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They must face the music



Elsewhere in this issue, we run a story of a local property company, J & M Properties, which is mired in a bitter dispute with the government over what it says is a breach of contract. The company was awarded a controversial yet lucrative contract to manage the Manthabiseng Convention Centre in early 2018. Under the deal, the government of Lesotho, would pay M32 960 in rentals to J & M Properties for the use of the facilities. And when the National Emergency Command Centre (NECC) was set up to fight Covid-19, the government was to fork out a staggering M53 000 a day to use the facilities over 77 days. That would translate to a staggering M4 million in rentals. There is no doubt in our mind that this was a patently corrupt deal that was heavily skewed in J & M Properties, a company that is linked to controversial businessman Yan “John” Xie. We simply cannot understand why the government would agree to such a rip-off at a time when it was pleading poverty. This is a building that it owns. Was this simply a case of dereliction of duty on the part of whoever authorised the deal or was it that they too were deep in it as they negotiated a chunk of the M4 million for themselves? The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) must get to the bottom of this matter. They must start going after the corrupt within us regardless of their position in society. For too long the media have reported on many issues involving the powerful in society. Cases have been reported and nothing was done afterwards. This, in our opinion, must now change. The Convention Centre deal was clearly an obscene deal. It was so outrageous as to offend our sense of what is right. Yet at the same time the deal merely worked to demonstrate how John Xie’s tentacles had spread within the government. Here was a man who was pulling the strings behind the scenes, winning every major business contract that mattered in Lesotho. Our government ministers had become impotent, too weak to stand up to Xie; they had been completely neutralised to the extent they could not raise any objections as John Xie ran rings around them. What happened at the centre is yet another vivid demonstration of the contempt with which some ministers treat state resources. Yet at the same time, the government was busy going around, with a bowl in hand, asking for handouts from international relief agencies. This was happening at a time when the government was claiming it did not have any money to buy personal protective equipment to fight Covid-19. This was the same government that was saying it did not have enough financial resources to pay allowances to doctors and nurses who are at the frontline in rolling back Covid-19. Those that have been retrenched and lost their only source of income due to Covid-19 have also not received any form of support from the government. We can therefore understand the rage among Basotho when they learnt of the massive “pilferage” at the Convention Centre. It is therefore our considered view that the government must never pay this M4 million that J & M Properties is claiming. It would a scandal of monumental proportions were the government to do so. We also believe that all those who negotiated this stinking deal on behalf of the government must also face the music.

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