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Heads must roll



ELSEWHERE in this issue, we carry a massive story of how the government of Lesotho bungled an M855 million deal that it signed with a German solar company, Frazer Solar. The Gauteng High Court has already ruled in Frazer Solar’s favour in a default judgment. The office of the sheriff of the High Court has now garnished water royalties which were due to be paid to Lesotho. There are genuine fears that Lesotho’s assets outside the country could also be seized. Yet with such a monumental scandal on its doors, the government of Lesotho has tried to put up a brave face, telling the media last week that all was well and that no assets would be seized. How sad. The then Minister in the Prime Minister’s office who is said to have appended his signature to the documents, Temeki Tšolo, is also denying culpability. Tšolo has vociferously denied that he signed the contract suggesting that his signature might have been forged. But that is too late. The arbitrator has already made a ruling on the matter and the courts have also issued enforcement orders in favour of the company. We would like to believe that Lesotho will need to pull a miracle of biblical proportions if it is to undo the damage. That is a tall order. Amidst all this anger and confusion, Tšolo and the government led by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro are still digging in. That is unhelpful. Despite the fervent denials by Tšolo, we would like to believe that it is either the government slept on the job or there is something that we are not being told. Tšolo, who was a key ally of Thabane, could have thought the deal would work to advance the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s waning political fortunes. There is a real possibility that he might have thought that by providing solar electricity to over 350 000 households, the party could gain political mileage out of the deal. He might have looked at the deal with politically tinted eyes. Now that the deal has backfired, the government led by Majoro must live with the consequences of its ineptitude. That will not be nice. It is clear that Tšolo did not have the power to sign the contract and that the Prime Minister’s office should not have dealt with the matter in the first place. The Attorney General, who is the government’s chief legal adviser, was also not consulted. The contract, which was heavily tilted in Frazer Solar’s favour, was therefore never scrutinised. That is what is making the whole deal stink. Lesotho’s anti-corruption unit must swing into action and look into this. This is their moment to shine. In our opinion, the scandal seems to suggest that there was negligence of duty which almost borders on criminality. It is for that reason that those who signed and pushed for the deal must face the music. The list of those to be hauled over the coals should include any civil servants who might have received notices from the courts but decided to sit on the case. The government’s own bureaucracy has now left the country saddled with an M855 million debt, money that could have been channeled towards the development of Lesotho. Heads should certainly roll. We also note that Lesotho received at least 25 notices informing it that it was in breach of the contract. But that was not enough to jolt the sleepy bureaucrats in government. This could also be the clearest signal that government systems are in shambles and that they are not working. Lesotho will need to jerk up its administrative systems so that nothing of this sort happens again.

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