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Minister bows to pressure

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MASERU – THE government has succumbed to pressure from Engen Lesotho to grant a work permit to its expatriate managing director.
Tebogo Mosehla, a South African, was granted the permit this week after two months of a back and forth between Engen and the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Mosehla replaces Theodore Molapo who took early retirement in August after working more than 20 years with the company.
Mosehla’s work permit has been mired in a bureaucratic logjam for several weeks as the government insisted that the position be given to a Mosotho as part of its policy to empower locals with senior jobs in the petroleum industry.

There were also howls of protest from other stakeholders in the sector who felt there were locals qualified enough to lead the multinational company that dominates the local fuel sector.
The stakeholders felt that giving the job to a local would send strong signals that the government was serious about localising jobs in the sector.
They argued that replacing a local with an expatriate to lead the biggest petroleum company was a step backwards.

thepost can however reveal that Labour Minister Moshe Leoma softened his hardline stance after a meeting with more than 10 local fuel dealers who pleaded with him to grant Mosehla the permit.
Leoma confirmed that he met the local dealers who pleaded with him to grant the permit.

“They told me that the man (Mosehla) could help them grow the business in Lesotho to another level,” Leoma said.
He said there was consensus among the dealers that the Mosehla “should be given a chance”.
“It was only after hearing their views that we decided to give him the two-year contract.”

Asked if the decision doesn’t run contrary to the government’s policy to localise the fuel sector, the minister said it was important for him to listen to the stakeholders’ views.
He said their views were convincing.
“This is not the first time that we have granted a work permit to an expatriate after getting valid reasons for the appointment. In this case, our understanding is that the man will help Basotho with the required skills to eventually take over,” Leoma said.
The minister said he thought long and hard about the decision because he wanted the job to be given to a local.

On allegations that Mosehla had been working for months without a permit, the minister said the ministry’s inspectors he sent to the company “had not found any concrete evidence”.
“When we heard those allegations we sent our inspectors to the company but he was nowhere to be seen.”

The decision however appears to contradict the government’s policy to empower Basotho in the petroleum sector. It also appears to be a climbdown for Leoma who has vociferously advocated for senior jobs to be given to Basotho.

Leoma has been strict with work permits since his appointment, pushing for companies to hire locals if they meet the requirements.
Leoma said the push to localise senior positions hasn’t changed and he is still committed to empowering Basotho in the petroleum sector.
Thato Mohasoa, the chief executive of the Petroleum Fund, said he was aware of the debate around Engen’s appointment and supports the push to localise senior positions in the sector.

“We are aware of the issue and while we might lack the legislative capacity to make it happen, we fully support the localisation of senior positions in the sector,” Mohasoa said.
“This is something that we will be pushing in the next year as a fund.”
Mohasoa said it is important to understand that the drive to localise the petroleum industry is not unique to Lesotho.

“It is actually in line with trends in the region and the rest of the world. It is happening in Botswana and other countries. Lesotho needs to treat the empowerment of its people in the fuel sector as a matter of urgency.”
Since 2016 the government has been pushing for the localisation of the petroleum industry.

The policy shift, spearheaded by Selibe Mochoboroane when he was energy minister, forced international fuel companies to give distribution contracts to local companies.
Stakeholders however say while this might have spread the cake a little, it did not go far enough.
Apart from the few that have been granted the haulage business, most Basotho are still consigned to the retail business where they with small margins.

A garage, for example, makes 0.96 cents for every litre of either petrol or diesel. Garage owners say these margins are too low to sustain their businesses unless they couple their filling stations with convenient shops.
Another complaint is that companies like Engen are running what are essentially departments in Lesotho where they employ just a handful of people. Engen Lesotho, for instance, has less than 10 employees at its head office. Its board of directors doesn’t have a Mosotho and the key decisions are made at its head offices in Cape Town.

The same applies to Puma, Engen’s competitor, which also has less than a dozen people at its head offices. Engen generates a turnover of nearly M180 million and sells more than 10 million litres per month in Lesotho. Puma sells between five and 10 million litres per month.

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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