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setting the record straight

IN our May 5 – 11, 2013 issue of the Sunday Express we published an article under the heading “Central Bank governor accused of dishonesty”. We wish to withdraw the allegation made and sincerely apologise unreservedly to Dr Retšilisitšoe A Matlanyane, the governor of the Central Bank of Lesotho and Ms Thakane Tau, the bank’s employee whose name was mentioned in the article and the Central Bank of Lesotho.

We further wish to apologise for the inconvenience the publication might have caused. With the benefit of hindsight information and consultations with the Central Bank of Lesotho and counsel who had represented the bank in the matter, we wish to straighten the record that the facts which we published were unfortunately misconceived and blatantly wrong, and we regret the impression which they created that the governor and some of the staff members of the Central Bank of Lesotho were dishonest.

We wish, therefore to state that the real issues between the parties and the arguments advanced, as set out in the pleadings and heads of argument before the court were as follows:
The bank, through investigations conducted by it in its capacity as Commissioner of Insurance is of the view that Phokeng Funeral Parlour (Pty) Ltd (“Phokeng”) is conducting illegal insurance and brokerage businesses. The brokerage business was previously conducted under ABC Brokerage but ABC’s licence was not renewed and the unlawful business is now conducted by Phokeng.
The Central Bank has an obligation to protect members of the public from illegal insurance businesses and as such the bank utilised public radio to warn members of the public not to pay their funeral premiums to Phokeng as it is conducting illegal business.
The bank is not concerned with the funeral business of Phokeng but where a funeral business is conducting illegal insurance the bank has an obligation to act, which is what the Central Bank did in the present case.
Phokeng then approached the High Court on April 5, 2013 at 06h00 to obtain an interim ex parte interdict against the Bank as a result of the said publications.

The bank filed an answering affidavit and anticipated the return day of the interdict. The matter was fully argued on April 16, 2013. During preparation of its answering affidavit the bank’s counsel and attorneys consulted with various witnesses in order to prepare the bank’s answering affidavit. On April 8 2013 at 09h30 the bank’s attorneys consulted with Ms Palesa Lekhooa in the presence of its employees.

During the said consultation it was explained to the witnesses that Phokeng is conducting an illegal insurance and brokerage business, that their evidence was needed in order to put on record the correct facts before court and after a proper consultation with the aforesaid witnesses an affidavit was prepared for Ms Palesa Lekhooa and the others.
The bank also consulted with other witnesses who contributed to the Umbrella Funeral Scheme previously administrated by ABC under a brokerage license and who now pay its monthly contributions to Phokeng which is not a registered/licensed broker and/or a registered/licensed insurer.

On the morning before the application was to be heard, Phokeng served a replying affidavit together with the affidavit of Ms Palesa Lekhooa wherein she inter alia insinuated that she had been tricked into signing an affidavit by Ms Thakane Tau when she believed that she was signing a document for attendance.

For clarity Ms Lekhooa signed her supporting affidavit drawn by the bank’s attorneys on 10th April 2013, which was two days after she had consulted with the bank’s attorneys, on 8th April 2013. Her story that she had been tricked into signing an affidavit when she believed that she was signing a document for attendance is therefore blatantly manifestly implausible. Ms Lekhooa’s affidavit was filed by the applicant on the morning just before the application was argued.

Because of the other witnesses whose evidence with regards to the unlawful activities of Phokeng provided enough credence, in that regard it was decided not to rely on the affidavit of Ms Lekhooa as it would have resulted in further unnecessary argument and delay of the matter. The bank’s counsel found it necessary and urgent, in the interests of the policy holders to this unlawful insurance business, to expedite finalisation of the application.

Thus, a well advised decision of the bank’s attorney’s to withdraw Ms Lekhooa’s affidavit instead of arguing its veracity.
The allegation in the article that the affidavit of the Governor stipulated that Ms Lekhooa concurred with the contents of the Governor’s affidavit is therefore clearly wrong. The affidavit of Ms Lekhooa and those of the other witnesses were appended to the affidavit of the Governor as proof of the illegal and unlawful conduct of Phokeng.

We wish to state the Central Bank’s vehement objection to the allegation of dishonesty and/or professional misconduct on its part, its employees and the Governor. Clearly nowhere did Ms Tau ever misrepresented to Ms Lekhooa that she was signing an attendance register while signing the affidavits as the matter was handled by its in-house lawyers and the instructed attorneys at this stage.
Equally, nowhere has the governor attested to the effect that Ms Lekhooa concurred with the contents of her affidavit.
We further wish to state that the Central Bank, as Commissioner of Insurance, is mandated to protect the interests of the citizens of Lesotho and the Bank at all times acted in compliance with the said mandate and it has undertaken to continue doing so in future.

The editor once again wishes to express his sincerest apologies for the distress this line of reporting has caused to the Governor, Ms Tau and the Central Bank of Lesotho for the perception created through the article that this critically important responsibility of the bank of protecting unsuspecting innocent citizens against unlawful business activities to derogatory insinuations of dishonesty by the governor, the bank and its staff. – Editor

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