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Why the Chinese are winning tenders

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MASERU – PUBLIC Works Minister Prince Maliehe says the government’s hands are tied when it comes to giving lucrative tenders to Chinese owned companies without going through tender processes. Maliehe told a press conference last week that in most cases the government is bound by agreements it signed with Chinese financiers.
Under the terms of the concessional loan agreements, the Chinese government insists that Lesotho source service providers from China.
A concessional or soft loan is a loan that you pay no interest or where a country pay a below-market rate of interest.

They are often given by multinational development banks, affiliates of the World Bank and government agencies to developing countries that would be unable to borrow at the market rate.
Soft loans on the other hand are loans that have lenient terms, such as extended grace periods in which only interest or service charges are due.
Soft loans typically offer longer amortisation schedules (in some cases up to 50 years) and lower interest rates than conventional bank loans, according to Investopedia.
Maliehe said Lesotho often finds itself accepting the conditions that are attached to the soft loans from China.

He however swiftly said the funders select contractors in China and therefore they are not bound by Lesotho’s procurement regulations.
Maliehe and his Principal Secretary Mothabathe Hlalele were trying to deal with a public relations backlash after local construction companies accused the two of dishing money-spinning jobs to Chinese companies.
The press conference also came a week after opposition parties claimed the Chinese had “captured the state”.
Hlalele however refuted allegations that they favoured Chinese-owned companies over Basotho companies.

“These accusations in the social media and elsewhere, in newspapers and radio stations are baseless,” Hlalele said.
“They say we only give jobs to foreign companies and I want to tell you that we do not,” he said.
“Our aim is to improve the lives of Basotho, how can we not give them jobs if we have any means to do that? Please do not be misled, we offer good jobs to Basotho because we want to reduce the rate of poverty in the country.”

Hlalele said the projects that his ministry is undertaking in the country “almost 99 percent of them are done by local companies”.
Maliehe singled out some projects that were done with the help of the Chinese, amongst many others that the government did with help from other funders.
He referred to the building of the new State House built at a cost of M190 million “and 100 Basotho had the opportunity to get employment out of that construction”.
“Besides that, we are still in the process of building a Stop Shop Vehicle Testing Station at Ha-Foso, which will help to make sure that cars are still in good condition for the safety of the people,” Maliehe said.

“The amount of M65 million is being budgeted for this project and at the end of this year the construction will come to an end,” he said.
Maliehe said the ministry is also in the process of designing the Maputsoe cross border station which will be opened in the new year.
“When constructing roads we also make trade easy between Lesotho and other countries nearby, while on the other hand government buildings help to bring services to the communities,” he said.
He also said the road between Tele and Alwynskop, a 10 kilometre bitumen road which cost M118 million has been built.

He said a Lesotho contractor, Matekane Group of Companies, was the one given the contract.
“Although we are trying by all means to do our work, but we still have some challenges such as lack of funds,” he said.
He also mentioned the controversial 62 kilometre long road from Marakabei and Monontša – which sparked much discontent from local companies after they learnt that it was given to ChinaGeo Company through selective tendering.

Some of the projects that were financed and done by the Chinese include a national network for telecommunications in which Lesotho used a US$60 million (about M828 million) concessional loan given by the Chinese to help Econet Telecom Lesotho.
The job was given to a Chinese company called Zhongxing Technologies (ZTE) and Econet Telecom Lesotho in 2010.

Other completed projects are the National Convention Centre, now the main venue for many international and regional conferences hosted by Lesotho, the Butha-Buthe Industrial Park, the National Library & Archives Building, the New Parliament Building Project and two secondary school projects in remote areas of Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek.
The Chinese have also built a new modern China-Lesotho friendship school at the top of Berea Plateau in Thuathe.

Projects that are in the pipeline include the Radio and Television Network Expansion Project and the construction of the Maseru District Hospital, which will replace Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, and the Eye Clinic Project.

There is also the Ha-Mpiti to Sehlabathebe road in Qacha’s Nek, Hlotse Multi-purpose Dam and Mafeteng’s 70 MW Solar Power Plant among others.
According to a paper titled Eastern Promises: New Data on Chinese Loans in Africa, between 2000 and 2007, concessional loans were always denominated in Chinese RMB, and required at least 50 percent of the goods and services procured under the loan to come from China.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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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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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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