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Khaketla estate wrangle rages on

Nat Molomo

MASERU — A local lawyer says Education Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla, his brother Sechele Khaketla and their aged mother ’Masechele cannot sue on behalf of a company that their late father owned.

The minister’s father, Makalo Khaketla, died in 2000 and left a sizeable estate that included land and buildings. He was the major shareholder of Mohlabani Property Company (Pty) which owned plot number 13283-446 in the Cathedral Area, opposite to the Mofumahali of Tlholo Roman Catholic in Maseru.

The company had 1 000 shares worth one loti each. The late Khaketla had 600 shares while his son, Sechele, had 400. In 1988 the late Khaketla had a property near the Cathedral Area, which was undeveloped. A company called C&S Properties (Pty) Ltd approached him proposing to sublease the site and develop it. Khaketla and C&S Properties went to a firm of attorneys, Du Preez and Liebetrau & Co, who drafted a deed of sale of the property to Mohlabani Property Company (Pty) Ltd which Khaketla coowned with his son Sechele.

Du Preez and Liebetrau also drafted a rental agreement between Khaketla and C&S Properties. At the same time, this rental agreement was supposedly ceded to Mohlabani Property by Khaketla. A bond worth M780 000 was registered with the Lesotho Bank (now in liquidation) over the property.

It was agreed that C&S Properties would service the loan through rentals after the property was developed. At various times there were problems between the trio — Khaketla, C&S Properties and Mohlabani Property. There were negotiations between the parties and the agreement was that after 10 years Khaketla or Mohlabani Property would receive the site fully developed and free from any bond. The improvements were sublet to tenants by C&S Properties. In 1998 during political upheavals the property was burnt down. When the property was to be rebuilt it emerged that C&S Properties had not been paying the debt and the building was not insured.

C&S Properties again volunteered to help Khaketla or Mohlabani to rebuild the property. Another agreement was entered into in terms of which C&S Properties would pay the existing bond and take out a new bond for the rebuilding of the property. It was also agreed that the period of the lease would be extended to October 31 2019. When ’Mamphono Khaketla was tasked by the family to turn to the outstanding matters relating to her father’s estate she discovered that a legal requirement for all transactions between the estate and C&S Properties had not been met.

She also discovered that C&S Properties had not complied with its contractual obligations. The minister also noticed that the transfers were made without ministerial consent as required by the Deed Registration Act. On this basis ’Mamphono Khaketla, the estate and Mohlabani Property sued for a declaration of all the contracts being void and of no legal force or effect. “I respectfully submit that the relief requested should be granted in order to prevent that administrative and judicial systems falling into disrepute as the administrative system was clearly manipulated to the advantage of first respondent (C&S Properties) and the prejudice of the applicants,” ’Mamphono Khaketla said in court papers.

She said, in the court papers, while Du Preez, Liebetrau & Co was acting for both Mohlabani Property and C&S Properties it was to the prejudice of Mohlabani Property and the estate and to the benefit of C&S Properties. In response, lawyer Stefan Carl Buys, who manages Du Preez, Liebetrau & Co, and his client, Cosmas Cavaleros, a director of C&S Properties (Pty) Ltd, say the family does not have locus standi in the case.

The late Khaketla, a politician and a former minister and author of a wellknown book, Lesotho 1970, was the editor of Mohlabani newspaper, subsidiary of Mohlabani Property Company, while his son Sechele was a journalist. C&S Properties and Du Preez, Liebetrau

& Co are respondents together with 11 others including the master of the High Court and the attorney-general. Buys and Cavaleros, both South African nationals trading in Lesotho, say no one from the Khaketla family has authority to sue on behalf of Mohlabani Property Company because they have not been mandated by its board of directors.

They also say the late Khaketla could not claim any ownership of the company shares because he did not have a shares certificate. In his submissions on behalf of Mamphono Khaketla, counsel Martin de Beer said even before assessing C&S Properties’ contractual rights to property there is currently no certainty whether the legal title rests with the late Khaketla’s estate or Mohlabani. On Tuesday, De Beer argued that Mamphono Khaketla had locus standi to represent the estate. He said Mohlabani Property Company is merely a shell purporting to hold rights to title in Plot No. 13283-446 Cathedral Area Maseru.

He added that as a majority shareholder in the company Khaketla’s estate, through Mamphono Khaketla, has a right to seek legal redress if its rights are adversely affected. In her affidavit, ’Mamphono Khaketla states that she is the executor of the estate. In his answering submissions on behalf of the C&S Properties, Advocate Horwitz SC argues that Mamphono Khaketla was never involved in the initial negotiations and therefore does not know anything about the issue. He said the minister has no right to sue on behalf of Mohlabani Property. The High Court has reserved its ruling until December 14.

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