SUSPENDED Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) Chief Executive officer (CEO), Mamarame Matela, has accused former Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Keketso Sello, of replacing her with Acting CEO Nizam Goolam to protect mobile communications giant Vodacom Lesotho from being sanctioned by the regulatory authority.
Ms Matela makes the allegations in her latest Labour Appeal Court application filed this week to reverse her 2 June 2021 suspension from the LCA by Mr Sello.
The LCA, the LCA Board of Directors, Universal Service Fund-LCA, Keneuoe Mohale, Acting LCA CEO Goolam, the communications minister, the communications principal secretary, the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Global Voices Group SA, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, Vodacom Lesotho, Sekhametsi Investment Consortium, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and the Attorney General are the first to 14th respondents respectively.
Mr Goolam was appointed acting CEO on 2 June 2021- the same day Ms Matela was suspended.
Mr Sello was subsequently moved to the Public Service portfolio in a 3 June 2021 cabinet reshuffle by Dr Majoro. Former Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs Minister Samuel Rapapa is the new communications minister.
In her founding affidavit, Ms Matela alleges that Mr Goolam is related to one of the shareholders in the Sekhametsi Investment Consortium which has shares in Vodacom Lesotho. She does not name the shareholder however. She accuses Mr Sello of replacing her with Mr Goolam to reverse the LCA’s October 2020 decision to revoke Vodacom Lesotho’s operating licence on the grounds that it had failed to comply with the authority’s directive to pay a M40, 2 million fine for various alleged infractions.
Vodacom managed to obtain an interim High Court interdict against the LCA’s decision but the matter is pending before the same court.
“I categorically maintain that the purported decision to appoint Mr Goolam as the acting CEO of the first respondent (LCA) is void from the inception,” Ms Matela states in her affidavit.
“I must indicate that the relationship between the LCA and Vodacom Lesotho is complex. As the regulator, the LCA wants Vodacom to comply. My team which includes Mr Goolam analysed and scrutinised Vodacom’s balance sheet and income statements. We found that they have been audited by their relatives. I only bring this up to show that there are pending cases before the High Court.
“In those cases, I have deposed to affidavits in my capacity as the CEO. I dealt with principles of corporate governance in terms of which my understanding is that the audited statements of Vodacom Lesotho are not proper because they have been prepared by the relatives of the directors. When I am still expecting finalisation of those cases which have been instituted by Vodacom Lesotho, I am suspended and another relative of the shareholder in the Sekhametsi Consortium is appointed the Acting CEO.
“This decision of Honourable Sello is too frenzied. As far as corporate governance is concerned, this appointment is irregular and it creates an impression that it is a thoughtfully catapulted plan to re-absorb the LCA into Vodacom so as to redeem the labyrinthine accounting structure of Vodacom Lesotho which I have questioned on behalf of the LCA.
“The same appointee (Goolam) of the Minister (Sello) knows the original notes compiled to make Vodacom comply. He is now in office and the plan is to use those notes for unlawful activities. The acting appointment of Mr Goolam violates section 13(7) of the Communications Act 2012.”
The LCA had initially fined Vodacom M134 million for what it said were serious infractions since 2015 including “submitting audited financial statements that were unaccompanied by a certification issued by an independent external auditor”.
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 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.
Justice Keketso Moahloli heard arguments from both LCA and Vodacom Lesotho to finality in December 2020 and reserved judgement to an unspecified date, saying he first needed to consider all the submissions that were made.
Ms Matela’s suspension came barely a week after she sensationally accused Minister Sello of demanding sexual favours from her as a condition for keeping her job. She also accused the minister of refusing to approve, through a gazette, the M500 million tender by the LCA for the supply of a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system tender which the LCA awarded to Global Voices Group South Africa (GVG) until he was given a M3 million bribe. She said the minister also demanded to have his company subcontracted by GVG before he could approve the tender for the supply of the Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system.
Ms Matela has since reported the sexual abuse allegations to the police. She had on 27 May 2021 also filed a High Court application to stop Mr Sello from suspending her on account of her alleged corrupt role in the awarding of the tender to GVG last December. However, Mr Sello went ahead and suspended her, forcing her to launch the fresh application against her suspension.