Lesotho Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has slapped former minister of finance ‘Mamphono Khaketla with a corruption charge for the alleged solicitation of M4 million ($302 000) bribe in exchange for a government fleet tender.
According to the anti-corruption body, Khaketla, together with her co-accused, Thabo Napo solicited the bribe from Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions Joint Venture on March 17, 2016.
According to the charge sheet, Khaketla in common purpose with her “friend and/or partner” Napo attempted to solicit a bribe of about M4 million from Lebelonyane in exchange for a government fleet tender, also known as Lesotho fleet-gate which was eventually awarded to South African based Bidvest Bank Limited.
The DCEO adds Khaketla was to use her powers and position as minister of finance to influence and ensure that the tender is awarded to Lebelonyane.
The duo appeared in Maseru Magistrate Court today (Thursday) and was granted a bail on conditions that they each pay a bail deposit of M5000 ($378) and report to the offices of the DCEO on the last Friday of every month.
According to senior resident Magistrate, the two will reappear before the court on September 28 2017 for their next remand and a possible set-down of the trial.
In this matter, Khaketla was represented by Advocate Molise Molise of Molati Chambers while her accomplice Thabo Napo was defended by Advocate Lepeli Molapo.
Last year, then-ruling Democratic Congress (DC) youth league made allegations Khaketla had attempted to solicit a M4 million bribe from the joint venture company over the controversial fleet tender.
The allegation was echoed by Lebelonyane which also alleged the minister used a proxy (Napo) to make her demand.
The multi-million-rand fleet contract was one of the root causes of the split in the former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-led DC in November 2016.
A faction loyal to then DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki accused loyalists of Mosisili in the party of corruptly influencing the awarding of the fleet services deal in Bidvest’s favour after Lebelonyane refused to pay the M4 million bribes.
Their ire was mainly directed at Khaketla, who serves as the Mosisili-led party’s treasurer; they accused her of disregarding due process in awarding the tender to Bidvest at the expense of Lebelonyane that had been recommended for the contract.
Khaketla, who was later reshuffled to the Foreign Affairs portfolio, has vehemently denied allegations of corruption and even sued some of her accusers for M6 million ($455 000) for alleged defamation.
Moleleki and his faction eventually left the DC and formed Alliance of Democrats (AD) in December 2016 after failing to oust Mosisili from the helm of the party.
Moleleki, after forming AD, openly criticised Khaketla about this multi-million fleet deal which he said was used to fleece more than M500-million ($38-million) from the government purse without following the country’s procurement laws.
The AD is now part of the four-party coalition government led by Thomas Thabane and Moleleki is deputy prime minister.