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SA wants Sole out of project

Marafaele Mohloboli

MASERU — The South African government has strongly objected to Lesotho’s decision to rehire Masupha Sole, the convicted former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA).
Sole was jailed in 2003 and released in May this year after serving nine years of his 15-year sentence.
The 60-year-old Sole was convicted on 13 counts of corruption and bribery.
But in August this year he was appointed chief technical adviser to the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) in a surprise move that was roundly condemned by the media and opposition parties.
The LHWC supervises the LHDA which runs the water project jointly owned by Lesotho and South Africa.
In his capacity as the LHWC’s chief technical adviser Sole will be assisting in giving policy direction to the LHDA, the same entity he used to receive bribes from international consultancy firms between the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Sole received more than M5 million in bribes from a dozen international companies that worked for the LHDA during the construction of Katse and Mohale dams.
The dams supply water to Gauteng in South Africa and Lesotho is paid about M50 million in royalties annually.
His appointment was questioned by many who felt that the decision damaged the goodwill Lesotho earned as a little African country that was punching above its weight in the fight against corruption.
Lesotho had managed to prosecute its own officials and international companies that were involved in bribery and corruption.
Many saw Sole’s appointment as an indication that Lesotho was now going easy on corruption.
The Lesotho government said Sole was hired as a way of rehabilitating him.
But the Sunday Express can reveal that South Africa, which is an equal partner in the water project, is not at all pleased by Sole’s appointment and they want him out immediately.
South Africa, sources said this week, is particularly irked that Sole’s appointment came a few months before phase two of the water project was launched.
South Africa is providing much of the M7.3 billion required for the construction of Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong and a hydro electric power station in Leribe.
South Africa’s Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa last week confirmed during a parliamentary question and answer session that her objection to Sole’s appointment had been supported by a “comprehensive legal opinion”.
She explained that besides the LHDA’s existing procurement policy, which supports “good governance”, an “anti-corruption policy” was also being considered by stakeholders in Phase 2.
Those stakeholders, she said, include the World Bank, the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, the Lesotho Attorney General’s office, the LHDA and the LHWC.
“Both the Cabinets of South Africa and Lesotho have ensured that there is an inclusion of a clause that ensures anti-corruption and good governance in the recently signed memorandum of understanding for this development,” Molewa said.
“In addition, the LHWC will establish an independent oversight body that will be responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of all the procurement processes.”
Sputnik Ratau, the department’s spokesperson, told the Sunday Express on Friday that the legal opinion was submitted to the Lesotho government recently.
When asked what the legal opinion was Ratua said “it was based on agreements that South Africa has with Lesotho on matters of appointments”.
“She (Molewa) was merely exercising the right that she has to look at the appointments under the project,” Ratua said.
“The minister was acting on behalf of the state of South Africa. She was not acting on the basis of her mood and feelings”.
“There is nothing unusual about her seeking legal opinion. Countries, companies and organisations seek legal opinions on many issues every time.”
On Friday afternoon Sole said he did not know anything about South Africa’s objections to his appointment.
“Where do you take that from?” Sole asked when contacted for a comment.
“This is news to me; however I don’t want to lie. I am still the chief technical adviser of the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission. Nothing has changed.
“I cannot however comment further on this matter because I am just an employee and I have people I answer to. Maybe they can tell you a different story from what I am telling you.”
Monyane Moleleki, the Minister of Natural Resources who is also in charge of the water project and played a key role in Sole’s appointment, could not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of the country.
The ministry’s principal secretary, Khomoatsana Tau, said he did not know much about the issue.
“The little that I know is that upon Sole’s introduction to the other project officers (from South Africa) as the chief technical adviser, they made it very clear that they were unhappy about this appointment but then we all opted to go for legal consultations,” Tau said.
“I would not want to jump the gun because I don’t know much. About a fortnight ago there was a meeting held behind closed doors by cabinet ministers from both countries but I don’t know what the agenda was.
“Probably this is where all these were discussed but I have no information whatsoever. I want to believe that Minister Moleleki is the one who can shed light on this.”

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