MASERU — Masupha Sole, the former Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) boss who was recently freed from jail after serving nine years for bribery and fraud, has landed a plum job as an advisor to the same projects he solicited bribes from.
Sole, 60, was sentenced to a total 57 years in jail but was supposed to serve only 15 years because the sentences were running concurrently.
He was released on May 5 after serving eight years and 11 months for receiving nearly M5 million in bribes from dozens of international consultant companies that were awarded contracts during the construction of Mohale and Katse dams.
It is reliably understood that Sole was pardoned for good behaviour together with a number of other prisoners.
The Lesotho Times can reveal that Sole, who was convicted of 11 counts of bribery and two of fraud, has now been appointed a delegate to the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) which supervises the LHDA.
The LHWC is made up of delegates from South Africa and Lesotho.
It supervises the LHDA which runs the Katse and Mohale dams that were constructed in the 1990s to supply water from Lesotho to South Africa.
In exchange for the water South Africa pays about M50 million in monthly royalties to Lesotho.
Sole, an engineer, received the bribes over a 10-year period from February 1988 to December 1998 through various intermediates that deposited the monies in his offshore accounts in France, Germany and Switzerland.
Some of the companies that paid him millions in bribes were convicted in Lesotho and blacklisted by the World Bank.
At that time the prosecution of Sole and the companies gained Lesotho international recognition for its fight against corruption.
Lesotho was seen as a shining example of African countries committed to fighting graft.
Investigations by this paper have revealed that Sole started work at the LHWC on Monday last week.
In his new role as a delegate Sole will work as a chief technical advisor to the LHWC.
It’s a powerful post that some say could even be more influential than the position of the LHDA chief executive he held before he was convicted of bribery and fraud.
Before his conviction in 2002 Sole had been fired from the LHDA over corruption and fraud.
The authority had subsequently won a gruesome court battle to recover some of the monies that it claimed to have lost through Sole’s corrupt and fraudulent activities.
His bank accounts were frozen and his property seized by the LHDA to recover what the authority claimed to have lost.
His three houses were auctioned and so were his vehicles, a Mercedes Benz, a BMW and a 4×4 truck.
Sole was left with almost nothing, according to those close to him.
Some of the people who testified in that lawsuit are still with the authority whose operations Sole will now help supervise as a senior official of the LHWC.
His appointment coincides with the phase two of the highlands water project which is expected to begin soon.
South African officials will be in Lesotho today (Thursday) to sign the agreement that will see the construction of Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong.
Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki, whose ministry is in charge of the highlands water project, confirmed on Monday that Sole had been hired.
“Yes Sole is with the Highlands (Lesotho Highlands Water Project),” Moleleki said.
“However he has not been reinstated. I would rather we use a neutral word. He has been hired as a Lesotho citizen and will form part of the Highlands Water Commission.”
The minister however said he was reluctant to give further details about Sole’s appointment.
“I would prefer you talk to his immediate boss, Professor (Lebohang) Moleko. He is the one who can say more about Sole’s contract,” he said.
Moleko is the chief Lesotho delegate on the LHWC.
When contacted for a comment on Tuesday, Sole referred all questions to minister Moleleki and Moleko.
He said he would only speak after getting permission from them.
He was speaking from his new office at the LHWC.
Moleko said he could not comment on Sole’s employment because he is not responsible for “making appointments”.
“Appointments are made by the minister and other principals. He (Sole) has been appointed by the minister,” Moleko said.
Asked why Sole had been appointed, Moleko said, “I don’t want to commit myself to anything”.
When asked about the terms and conditions of Sole’s employment Moleko said he had not gone through the contract but all he knows “is that Sole has been appointed chief technical advisor”.
“For anything more than that you can go back to minister Moleleki,” said Moleko.
South Africa’s department of Water and Environmental Affairs, the equivalent of Lesotho’s natural resources ministry, said they were aware of Sole’s appointment.
The department’s director of external communication, Sputnik Ratau, told the Lesotho Times that Moleleki had informed South Africa’s Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa about the decision to appoint Sole as a delegate to the LHWC.
Ratau however said the department was not in a position to comment on the appointment because they have not received guidance from other departments and stakeholders.
He said the department will also check what the law says about the appointments of ex-convicts like Sole.
“As South Africa we are aware of the appointment because Lesotho’s natural resources minister informed our water affairs minister about it,” Ratau said.
“We have not said we accept or reject the appointment and our minister can’t say South Africa’s position until after we have done consultations.
“We need to look at the legality of the matter concerning the appointment on the joint commission of someone with a criminal record.
“We will also be guided by what’s in the agreement between Lesotho and South Africa and once we have done our own legal processes we will make a statement.”