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Frazer Solar, govt court battle set for November

 

Staff Reporter

THE hearing of the government’s eagerly awaited Gauteng High Court application to stop Frazer Solar from seizing its assets has been set for 9 and 19 November 2021.

In a statement yesterday, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, said the application would be heard on those dates as they were the “nearest available dates” all the parties to the dispute could agree on.

“The case will now be heard on the 9th and 10th of November 2021, those being the nearest available dates agreed upon by all parties,” Mr Moseme said.

“In the interim, Frazer Solar has undertaken to take no further steps to execute the order granted by the High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Local Division, Johannesburg) and any writ of execution or notice of attachment issued pursuant to that order, pending finalisation of the Kingdom’s application for a stay. There is a consent draft order of court to that effect,” Mr Moseme added.

The Lesotho government’s application seeks to reverse the same court’s April 2021 order endorsing the awarding of a default £50 million (M856 million) damages claim brought against it by Frazer Solar.

The massive damages award against the Lesotho government arose from its alleged breach of its 2018 contract with Frazer Solar for the provision of 40 000 solar water heating systems, 20 megawatts of solar power capacity, 1 million LED lights and 350 000 solar lanterns to Lesotho over four years.

Dr Majoro was finance minister at the time of the deal. He had refused to sign the financing agreement for the project.  Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Tšolo, had already signed the main supply agreement before Dr Majoro’s refusal, the company claimed.

The damages were initially awarded in January 2020 by South African arbitrator, Vincent Maleka. Frazer Solar subsequently successfully petitioned the Gauteng High Court in April to endorse the award. The South African court also court granted Frazer Solar’s application to garnish the royalties due to Lesotho in terms of the bi-national Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

Buoyed by the court judgment, Frazer Solar also moved to seize Lesotho government assets in other countries. These include the government’s shares in a Mauritian company, West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC).

The looming seizure of the assets finally jolted the government into action.  Last month, it dispatched an inter-ministerial delegation for talks with South Africa to stop Frazer Solar from laying its hands on the water royalties and any other Lesotho assets in South Africa.

The government followed up on the talks by assembling a team of lawyers from four different law firms in South Africa to collectively formulate an application for the reversal of the court judgement garnishing the water royalties.

In his founding affidavit filed with the Gauteng High Court last month, Dr Majoro accuses Mr Tšolo of illegally signing the controversial deal with Frazer Solar.

Dr Majoro said Mr Tšolo had no right to negotiate and sign such an agreement.

The premier said the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO)’s investigations had established that there was “evidence which points in the direction of this (legal) process having been deliberately kept from the relevant officials, for a corrupt purpose”.

The premier further alleges that he only learnt about the Gauteng High Court’s April 2021 judgement in favour of Frazer Solar from the media on 18 May 2021.

He states that any seizure of Lesotho’s assets to pay off the alleged debt to Frazer Solar “would be catastrophic for the finances of Lesotho”.

However, Frazer Solar accuses the premier of lying.

“Dr Majoro has misled the DCEO,” Frazer Solar said in a statement issued last week.

“He has misled Basotho and now we learn he intends to mislead the South African court as well. This pattern of inaccuracies raises serious questions over the Government of Lesotho’s ability to present any credible legal case as and when proceedings begin in South Africa.

“It is clear that complacency, not conspiracy, is the reason why the Lesotho government (GOL) has failed to engage with this legal process. This fanciful conspiracy has been dreamed up by Dr Majoro. It is an insult to Basotho, and a desperate attempt to distract attention away from the multiple opportunities he (Dr Majoro) and the GOL were offered to resolve this dispute but failed to act,” Frazer Solar says.

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