Mines Minister says my hands are clean

Mines Minister says my hands are clean

MASERU – MINING Minister Keketso Sello is battling to distance himself from his private secretary, Refiloe Mokone, who is facing diamond smuggling charges in South Africa.
Mokone and three other people were arrested in Ladybrand by the Hawks on Monday last week. Mokone, Bokang Nthatisi, 25, Bakoena Mokoena, 24, and Mandla Ntsibande, 26, appeared before the magistrate in Ladybrand last Tuesday. They were remanded in custody until December 19.

The Hawks’ spokesman Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso said the diamonds, the number of which he did not mention, were valued at M100 000.
The Minister was on holiday in Mozambique when the arrests were made. But when he flew back a few days later he found radio stations, newspapers and social media laden with innuendos that he was probably involved in the smuggling.

Those pointing accusatory fingers at the minister are using Mokone’s proximity to him to justify their suspicions. As private secretary Mokone is the most senior official in the minister’s private office. She is like the chief of staff for the eight people the minister is allowed to personally hire for his office.
Mokone was using one of the minister’s cars when she was nabbed.

The diamonds were in that car. There have been allegations that at least two of the men arrested with Mokone are from the minister’s constituency. All this does not amount to evidence that the minister is involved in any way but it does create a public relations nightmare for him and the ministry.
Minister Sello was at pains to undo the damage at a press conference on Monday this week. He said reporters had defamed him by trying to link him to Mokone. And so he started pointing out why it is wrong and unfair to insinuate that he was involved.

He said he was in Mozambique with his wife when Mokone and company were arrested. In explaining the car issue the minister said he had sent Mokone to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) offices in Maseru to clear his mohair so that it could be taken to the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre.
That is the instruction I left with her. I was expecting that if arrested, it should be within the country and between the border and LRA not in Ladybrand,” Sello said. “I was shocked when I was told by the Principal Secretary that the car was in Ladybrand and had been parked there,” he said.

“What she was doing in Ladybrand, with who and where the diamonds are from or were going, I have no idea!” Sello said.
Sello said he could not have cut his vacation short because of the incident.
“If it was one of the vehicles in red number plates, I would be very worried, and yes I would have flown back immediately.”

“This was my first ever holiday (with my wife), one that I needed and I would not have put it on hold for an employee who got arrested because of her personal deals.”
Sello said although Mokone is a political appointee her arrest has nothing to do with his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

“We all know that there will always be a black sheep in the family and that does not mean that the family should be burdened with the misbehaving of the sheep.”
Ntahli Matete, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Mining, the Hawks had now given him further details because the case is still under investigations.

Rose Moremoholo

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