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BNP wins battle for headquarters

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — Victory at last.

For three years the Basotho National Party (BNP) has been fighting to regain control of its headquarters from Stefan Carl Buys, a local lawyer, who took control of the building when the party was hit by a serious financial crisis in 2004.

Under pressure from debtors the former ruling party mortgaged the BNP Centre building complex to Buys who promised to source funds to clear the debt.

The party owed the now defunct Lesotho Bank about M700 000 when it contracted Buys to manage the property so he could settle the debt.

At that time Buys was the legal adviser to the BNP.

The agreement, according to party treasurer Sekhohola Molelle, was that Buys would source loans from a lender to pay all BNP’s debts and he would repay the lender from the monthly rentals collected from tenants at the BNP Centre for three years.

The arrangement was supposed to start in January 2005 and end in December 2007.

According to Molelle, the party needed about M2.1 million to pay back the loan, water bills, and ground rates and to keep the building in good shape.

He said Buys told the party that a company called Leribe Property Development (Pty) Ltd had lent it the required funds.

Buys, who runs Du Preez, Liebetrau & Co law firm, told the party that he would collect rentals at BNP Centre to repay Leribe Property Development.

In 2008 the BNP told Buys that they believed they had settled their debts.

They also requested that he shows them the accounts to prove how much he had collected since 2005 and how much he had paid to the debtors.

When Buys refused to release the account, the BNP sued.

But a determined Buys approached the High Court seeking an interdict to stop the BNP from interfering with matters related to BNP Centre.

He said the party did not have rights to the property.

Buys was now representing Leribe Property Development, the company he claimed had given a loan to the BNP.

The case was before High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomncongo on November 25, 2009.

Senior lawyer Kananelo Mosito represented the party.

During the hearing Buys’ legal team argued that Mosito had not included an interested company called Arend Holdings (Pty) in his suit.

Buys had argued that Arend Holdings was the company that had bailed out the BNP with a loan.

The case was postponed to last Monday.

When it resumed, Mosito argued that Buys had been acting in conflict of interest for years as he served as the BNP’s lawyer and later represented the Leribe Property Development against the party.

Mosito also told the court that the contracts Buys made for the party had been illegal because it did not have ministerial approval as required by the Deeds of Registry Act.

Mosito also revealed that Leribe Property Development was a briefcase company that had no offices.

He also argued Arend Holdings (Pty) Ltd was inactive and that it had not filed its annual returns for years, Mosito argued.

Furthermore, Arend Holdings’ founding director Taumane Makoko told the court in papers that the company had never lent money to the BNP.

Mosito never addressed the court on the heads of arguments because Buys threw in the towel when they came back to court after a brief adjournment.

Buys’ lawyer said they were ready to settle the matter out of court.

The deed of settlement that the parties signed says the sub-lease agreement between Leribe Property Development and the BNP “is declared null and void and of no force and effect”.

The settlement directs the Leribe Property Development, Buys and Arend Holdings (Pty) Ltd to provide the BNP “with a written account on all rentals collected and disbursements made by 1st Respondent (Leribe Property Development) from such rentals for the period commencing 1st January 2005 to date in respect of the BNP Centre.”

“Such accounts to include copies of all documents such as tenants’ subleases,” reads part of the deed of settlement.

 “As from the 1st of December 2010 all rentals by the tenants of the BNP Centre should be paid by the tenants to the BNP,” says the deed of settlement.

“All sublease agreements entered into by the tenants and the respondents (Leribe Property Development, Buys and Arend Holdings) shall be deemed to have been entered between the applicant (BNP) and the tenants.”

The settlement, which has been translated into a court order, also orders Buys to produce the financial books within 30 days.

Addressing a press conference yesterday, Molelle said the BNP Centre generated about M100 000 a month in rentals.

He said the party did not have evidence that Buys paid its loan to the Lesotho Bank.

“We are also aware that he had not been paying bills, ground rates and others,” Molelle said.

“This building was never renovated during the time Buys collected rentals,” he said.

“We wonder where he took the money to.”

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