighting for that tender as a person should give clarifications on that. What is it that I have done?’’ he asked.
Litjobo said he has never lodged a case in the courts of law over tenders.

“I have never accused anyone so the people who are saying I am fighting for tenders should be able to substantiate their claim,” he said.
Social media has been awash with allegations that Litjobo was set to benefit from the tender.

When contacted for comment last night, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Machesetsa Mofomobe, referred thepost to the Principal Secretary ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie.

Lemphane-Letsie said the government used the Procurement Regulations of 2011 to award tenders for services to be rendered during the King’s birthday.

She said the regulations were amended on April 1.

The PS said there has been howls of protest from the Butha-Buthe community because they thought they would be the ones to be given a chance to benefit since the celebrations would be in their district.

She said the amendment had given the government room to stretch its arm to the other districts.

She said it has always been the government practice to give people in the district in which the King’s birthday is held an exclusive opportunity.

Lemphane-Letsie said the regulations had since been changed.

She said while the government can consider the locals before the outsiders, there is nothing under the law that is binding.

Lemphane-Letsie said businesspeople from Butha-Buthe were charging inflated prices for their services.

“It should be made clear that people cannot become rich in just a day,” she said.

She said the Minister of Finance Dr Moeketsi Majoro recently said that the government is broke.

And whatever is done should be in line with the minister’s narrative, she said.

Spending M1 million in just a day is too much for the country, Lemphane-Letsie said.

She said some people were charging a staggering M40 000 to supply the King’s birthday cake.

Senate Sekotlo and Nkheli Liphoto

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