…accused of donating expired maize-meal to unsuspecting Koro-Koro residents in return for their support in the upcoming elections
Police are investigating Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) candidate for Koro-Koro, Tšoanelo Ramakeoana, for possible vote-buying after his campaign team was found with a truck full of maize-meal at the weekend in the constituency and then gave contradictory statements about the consignment.
According to police spokesperson Lebona Mohloboli, some residents had raised concern over the conduct of Community Councillor ‘Maeketsang Molotsi and her relative, whose name was only given as Tšotleho, whom they accused of going “door-to-door” in Ha Mofoka and Ha Tlebere villages donating 12.5 kilogramme bags of maize-meal and urging the villagers to vote for Mr Ramakeoana.
Senior Inspector Mohloboli also said when police officers went to intercept the truck, which later turned out to belong to the Maseru City Council (MCC), they found it loaded with IWISA maize-meal, and the two could not account for the load.
“The two were invited to Ha Mofoka Police Station for interrogation, and when officers went to the councillor’s house, they found 276 more bags of the same brand of maize-meal, and 115 more were found at the relative’s residence.
“When they were asked where they got the maize-meal from, they said it been given to them by a Chinese businessman who owns a shop in Masianokeng, but the police later found this to be untrue.
“On being told that the Chinese had denied the claim, the councillor said they the maize-meal had been taken from a dumpsite in Ha Tšosane,” Mr Mohloboli said.
Senior Inspector Mohloboli said after the councillor’s relative had later said he did not know the source of the maize-meal, the police decided to confiscate the whole consignment.
“The police took all the bags and are keeping them while investigations continue. No one has been arrested in connection with this matter as yet, but the fact that the maize-meal had expired and is therefore a health-hazard if consumed by humans, is something the police are also looking into.”
According to Section 163 (2) (b) of the National Assembly Electoral Act of 2011, ‘a person commits an offense of bribery if he or she offers, promises or gives any benefit to any person in order to influence the person’s election conduct’ and if convicted, faces a M1000 fine or 12-month imprisonment or both’.
Contacted for comment, Mr Ramakeoana dismissed the vote-buying claims levelled against him and said the maize-meal was for the councillor’s piggery and poultry projects.
“Ms Molotsi has pig-rearing and poultry projects and was given that condemned maize-meal by her friends who work for the MCC,” Mr Ramakeoana said.
“This is not the first she has been given this expired maize-meal by her MCC friends”
According to Mr Ramakeoana, the police were “twisting this issue because it is a well-known fact that they are now politicised”.
He continued: “The police are no longer apolitical the way they should be. They are using this to push their own political agenda because I am not guilty of any vote-buying the way this issue is being made to appear.”
However, MCC spokesperson, Lintle Moerane told the Lesotho Times she was not aware the MCC had volunteered to give the maize-meal to Ms Molotsi.
“A certain wholesaler in the industrial area approached us for assistance because they had expired maize-meal and needed to dump it at the Ha Tšosane landfill.
“The wholesaler even hired our trucks to dump the maize-meal there. It came as a surprise when we received a call from the police that our trucks had been seen in Koro-Koro, while they were expected to dump the maize-meal in Ha Tšosane,” Ms Moerane said.
Ms Moerane further said council had started internal investigations to get to the bottom of the case.
The Lesotho Times could not get Ms Molotsi’s side of the story as her phone rang unanswered yesterday.
Meanwhile, Mr Ramakeoana is competing against Motebang Koma of the All Basotho Convention, Basotho National Party’s Ntheka Matobo, Refiloe Litjobo of the Democratic Congress and ‘Mamatutu Mabea of the Reformed Congress for Lesotho in the snap elections.