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Everyone must fight

by Lesotho Times

LAST Thursday marked the end of Lesotho’s best known high-profile corruption trial.
Two senior government officials accused of taking bribes from a German firm in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) scandal will now be going to jail.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Reatile Mochebelele, who was Lesotho’s chief representative in the LHWP, should spend six years behind bars.
His accomplice, Letlafuoa Molapo, the other government delegate to the project, was slapped with a six-year jail term.
Already former Lesotho Highlands Water Authority chief executive officer, Masupha Sole, is serving an 18-year jail term for corruption related to the same matter.
After the judgment was passed last week, Molapo was incarcerated on the same day but Mochebelele is still at large.
We hope the long arm of the law will catch up with him soon.
The state’s perseverance is what won the case in the end.
During the last three years, the trial reached the Court of Appeal twice — first when the state was appealing against the duo’s initial acquittal and, second, when the prosecution appealed against the sentences which it deemed too lenient.
The case reached this far because the prosecution persevered and it had a strong case buttressed by thorough investigations.
What this case has shown us is that the fight against corruption can be won.
With determination it is possible to nail crooks that abuse government office to enrich themselves.
Yes, it is possible to catch and jail criminals who loot public funds.
But the fight has to start somewhere.
The fight against corruption does not start in the court but in government offices.
The resolve to root out corruption must start with the political leaders. 
The LHWP case has earned Lesotho praise for doing what is seldom expected of African states — tackling corruption head-on.
But the jailing of Mochebelele and Molapo will not automatically rid our country of corruption.
What their case shows us is that it is not improbable to bring corrupt officials to account.
Right now people are forced to pay bribes to get passports or driver’s licences.
We have heard of officials demanding bribes for tenders.
Indeed we still have a long way to become a corruption-free society.
We need working systems that make it impossible for corruption to thrive.
A corrupt official thrives on giving the client the impression that the system has collapsed.
To achieve this they just stop doing the work they are paid to do.
A passport officer simply slows down the process and waits for desperate people to knock on his door for “help”.
And when they knock he will give them the impression that it is virtually impossible to get a passport through the normal channel because the system no longer works.
He will then say if you pay him he will tinker with the system to make things happen.
What the officers don’t tell you is that they are the ones who throw spanners into the system to ensure it takes ages to get a passport when it should take just a few days.
It requires political will to clean up such systems or get rid of them altogether.
In making this point we are not oblivious to the reality that the battle against corruption should not be left to government alone.
As they say, it takes two to tango.
We believe that not all common men are passive victims of corruption.
There are many among us who have initiated and played this game of corruption.
Many have become filthy rich because they agreed to play the game.
The fight against corruption is everyone’s fight.
It needs a strong judiciary, a well-trained and clean police service and a willing government.
It needs working systems that cannot be corrupted.
But above all, the ordinary people must be able to say no.
The prosecution and jailing of Mochebelele and Molapo should remind crooks in our midst that it is possible to catch them.

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