Senior civil servants suspended

Lesotho Times
11 Min Read
Minister of Gender, Youth Sports and Recreation Likeleli Tampane

…as rampant looting threatens to derail hosting of international sports tourney

Pascalinah Kabi / Moorosi Tsiane

TWO senior managers in the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation have been suspended over allegations of massive looting at the prestigious Rapokolana High Altitude Sports Training Centre.

Gender minister, Likeleli Tampane, said while the looting and vandalism had been going on at the facility for several years, the latest incident occurred a fortnight ago. This after unidentified people overpowered security guards at the facility and vandalised equipment at the swimming pool.

She said they had suspended two senior managers in her ministry in the wake of the theft of various items such as furniture, washing machines, sofas, matrasses, blankets and pillows from the facility. The centre is expected to host some of the athletes who will jet into the country for the Africa Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games from 3 to 12 December 2021.

Local athletes will battle for honours with their counterparts from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, eSwatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They will compete in athletics, boxing, basketball, gymnastics, netball, football, judo, tennis, swimming, taekwondo and volleyball.

Ms Tampane said apart from the theft of equipment at Rapokolana, laptops containing crucial information on the games had also been stolen from her ministry’s offices in what she considers to be an elaborate plot by senior civil servants to sabotage the games.

The Democratic Congress (DC) legislator said this could also be the work of political rivals bent on sabotaging her in the belief that the successful hosting of the games could raise her party’s stock ahead of next year’s elections.

The DC is the second biggest party in the All Basotho Convention (ABC)-led governing coalition. However, the parties will battle each other and other parties in next year’s high stakes’ elections due anytime from September 2022 onwards.

The two suspended managers are said to be part of a group of six civil servants accused of looting the M55 million sports complex since 2012.

One of the six has already been fired while three others are still at work despite being linked to the racket.

Situated at Har’a Pokolana, Maseru, the facility was opened in 2005 for the training and accommodation of local and international athletes.

The centre boasts of a soccer pitch, running track, tennis court, swimming pool and gymnasium. Sixteen years later, the facility is still not being used. During his tour of the centre in August 2020, Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane observed that it had fallen into disrepair and called on various government ministries to work together to ensure that it became operational.

But in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Ms Tampane said there were “serious problems” at the Rapokolana facility and these were caused by people who wanted to sabotage the smooth hosting of the games.

She said the facility had been earmarked to host 300 athletes and it was being marketed as a “place of choice” for international athletes.

“Rapokolana is one of the places we want to be managed by the private sector because we have failed,” Ms Tampane said this week.

“I am saying the ministry has failed because after my appointment last year, we discovered that massive looting had been going on at the facility for many years. We toured several state-owned properties and realised that a lot had been stolen from them.

“Rapokolana had benefitted a lot in terms of donated equipment and other necessities. We asked for the inventory and discovered that various items including blankets, mattresses, pillows, washing machines and fridges had been stolen. The beds no longer have mattresses.

“I immediately reported the matter to the police who began investigations. They recovered some of the stolen items which are now at the Maseru Central Police Station. If you were to go there, you will see sofas, washing machines and many other things. Basotho can be cruel, they even took the planks used to make kitchen nets. Those planks are very unique and imported. In some cases, the suspects gave the stolen goods to their friends. Some of the confiscated goods were found at suspects’ relatives.

“Some of the suspects are senior managers in this ministry. They are now naming their accomplices and the stolen assets are being recovered. Some have accepted their wrongdoing and are just waiting to appear in court. In the meantime, they remain suspended from work with full benefits,” Ms Tampane said.

She said the investigations had revealed that the six suspects and others had allegedly been looting the facility since 2012.

She said the latest break-in occurred just a fortnight ago when unknown people stormed the centre and vandalised the swimming pool area.

“We had earlier identified the urgent need for water and electricity connections ahead of the games. We settled a M99 000 debt with the Lesotho Electricity Corporation (LEC) who immediately reconnected the facility.

“Unfortunately, there was a break-in and vandalism at the control room. There was forced entry at the swimming pool and they damaged everything. The suspects threatened to kill a security officer who got scared and allowed them to escape.

“The damage is pretty bad, meaning we to have to pay (for repairs) yet again. There are ongoing police investigations into this matter,” Ms Tampane said.

She said apart from the looting at the centre, laptops had also been stolen from the ministry’s offices in Maseru and her vehicle had been vandalised by unknown people.

“Just a week after my appointment as minster, the vehicle that was allocated to me by the government was vandalised. That same week, the theft of laptops started. They first stole two laptops, then another two and another one over different months. In all, five laptops were stolen, they all contained crucial games information. They were kept in the administrator’s office.

“All the gadgets that were used for the preparations are gone and we lost information we so desperately needed. It has negatively affected our preparations for the games because we have had to start afresh and buy new laptops.”

Ms Tampane said she suspected that the attacks could have been by people who were unhappy with her “zero tolerance” for what she said was rampant corruption in the civil service.

She said she suspected she could have “stepped on some people’s toes” when she revoked payments to members of the games’ local organising committee which amounted to about M1 million per month.

“I am a straight talker and I never beat by the bush. I am not amenable to being bribed. I therefore suspect that I stepped on people’s toes when I publicly said that the hiring of the LOC secretariat was flawed. Their payments were exorbitant and when I came in, the ministry was already struggling with the payments.

“The 34 LOC members were collectively paid close to M1 million per month. This was not sustainable and we decided to terminate their contracts. I suspect these are some of the things which have caused these attacks,” Ms Tampane said.

She now believes that the ‘saboteurs’ are working day and night to ensure that she fails to deliver a successful sporting event.

“This hurts me more than anything else because these games can bring positive benefits to Basotho – to informal traders, car rental businesses, dressmakers, catering and many others. They want to frustrate me. I have heard that they want to slow me down and I believe these are people who know that I meticulously perform my duties whenever I am given responsibilities.

“Secondly, they believe that I am going to steal money earmarked for the games and give it to the DC to campaign for next year’s elections. I have also heard that they accuse me of dishing jobs to DC members yet the LOC is made up of civil servants from different ministries.

“I am speaking like someone who is dying. I don’t mind even if I were to wake up dead tomorrow because I would have laid bare what is happening in this government. What is making me emotional and teary is that I do not foresee this country going anywhere with this type of civil service because most of them love taking bribes. They don’t love Basotho and they are only concerned with self-enrichment.

“Do not think this is being done by the lowest paid civil servants, it is done by senior managers. I have done my research and found that some of the people who have looted in this ministry are senior managers. This is happening in all government ministries,” Ms Tampane said.


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