Explosive claims as DCEO boss Manyokole faces ouster
- launches spirited court bid to interdict ouster
- accuses Mahao and PM Majoro of being “crusaders of corruption” and of “insatiable desire” to protect corrupt people by firing him.
Pascalinah Kabi | Mohalenyane Phakela
THE Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Mahlomola Manyokole, has sensationally accused Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao of seeking to oust him to protect “corrupt” government officials and others from being investigated and prosecuted.
Adv Manyokole makes his damning allegations against prime minister Majoro and minister Mahao in court papers in which he seeks to interdict the moves to suspend him pending firing. He filed the court papers on Friday shortly after receiving a “show cause” notice from Prof Mahao why he should not be suspended pending the institution of a tribunal to probe his fitness to remain in office. He was given three days within which to respond but Mr Manyokole seems to have opted to pre-empt the any action against him by seeking a High Court interdict.
In his certificate of urgency, explaining why the matter should be heard as an urgent matter Advocate Manyokole’s lawyer, Katleho Nyabela, describes Prof Mahao and Dr Majoro as “crusaders of corruption”.
He claims their “insatiable desire” to oust his client as DCEO boss was borne out of their need to “immunise themselves and other crusaders of corruption and corrupt activities from such investigation and due process of the law”.
“Their (Prof Mahao and Dr Majoro)’s concerns derive simply from the fact that the 1st applicant has mounted several criminal investigations concerning or involving high ranking government officials and private persons, one way or the other connected or of interest to the respondents,” Adv Nyabela alleges in the certificate of urgency.
Prof Mahao wants Adv Manyokole fired over a litany of charges including alleged misconduct, incompetence, corruption and failure to prosecute former Finance Minister ‘Mamphono Khaketla for alleged corruption.
He wrote to Adv Manyokole on Thursday demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be suspended to pave way for the appointment of a tribunal to determine whether or not he should not be dismissed over all the allegations levelled against him.
But the stage is now set for a titanic battle after Adv Manyokole instead rushed to the High Court to try and interdict his removal.
Adv Manyokole argues that ever since his July 2019 appointment by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the DCEO under his stewardship has been busy investigating economic offences and other cases of corruption.
He says the DCEO’s investigative net “was cast wide and drew in its mighty pull, crusaders and proponents of corruption and economic offences” who have always thought themselves to beyond the DCEO’s reach. He says even high-ranking officials in the current Majoro-led government, which succeeded the Thabane administration in May 2020, are under investigation for corruption and economic offences, hence the bid to oust him.
“It is these investigations which have touched the nerve centre and cradle of the dark world of the corrupt. The political machinery started rolling in an attempt to protect the underhand activities and to ensure that the dark world of the corrupt is not disrupted.
“Consequently, moves have been made to have me removed from the helm of the DCEO. I am in possession of secret information and intelligence (and which I beg leave of the honourable court not to disclose the details and contents thereto as the matters are related are sensitive and privileged issues) that some of those who are basking in the comfort of the nefarious criminality aforesaid have suggested to the government that all means must be adopted and employed to ensure my removal from the office of the DCEO,” Adv Manyokole states.
He adds that “it therefore came not as a surprise that when I was on an official trip in South Africa on 10 December 2020, my secretary informed me that a ‘show cause’ letter had been written to me and served at my office”.
Prof Mahao’s letter is titled: “Show cause letter why I may not recommend your suspension from duty pending the establishment of a tribunal to investigate your fitness to hold office in terms of section 4 (5) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act of 1995 as amended”.
Prof Mahao begins by reminding Adv Manyokole that his July 2019 appointment by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to the DCEO’s top job had “placed a heavy burden on your shoulders given the turbulent phase which the Kingdom of Lesotho is experiencing of rampant corruption and economic offences staged by senior politicians and government bureaucrats at times in collusion with private citizens”.
“The institution that you lead is a critical one with the core mandate of investigating suspected cases of corruption and economic crimes.
“This correspondence serves to inform you that I am contemplating to advise the Prime Minister …to establish a tribunal to probe your fitness to hold office. Pending the contemplated action on my part, I invite you with this correspondence to show cause why I may not recommend your suspension from office pending the contemplated advice in terms of the law on account of a trail of issues…which hinge on the concern that you did not manage the affairs of the institution well with the requisite diligence and professional aptitude.”
Among other things, Prof Mahao alleges that Adv Manyokole failed or neglected to develop and implement a sound management system within the DCEO “to maximise the efficiency of the investigative mandate of the anti-corruption body”.
“You unilaterally endeavoured to withdraw criminal charges staged against one former Minister of Finance – ‘Mamphono Khaketla- without the concurrence and or consultation with the office of Director of Public Prosecutions and as a result arrogated to your esteemed office the powers which you do not enjoy. As a result, you brought both the office of Director General of the institution you lead and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions into disrepute.
“Alternatively, you negligently conducted the proceedings involving the aforesaid former Minister of Finance – ‘Mamphono Khaketla in a manner that is left wanting professionally in material respects and as a result the aforesaid case was derailed and or bore the potential of being dismissed.
“Some time on 2 July 2019 or thereabout, you were issued with a savingram by the prosecuting authority which bore the heading D.C.E.O. R.C.U.I. 04/02/19 Rex V. Teboho Tlokotsi and five others: Bribery.
“The said savingram bore a directive to the effect that you prosecute two private citizens plus three public officers but you willfully and wrongfully acted contrary to the directive by declining to prosecute the public officers and selectively prosecuting only the two private citizens. This was a clear act of breach of the constitutional mandate of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and as a result you again put the two institutions into disrepute.
“There are serious allegations against you in the Public Accounts Committee to the effect that you failed to act and or by omission and or commission, frustrate the conduct of investigations against individuals and or personnel aligned to your good office. There is a criminal case staged against you whereupon you are being accused of obstruction of justice,” Prof Mahao states.
Dr Khaketla, who Prof Mahao refers to, served as finance minister in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ government from 2015 to 2017.
Together with businessman Thabo Napo, they stand accused of soliciting a M4 Million bribe from representatives of the Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions Joint Venture (JV) in exchange for favourable consideration in a multimillion-maloti vehicle fleet tender. The case is pending before the High Court.
Prof Mahao further claims there are several other cases which fell away without being prosecuted because of the DCEO’s “professional ineptitude” under Adv Manyokole’s watch.
He says even when cases have been prosecuted none of them have been finalised to date. He essentially accuses the DCEO boss of gross incompetence for not achieving any single successful prosecution since his appointment, notwithstanding the rampant corruption in Lesotho.
“Since your appointment you have not reported any comprehensive plan and or programme to execute the core mandate of prosecuting crimes in both subordinate courts and superior courts.
“There are no completed criminal cases under your overall administration and this serves to point towards your gross professional ineptitude and or negligence in utter breach of your mandate.
He concludes his letter by inviting Adv Manyokole to file his written response within three working days.
“I will be more than pleased if your written response to this correspondence reaches my office within three days after receipt of this letter. Your failure to respond shall be interpreted to mean you have waived your right to be heard and will attract my formal advice to Prime Minister to cause for your suspension pending the establishment of the tribunal,” Prof Mahao states.
Prof Mahao refused to comment on the issue, saying, “I cannot comment on the contents of that letter (to Adv Manyokole) because they are confidential”.
Although, Adv Manyokole had been given until tomorrow to respond, failing which he would be automatically suspended, he decided to pre-empt the move by filing the urgent application to interdict his suspension. The application will be heard on Tuesday.
Prof Mahao, Dr Majoro and the Attorney General Haae Phoofolo are first to third respondents respectively in the application.
In his application, Adv Manyokole accuses Prof Mahao and Dr Majoro of seeking to oust him to protect corrupt government officials and others whom he alleges had all along thought themselves to be untouchable until the DCEO began probing them under his watch.
He argues that that the DCEO was established in terms of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act of 1999 which not only states that the DCEO director general is independent in the exercise of his duties but also spells out clear circumstances under which he can be removed from office. These, according to Adv Manyokole, are infirmity of the body or mind.
He says neither circumstances apply in his case and thus the reasons advanced by Prof Mahao in his “show cause” letter cannot be used to suspend or dismiss him.
He argues that through the “show cause” letter, Prof Mahao is “seeking to influence or control the functions and responsibilities of the office of director general of the DCEO on the pretext that such functions have not been performed on the level or standard expected by the minister. But the minister has no right to make such a subjective judgment without any facts to support his assertions, Mr Manyokole argues. He accused the minister of seeking to encroach on the “terrain of management, administration and operational space within which no one but the DCEO should be the judge”.
He further argues that Prof Mahao’s “show cause” letter is “a veiled ploy to actuate the corrupt world’s attempts to remove me illegally from the office of director general of the DCEO and to feed into the insatiable desires of the corrupt to continue to swindle the resources of the Kingdom with impunity and pave an easy road for the appointment of a complaint candidate who will be a hireling in the hands of the powers that be”.
“Annexure MM1 (‘show cause’ letter) is a convenient vehicle to transport the veiled grand purpose of those who want to have me removed from office; it is illegal, mala fide (in bad faith) and therefore unlawful.
“Annexure MM1 constitutes a serious threat to the very autonomy and independence of the DCEO as the 1st respondent seeks to enter the legal, managerial, administrative and operational terrain exclusively reserved for the DCEO,” Adv Manyokole argues.
He therefore wants the court to declare the moves to suspend or fire him unlawful.
In an interview with the Sunday Express yesterday, Adv Manyokole denied the allegations levelled against him.
He instead accused Prof Mahao of seeking to get back at him for asserting his independence from the minister.
“The man (Mahao) is interfering with the independence of the DCEO. He has previously made several attempts to interfere and I refused. He wants to use my office for political reasons but the law protects me against such interference,” Adv Manyokole said.
Moves to suspend him by the current government are not surprising as his July 2019 appointment by Mr Thabane was seen by some as aimed at protecting those close to the previous prime minister and his regime from prosecution.
Adv Manyokole denied the allegations. He told the Lesotho Times at the time that he was his own man and he would investigate all cases without fear or favour. Mr Manyokole also faced allegations from his detractors at the time that he was a “’Maesaiah appointee”, a reference to the former First Lady who wielded enormous power over her husband and was regarded as the de facto prime minister.
Should he be suspended or fired, it remains unclear what would become of the several high-profile investigations he had initiated.
Among these is the probe into the grossly inflated M2, 8 billion deal awarded by the government to a Chinese contractor for the building of a 70-megawatt (MW) solar power generation project at Ramarothole, Mafeteng.
The DCEO is also probing the alleged misuse of funds by government officials meant for the Covid-19 fight, the alleged irregular leasing of Victoria Hotel to a private businessman, among other cases.