A Mafeteng-based entrepreneur, Mosito Ramahloko, is demanding M5million from the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture for “loss of business and reputation” due to “unnecessary” delays in renewing his operating licences.
Mr Ramahloko’s lawyers on 30 May 2016 wrote to the ministry to either pay him the compensation within 30 days or face legal action.
The money, the lawyers say, is for “failure by your good offices to renew his Liquor Licence Certificate and Licence Certificate for Hotel or Restaurant from 1st December 2015 to 12th May 2016”.
The businesses in question are Tip-Top Guest House and Tip-Top Guest Liquor situated in Ha Ramokhele in Mafeteng urban, and which have been operating since 2011.
However, the lawyers claim the ministry refused to renew the licences in September 2015 without saying why, while Mr Ramahloko also accuses two officials from the same government department of demanding a M2000 from him. The bribe, he claims, was for the issuance of the licences without any hassles. The businessman says he refused to pay the bribe.
“We are reliably informed by client that since September 2015 when he applied for renewal of licences for both Tip-Top Guest House and Tip-Top Guest Liquor, he was not afforded assistance by your good offices,” the lawyers wrote to the ministry.
“Our client informs us that during the process of applying for the renewal of the said licences pursuant to Section 23 of the Liquor Licencing Act 1998, read with Section 17 of the Accommodation, Catering and Tourism Enterprise Act 1997, the Police Department and Ministry of Health did inspect and issue out recommendation reports for the renewal of his licences.”
Mr Ramahloko says his businesses suffered losses because they were closed from 1 December 2015 to 12 May 2016 because they did not have licences.
“As a result of this, our client lost tremendously in terms of financial gain and good business reputation with his prospective and existing customers.
“Our client informs us specifically and in no uncertain terms that during the process of applying for his licences renewal, he was assisted by two officials (names withheld for now) from your ministry who are stationed at the Mafeteng District Office.
“According to our client, these two officers demanded him to pay bribery to the tune of two thousand maloti if he wanted his licences renewed without any hindrance.
“Our client found this demand to be very disturbing and unacceptable as they clearly demonstrated corruption and disrespect for the rule of law in discharging government services to the people who have a legitimate expectation of obtaining transparency and fairness in government service delivery.
“In response to these illegal and unlawful demands by the officers aforementioned, our client refused blatantly to their demand that he pays bribery in order to be given a lawful service by the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture.
“According to client, after several attempts through his then legal representatives (KEM Chambers) and his personal attempts, your good office wrote on the 29th April 2016 to advice that his licences had been renewed on conditions specified in the said letter.
“On 12th May 2016, our client made payments for the said renewals,” the letter further reads.
But, according to the lawyers, when the licences were issued, they had some anomalies.
“Following the payments referred to above, quite surprisingly and abnormally, our client was issued with licences for both Tip-Top Guest House and Tip-Top Guest Liquor with the date stamp 12-05-2016 indicating validity period to be running from 01-12-2015 to 01-12-216.
“This was when our client raised a serious objection that the said licence certificates were invalid and/or fraudulent.
“Upon hearing this legitimate objection, your officers then issued correct licence certificates valid from 12-05 2016 to 12 05 2017. This, in our view, demonstrates, in no uncertain terms, the controversial quality and calibre of officers expected to discharge their functions diligently and professionally,” the lawyers added.
“As a consequence of your good office’s conduct by unnecessarily and unreasonably refusing to renew his licences as stated above, our client sustained damages in the amount of five million maloti being for loss of business, loss of business reputation and good name, and in addition, our client was greatly injured in his business dignity and good image”.
The lawyers also threatened the ministry that “unless the stated sum is remitted to my chambers within 30 days of your receipt hereof, legal proceedings will be instituted against you in the High Court without further notice”.
Contacted for comment, the Ministry’s Principal Secretary, Lefeu Ramone, confirmed receipt of the letter.
He however, said the ministry was still working on responding to the communiqué.