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Ban on car clearing agent lifted

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MASERU – THE government has reversed the decision to ban BeForward, a popular Japanese company, from exporting cars to Lesotho.
The government banned imports from BeForward in November last year following allegations that the company had failed to deliver dozens of cars ordered by Basotho.

This started after Flying King, the Lesotho clearing agency which worked with BeForward, failed to deliver several cars to customers. Flying King is now under liquidation due to what one of the shareholders describes “as gross mismanagement and fraud by fellow shareholders and directors who were managing its affairs”.

Second-hand car dealers, clearing agencies and tax operators have been fighting to get the Ministry of Trade and Industry to lift the ban for the past eight months.
A breakthrough came after the associations met principal secretary, Dr Tlhopheho Sefali, two weeks ago.

“Having consulted all the relevant stakeholders, concerned parties and based on the evaluation of the evidence, MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) has discovered that BeForward Japan has honoured all its international trade terms,” Dr Sefali said in a May 26 letter.
“The company shipped all the vehicles bought from it. Based on the foregoing it was resolved to uplift the import on BeForward imports.”

The decision is a relief to Basotho and car dealers who were struggling to get cheap cars from other Japanese companies. BeForward is comparatively cheaper and has some of the shortest delivery times.
It will also help clearing agencies whose business had taken a huge knock during the ban.

Last month, car dealers told thepost that prices had increased by as much as 30 percent during the ban.
Kuben Pillay, a South African businessman who owns 51 percent of Flying King and whose business had also been affected by the ban, said he welcomes the government’s decision “but it is only the starting point”.
He said the government and the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) should investigate how Flying King’s local shareholders and directors allegedly fleeced the company and dodged tax.

“Now the focus should be on a thorough investigation into the fraud and tax evasion that happened at Flying King,” Pillay said, adding that he has evidence that “invoices were falsified and some cars were illegally registered in South Africa”.

He alleged that all this happened when Joel Mohale, the local shareholder who was the managing director, was in charge. Apart from allegations of fraud and tax evasion, Pillay also accused Mohale of hastening Flying King’s collapse by using its money to start HMR Transport & Logistics which is also a clearing agency.

Mohale started HMR with Donald Monethi, another shareholder.
Mohale has previously denied the allegations of tax evasion and fraud. Instead, he says Pillay is out to damage his reputation because their business relations have soured.

Pillay’s allegations however appear to be supported by liquidator Advocate Neil Fraser’s report whose preliminary findings appear to indicate that the company could have been looted until it failed to meet its obligations to customers, suppliers and the LRA.
Released in April, the report raised concerns about payments to an insurance company, Wimpy, school fees, Good Night B&B and Sun 1 Durban. There were also mobile banking transfers and cash withdrawals which he said appeared to be for personal use and not related to Flying King’s business.

The report also said Flying King was not paying tax.
This is reflected in the M946 825 claim LRA has filed with the liquidator. Africa Vehicle Clearing Specialist (Avecs), Pillay’s company, has submitted a M1 million for unpaid services.

Pillay claims M857 000 which he says was due to him in profits as a shareholder.
Six other creditors claimed a combined M420 000 for undelivered vehicles and outstanding rentals. This brings the total amount of claims to just over M3 million.

Staff Reporter

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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.
Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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