MASERU — A covert plan had allegedly been hatched to squeeze M700 000 out of a mining equipment supplier to supposedly grease the palms of Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki, the Sunday Express can reveal.
Local businessman Kennedy Lefothane is suspected to be at the centre of the alleged plan that would have seen Marsh (Pty) Ltd, a Maseru-based company, forking out M700 000 to supposedly nail down a contract to supply equipment to Motete Mining.
Lefothane is the secretary for Motete Mining, a local consortium fighting for the prospecting rights for Lemphane Diamond Mine in Butha-Buthe.
Moleleki has admitted in an interview with this paper that “someone” allegedly peddled his name to “swindle people”.
But he would not name that “someone”.
This is the latest twist to the Lempane Diamond Mine saga that has seen Motete Mining threatening to sue Moleleki for allegedly deceiving the consortium over the rights for the mine.
Motete Mining started looking for mining equipment to lease in August last year after Moleleki promised he would give the consortium prospecting rights for the diamond mine.
Lefothane was directly involved in the search for a company that would supply the equipment.
Marsh (Pty) Ltd submitted a proposal to Motete saying it had made contact with a mining equipment supplier in Israel.
It said the Israeli company was willing to supply the equipment to Motete.
But Lefothane is alleged to have told Marsh (Pty) Ltd at a meeting that the supply deal could only be signed after a “contract fee” of M700 000 was paid.
The finer details of this meeting are contained in an e-mail that Marsh (Pty) Ltd wrote to Motete Mining chairman Mohau Thakaso.
It is that e-mail that makes the damning allegations against Lefothane.
“At this meeting Ntate Kennedy (Lefothane) informed us that an amount of M700 000.00 must be paid upfront in order to secure the contract, but at no stage were we able to get ‘something’ in writing that could confirm that if the amount was paid then the contract will be given to us,” the e-mail says.
“We were informed that of the M700 000, M600 000 was to be paid to the minister (Moleleki).”
Moleleki told the Sunday Express that he was aware that “someone” was using his name to “swindle people”.
He however said at no time was he involved because he has nothing to do with where mining companies get their equipment.
Moleleki said he had never discussed anything related to “money or a contract with Lefothane”.
His name was being abused by unscrupulous characters, he added.
“Not at all,” Moleleki said when asked if Lefothane was acting on his behalf in the alleged deal.
“I only heard that there is someone who is going around trying to swindle people of their M600 000 saying he works with a minister.”
A source close to Marsh (Pty) Ltd told the Sunday Express that at the meeting Lefothane had allegedly mentioned Moleleki as the minister who would be paid M600 000 to secure the contract.
Investigations so far have however revealed that Lefothane could have been allegedly pushing the “deal” on his own.
This paper has over the past six weeks gathered e-mails and mobile phone text messages that Lefothane allegedly sent to Marsh (Pty) Ltd officials demanding the money and insisting that part of it would be given to “the minister”.
Four people, including a local lawyer, are understood to be in possession of these text messages.
The Sunday Express checked the authenticity of these messages with three of those people.
In one of them, Lefothane allegedly tells Marsh (Pty) Ltd that the money must be deposited into his FNB account most likely in Ladybrand — it’s spelt as “Ladybrane” in the text message.
“I called some consortium members who recommended that money be transferred into my FNB cheque account 62120239654 held at Ladybrane (sic) RSA,” reads the text message.
“Deposit can be made today or Tuesday as on Wednesday I must get permit to the mine.
“Please start the process with me by talking to JHB guys and let them come here for talks on Monday and have the payment authority with themselves.”
It is still not clear who the “JHB guys” are.
Further text messages however show that the suspected scheme ran into problems when one of the owners of a company in the Motete Mining consortium intervened.
After their meeting with Lefothane and the subsequent text messages believed to be from him, a Marsh (Pty) Ltd director approached Freddy Kotze, a director of Kotkol Mining which is a member company of Motete Mining consortium.
Kotze is said to have advised the company against paying the money.
Further text messages show that Lefothane was allegedly livid when Marsh (Pty) Ltd directors told him that Kotze had advised them against paying the money.
“Freddy is a board member not a round table member,” says one text message allegedly sent by Lefothane to one of the Marsh (Pty) Ltd directors.
“I told Freddy your company . . . is history because you did not follow the rules of our boss.
“If you change your mind it maybe too late. Money and contract the only order.
“Freddy (Kotze) knows the meeting is cancelled until next notice by me.
“You have confused the whole thing by discussing with me and dealing with Freddy at the same time.”
It is not clear who the “boss” referred to in the text message is.
Thakaso, the Motete Mining leader, said he only got to know about the alleged bribe plot when Marsh (Pty) Ltd sent him the e-mail with the damning allegations against Lefothane.
Thakaso said he did not know anything about the need for anybody to pay the consortium for a contract to supply it with mining equipment.
Lefothane declined to comment.
“As long as you want my comment on issues related to Motete, I am not going to say anything . . . even if there are serious allegations levelled against me I am still not going to comment,” he said.
“I need authorisation from the board to talk to the press about anything involving the business,” he added.
Motete Mining is currently fighting Moleleki over the mining rights for Lemphane.
The consortium has accused the minister of double-dealing, saying he promised to give them the prospecting rights only to “dump” them and give the rights to Sam Matekane’s Meso Diamonds.
Moleleki has denied the allegations.