PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Deputy Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, allegedly ignored suspended Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mamarame Matela’s desperate cries to be rescued from her “sexual predator” former boss, ex-Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Keketso Sello.
Ms Matela says she felt let down by Dr Majoro and Mr Mofomobe after she had reported to them the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of Mr Sello. She said she wrote two letters to the premier but go no response. Government Secretary Lerotholi Pheko was also made aware of the sexual abuse allegations and subsequent death threats made against her by Mr Sello, Ms Matela alleges. However, he also did not do anything to help her, save to advise her to be careful and promise that “we will work out something,” she says.
Her two letters to Dr Majoro are dated 12 and 20 May 2021. They have been attached to her Labour Appeal Court application for the nullification of her 2 June 2021 suspension from the LCA by Mr Sello.
Mr Nizam 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 now the new communications minister.
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.
In her 20 May 2021 letter to Dr Majoro, Ms Matela states that she had been forced to report Mr Sello to the police after failing to get any help from the premier and other government officials. She says they did not help her despite that she had reported her predicament to them.
“I confirm that to date, I have not received any intervention or response thereto and that this morning I received indications of death threats by Honourable Sello as confirmed by Tankiso Phapano his Principal Secretary,” Ms Matela states in the letter.
“The message was relayed to your office through the office of the government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, this morning that my life is in danger due to such death threats. He (Mr Pheko) then indicated that ‘just be careful, we will work out something’.
“Kindly take notice that due to the nature of the emergency, I have no option but to approach the Commissioner of Police (Holomo Molibeli) to report the sexual harassment grievance that gave rise to these death threats in the absence of intervention from your office.”
Ms Matela had also written to Dr Majoro on 12 May 2021 narrating how Mr Sello had allegedly abused her and left her “shocked, humiliated and degraded”.
She said Mr Sello first abused her emotionally by telling her the premier wanted her fired and only he could protect her from being dismissed on condition she gave in to his sexual demands.
“I endured emotional abuse due to the repeated unpleasant reminders and threats used to elicit or coerce me to toe-the-line or face immediate expulsion with the support from the highest office in government,” Ms Matela states in the letter to Dr Majoro.
“The emotional abuse was worsened by an incident of 15 April 2021 whereby the Honourable Minister summoned me to his office on the basis that you had instructed him to ensure that the position of public affairs manager that had been advertised by the LCA was awarded to a person of your choice.
“He went further to explain that he was the only person in a position to protect me from you and the instructions you were giving and that that he would be around to renew my contract of employment as long as I cooperate.”
Ms Matela also alleges that Mr Sello demanded that they have dinner at her sister Idia Penane’s house. Ms Penane is the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) CEO. Mr Sello had been her boss while he was still Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing minister. That was before the 3 February 2021 cabinet reshuffle which saw him moved to the communications portfolio.
Ms Matela says her sister had said she did not have money to host the dinner only for Mr Sello to insist he would pay for it. She does not say whether the dinner was eventually held.
She says the discussion on the dinner issue took place in Mr Sello’s office and he abused her as she was leaving the office.
“He then rose to leave the office and near the exit he suddenly requested a hug and immediately lunged towards me for an embrace where he forced me into the embrace and reiterated that I must relax since he would take good care of me.
“During the embrace, he pressed his body against me and groped me for a brief spell in the manner that made me feel shocked, humiliated, abused and degraded. He then let go and once he was done, he opened the door for me to leave the office. I immediately informed my husband (Tumahole Lechesa) of the incident and he was gravely distraught and angry that I had been abused that way by my principal,” Ms Matela states.
She says she even sought the intervention of Mr Mofomobe who begged her not to report the matter to the police “due to the reputational risk that it would have on the government”.
“The matter was brought to the attention of Honourable Mofomobe who attempted to discuss the matter with the Honourable Minister (Sello) in the presence of my husband, terminating with a meeting at the official residence of Honourable Sello on 10 May 2021 where I refused to attend due to the trauma I had experienced.
“On his return, my husband reported that the honourable Minister (Sello) confirmed in the presence of Honourable Mofomobe that the (abuse) incident did take place and justified the incident on the basis that ‘banna ban a le hob a lebatha na etse liphoso’ (men make mistakes) and that they, as men, must all focus on the bigger picture and move on.
“Although Honourable Mofomobe had begged me not to report the matter to the police due to the reputational risk that it would have on the government and His Majesty’s cabinet, the response given by the Honourable Minister (Sello) implies that he sees nothing wrong with what he did and that he would continue to extort sexual and other favours from me as a prerequisite for fulfilling his official functions under section 55 of the Communications Act 2012.”
Ms Matela states that her working relationship with Mr Sello had been strained and she was afraid to even communicate with him due to his “abusive” behaviour.
“I feel that your good office appointed a sexual predator to extort sexual and other favours from me through threats of expulsion from office which have left me feeling dejected and continues to fail to protect me from such abuse.
“At this stage, I am afraid to even respond to his calls or attend meetings alone with him as he always insists that I attend alone without my technical staff when he requires to be briefed on official matters.
“I had hoped that we would be able to discuss the matter during our brief meeting at your (Dr Majoro) office yesterday, 11 May 2021, but I appreciate that cabinet was on-going,” Ms Matela states.
Ms Matela’s suspension came barely a week after she made the sensational allegations that Minister Sello had demanded 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 for the supply of a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system 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 system. She does not name the minister’s company.
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.