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‘Politicians jealous of Phooko brothers’

 

Keiso Mohloboli

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s former principal secretary (PS), Lebohang Phooko, says politicians have a personal vendetta against him and his brothers.

Mr Phooko says no-matter the political party in government, the Phooko brothers are given a hard time each time they want to venture into business.

“It doesn’t matter which politicians are in government, they will always make sure they give the Phooko brothers a hard time and make sure we don’t earn a living,” Mr Phooko on Friday told the Sunday Express.

On Thursday, a coalition of youth leagues of the seven ruling parties, accused Mr Phooko of working together with Avis Lesotho to “destabilise the government”. Avis Lesotho, a subsidiary of Seahlolo Transport Logistics (PTY) Ltd, last month ended its deal to supply government with vehicles and maintenance services for the fleet, which started in 2007.

The contract ended in acrimony amid accusations and counteraccusations of fraud.

However, the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), National Independent Party (NIP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP) and Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) youths accused Mr Phooko of “using Avis to embarrass government”. The youths also claimed Mr Phooko was one of the sponsors  of the opposition Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) led by Keketso Rantšo. The RCL is a splinter of the LCD and its deputy leader is Motloheloa Phooko, who is brother to the underfire ex-PS. The elder Phooko was once the deputy leader of the LCD and is also a former cabinet minister. Ms Rantšo is a former LCD secretary general, and like Mr Phooko, left the party last year after falling out with the leader, Mothetjoa Metsing.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition at a press conference in Maseru, LCD Youth League Deputy Publicity Secretary, Potso Hlao, said: “It must be noted that one Lebohang Phooko, a former PS for the Works and Public Transport ministry and sponsor of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho, Bolekana, is a director and shareholder of Seahlolo.

“It must also be noted that the RCL and its opposition partners (All Basotho Convention and Basotho National Party) want to topple the current government and embarrass it at all costs.

“When government communicated its decision not to renew Mr Phooko’s contract as PS (last month), he pleaded for its extension and threw tantrums when the request was turned down. The same behaviour could be seen in  his company regarding the fleet deal,” Mr Hlao said.

“Seahlolo Logistics (PTY) Ltd is being managed by one Theese Phooko, who is well-known for always getting government tenders.

“As congress youths, we find it difficult to separate the former PS’ bad behaviour when he had to vacate office, Avis Fleet Services’ threats to withdraw its services from government and the opposition’s determination to remove the government.”

But in response, Mr Phooko said he left Avis two years ago.

“A tender was opened for government fleet management in 2006. I was not a public servant at the time. I and my brother (Theese Phooko) approached Avis  to work with us (Seahlolo Transport Logistics) and we were subsequently awarded the tender in 2007. I was then appointed PS in the Public Works and Transport ministry, the same year.

“In 2012, the new government led by Ntate Thabane took over and I was put under pressure to leave  the Avis and Seahlolo Logistics partnership, which I did in 2013.  I am no longer part of Avis Fleet, but the politicians accuse me of using a company I left two years ago, to topple their government, which is very malicious.”

Asked why he was being associated with the opposition, Mr Phooko said: “My feeling is that  politicians have a personal problem with the Phooko brothers whenever we have projects and try to survive and earn a living.

“I don’t know their expectations because we are children of this soil; we were born here and can’t go anywhere else for survival.

“I have learned that politicians are all the same because I was accused of wrongdoing by the previous coalition government and I ended up leaving the fleet deal. And now that there is a new government, I am still being blamed for something that I am no longer part of,” Mr Phooko said.

 

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