MASERU — Former natural resources minister Monyane Moleleki is facing trial for allegedly assisting four men to fraudulently acquire a mining licence.
Moleleki, who is the deputy leader of the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party, briefly appeared before Chief Magistrate ’Matankiso Nthunya yesterday morning to face two charges of fraud. He was granted M1 500 bail and his case was postponed to March 27. Moleleki becomes the first former minister who served under former premier Pakalitha Mosisili to be arraigned before the courts for crimes allegedly committed while still in office.
The prosecution says between May and June last year Moleleki assisted Mohapi Khofu, Tšepo Khofu, Kereke Moteletsane, Moeketsi Motšoane and their company Refela Holdings (Pty) Ltd to acquire a prospecting mining licence without having applied for it. The second charge says Moleleki intentionally abused the functions of his ministerial position when he violated the provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act 2005 “for the purposes of obtaining an undue advantage for himself and/or for the” four men and their company.
His co-accused, who appeared before magistrate ’Manapo Motebele on January 30 this year, are charged with possession of the prospecting licence despite that they “did not (apply) in writing through the commissioner (of mines) when applying for prospecting licences at Ha-Ramatšeliso and Mosaqane in the district of Qacha’s Nek”. They are also charged with submitting to the commissioner’s office “false documents purporting that (they) held a community meeting at Ha-Ramatšeliso and Mosaqane . . . where they [intended] to apply for prospecting mining licences”.
The prosecution says they knew well that they did not hold any meetings in those places and the names of people who are alleged to have attended those community meetings were fictitious. The four men are further charged with defrauding the government by altering a date and conditions set out in the already false document and passed it to the Ministry of Natural Resources so that they could be issued with a letter of clearance from the Director of Environment.
The letter was issued on June 4, 2012 not on May 29 as the men made it to appear, according to the charge sheet. Both men are directors of Refela Holdings.
Moleleki was treated as a celebrity by a group of DC youths who rushed to the magistrate’s court on hearing that he had been arrested. They shouted party slogans and raised clenched fists when he appeared from the court’s door escorted by plain-clothed police led by Maseru’s top investigator Senior Superintendent Sello Mosili. His beaming smile at the sight of the party youths belied the fact that he was in court because he was connected with a serious crime of corruption and assisting crime suspects. Moleleki, clad in a grey suit, white shirt and red tie raised his clenched right fist in response to the ululations of the party supporters who had now formed a circle around him, giving his bodyguards a tough time clearing the way to his waiting car.
Later in the afternoon he blasted the coalition government when he addressed the party members who had gathered at the DC headquarters at Puma House.
“If this is how the Thabane administration believes it will lead Basotho to prosperity let us give it a chance,” Moleleki said. “But I swear that they are failing, their government has not produced any good results ever since its establishment last year.” He said the Thabane-led government is “just blabbering about abolition of corruption and hell bent on arrests that never bear good results”. “Their jabbering is meaningless because we do not see any progress,” he said. He cautioned the mob when it tried to expel police intelligence agents who were at the gathering. “Do not chase them away because we of the DC do not have any problems with the police doing their job,” Moleleki said.
“They have every right to be here and listen to us and analyse our discussions,” he said. “They will draw a distinction between us and the ABC (All Basotho Convention) and BNP (Basotho National Party (BNP).” Moleleki said DC members should not be hostile to the police investigating their leaders because by so doing they would be undermining efforts to restore justice to the corruption-plagued country. This is not the first time that Moleleki has been hauled before courts in connection with fraud. In August last year the police ransacked his home in Qoatsaneng and an orphanage under his control in Machache which he represents in parliament.
The police confiscated boxes full of documents which they believed contained information that supported its allegations that he had used the orphanage to siphon money from the government. The prosecution however failed to lay charges against him. At that time Moleleki said the new government was targeting him.
The investigation, he said, was a political fight against the DC. “I am saying they should investigate me thoroughly, both locally and internationally. This is an open challenge to the government and the police,” Moleleki said. “I assure them that at the end of it all they will come out with nothing. I will come out as clean as snow on a mountain.”
But he said after investigating him, the police must then investigate everyone else who has been in previous governments. “If the idea is to investigate possible corruption then we must all run the gauntlet. “I don’t have a problem with an investigation that is fair and includes everyone. “I am also open to the idea of declaring my assets. I will comply with any inquiry but we must all undergo the same process,” Moleleki said.