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Woman, property tycoon in row over house



MASERU – Sebabatso Makote, a Mosotho living in the diaspora, met a local property developer Tšepo Thoahlane in early 2019.
Thoahlane was selling sites and off-plan houses on a piece of land in Masowe.

The project belonged to Barali Estates, a company owned by Thoahlane who also owns The Sign and The Market restaurant.
Makote said she wanted to build a house in Lesotho and Thoahlane assured her that she had come to the right person.

He said Barali Estates could build her a house in Masowe.
The agreement was that Barali Estates would build Makote a M1.3 million double-storey house.

Thoahlane said Makote should make an initial payment of 10 percent for Barali to start the construction.
Makote transferred M130 000 into Barali’s account in June 2019.

But nearly three years later, Thoahlane is yet to build the house. Nor has he refunded Makote her deposit.
Instead, Makote says Thoahlane has been making promises he doesn’t keep.

She says the trouble started when she asked Thoahlane to give him the lease to the land.

“He told me that they have a dispute with the owner of the land and the matter is in the courts,” Makote says.

“He asked for time to sort out his issues. I agreed but as time went by I realised that we had a problem.”

When Thoahlane failed to deliver the lease, Makote demanded a refund.

“That is when he said he didn’t have the money but was making a plan to pay me back. Now he is avoiding my calls.”

Thoahlane doesn’t deny owing Makote but says he has been struggling to raise the money after the project ran into legal problems. He also blames the Covid-19 pandemic.
The land was divided into 35 sites.

Thoahlane gave five of those sites to the owner of the land and started selling the other 30.
The funding was based on a mixture of mortgages from banks and direct payments from clients.

Makote was one of the cash clients.
Thoahlane’s company would sell the sites and register the lease before construction.

The clients would get mortgages from banks that would pay Barali to build them houses.
Self-funded clients like Makote would pay a deposit and pay as Barali was building.

Barali built six houses before the legal dispute with the landowner started. A court battle ensued, with the landowner claiming that Thoahlane had cheated her.
The project stalled and Barali sank into financial trouble.

Thoahlane says he could not give Makote the lease because the matter is still in court.

“As for the refund, I have told her that I am still raising the money,” Thoahlane says.

“We have sold some properties and we are waiting for the payments so that we can pay her back. I think by the end of next month we will have settled her.”

But Makote says this is the same story Thoahlane has been giving her for the past year.

“He said he had sold his house and would make me a priority once he has received the payment. But that has not happened,” Makote says.

She says in their previous meetings she told Thoahlane that Barali should not have used the deposit in the first place because it was supposed to be in a Trust Account as per his promise.
Thoahlane doesn’t have a clear answer as to why he used money that he had promised to keep in a Trust Account as required by the law. His explanation is that “this was an ongoing project so there was no reason to think we would not be able to build her the house”.

He says apart from Makote there is only one other client who hasn’t received their lease.

“The other client understands our situation.”

Thoahlane has not allowed his debt to Makote stop him from thriving in business.
He has started The Market, a thriving restaurant at Maseru Mall.

Asked why he is pleading poverty while starting other businesses, Thoahlane said “the two are not related”.

“These are separate companies. The Market and Barali only share a common shareholder,” Thoahlane says.

Makote says she is no longer interested in the house and only wants her money.

“It’s clear that he cannot deliver on his promises. All I want is the money. This is the money he should have never used in the first place.”

She says Thoahlane has been avoiding her calls for the past year.
Thoahlane however says he has never avoided her calls and remains committed to repaying her.

“I am in the process of raising the money and I believe we will pay her by the end of next month,” he says.

Staff Reporter

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