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Labour officers in bribe storm

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

TWO officers from the Ministry of Labour were recently exposed for corruption after they accepted a M2000 bribe to accelerate legal procedures in a Labour Court case that some actors in a local drama planned to file against their employer over unpaid salaries.

The two officers are Koto Mejaro, a worker representative at the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) and Nthoateng Russell, a lawyer in the ministry.

Mr Mejaro confessed to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a recent hearing that sometime last year he received the money from the cast members of the local drama production, Our Times. Mr Mejaro said that he gave some of the money to Ms Russell to help expedite the case which the cast planned to lodge with the labour court to force their employer to pay them outstanding salaries.

Mr Mejaro said 20 cast members approached him to help them find a lawyer to represent them in a case against their former employer.

He further confessed that the group offered him M2000 and he subsequently offered Ms Russell M1200 of the bribe to for her services. He acknowledged wrong-doing and apologised to the PAC for his “mistake”.

“I gave her (Ms Russell) M1200 and I took the remaining M800. It was a mistake and I am very sorry,” Mr Mejaro said.

Mr Mejaro’s confession put Ms Russell to shame after she had vehemently denied the accusation that she had received any money as a bribe.

Prior to Mr Mejaro’s confession, Ms Russell denied ever receiving a bribe even though she had admitted to the offence to police investigators.

Ms Russell told the PAC that she only admitted to the offence to the police because they had threatened to her torture during interrogation.

She finally admitted to accepting the bribe after Mr Mejaro came clean before the PAC. She however, said that she only received M600 and not the M1 200 Mr Mejaro claimed he had given her.

The PAC was not amused by Ms Russell frequently changing her statements and they threatened her with arrest for lying to the parliamentary committee.

“You said the police threatened you. We will not threaten you but we will act. You should be arrested,” PAC member Likopo Mahase said.

PAC chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane described Ms Russell as a “thoughtless” lawyer for her failure to heed several requests from the PAC panel for her to admit to her crimes. The PAC had indicated that it would recommended relatively lighter sanctions against her if she admitted to her crime and refrained from wasting its time. However, Ms Russell continued to deny any wrong-doing until she was done in by Mr Mejaro’s confession.

“I have never seen such a thoughtless lawyer. You have blundered. I have tried in many ways to cover for you but you cannot see it. We are not here to play,” Mr Mochoboroane sternly said.

Labour ministry officials have been appearing before the PAC in the last two weeks as the parliamentary committee seeks relating to their discharge of the ministry’s mandate.

Last week the Commissioner of Labour, ‘Mamohale Matsoso, denied involvement in an alleged syndicate within the Ministry of Labour that is reportedly granting work permits to undeserving foreigners.

Ms Matsoso said she was aware that she had been named as one of the members of the alleged syndicate but the allegations were unfounded.

Ms Matsoso made the denial after a member of the PAC, Sam Rapapa, asked whether or not there were reported cases of corruption in the issuance of work permits.

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Lechoo Setenane, said police investigations were underway on the reported cases of corruption where some officers in the ministry were accused of fraudulently giving work certificates to foreigners.

“There is a strong allegation that some officers in this ministry (Labour) have been involved cases of corruption in the issuance of work permits,” Mr Setenane said.

Kh’ohlisa Maputsoe, a legal officer in the Ministry of Labour, told the PAC that it was discovered that some officers fraudulently accessed a stamp from the labour commissioner’s office to certify letters that allowed some expatriates to continue working while awaiting the issuance of their work permits.

Ms Maputsoe said an officer identified as Ndabeni was implicated in the matter and he has since left the ministry.

Ms Matsoso replied by saying that her office never issued letters that allowed expatriates to work in the country without permits. She professed ignorance of the case involving Ndabeni and said she only knew of a case involving one Telisi who had improperly used the ministry’s letterhead and a stamp from the National Employment Services office.



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