LCA CEO suspended over M500 million tender
LESOTHO Communications Authority (LCA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mamarame Matela, has been suspended pending investigations into her role in the awarding of a tender worth more than M500 million to South African company, Global Voice Group (GVG).
Ms Matela’s suspension by former Communications, Science and Technology Minister Keketso Sello, is with effect from 2 June 2021.
The suspension was probably one of Mr Sello’s last actions before he was transferred to the Public Service portfolio in Friday’s cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro. In the meantime, Nizam Goolam has been appointed acting LCA CEO.
The suspension comes barely a week after Ms Matela sensationally accused Minister Sello of demanding sexual favours from her as a condition for keeping her job. She also accused the minister of refusing to approve the GVG tender until he was given a M3 million bribe. She said the minister also demanded to have his company subcontracted by GVG before he could approve the tender for the supply of a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system.
Ms Matela has since reported the sexual abuse allegations and she has also filed a High Court application to stop Mr Sello from suspending her on account of her alleged corrupt role in the awarding of the tender to GVG last December.
Mr Sello has nevertheless, gone on to suspend her. In his 3 June 2021 letter notifying her of the suspension, Mr Sello makes no mention of the sexual abuse and bribery allegations she has levelled against him.
Instead he accuses her of conniving with the now dismissed LCA board chairperson Motanyane Makara to frustrate the board’s efforts to suspend her in connection with the awarding of the GVG tender. Mr Makara was fired by Mr Sello on 31 May 2021 on allegations of misconduct and insubordination. The allegations are in connection with his alleged failure to answer Mr Sello’s telephone calls and failure to communicate the board resolution to suspend Ms Matela.
In his suspension letter to Ms Matela, Mr Sello says, “as you are aware the former chairman of the Board (Makara) deliberately engaged in all efforts not to report resolutions of the Board in order to protect you from being suspended on 2 June 2021 as the Board had resolved to do”.
“I’m saying this because at some stage on 26 May 2021 as I was requesting him to file the resolutions of the Board, he reported to me that he was somewhere at Masoeling when in fact he was seen at your office at LCA at the same time. I have read your affidavit filed in your court case and I’m advised indeed that you were aware of the Board’s resolution to recommend your suspension.
“This would mean that instead of communicating resolutions of the Board related to your misconduct to the minister, the Chairman communicated those to you and not the minister so that you can frustrate the Board’s process through litigation…
“Based on the findings of the Board and the resolutions of the Board to recommend your suspension as the CEO on 2 June 2021, which resolution was made on 25 May 2021…
“Based on the spirit of Section 14 of Communications Act of 2012, I take a decision to suspend you from the office as the CEO and from all activities of LCA pending an investigation into the allegations of your involvement in the award of the tender to GVC. As you are aware, the ministry has also reported this matter to the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) for its investigation,” Mr Sello states in his letter to Ms Matela.
Mr Sello wasted no time in appointing Mr Goolam to act in place of Ms Matela.
On the very day that he suspended her, he also wrote to Mr Goolam informing hm of his appointment.
“Please be advised that the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology has appointed you as the acting CEO after the suspension of the current CEO of the LCA.
“Your acting tenure starts from 3 June 2021. It will come to an end at the time the suspension of the incumbent also comes to an end and or at the time the minister shall otherwise advise. I wish to take this opportunity to wish you well during the period you shall act as the CEO and I can assure you full support from the Ministry in order for you to discharge the functions of the CEO and objectives of the authority as a whole during your acting period,” Mr Sello.
It remains to be seen whether the suspension will hold after Ms Matela last week filed an urgent High Court application to block Mr Sello from suspending her and interfering with the business of the LCA.
The LCA, the LCA Board of Directors, Mr Sello, the Communications Principal Secretary, the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Global Voices Group SA, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and the Attorney General are the first to ninth respondents respectively.
In her papers filed over the weekend, Ms Matela argues that there was nothing untoward about the LCA’s decision to award GVG the M500 million tender as it had been approved by then Communications minister Thesele Maseribane who has since been moved to the Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing portfolio by Dr Majoro.
She states that Chief Maseribane was reshuffled before he had signed the gazette confirming GVG’s appointment.
She alleges that Mr Sello, who replaced Chief Maseribane in February this year, has been the stumbling block through his demands for a M3 million bribe before he issues the gazette.
She also alleges that the minister demanded that his company be appointed as a sub-contractor under GVG’s contract. Ms Matela does not state the name of the company.
Ms Matela further alleges being sexually harassed by Mr Sello in his office after the latter had also tried to manipulate her by telling her that Dr Majoro wanted to fire her and that he was there to protect her. She said she reported all the allegations to Prime Minster Moeketsi Majoro who has repeatedly failed to help her.
She has since opened a sexual harassment case with the police. On Wednesday, Police Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli told the Lesotho Times that they had concluded their investigations into the sexual abuse allegations and all that was left was to forward the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane who will then decide whether or not to prosecute.