Mabusetsa Lenka Thamae, National Coordinator for a non-profit organisation, Survivors of Lesotho Dams (SOLD), has found himself in hot water after claims of him exploiting the organisation’s funds to form a political party emerged.
Thamae has been accused of using the organisation’s resources to fund the formation of a newly formed party called Metsi and Natural Resources Party (Metsi). According to its constitution, Metsi was registered with the Law Office in May 2021.
Anonymous sources privy to SOLD operations told MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism that Thamae has not done anything substantial for the organisation with funds that he receives from donors but instead funneled them towards the formation of a political party. Sources say Thamae kept information about received grants as his closely guarded secret against his staff.
Speaking to MNN, Thamae lied, saying that SOLD never had funds.
Thamae is not new to party politics as he forms Metsi defecting from Basotho National Party (BNP). The BNP stalwart, Tšeliso Lesenya, confirmed that Lenka is a BNP Motimposo constituency member who was in 2019 among its aspiring National Executive Committee contestants but lost elections.
MNN has seen a December 20, 2021 letter from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) informing Metsi party of its successful registration with the electoral body. Advocate Lehlohonolo Suping, then acting Director of Elections confirmed the authenticity of this letter to MNN.
When he formed Metsi, Thamae dragged along several members from the Board and primary staff of SOLD who now also double as executive members of the new political party. The party constitution shows Thamae as its President, and Sekara Mafisa, former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission and SOLD’s Legal Research Person, as the party’s Deputy President.
Five other executive members of SOLD: Vice Chairperson Malerato Pelea, Secretary General Monaheng Mahlakeng, Organiser Molefi Khapane, Public Relations Officer Justice Makhechane are also executive members of Metsi.
SOLD’s Finance and Administration officer, Likeleli Mosoeu, is also a member of the new party’s executive.
SOLD is yet to decide Thamae’s fate within the organisation. Speaking to MNN, the chairperson of the organisation’s Board, Bolae Matalasi, said the governing body was set to meet in April to decide on Thamae’s dismissal.
Matalasi also stated that he had grounds to suspect that during SOLD initiatives involving several villages, Thamae exploited attendance lists from those communities to obtain the 500 signatures which is the IEC’s prerequisite for one to register a party.
Thamae initially denied claims that he had formed a political party, saying forming a party was only a possibility because the communities had made a request to him but he was yet to respond in March.
He also denied claims of misusing SOLD funds on the alleged party formation saying at this moment, “SOLD does not have any finances”.
“We are struggling to have our proposals succeed. One reason is that we came independent at the “wrong time”- Covid 19 was already there in 2019 when we began as an independent and autonomous entity …we are strong on issues, but weak on resources,” Thamae told MNN.
Contradictory to Thamae’s claims, MNN has established that SOLD had funds as it received a number of grants from the Global Greengrant Fund to finance the “charitable activities of SOLD”.
Leaked emails between Thamae and the funders show that the organisation received a total of $10 000 (M150 817) both in 2020 and 2021 from Global Green. Allison Finnegan-Kihega, the Global Green Fund’s grants associate told MNN that they could not comment until they have completed their investigation on SOLD.
Confronted with evidence of Metsi and his name appearing in its constitution as the president, Thamae then admitted that there is a political party founded by persons affected by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and they want him to be its President.
“Yes, I’m considering that but I cannot give a definitive answer until March…I want to make sure my table is cleared before devoting my full attention to politics,” Thamae said.
Mohato Morokole, Metsi party’s spokesperson, has also denied that Thamae is their president.
When challenged with the party’s constitution, which identifies Thamae as its President, Morokole claimed not to be privy to provisions of their party’s constitution.
Morokole made it plain that he did not want to talk about the party’s Presidency or SOLD in any way until the party has deliberated on the matter.
Asked how the party sourced its funds, Morokole said they made contributions as the executive members and also received support from well-wishers, whom he did not want to mention.
On his part, Thamae said: “I haven’t used SOLD’s resources to form a political party… But when it’s my money, then I will use it if I’m going to be part of the party”.
Asked about lying that SOLD did not have funds and the new party constitution having his name as its president, Thamae refused to comment, saying that he had “no time for idle talk”.
“Honestly, if Thamae was doing anything for the company, it would be visible and tangible. SOLD has no banners, staff members have to bring their own computers, and there is even no WiFi. So, if he is truly withdrawing funds for the organization or the communities, why is there no evidence of this?” queried one of the sources.
Another source said in 2020 they received a project that required them to go to Mokhotlong for the community that was affected by Phase 2 of Lesotho Highlands Water Project. “We needed some resources to undertake that, only for ntate Thamae to say that there was no money. At that point, he had not told us that he just received funding from Global Greengrant Fund.
Opaque financial reporting
According to a source close to the matter, Thamae together with SOLD treasurer, Anna Moepi, have the signing powers to withdraw funds and the two withdrew M22 000 for activities that Thamae did not disclose to the rest of the organization team.
Moepi, on the other hand, claimed that despite signing off on the sum, which she claims came from Zimbawe for the research of the Polihali dam, she never received the report despite many attempts to obtain it from Lenka.
“I cannot do the report alone. I called the meeting deliberately so that Ntate Lenka can provide me with a report on how he used the money. It’s been some time since we’ve planned the meeting. I told them even if there can be only five of us, the meeting can still happen,” Moepi said.
The meeting had not taken place prior to the publishing of this story.