FORMER Finance Minister, Mamphono Khaketla, has denied allegations that she attempted to solicit a M4 million bribe from a joint venture company shortlisted for a multi-million-maloti government vehicle fleet tender.
Dr Khaketla served as minister in the previous seven parties’ coalition which was headed by former Democratic Congress leader, Pakalitha Mosisili. The former governing coalition was in power from 2015 to 2017 when it was replaced by the current Thomas Thabane-led four party coalition in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 snap elections.
Dr Khaketla is charged together with businessman Thabo Napo, who is said to be her boyfriend.
The duo pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges when they appeared before Justice Molefi Makara in the High Court on Thursday. They will stand trial from 12 to 14 May 2020. The bribery charges were read out to them by Justice Makara’s clerk, Advocate Eric Ramalefane.
Dr Khaketla and Mr Napo are accused of soliciting a M4 Million bribe from representatives of Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions Joint Venture (JV) in exchange for favourable consideration by the then Finance Minister in the tender on 17 March 2016.
“At all material times, accused number one (Dr Khaketla) was the Minister of Finance and as such a public officer while accused number two (Mr Napo) was a friend, partner and/or boyfriend of accused number one and the two committed criminal offences.
“On or about 17 March 2016 at her home in Khubetsoana, accused number one (Dr Khaketla), acting in common purpose with accused number two (Mr Napo) attempted to solicit a bribe of about M4 million from Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions Joint Venture in exchange for a government fleet tender, with accused number one using her position as a state or public official,” Adv Ramalefane said.
The duo was alternatively charged with contravening the provisions of Section 21 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act, 1999 as amended and read with Sections 2, 20, 31A and 34 in that Dr Khaketla agreed to be influenced by a gift or prospect of benefitting to favour a company in the tendering process.
On the third and fourth alternative counts, they are charged with contravening the provisions of Section 26 (1) and Sections 21 (3) (b) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act of 1999 in allegedly abusing Dr Khaketla’s position as a government minister to solicit a bribe from Lebelonyane Fleet.
They both pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were asked to plead by Adv Ramalefane.
“No sir, I am not guilty,” Dr Khaketla said. Mr Napo echoed her words when the charges were read out to him.
Crown Counsel, Advocate Worker, told the court that “the crown will lead three witnesses who will tell the court what happened on 17 March 2016 as they were present in the meeting (between Dr Khaketla and Mr Napo on one side and Lebelonyane Fleet officials on the other).”
Dr Khaketla’s lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, and Mr Napo’s lawyer, Advocate Lepeli Moeketsi both told the court that they had instructed their clients to deny the charges. They said they would also challenge the credibility of the witnesses when the trial gets underway.
Justice Makara then set the trial dates as 12 to 14 May 2020. The duo first appeared before the Magistrate’s Court on 14 September 2017 where they were charged and released on bail after paying M5 000 bail deposit each.
The Magistrate’s Court referred their case to the High Court and they eventually made first appearance in the High Court on 26 October 2017.
Their bail conditions include reporting to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences every last Friday of each month. They were also ordered not to interfere with witnesses and they should stand trial to finality.