Majoro sets up commission to probe Frazer Solar deal

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  • as DCEO investigates former Minister Tšolo

Pascalinah Kabi

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has appointed a three-member commission to probe the botched M1, 7 billion solar energy deal with German Company, Frazer Solar.

The commission comprises of High Court Judge Molefi Makara (chairperson), former Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa and lawyer, Advocate Sekake Malebanye.

Government spokesperson and Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Samuel Rapapa, said the trio will probe the circumstances surrounding the abortive deal which is now costing the government big time.

Some of the government’s foreign assets are now being seized to pay off £50 million (M856 million) in damages Lesotho owes Frazer Solar for allegedly breaching a 2018 contract the company claims to have entered into with then premier Thomas Thabane’s government for the supply of solar power.

The German company has initiated moves to seize royalties due to this Kingdom from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) and Lesotho’s shares in a Mauritian based company.

Dividends from shares in the Mauritian company called West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) and the water royalties will be used to pay part of the £50 million damages Lesotho owes Frazer Solar.

The seizures of the WIOCC shares came barely a week after the office of the sheriff of South Africa’s Gauteng High Court garnished the water royalties due to Lesotho in terms of the LHWP agreement for the transfer of water to South Africa.

Gauteng Deputy Sheriff Khensani Ngobeni garnished the royalties last month after the Gauteng High Court on 29 April 2021 granted Frazer Solar’s application to be compensated from the Lesotho government’s water royalties. The solar company had argued that the Lesotho government had repeatedly failed to honour a January 2020 default judgement by a South African arbitrator to pay damages for the alleged breach of the 2018 deal.

The damages were awarded by a South African arbitrator in January 2020. The arbitrator, South African lawyer Vincent Maleka, was appointed by the Johannesburg Bar Council at the request of Frazer Solar who argued that the terms of its agreement with the Lesotho government provided for the appointment of an arbitrator in the event of either party breaching the contract.

Dr Majoro was finance minister at the time of the deal. He had refused to sign the financing agreement for the project aimed at providing Lesotho with 40 000 solar water heating systems, 20 megawatts of solar power capacity, 1 million LED lights and 350 000 solar lanterns over four years.  Mr Thabane’s office had already signed the main supply agreement before Dr Majoro’s refusal, the company claimed.

The moves to seize the assets has now jolted the government into action.

Mr Rapapa this week told the Lesotho Times that Dr Majoro had appointed the Justice Makara-led commission to get to the bottom of what really transpired with regards to the abortive Frazer Solar deal.

He said the commission was appointed last Thursday.

“The prime minister has set up a commission of inquiry to investigate issues surrounding the Frazer Solar energy deal,” Mr Rapapa said.

“The commission is made up of Judge Molefi Makara, Mohlabi Tsekoa and Advocate Sekake Malebanye. They are expected to start work immediately after the gazette detailing their mandate has been published. This is a public inquiry into the Frazer Solar energy deal and everyone who knows anything must appear before the commission and give their side of the story.”

Mr Rapapa added that the commission was set up after the cabinet resolved that the government must decisively deal with the matter to prevent the loss of national assets.

He said the government had also dispatched a high-powered delegation of ministers, ‘Matšepo Ramakoae (Foreign Affairs and International Relations), Nkaku Kabi (Water Affairs) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Energy and Meteorology) to South Africa to plead with South Africa not to garnish the royalties due to Lesotho for the sale of  water to South Africa in terms of the binational LHWP agreement.

Meanwhile, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has launched its own investigations into the controversial solar power deal.  It has called former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Temeki Tšolo, for questioning.

According to authoritative government sources, Mr Tšolo, who has previously denied signing the deal on behalf of the government, was called in last week by DCEO investigators to shed light on the deal.

“There is a clear case of corruption and the DCEO has since launched investigations into the matter. You will recall that Frazer Solar indicated that Tšolo signed on behalf of the Prime Minister’s office. He (Tšolo) was called in last week to assist the DCEO with investigations,” a government source said.

DCEO spokesperson ‘Matlhokomelo Senoko confirmed there were ongoing investigations in connection with the matter. She however, refused to give details.

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