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MKM is an urgent matter

IT is almost three years since the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) shut down MKM for running a money multiplication scheme and operating a financial business without a licence.

During this time depositors, the very people the CBL’s actions were supposed to protect, have experienced untold suffering as their money remains locked up in MKM.

The CBL and MKM have fought unending battles.

Court applications and counter-applications have been launched.

So far, six High Court judges have been assigned the case but it doesn’t seem like a solution is in sight.

If anything, problems are mounting.

Justice David Lyons, an Australian judge seconded to Lesotho by the Commonwealth, recently recused himself from the case saying he feared a backlash.

Other judges like Justice Tseliso Monaphathi and Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane also pulled out of the case this year.

Outside the courts, bickering is contributing to the delay.

Differences have emerged between the government and the central bank over how to deal with the MKM problem.

Cabinet recently said MKM should be allowed to pay out depositors but the CBL insists the company should be liquidated.

The central bank now wants the MKM directors to be charged for allegedly fleecing depositors.

All this points to the unfortunate reality that depositors will have to wait much longer to get their monies.

Yet this should not be the case.

This paper believes that the High Court should treat the MKM case with the urgency it deserves.

There are four main reasons why the High Court should expedite the MKM case.

The first reason is that MKM continues to hold millions belonging to about 400 000 people, nearly a quarter of this country’s population.

MKM is therefore a national crisis.

The second reason, which is not less important than the first, is that MKM’s real victims are the poor people of this country.

There are pensioners who invested all their life savings in MKM and they are starving.

There are orphans who are out of school because they invested their inheritance in the pyramid scheme.

The other MKM victims include low-income earners, vendors, farmers and disabled people.

The longer it will take them to get their money, the poorer they will become.

By delaying the case, the High Court is exacerbating Lesotho’s alarming levels of poverty.

Nearly 57 percent of people in this country are considered very poor and unable to afford the basics of life like food and education.

The courts must protect those members of society who are powerless and poor.

The third reason — which is true but might sound alarmist to some — is that MKM poses a national security risk to this country.

The longer it takes people to get the money the angrier they become.

It will not be an exaggeration to postulate that one day irate depositors might pour into the streets in anger, plunging this country into chaos.

When you hear the rage that some of the depositors exude then you realise that this threat is real.

MKM has become a serious political time bomb that might soon detonate with disastrous consequences to Lesotho’s stability and peace.

In saying this, we are not in any way trying to incite people.

The fourth and last reason relates to the economy.

A country grows on the savings of its people which the government and companies borrow for business growth and infrastructural development programmes.

The M400 million in MKM constitutes people’s savings that should have boosted the economy but it remains frozen because the courts are dithering.

We are aware that most judges on the bench are not willing to handle this case because of its political nature.

We however believe the time has come for the chief justice to show leadership by taking bold steps to deal with the case.

Several means are at his disposal.

He can hire a foreign judge, take the case himself or suggest an out-of-court solution to the problem.

The integrity of Lesotho’s judiciary is being tested and only the chief justice can ensure that it passes this stern test.

Failure is not an option.

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