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MKM properties sold for M115m

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MASERU – THREE buildings belonging to MKM were surreptitiously sold for M115 million in a private auction that has now triggered violence from the company’s irate creditors, thepost can reveal. News of the sale came last week after a mob of MKM creditors invaded the three buildings, harassing tenants, damaging property and demanding that they be paid the rentals.

At that time the creditors did not know who had bought the buildings and for how much. Now thepost can reveal the exact purchase prices and the identity of the buyers. The sale happened in May last year at a private auction to which not more than six potential buyers were invited. The auction was not advertised in local media as is the norm.

thepost has seen the list of those who were at the auction but will not reveal some of their names because it has not independently verified their attendance and their confirmation has not been sought.  It is however clear that the auctioneer and the liquidators had their sights on some of the wealthiest people in the country. The discreet nature of the auction could also indicate that the liquidators were anxious to avoid the drama that led to the cancellation of the initial auction in 2014.

At that auction a group of MKM creditors assaulted Stefan Carl Buys, the convener of the auction, accusing him of trying to sell off their properties to foreigners on the cheap. This time calls and emails were sent to just a handful of businessmen who the liquidators were sure to be interested and had the financial means to fork out the millions required to buy the prime properties.

Neither MKM’s directors nor its legal representatives were at the auction. Also, they were never informed of the result of the auction.
Simon Thebe-ea-Khale and Mothofeela Ramakatsa, MKM directors, say they did not know how much was paid for the buildings.
Investigations by this paper have revealed that the former Agric Bank building, along the Kingsway opposite Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, and in which FNB Lesotho is the main tenant, was bought for M58 million.

The buyer was Sekhametsi Investment Consortium, a venture capital company with interests in several businesses in the country.
The new and yet to be occupied building opposite Pioneer garage and next to Sparrows Bar was bought for M43 million by Executive Transport, a haulage company.

Executive Transport also paid M14 million for the dilapidated building opposite Selkol along Moshoeshoe Road. The building used to house a Nissan Motors dealership. Sekhametsi confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that it had bought the former Agric Bank building. The company said it owned the building “as per Deed of Transfer № 40265 dated 4th May, 2017”.

The company said it bought the building for M44 million, excluding stamp duties, transfer costs, seller’s commission and VAT”.
“In fact the total costs paid by (the company) for the acquisition of former Agric Bank Building is in excess of M58 million,” the statement reads.
But Sekhametsi said it regrets that the transaction is now the subject of a protest from MKM creditors.

It said it was worried that the deal “has become a public contention and part of protest action by entities and individuals that believe they were negatively impacted by the long standing Star Lion Group Limited in liquidation process, which was subject to a long running litigation from 2012”.
These protests however do not change the fact the building now belongs to Sekhametsi, the company said.

Sekhametsi director Matjato Moteane, told this paper that they have no problem with those complaining “as long as they don’t harass tenants at our building”. “They may have rights to complain and seek intervention from any rightful authorities but they should leave our tenants alone,” Moteane said.

Sekhametsi appealed to anybody “who may unwittingly be involved in the above protest action to respect its rights and exercise due caution as well as avoiding disturbance to the tenants of former Agric Bank Building and their customers”. Executive Transport chief executive, Lebona Lephema, refused to confirm buying the buildings. He referred questions to his lawyers Webber Newdigate.

“I cannot comment lest I jeopardise my case against this mob that has damaged our property,” Lephema said. “I have already engaged the police in this (the invasion) and I don’t think this is a proper time to talk.” Webber Newdigate, which was also involved in the liquidation, referred questions to local Attorney, Qhalehang Letsika, and Chavonnes Cooper, a liquidator from South Africa.

Letsika who was involved in the liquidation confirmed the sale but said he could not give exact details because he was out of his office. Cooper said he was not in his office because it was a public holiday in South Africa. Both men were working on the liquidation with lawyer DG Roberts who died a few weeks ago. The Master of the High Court said she could not comment because she was on leave. Ramakatsa told thepost yesterday that “even we as the directors of the purported company in liquidation were not aware of the auction of the properties”.

“This is totally against the law,” Ramakatsa said. “An auction should be conducted in public. We learnt that selected companies were advised to submit their offers and those that offered better prices were given the chance to buy the buildings.”

A defiant Thebe-ea-Khale said as far as he is concerned he still owns the buildings because he has the leases. thepost has been told that three other MKM properties will be put on the market soon.  What angered the creditors that invaded the properties last week is that they have not received a cent even after the liquidators have sold the buildings.

The Central Bank of Lesotho closed MKM in 2007 after a PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation declared the company a Ponzi scheme. The investigation revealed that the company owed creditors M400 million but its assets were worth about M100 million in assets. Its assets included buildings, some land and a fleet of cars that were however registered in Thebe-ea-Khale’s name.  As depositors took flight and deposits dried up MKM began to crumble. In the end nearly 400 000 Basotho, including then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, lost their monies.

Since then the company has launched spirited court battles to block its liquidation. Those cases, including those launched by proxies and creditors, have come to naught. The liquidators have also been trying to fend off what might amount to ambush suits from creditors who want to block the process.

MKM has a pending Court of Appeal case challenging the liquidation, according to Ramakatsa. After the last week’s fiasco at the buildings Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has entered the fray in a ditch to solve what many have considered a hot potato issue because of the amounts of money and number of people involved.

Thabane is reported to have instructed Attorney General Haae Phoofolo to help resolve the saga. Now that M115 million has been raised from the sale of MKM buildings creditors can ask a number of legitimate questions. Why haven’t the liquidators announced how much they have raised so far?

Why haven’t they called a creditors’ meeting to announce when they are going to start distributing what has been raised? Why were creditors not told of the sale a year after it was completed? When will the verification of the list of creditors be done? And most importantly, when do the liquidators plan to pay the creditors?

Staff Reporter

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Dead on arrival

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My sister delivered a stillborn baby when she was on her way to the clinic,” ’Matemoho Letšela, 23, barely holding back tears.

Letšela says her sister, whose name she withheld, suffered birth-pangs when she was alone at home in Khonofaneng village in Mokhotlong.

She was then rushed down the slopes of a mountain by some passers-by on foot, striding on the slopes of a rocky mountain, crossing deep gorges as she sought to get to the Molika-Liko Health Centre some eight kilometres away.

When she arrived at the clinic, the baby was declared dead on arrival.

Welcome to Mokhotlong, Lesotho’s mountainous region known worldwide for its big and clean diamonds where the people do not have basic services.

Letšela said her sister collapsed when she was on her way to the clinic and was only seen by some passers-by.

By the time passers-by saw her, it was already too late for her and her baby.

She was eight months pregnant. 

“She was still far from the clinic and away from the villages,” Letšela says.

“She had no one to help her until she lost her baby. She was helpless the whole day until it was too late for her to survive,” she says.

 “She had already lost a lot of blood and could not make it to the hospital.”

Letšela shared her sister’s story with thepost during a tour conducted by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to assess the impact of their assistance in Mokhotlong and Quthing districts a fortnight ago.

Letsela pleaded with the government to provide services in Mokhotlong’s hard-to-reach areas to avoid unnecessary deaths like her sister’s.

“My sister was eight months pregnant so the long walking distance might have been the cause of her early delivery and ultimate death,” she says.

She says there are still some villages in her area that are way far from where she stays, villages like Lichecheng where a patient must travel early in the morning, sleep on the way and reach the clinic the following day.

Cars cannot reach those remote areas, she says.

At Letšela’s area, they only have one bus that travels from home to town at 9am and will be back late at 8pm.

Even though they would love to always catch a ride whenever they are going to the clinic, sometimes they just do not have the money.

Letšela is three months pregnant now and says she cannot wait to reach 37 weeks so she can go and stay at the accommodation facilities provided by the clinic.

 “That is the advice from our midwives and I am willing to take that offer,” she says.

“I don’t want what happened to my sister to happen to me.”

When thepost met Letšela at the clinic last week, she had left her place at around 4am walking alone to the clinic and arrived after 10am.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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