MPs to grill Majoro

MPs to grill Majoro

MASERU – PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro will soon be hauled before a parliamentary committee to explain how his government bungled the controversial solar deal that has led to Lesotho’s international assets being seized.
Also to be grilled is former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane whose office appears to have touted the deal, signed it and then breached it, leading to the seizure of the country’s assets worth M850 million.

Temeki Tšolo, who signed the deal with Frazer Solar in 2018 when he was a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office under the Thabane administration, will also be quizzed.
So will former government secretary Moahloli Mphaka who will be joined on the hot seat by ’Masentle Ntobaki who was Tšolo’s ministerial secretary and Hlophe Matla who was working as Tom Thabane’s private aide.

As the inquest into the contract and the seizure of assets continues, finger-pointing has gone into overdrive as government officials deny culpability.
In the meantime, new evidence that has emerged in the past few weeks reveals the role that Thabane, Tšolo, Ntobaki and Matla played in getting the deal signed and then ignored legal warnings and notices until the government was on the hook for M850 million.

There is also evidence that Majoro was informed about the impending seizure a month before it started.
This is contrary to initial statements at a press conference on May 19 that neither he nor the government was aware of the contract or the legal battle that was brewing.
“We were made aware first in South Africa newspapers, and then in international newspapers, of an arbitral award with a company called Frazer Solar. We were taken aback by this, but we are studying this arbitral award and will respond appropriately to this,” Majoro said.

Frazer Solar however says it sent an email and fax to Majoro on April 19 giving notice of its application for enforcement in the South African court.
The company says it has a notification that Majoro read the email.
The credibility of the government’s suggestion that it was “taken aback” by Frazer Solar’s efforts to seize Lesotho’s assets is also becoming increasingly doubtful in the face of new evidence.
Twelve of the 26 notifications the government received about the case over two years were received by one P. Lebusa who works in the general secretary’s office in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Those notices were hand-delivered and received by Lebusa.
The notice of the arbitration that the government did not attend and eventually led to the current seizure was hand-delivered to Lebusa by a Sheriff of Court.
The Prime Minister’s office received five notifications, including one sent to Majoro, by email, on April 19 this year.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also received notification. So did the Ministry of Mining where Tšolo was minister at one point.
There is also evidence that Tšolo, who is alleged to have signed the deal but is vehemently denying it, appeared to have touted the project in a letter to the Minister of Energy in May 2018.

“The Project promises to have a profound and positive impact on the entire country which we may wish to seriously consider,” Tšolo said.
Curiously, Tšolo couched the project as the Germany government’s initiative “to improve energy efficiency that would also create employment in Lesotho through a large-scale provision of energy efficient solar and lighting equipment”.

Frazer Solar, which had submitted the proposal, was described as the “German Government’s nominated supplier”.
This was however not the case because it was Frazer Solar that brought the proposal and suggested a German bank to finance the deal through a ten-year loan.
Tsolo also described the loan as ‘soft’, meaning it attracted concessionary rates, yet half of the M1.5 billion contract was profit for Frazer Solar. This is the M850 million the company is claiming and is seeking to recover by confiscating Lesotho’s international assets.
So far, Frazer Solar has won an order to confiscate the water royalties that Lesotho receives from South Africa and millions that Eskom owes to Lesotho.

It has also won an order to seize Lesotho’s five percent shareholding in a telecommunications company in Mauritius.
There is also an order to impound assets in the United Kingdom. There are also efforts to target assets in the United States.
The company says it is hunting for other international assets.
The suggestion to call Majoro, Thabane, Tšolo and others was made by Mokhotlong MP, Tefo Mapesela, after both Thabane’s private aide and Tšolo’s ministerial secretary said they knew about the deal.
This followed revelations by Prime Minister’s Chief Legal Officer, Seeeng Matšosa, who was quizzed on Tuesday and said the government agreements in their office show that Tšolo and Frazer both signed the deal.
“The witnesses are ’Masentle Ntobaki who was Tšolo’s ministerial secretary and Hlophe Matla who was working as Tom Thabane’s private aide,” Matšosa said.

This contradicts Tsolo’s vehement denials that he did not sign the contract. Two weeks ago, Tšolo insinuated that his signature could have been forged.
The parliamentary committee heard that Majoro, who was then the Finance Minister, chaired one of the meetings to discuss the deal.
“How did the former Finance Minister Majoro chair the second meeting yet he was not there in the first meeting, what did he know about that company?” Mapesela quipped.

“Thabane, Majoro, Mphaka, and Tšolo must be called to the committee to shed light on what they know about the issue,” he said.
Mapesela said this after the Energy Director of Planning, Mothobi Letooane, said in 2017 they were called to “a meeting about someone who wanted to do a solar project”.
“It was coordinated by Temeki Tšolo,” Letooane said.
He also said Majoro got involved in one of the meetings.
“The Minister of Finance then was Majoro who personally asked us for advice and also asked us to form a task team to work on the issue,” Letooane said.

“But since the Ministry of Energy was not interested it was hard for us to carry on,” he said.
Letooane said Majoro “personally asked us for advice”.
He said they are shocked that some people signed “yet the Finance Minister then had asked for advice”.
“No minister can sign an agreement without the Finance Minister,” he said.
Mphaka is said to have shelved legal documents served on the government by Frazer Solar lawyers hence the company went to court and won without the government opposing the lawsuit.

“We want Mphaka to come and tell us why they did not inform the Attorney General about the documents,” Mapesela said.
The committee further heard that the reason the government did not respond to court papers after Frazer Solar sued at the Johannesburg High Court was that they were not served to the office of the Attorney General.
Matšosa said most papers were served to the government secretary’s office, saying the Attorney General would have acted on the letters if they were correctly delivered to his office.

She also said the Johannesburg High Court orders were served to the Foreign Affairs Ministry through diplomatic channels.
Matšosa said the government did not respond to Frazer Solar’s lawyers because the communications were circulating in Tšolo’s office, including some important papers.
“The government did not know about the communications as they were never delivered to the relevant offices,” Matšosa said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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