THE proverbial aphorism that every man is innocent until proven guilty (by a legitimate court of law) should apply to Retselisitsoe Khetsi as to any other suspected crook.
Even though Lesotho suffers no shortage of bush lawyers, it is blessed with a competent judiciary run by well experienced and competent judges. So you can be rest assured Khetsi that you will get a fair trial over bribery and corruption allegations that you took M5 million from that shadowy Israeli entity, Nikuv International Projects, in exchange for awarding it a lifetime opportunity to indefinitely milk already emaciated Basotho taxpayers on the pretext that it was the best you could get to print our passports and identity documents.
There are two possibilities when you go to court. The bench might declare that you are indeed guilty of accepting the M5 million in exchange of giving away a lucrative contract without an open, thorough bidding process as required by law.
If this happens, you can rest be assured that Scrutator will be the first to label you the real scum of the earth, not of planet Pluto.
There is also the possibility that you may be acquitted of all the charges. I have to be unfair on you and say even if that happens, don’t expect a handshake from me. You will still remain guilty in the all too important court of public opinion. You will be firmly guilty in my own court, which as you now know may be extremely ruthless.
Whether or not you are acquitted, the deal you signed with Nikuv remains one of the most illegitimate, crooked and the biggest con that this country has ever seen. You should never have landed your signature on such a malodourous contract. You facilitated a big rip-off.
It is a huge indictment on those who assumed power from the previous regime that they did not move swiftly to cancel this deal and begin this process afresh in an open, public, transparency manner. Let’s hope the long, generous hand of Nikuv has not extended its tentacles into the new regime.
One reason advanced by Joang Molapo is that a lot of money had already been paid to Nikuv that cancelling the deal would have caused huge losses. This is of course a very lame excuse. As we now know, the cost of maintaining the relationship with Nikuv is going to cost much more than would have been incurred in cancelling the deal. More humongous costs can be expected in bankrolling the foreign law firm that Molapo says he will now engage to fight Nikuv after its threat to stop work unless paid more money.
Nikuv has already siphoned a staggering M300 million out of our treasury. They now demand a further M38 million. This is despite that Nikuv hasn’t finished all the work that it should have done and some of its systems remain faulty. The shameless company will no doubt keep on issuing more invoices under some maintenance pretext.
This is the problem with contracts negotiated in the dark of the night and without open bidding processes required by the law. The finer details of the Nikuv contract are murky. Basotho no zilch about this contract despite that very soon or later they would have forked out more than half a billion Maloti, at least at the rate Nikuv invoices are being churned out.
Why this project was ever awarded to Nikuv without an open, public tender process is no longer a mystery. We now know there was a substantial number of reputable firms that could have done the job efficiently and at a much cheaper cost. They were all sidelined. That is also not a mystery.
It’s also not a mystery that the previous regime was prepared to forfeit at least US$15 million from the Millenium Challenge Account, which was due to have funded the ID component of the project, under the pretext that it was better to have both IDs and passports done by one service provider.
This enabled the ID component to be combined with the passports strand and everything was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Even if this made sense in principle, then it would have been better for the government to defer to the MCA which was running a transparent tender process for the IDs. But this could not have been. The vultures had seen an opportunity to devour. So nothing is a mystery. One good thing about vultures is they keep their eyes wide open. They see from the furthest distance and start circling round.
We all know that when bureaucrats and politicians go out of their way to trash basic procurement rules, then they are doing it for themselves. This is why there are no mysteries nor any prizes for guessing why things happened the way they did regarding Nikuv. It was all done by the vultures for the vultures.
In an almost cruel irony, Pakalitha Mosisili declared at one of his rallies that he would sort out the passport issue if he came back to power. Wow! What claptrap is this. This stinking deal was awarded under his watchful eye.
In fact, the only mystery is that it’s only you Khetsi who has thus far been netted in the bribery allegations. I am convinced nevertheless that you could not have been the only one with fingers deep in the jar.
Why don’t you do yourself a favour and spill the beans. What about allegations that the entire Democratic Congress (DC) project was bankrolled from proceeds from Nikuv.
Surely it is inconceivable that the biggest con against the people of this country could only have been spearheaded by one individual.
But let’s for once assume that it is indeed the case. Imagine a M5 million reward for a deal likely to cost this country at least in excess of half a billion Maloti, or even much more, by the time Nikuv would have packed their bags and gone (if at all they will). It’s akin to giving away one’s wife to another man for a one night stand to raise money for gambling. It is also akin to Mzilikazi’s betrayal in awarding vast swathes of land to colonialists in exchange of three chocolates.
This country surely deserves better. It’s an indictment on all of us that Nikuv is still here.
Remember that this is also a very un-lamentable entity. If it is not busy demanding and grabbing money from the poor Basotho treasury, it is busy rigging elections for that vile dictator, Robert Mugabe, in Zimbabwe.
In fact the name Nikuv is a very soiled one. We do not need it here. But thanks to you Khesi and your cohorts, we now have to endure with this drivel.
Remember my warnings when you were pushing for this underhand contract. At least I can hit my chest and say, I warned you!.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, seems to have caused a lot of consternation and trepidation when he warned his countrymen their country risked becoming another Lesotho, “a country with nothing but only donkeys and water ”.
Tsvangirai is known for routinely shooting his mouth off, but Scrutator is bound to lend him a sympathetic ear on this one. Isn’t it plain true that Lesotho is basically a consumer outpost for South African producers with little or no industry of its own to produce anything of significance.
We cannot even produce chickens and vegetables to sell in Shoprite and Pick n Pay supermarkets.
Almost everything we eat must be imported from South Africa, not to mention the clothes that we wear. We cannot organise the proverbial drunken binge in a brewery yet we are quick to point fingers at those who condemn us for who we are.
There is only one way to keep the likes of Tsvangirai at bay. Let’s jettison the establishment of car wash businesses as our main entrepreneurial activity. Let’s harness our potential in tourism to create an efficient service sector as well as think creatively to create an efficient industrial base to build a sustainable and rewarding economy for our citizens.
Let’s stop being lazy and endeavor to do well in certain undertakings, that most Africans are at least known for doing better. Most Africans are at least subsistence farmers. We are not. We even import carrots and onions from South Africa.
At the rate at which the car wash business is expanding in Lesotho, Scrutator is surprised there are still cars left to wash. Mauritius is poorer than Lesotho in terms of natural resources.
But look at how they have harnessed their potential in the tourism, agriculture and financial services sector to produce one of the most efficient economies.
Let’s get serious Basotho. Our destiny is in our hands. Yes we can. But we need to get rid of all crooks first.