MASERU — Kennedy Lefothane, the man at the centre of the bribery storm in which Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki’s name was allegedly peddled, has been booted out by his consortium.
He told the Sunday Express this week the “majority” in Motete Mining, the consortium that has been fighting for the prospecting rights for Lemphane Diamond Mine in Butha-Buthe, had asked him to step down as the consortium’s secretary.
Lefothane said his “suspension” was to facilitate an internal probe into the suspected scam, as revealed by this paper last week, that would have seen a Maseru-based company forking out M700 000 to supposedly secure a contract to supply equipment to Motete Mining.
He had allegedly asked Marsh (Pty) Ltd to shell out the money of which M600 000 was supposedly meant to grease Moleleki’s palms.
The Motete Mining board met to discuss the allegations at Maseru Sun on Tuesday.
“The board had a meeting and I have been outvoted to step down as secretary pending investigations into allegations made in the Sunday Express,” Lefothane said.
“I was outvoted by the majority.”
He could not say the number of board members at the meeting.
Motete Mining was however originally made up of five local companies, including Lefothane’s Ken Kev Holdings.
Lefothane was initially not willing to talk about his alleged role in the suspected bribery plot, only saying he was eager to clear Moleleki’s name.
“Honourable Minister Moleleki has never been involved nor have we ever had any discussion regarding an equipment contract,” Lefothane said.
“Mr Moleleki is not at all involved in the whole bribery scam.”
Moleleki last week denied any involvement in the suspected scam but said he knew “someone” had allegedly peddled his name to “swindle people”.
The damning allegations against Lefothane were made in an e-mail that Marsh (Pty) Ltd wrote to Motete Mining board member Mohau Thakaso.
This paper has also seen mobile phone text messages that Lefothane allegedly sent to Marsh (Pty) Ltd officials demanding the money and insisting that part of it would be given to “the minister”.
“I never mentioned any minister in my text messages or said his name in any of the meetings,” Lefothane said.
“All I can tell you is that some of the text messages are genuine, others fictitious.”
He said he was not willing to go into details of the allegations against him.
However, about two hours after the interview, Lefothane phoned to plead his innocence.
“I would never in a million years ask for a bribe nor be involved in a corrupt activity. Never!” he said.
Earlier, Lefothane had attacked Thakaso, saying he was allegedly “the source that has brought the consortium into disrepute”.
He said Thakaso had no right to continue acting as Motete Mining’s chairman because he was allegedly booted out last year.
“I would like to make it categorically clear that a vote of no confidence against Mr Thakaso was passed on 15 September 2009,” Lefothane said.
“We voted him out as chairman of Motete Mining.”
Thakaso has always been quoted in the media as Motete Mining chairman.
“He has actually acted unlawfully to speak on behalf of the board,” Lefothane charged.
However, Thakaso yesterday said he had dismissed the vote of confidence against him as a “joke”.
“Lefothane left a letter with my domestic worker at my home which said they had no confidence in me but I just dismissed it as a joke,” Thakaso said.
“I reasoned that if they had no confidence in me they should have called me to a hearing and told me my sins before taking any action against me or they should have held elections which they never did.”
Thakaso said Lefothane was bitter after he frustrated his alleged efforts to swindle M700 000 from Marsh (Pty) Ltd.
The apparent boardroom fight is the latest twist to the Motete Mining saga.
Before the bribery allegations against Lefothane surfaced, the consortium was threatening to take legal action against Moleleki.
The minister has been accused of backtracking on his promise to the companies that made up Motete Mining that he would give them the rights for Lemphane Diamond Mine if they formed the consortium first.
One cannot operate a mine without getting the rights from the government.
Motete Mining members also allege that apart from promising to give the consortium the rights for the mine Moleleki had also undertaken to find them an investor to fund their operations.
They however say soon after they formed the consortium Moleleki instead gave the rights to Meso Diamonds, a company owned by local tycoon Sam Matekane.
The consortium says Moleleki’s decision means they will not benefit from the lucrative mining deal.