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War of words erupts over Nikuv ‘loan’

 

Director of National Identity Civil Registry Tumelo Raboletsi expresses outrage over allegations he corruptly received M170 000 from the Israeli firm, while Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo insists there is enough evidence to nail him.

Keiso Mohloboli

The Ministry of Home Affairs Director of National Identity Civil Registry, Tumelo Raboletsi, has denied accusations that he was given a M170 000 bribe by Israeli company, Nikuv International Projects (NIP).

The Ministry of Home Affairs Principal Secretary (PS), Ranthomeng Matete, wrote a letter to Mr Raboletsi on 4 November 2014 giving him 24 hours to respond to the allegations.

The Ministry controversially awarded Nikuv a M300 million contract in 2012 to computerise the country’s border-control system, produce Lesotho’s electronic passports, national Identity Documents (IDs), birth and death certificates without an open public tender amid allegations the firm had bribed senior government officials to clinch the deal.

Former Home Affairs PS, Retselisitsoe Khetsi, has since been charged for allegedly receiving a M5 million bribe from Nikuv in return for the tender, and his trial is currently underway before the High Court. Mr Khetsi is charged alongside Motsotuoa Makoa, who allegedly acted as Nikuv’s agent and facilitated the payment of the bribe. Both men are out on M10 000 bail each.

However, responding to Mr Matete’s ultimatum, Mr Raboletsi denied receiving any money from Nikuv, which the PS said was “possibly a loan”.

“I refer to your letter of 4 November 2014, which was delivered to my office in my absence at about 4pm and demanding that I respond no later than 4:30pm the following day (5th November 2014).

“Kindly be advised that I have received no funds from Nikuv International, either as alleged or at all.”

Mr Raboletse, who maintained his innocence when the Sunday Express called him on Thursday for more information on the matter, said the allegations had left him in a state shock, adding he believed they were part of a wider campaign to tarnish his good name.

“Nikuv is not a financial company that gives out loans, but deals in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems and national infrastructure projects.

“It is unfair for the Ministry to accuse me on the basis of mere speculation. I am a professional and know where to go when I need a loan; I can’t compromise my dignity and ask for a loan from Nikuv. If I need a loan, I will definitely contact my bank.

“I strongly feel there is more to this than what I am being accused of, and believe this is meant to tarnish my reputation; for what, I am yet to find out,” Mr Raboletse said.

But according to Mr Matete’s letter, it appears the ministry had enough information regarding the ‘loan’.

Mr Matete’s letter reads: “I am directed to bring to your attention that there are allegations to the effect that you have been a recipient of funds amounting to M170 000 from Nikuv International, possibly as a loan from the company.

‘In view of your senior position in the Ministry, and the contractual relationship between Nikuv and the Ministry of Home Affairs, I am further directed to request you to respond to these allegations.

“Your response would enable the Ministry to form an opinion concerning the possibility of a conflict of interest.

“Kindly submit your response to my office on or before 4:30 pm on Wednesday November 5, 2014.”

Mr Matete would not discuss the issue when contacted for comment, but Home Affairs Minister, Joang Molapo yesterday told the Sunday Express that there was enough evidence  regarding the ‘loan’ to nail Mr Raboletse. Chief Molapo also dismissed allegations that he was after Mr Raboletse for refusing to cancel Lesotho Congress for Democracy deputy spokesperson, Selibe Mochoboroane’s diplomatic passport following his dismissal as Minister of Communications, Science and Technology on 16 October 2014.

Mr Mochoboroane, who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Thabana Morena constituency, has refused to vacate office despite his dismissal from cabinet by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, arguing only LCD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, has the authority to fire him.

The LCD, Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Thesele ‘Maseribane formed a coalition government in June 2012, but the alliance  collapsed early this year after Mr Metsing accused Dr Thabane of not consulting his fellow principals when making key decisions with a bearing on good governance.

However, Chief Molapo, who is also the BNP deputy leader, yesterday scoffed at suggestions the M170 000 bribery allegations against Mr Raboletse, who allegedly belongs to the LCD, are politically motivated.

According to sources close to the case, the Minister was allegedly angry with Mr Raboletse for advising him not to cancel Mr Mochoboroane’s diplomatic passport since he was still entitled to it as an MP.

“The Ministry has evidence to support these allegations that Mr Raboletse had financial dealings with Nikuv. In fact, putting it as an allegation was just to give to Mr Raboletse an opportunity to explain himself before we could take the next step.

“I cannot hide behind the Ministry’s staff to fight my political battles; it is not true that I’m questioning his financial deals with Nikuv because he advised me not to cancel Mr Mochoboroane’s diplomatic passport,” Chief Molapo said.

“I know the law and was aware that Mr Mochoboroane was still entitled to a diplomatic passport as an MP. I only wanted to withdraw it because he was misrepresenting himself even after he was dismissed as Minister of Communications, Science and Technology. Raboletse is not a legal officer or the Ministry’s lawyer, so there is no way that I could be legally advised by him.

“The real issue here is did you or didn’t you have financial dealings with Nikuv International?

“I don’t care what political party any of our staff is affiliated to but only service-delivery to the nation. So claims that this case is politically motivated are baseless, to say the least.”

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