Home NewsLocal News Manpower bails out Mahlala

Manpower bails out Mahlala

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — The government has been forced to bail out middleman Bothata Mahlala by settling the hundreds of thousands of maloti he owes to estate agencies accommodating Basotho students in Bloemfontein, the Lesotho Times can reveal.
Mahlala is the middleman who is alleged to have kept for himself money the government had deposited into his account to pay rentals for Basotho students on state bursaries in South Africa.
More than 500 students were facing eviction from their lodgings because Mahlala had not paid their rentals despite receiving the money from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).
The NMDS is responsible for managing the government’s educational bursaries. 
The principal secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Mosito Khethisa, said although they were still trying to recover the money from Mahlala the NMDS had decided to settle his debt to estate agencies “to protect students’ interests”.
“After some consideration, the NMDS has opted to take it upon itself to settle Mahlala’s debts to the estate agencies in a bid to protect students’ interests,” Khethisa said.
A delegation comprising NMDS and the finance ministry personnel was dispatched to Bloemfontein last week to ascertain the damage allegedly caused by Mahlala.
Khethisa insisted that the government’s move should not be seen as a bail-out for Mahlala but rather as a decision to rescue innocent students who find themselves caught up in the mess.
“It was established that Mahlala still owes estate agencies, which subjects students to suffering,” Khethisa said.
According to Khethisa, Mahlala owes estate agencies M190 000 in unpaid rentals as opposed to the M164 000 Mahlala claims he owes.
Khethisa justified the government’s move, saying they had to “come to the students’ rescue”.
“Our main concern is the students. They need to be comfortable and write their examinations unhindered.”
He added: “It is not unrealistic for us to take drastic measures to save the day for those kids.
“It should also not be viewed as a bail-out for Mahlala.
“We as the National Manpower forced those students to go and stay in those residences via confirmation letters which served as a directive to where they should stay.
“As proof that we are not bailing Mr Mahlala out we will be settling the debts in the NMDS name.
“It is not to his benefit, not in the least.”
Khethisa said the government suspected corrupt practices in the way student affairs were handled by the NMDS.
“We are looking into why students were directed to their residences via confirmation letters,” he said.
“Although investigations have not yielded anything substantial as yet, suspicion is that there could have been a whole lot of corruption taking place behind the scenes.”
He said Mahlala was “clutching at straws” by claiming that he was not paid in full.
“Mahlala is clutching at straws,” Khethisa said.
“We did not inconvenience him at all.
“Standard practice is that all accommodation providers are paid for 11 months.
“If he signed agreements with estate agencies exceeding that, then it is his business which has nothing to do with the NMDS.”
As to why no contractual agreement was entered into by Mahlala and the NMDS, Khethisa said it was “not uncommon”.
“It is not uncommon for such agreements to be entered into,” he said.
“There are cases whereby people operate smoothly without contractual agreements. However, things turned out badly in Mahlala’s case.”
He said the government was planning to sue Mahlala.
“We are in the process of filing a lawsuit against Mahlala,” Khethisa said.
“He needs to be brought to book and be held accountable for the role he played in creating this mess.
“Our legal team is hard at work.
“We have in our possession signed copies of letters in which he promised to settle the students’ accommodation issue.”
When contacted for comment, Mahlala denied having any knowledge of the NMDS’s resolution to settle the outstanding rentals because “they did not involve me in their latest arrangements”.
“I have no clue what you are talking about,” he said.
“I am not aware that the NMDS has resolved to settle the outstanding accommodation debt.
“They did not involve me in their latest arrangements.”

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