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Ex -LCA CEO Matela breathes fire

by Lesotho Times
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  • authors venomous letter accusing mobile operator of state capture and industrial espionage,
  • accuses PM Majoro of corruption and repeats sexual abuse allegations against Minister Sello.
  • demands South African-style state capture probe,

Mohalenyane Phakela

LESOTHO Communications Authority (LCA) chief executive officer Mamarame Matela’s tenure at the helm of the telecommunications regulatory board expires today and won’t be renewed.

The fallen ex-CEO has nonetheless opted for an explosive parting shot with his employers by authoring a highly venomous letter in which she levels allegations against Vodacom, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, ministers, LCA board members and employees and even King Letsie 111.

Vodacom has rejected all her allegations which are not backed by any evidence.

Ms Matela accuses Dr Majoro – without citing evidence – of having been corruptly paid an undisclosed amount of money by Vodacom to sabotage her efforts to penalise the telecommunications giant for alleged non-compliance with regulatory prescripts.

She also accuses Vodacom Lesotho – again without citing any proof – of having funded what she describes as “regime change” to topple former prime minister Thomas Thabane because he was not pandering to its interests. It is nonetheless a matter of public record that Dr Thabane’s fall is attributable to allegations that he plotted the murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo. He was then forced to quit in the wake of those allegations by a powerful faction of his All Basotho Convention (ABC), then led by academic Nqosa Mahao, which insisted the country could not be led by a man facing murder charges.  Mr Thabane’s fall is also attributable to the misdemeanors of his third wife – ‘Maesaiah – with whom he is jointly charged for the Lipolelo murder and who stands accused of having generated many enemies for the likeable ex-premier.

Ms Matela repeats her allegations that she was sexually abused by former Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Keketso Sello, whom he brands a “sexual predator”. She accuses Mr Sello of carrying out his alleged sexual predation with the full “blessings” of Dr Majoro.

She also accuses Vodacom of colluding with Econet employees to sabotage its main competitor and maintain a huge market share which she estimates at 80 percent. Again, she cites no proof.

She then demands a state capture inquiry to unpack how she claims Vodacom has “corruptly captured” Lesotho politicians and officials to ensure it gets away with non-compliance as well as with short-changing customers to boost profits.

Ms Matela appears to go over the top by stating she is doubtful that any such state capture inquiry would be helpful if established by the head of state, King Letsie 111. This because she accuses the King and his family of having business interests with Vodacom.

Unless she is keeping it for use in the event that she is sued, Ms Matela cites no evidence in her no holds barred letter, addressed to Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read, and authored on the eve of her contract expiry.

The venomous letter is copied to various persons and institutions including the British and European Union embassies in Lesotho, Vodacom South Africa, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa (CRASA).

Dr Majoro’s spokesman Buta Moseme yesterday said the prime minister was aware of the serious allegations made by Mr Matela against him on different platforms but would not comment on any of them.

Tsepo Ntaopane, Vodacom Lesotho’s Executive Head – Legal, Regulatory and External Affairs, yesterday said, “Vodacom Lesotho and Vodacom South Africa reject, in the strongest possible terms, the spurious allegations and claims made by the outgoing CEO of the Lesotho Communications Authority in an open letter to Vodafone.

“As responsible corporate citizens, Vodacom Lesotho and Vodacom South Africa are fully committed to conducting business ethically and adhering to the laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate,” Mr Ntaopane added.

In the three years that she has been at the helm of the authority- the first female to occupy the position- Ms Matela has been a lightning rod of controversy as evidenced by her long-running battles with the country’s two mobile communications operators, Vodacom Lesotho and Econet Telecom Lesotho. She accused the mobile operators of flouting compliance regulations even as she now claims that Econet’s growth is being hamstrung by Vodacom’s alleged sabotage work.

Under her watch in 2020, the LCA fined Vodacom Lesotho an unprecedented M134 million, saying the mobile communications behemoth was a “serial offender” that had “repeatedly violated” its licensing terms for several years.

The move sent shockwaves in the telecommunications sector in particular and in the business sector in general. In fact, the LCA wanted to cancel Vodacom’s operating licence and was only prevented from doing so and opting for the fine by the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) and other key institutions who warned of the deleterious effects on the economy such a decision would have.

Vodacom was ordered to immediately pay M40, 2 million, representing 30 percent of the entire fine imposed on it. The remaining M93, 8 million (70 percent) was suspended for five years on condition that Vodacom does not commit further offences in contravention of its regulatory obligations within that period.

The fine ought to have been paid on 7 October 2020.  When it was not paid, the LCA decided to revoke Vodacom’s operating licence the following day.

This prompted Vodacom to file an urgent High Court application for an interim order nullifying the revocation. The interim order was duly granted by the now deceased Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo paving the way for Vodacom to continue providing services pending the finalisation of its application for a final order against the LCA decision. Judgement is pending in that case.

Apart from her wars with the two mobile communications companies, Ms Matela has an ongoing battle with former Communications, Science and Technology Minister Sello and Prime Minister Majoro. Mr Sello suspended her in June 2021 on allegations of of corruptly influencing the awarding of a M531 million tender to Global Voices Group South Africa (GVG) for the supply of a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system.

Ms Matela subsequently denied the corruption allegations and filed an application for reinstatement. She alleges she is being victimised for refusing to solicit a M3 million bribe from GVG on behalf of Mr Sello to approve the tender. She further accuses Mr Sello of punishing her for refusing to give in to his sexual advances. She also accuses Dr Majoro of shielding Mr Sello and has penned several explosive emails to the premier to that effect.

After her suspension, a tribunal was set up to probe her fitness to remain in office. However, the tribunal was revoked by current communications minister Keketso Sello, who in January this year, decided that she should go on leave pending the expiry of her contract. On the eve of the expiry of her contract, Ms Matela penned the venomous letter addressed to the CEO of Vodafone, the owner of Vodacom and all its subsidiaries in Africa.


The emailed letter is titled:  RE: Open Letter to Vodafone Group CEO on Regulatory and State Capture by Vodacom Lesotho (Pty) Ltd supported by Vodacom South Africa.


The full letter reads as follow:  Further to the e-mail correspondence sent to your good office as far back as 18 March 2020, to which no response has been forthcoming, save for further efforts to apply underhanded strategies to capture senior government officials in order to subdue the national regulatory authority in Lesotho (Lesotho Communications Authority) with the sole aim of avoiding accountability for the actions of the Vodafone affiliate in Lesotho, I hereby place the following on record, being my findings after having conducted extensive investigations into the events that have since transpired after the dispatch of that initial e-mail to your good self.


Abuse of a dominant position

National Regulatory Authorities in the communications sector who are members of the International Telecommunications Union and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation including Lesotho Communications Authority and the UK Office of Communications have put measures in place to curb the abuse of a dominant position by any licensee in order to manage competition in the market and protect consumers.

However, in Lesotho there are only two mobile network operators, being Vodacom Lesotho (Pty) Ltd where government divested its direct 20% interest to Sekhametsi Investment Consortium Ltd.  The other mobile network operator is Econet Telecom Lesotho (Pty) Ltd where the government continues to hold a 30% stake.  Market research conducted as far back as 2016 revealed that Vodacom Lesotho held more than 80% of the market share while Econet Telecom Lesotho held 20%, with a steady decline for Econet over the years to date.

Investigations reveal that Vodacom Lesotho engaged in direct industrial espionage by awarding contracts to senior employees of Econet Telecom Lesotho in exchange for confidential strategic information belonging to Econet in order to unduly benefit Vodacom Lesotho and its business, thus leading to the further decline in the growth and competitive efforts of Econet Telecom Lesotho.

The same efforts were made by the Universal Service Fund located within the LCA where no matter how Econet, being a contributor to the same fund was perpetually denied funding to increase coverage through infrastructure expansion to the sole benefit of Vodacom Lesotho by LCA officials holding interests in Vodacom in order to provide an unfair market advantage to Vodacom Lesotho in terms of coverage to the detriment of Econet Telecom Lesotho and fair competition as a whole for the overall benefit of consumers. (sic).

It also came to light during our investigations that the LCA officials in charge of awarding spectrum have interests in Vodacom and always prioritised the award of spectrum to Vodacom Lesotho to the detriment of Econet Telecom Lesotho.  Other LCA officials charged with auditing quality of service and ensuring compliance by licensees consistently issued audit reports citing non-compliances by Econet while deliberately ignoring the non-compliances by Vodacom Lesotho.  In some instances, the customer samples were deliberately selected from Vodacom affiliates who always had nothing negative to report in order to protect their interests to the detriment of Econet and the consumer.

These activities continue unabated with no intention by conflicted officials to exercise their duties in the best interests of fair competition and market growth which are the key tenets of the worldwide fundamental right to freedom of trade. 

Corrupt Activities

The concept of corruption is where a public official holding a position of power exercises such statutory power or fails to exercise his/her public power in order to gain a personal benefit.  There is always a corruptor and corruptee and some kind of benefit must be derived by both parties.

In this instance, Vodacom Lesotho has publicly declared and boasted on its official website that its minority shareholder consists, amongst others, of public officials.  On further investigation it transpires that members of the justice system including the current chairperson of the board of the LCA who holds an interest in the local shareholder is a public official in the Labour Courts of Lesotho in charge of the administration of justice which the current Minister of Communications confirmed without remorse.

Officials within the Lesotho National Police Service, the Lesotho National Defence Force, the Central Bank of Lesotho, Lesotho Communications Authority, Lesotho Revenue Authority and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses, members of the Senate and Parliament with its sub-committees hold interests in Vodacom Lesotho and have, when required, failed to take action or have taken action to protect the interests of Vodacom Lesotho which in itself is a corrupt activity based on the definition above.

In or around September 2020, the Board of Directors of LCA issued a fine to Vodacom Lesotho.  A Vodacom South Africa envoy including Mr Shameel Joosub and Mr Nkateko Nyoka met with the Prime Minister on or around 18 September 2020 without LCA involvement and thereafter the attitude and demeanour of the Prime Minister changed drastically towards LCA and its officials despite LCA being an independent statutory body.

Instead of approaching LCA to negotiate the terms of the fine, Mr Matjato Moteane (Chairman of the board for 24 years); Mr Tsepo Ntaopane (Head of Legal and Compliance) and Mr Leboela Lebete (Chairman of the Board) arranged a meeting with the Prime Minister on 5 October 2020 where the LCA and the former Minister of Communications Chief Thesele Maseribane were frog marched into the Prime Minister’s office to be told before both licensees that the Prime Minister did not like the way regulation was taking place, without requesting any prior briefing whatsoever from the LCA as a government agency empowered by a parliamentary statute of a government that he leads, with the aim of ensuring compliance by licensees.

Vodacom Lesotho was required to pay the fine or negotiate reduction on or by 8 October 2020 and failed to do so, whereupon the license was revoked on terms already communicated to Vodacom Lesotho.  The LCA Board was prepared to enter into negotiations but Vodacom Lesotho attempted to apply undue political pressure on LCA to reverse the fine in circumstances where it was already functus officio in relation to the fine as issued.

It has come to light through investigations that some service providers within Vodacom Lesotho were used as vehicles to deliver funds to the Prime Minister in order to reverse or quash all Vodacom Lesotho’s regulatory woes.

The Prime Minister on a mission arranged a briefing with LCA on 1 February 2021 and just as predicted in the e-mail previously sent to your good office, the Minister of Communications Chief Thesele Maseribane was reshuffled and replaced with the Prime Minister’s political affiliate Hon Keketso Sello whom on the first meeting informed me that the Prime Minister had tasked him to disband the LCA Board and replace them with Vodacom Lesotho affiliates and beneficiaries of his choice to implement Vodacom plans for my ouster from office to the benefit of Vodacom Lesotho. (sic).  I had no reason not to believe him but there is existing evidence in the possession of the Prime Minister to that effect, that he received as far back as 4 July 2021.

Honourable Keketso Sello undertook to shield the LCA and myself specifically from the Prime Minister’s mission to paralyse the LCA and protect the interests of Vodacom Lesotho at the request to Vodacom South Africa, Vodacom Lesotho and Sekhametsi Investment Consortium.  That promise fell by the wayside when he sexually molested me in his office on or around 15 April 2021. 

Once I reported the incident to the Board of Directors of LCA and the Prime Minister for intervention to allow for a better working relationship going forward, I received death threats from the Minister and attempts were made on my life whereupon the Prime Minister found it an opportune time to extort the initial plan to use Hon. Sello to disband the board of directors and arrange for my ouster as predicted, in order to receive a financial benefit from Vodacom Lesotho.

Hon. Sello was reshuffled on or about 3 June 2021 and replaced with Hon Samuel Rapapa yet another political affiliate of the Prime Minister to protect Hon Sello from having to answer the sexual assault complaint.  At the instruction of the Prime Minister, the Police have ignored my sexual assault case to protect Hon Sello from prosecution and thank him for implementing the Vodacom Lesotho plan.

The plot was revealed by the spontaneous and miscalculated social media post by Mr Matjato Moteane the former chairperson and current director of Vodacom Lesotho on the day that Hon. Sello issued the letter of suspension and distributed it on social media saying: “After 21 months, Repeat After Me… I am Free”.  This implied that all his efforts and those of his affiliates had come to fruition in order to avoid accountability for appointing his own sister to audit Vodacom Lesotho books of accounts in contravention of the Vodacom Lesotho Licence Conditions.  He later removed the post perhaps after realising how incriminating it was, but I was able to capture a screenshot of that Facebook post by Mr Matjato Moteane.

Personal Attacks by Prime Minister Majoro

The week after I reported the sexual assault by the Minister, the Minister commenced to accuse me of corruption that he was never able to prove and went ahead to suspend me without a board recommendation to that effect and replaced me with a Vodacom affiliated employee of LCA whose brother Brey Goolam holds shares in Sekhametsi Investment Consortium who immediately reversed all regulatory actions taken against Vodacom Lesotho.

The incoming Vodacom affiliated chairperson of the Board of directors (Puleng Lebitsa) issued a disciplinary inquiry against me without any briefing from me over decisions that were taken collectively by the board of directors of LCA as motivated and presented by Nizam Goolam in his capacity as a chief technology officer and I was unfairly discriminated against for the benefit of Vodacom Lesotho by the Prime Minister using the Minister of Communications as our principal as well as the Board of Directors and Nizam Goolam as acting CEO in contravention of the Communications Act, 2012.

The chairperson of the Board of LCA, Ms Puleng Lebitsa, then appointed a chairperson of the disciplinary panel Adv. Matsoana Fanana who holds shares in a Vodacom Lesotho affiliated company together with Ms Lebitsa and Mr Matjato Moteane, styled Toro Investments.  This implies that there was never an intention to provide a fair hearing since the mission was to arrange my ouster.  Despite several requests for documents to prove my innocence, including a failed court application where yet another Vodacom Lesotho affiliate sat as an assessor in the Labour Court and refused to recuse himself due to conflict of interest, Ms. Fanana refused to issue any written rulings but denied me justice by requiring me to defend myself blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back without the necessary documents.

At a later stage during the proceedings when information emerged that the Vodacom affiliates and so-called whistle blowers within the LCA were the key instigators and motivators behind the board decisions taken which implicated amongst others, Mr Goolam (Acting CEO) and Mr Soko Thabisi (USF Secretary), the disciplinary inquiry was abandoned and the new Minister of Communications Hon Samuel Rapapa elected to place me on indefinite leave until the expiry of my contract of employment. (sic).  The strange turnabout that revealed malice on the part of the Prime Minister was that Hon Rapapa thanked me for my exemplary work contrary to the accusations made against me.

Despite several letters to the Prime Minister to take action against Honourable Sello for the sexual assault, he promised security but never responded to any other letters save to intensify the victimisation by Vodacom affiliates within LCA. (sic).

I am currently considering legal action on the basis of defamation and crimen iniuria against all parties involved due to the defamation of character and sexual assault that came about at the instance of the Prime Minister, Vodacom South Africa, Vodacom Lesotho and Sekhametsi Investment Consortium in order to protect Vodacom interests in Lesotho.

As the first female independent CEO of the LCA since its establishment over 20 years ago, I am inclined to believe that Vodafone and its affiliates are prepared to stop at nothing to avoid regulatory compliance and have in this instance worked in concert with the government of Lesotho to send a sexual predator to sexually assault me to ensure that women remain in the kitchen despite all efforts to elevate women to add value in the levelling of playing fields and protection of already poor and disenfranchised consumers.

State and Regulatory Capture

Based on the aforesaid, it is clear that Vodafone and its affiliates are prepared to use any means necessary to avoid regulatory compliance including the elimination of perceived regulatory threats as well as the planting of affiliated public officials in strategic offices to protect its financial interests. Vodafone and its affiliates are consistently prepared to violate regulatory rules in order to increase profits, capture government officials and heads of state with the sole aim of siphoning funds from the state and consumers unabated.

A formal request will be made to the current head of state and his Prime Minister to launch an official state capture inquiry into state capture by Vodacom and its affiliates.  However, we both know that Vodacom will intensify its efforts to avert such action and no meaningful report will arise from such since the head of state and his family also secures business interests from Vodacom Lesotho as indicated in the supplier list of Vodacom Lesotho that is in the possession of the same Vodacom captured regulator.


I am a commercial attorney born and raised in Lesotho by a mother (Moroesi Akhionbare) who studied in the United States of America and worked for the United States Embassy in Lesotho until she went on retirement. She was an established trade and investment specialist in Lesotho and wrote the economic chapter that motivated for Lesotho to gain the benefit of AGOA and the Millennium Challenge Account which has (sic) significantly benefitted Lesotho’s economy.  The same woman was part of the team that facilitated the acquisition of the 20% stake in Vodacom Lesotho by Sekhametsi Investment Consortium in the 1990s through the Privatisation Unit of the Ministry of Finance in Lesotho which now benefits Sekhametsi Investment Consortium and its investors who have now ganged-up against me and local consumers that support your business in generating undue profits.

My father was the longest serving Police Commissioner in Lesotho (Major General Reitholetse Shadrack Matela) who accompanied King Moshoeshoe II while he was in exile abroad in the 1960s and secured his return to Lesotho as the rightful Monarch of the Kingdom of Lesotho.  He remained steadfast in securing law and order in Lesotho to protect the interests of all Basotho citizens despite their political affiliations at a time when similar tactics such as those being used by government officials in this situation were being used by those in power to oppress those they perceived to be their opposition, who later ascended to power under a democratically elected government of the people by the people.

My passion for fairness, justice, free trade and investment and the economic development of Lesotho stems from a family of upright parents who taught me to stand for the rights of the disenfranchised even if it costs me my life and livelihood such as has happened in this case.  I remain committed to the principles they imparted on me and will stop at nothing to ensure that all citizens of Lesotho including Vodacom Lesotho as a corporate citizen benefit and contribute fairly towards local economic activities.

I do not expect any response from your good office as before, but elect to place these facts on record and request you to examine the manner in which Vodafone affiliates operate in Africa to avoid the reputational risks such as those that transpired in Tanzania in 2019 where Vodacom officials were incarcerated and later released upon payment of a fine for economic sabotage, as well as the recent events that took place in South Africa where the developer of the “please call me” invention won the court case against Vodacom South Africa where courts are not captured. (sic).

The same applies to the fine issued by Ofcom in 2016 for failing to protect consumers in the UK.  Similar fines were issued in Italy, Ireland and Spain in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively under your leadership at group level, but their regulators remain intact and unshaken.  The trend of regulatory non-compliance, failure to protect consumers and syphoning of consumer and public funds to increase profits is a genuine source of concern particularly in states where regulators are easily captured like in Lesotho, which activities Mr Shameel Joosub zealously oversees under your supervision after you exited the boards in the subsidiaries in South Africa a while ago to take up your position as Vodafone group CEO.

The plan I became aware of and already communicated to you and Mr Joosub as far back as 18 March 2020 was implemented with unwavering precision through the tireless efforts of the local Vodafone affiliates that you unleashed through your silence and acquiescence on the regulator and in particular myself as a perceived enemy of Vodafone.  This goes to confirm the notion that Vodafone and its affiliates were and are always prepared to interfere in internal state affairs, instigate and fund regime change through the ouster of the former Prime Minister, Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane who despite being approached by your affiliates was not prepared to dance to the Vodacom stratagem, in order to install a Prime Minister that would implement its plan by using any means necessary including unleashing sexual assault against a female regulator, as the current Prime Minister has now done. 

Let me assure you that the fair trade, competition and consumer protection efforts that I commenced and implemented against great resistance and brutal force from the Government of Lesotho through its Prime Minister and Vodacom affiliates within LCA and outside will not end with my departure from the LCA.  It has only just begun and I intend to continue to provide proper guidance to avoid incarceration of your officials as was done in Tanzania in the event that the current trusted captured Government affiliates that sold their countrymen for a quick buck no longer have influence to cover up Vodacom Lesotho infractions in exchange for political campaign funding and favours as was done in this instance.”


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