- accuses Minister Sello of demanding M3 million bribe,
- alleges refusal to give in to minister’s bribe and sexual demands behind his bid to oust her,
- demands his sacking from cabinet.
LESOTHO Communications Authority (LCA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mamarame Matela, who last week grabbed headlines by sensationally accusing Communications, Science and Technology Minister Keketso Sello of demanding sexual favours from her is back with another scintillating allegation.
This time, Ms Matela is accusing Mr Sello of demanding a M3 million bribe from Global Voices Group (GVG) SA — a South African company contracted by the LCA last December to supply it with a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system.
According to Ms Matela, Mr Sello has consistently refused to sign the gazette confirming GVG’s appointment until he is given the M3 million bribe. She also accused the minister of demanding that his company be appointed as a sub-contractor under GVG’s contract. Ms Matela does not state the name of the company.
Ms Matela makes the allegations in her joint High Court application with fired LCA board chairperson, Motanyane Makara, to block Mr Sello from suspending her and interfering with the business of the LCA.
The LCA, the LCA Board of Directors, Mr Sello, the Communications Principal Secretary, the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Global Voices Group SA, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and the Attorney General are the first to ninth respondents respectively.
In her papers filed over the weekend, Ms Matela argues that there was nothing untoward about the LCA’s decision to award GVG the M500 million tender as it had been approved by then Communications minister Thesele Maseribane who has since been moved to the Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing portfolio by Dr Majoro.
She states that Chief Maseribane was reshuffled before he had signed the gazette confirming GVG’s appointment.
She alleges that Mr Sello, who replaced Chief Maseribane in February this year, has been the stumbling block through his demands for a M3 million bribe before he issues the gazette.
“The regulations (confirming GVG’s appointment) were presented to the minister (Mr Sello) for his signature on or about 28 April 2021,” Ms Matela states in her court papers.
“I had met with him in his office on 15 April 2021. In our meeting, I accordingly reminded him that there is uncertainty over the issue of our obligation to fulfil the conditions of promulgating the regulations given the delay caused by his withheld signature.
“He told me he would not sign the regulations unless and until his conditions were met. He said the contract must be amended and he was exercising his option to make it conditional or subject to further negotiation and agreement before he could sign, which powers he does not have as the first respondent (LCA) is independent.
“He said it was a valid option to include his private company as a sub-contractor and for him to be paid bribe of M3 million before he could sign the regulations. I there and then rejected his contentions. This was not the first time that he had made such demands.”
Shocked by Mr Sello’s demands, Ms Matela says she then wrote to Dr Majoro for intervention but to no avail. She says she eventually secured a meeting with Dr Majoro on 24 May 2021 where she told the premier about Mr Sello’s demands but no action was taken against Mr Sello.
Ms Matela further alleges being sexually harassed by Mr Sello in his office after the latter had also tried to manipulate her by telling her that Dr Majoro wanted to fire her and that he was there to protect her. She said she again reported the matter to Dr Majoro and when he failed to help her, she opened a sexual harassment case with the police.
“For the information of the court, the minister is very abusive. Prior to our fallout, he attempted to cajole me by subtly telling me that the Prime Minister wants to fire me and had directed him to ensure my exit from the LCA by removing the board and later removing me to appease Vodacom Lesotho where he claimed the Prime Minister had an interest and had been paid to secure my ouster. He sought to give me comfort that he was the one protecting me.
“This habit developed to the extent that he compromised me in his office on 15 April 2021 and I rejected his sexual overtures. I sought intervention from the office of the prime minister and a stage had been reached that his conduct constituted sexual harassment as I stated in my letter of 12 May 2021 to the Prime Minister.
“When no assistance was forthcoming, I exercised remedies at law to report to the police on 20 May 2021 and later opened a formal criminal docket (RCI/101/05/2021) of a sexual offence with the police on 24 May 2021. I have not overlooked the fact that his (Sello’s) behaviour towards me creates potential problems at my work and overwhelm my capacity to perform my mandated functions. I answer to him. Besides, I am married.
“As already indicated, an accurate account of the key points which I raised with the Office of the Prime Minister about Honourable Sello and the stages which my complaints have reached warrant that he be removed from cabinet.
“They warrant that he be remanded for a sexual offence and he be probed by the DECO. The raising of these issues of corruption has surely caused uncertainty and anxiety in the minds of ordinary citizenry in relation to equality before the law and equal protection of the law.
“Although the offence of sexual harassment may technically speaking not be a matter for adjudication by this court before police finalise the investigations, I place it on record that I have been confronted with the reality of the situation and this resulted in traumatic feelings of humiliation and rejection compounded by death threats launched by (Communications PS) Tankiso Phapano on 19 May 2021,” Ms Matela states.
She further alleges that Mr Sello wrote to Mr Makara on 19 May 2021, ordering him to suspend her on allegations that she had fraudulently assisted GVG to get the LCA tender.
“The letter of the minister to the chairperson of the board (Mr Makara) conflates and confuses different matters. He expresses views which are devoid of any merit and which are indications of the fact that he conflated the inability to extort M3 million from Global Voices Group SA with compliance issues.
“The essence of the letter (to Mr Makara) is that I must be suspended by the board because in his opinion I assisted Global Voices Group SA to win the tender. This is according to his own independent investigations as the minister.
“His letter requires that I be suspended promptly without hearing and yet I am the CEO of the organisation that is autonomous. It (Sello’s letter) says nothing in respect of the breach of the continuing contract between the first respondent (LCA) and Global Voices Group SA.
“If all that was required to be established was that the tender was awarded wrongly, it is his office that facilitated, approved and concurred to the acquisition of a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system from Global Voices Group SA. The remedy he has is not to suspend me but self-review the decision his office made and executed through Chief Thesele Maseribane before this court.”
In terms of reliefs, Ms Matela and Mr Makara want the High Court to order Mr Sello to sign the gazette and also bar him from suspending her from the post of LCA CEO.
They want the court to issue an order “directing the third respondent (Mr Sello) to cause the signing of the Communications (Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance) Regulations 2021 in accordance with section 55 of the Communications Act 2012”.
“It be declared that at the time the parties (LCA and GVG) entered into and signed the Master Service Agreement on 21 December 2020, they would not have anticipated that the minister would want M3 million and other conditions before signing the regulations.
“(An order) declaring the probing of only the applicants in relation to the Master Services Agreement that was approved by both the officials of the first and second respondents (LCA and LCA Board) to be unfair, abuse of process and of no legal force to the extent of discriminating against the applicants contrary to sections 18, 19 and 26 of the constitution.”
They also ask the court for an order “permanently interdicting Honourable Keketso Sello from initiating means of suspending the first applicant from her position of Chief Executive Officer of the first respondent (LCA)”.