THE opposition insists that Basotho National Party leader Thesele Maseribane has a case to answer for possible corruption after the latter was accused of receiving bribes from the controversial British tycoon Aron Banks.
This is despite the fact Chief Maseribane was last Friday cleared of graft by the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).
The DCEO began investigating Chief Maseribane in July this year for possible corruption after the latter was accused of receiving bribes from the controversial British tycoon Aron Banks.
Mr Banks has in recent months come under serious criticism in his home country for allegedly bribing government officials in Lesotho to secure a diamond prospecting licence.
The DCEO began investigating Chief Maseribane in July this year after the British media reported that more than M1 million was transferred by Mr Banks to his personal account held with a South African Bank in 2013 and 2014.
The BBC queried why the funds were transferred to Chief Maseribane’s personal account and he said he enjoyed a good friendship with Mr Banks.
The BBC report also said Mr Banks also paid Chief Maseribane’s rentals while he was in exile in South Africa.
While both Mr Banks and Chief Maseribane confirmed the transactions, they refuted that the money was meant to influence the government into granting him a diamond prospecting licence in 2014. The BBC also said Mr Banks refuted Dr Thabane’s claims that he funded the latter.
Mr Banks is popularly known for bankrolling Britain’s exit from the European Union which has now been coined “Brexit”.
Previous reports have linked him with Chief Maseribane’s Basotho National party (BNP) whose campaigns he has previously funded to a reported £350 000 in 2012.
The BBC report indicates that while he was applying for a diamond prospecting licence in 2013 and 2014, Mr Banks transferred £65 000 (about M1 162 192) into Chief Maseribane’s personal bank account.
Part of the money, £16 000 was transferred a few weeks before his prospecting licence was granted.
At the time that the transactions were made, Chief Maseribane was Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation.
Mr Banks transferred £16 000 to Chief Maseribane just weeks before his prospecting was granted in 2014.
Last Friday, the Director General of the DCEO, Borotho Matsoso wrote to Chief Maseribane informing him that the anti-corruption body had conducted its investigations and found no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part.
However, the opposition has insisted that Chief Maseribane still has a case to answer.
Mr Bokang Ramatšella of Lesotho Progressive Congress (LPC) said “it was really surprising that the DCEO had already wrapped up its investigations into the matter when we know that in other cases the same institution takes forever to investigate”.
“Maseribane’s vindication is premature and therefore an insult to our intellect as Basotho. To think that the investigations were started by the Hawks in South Africa who have still not publicised their findings, as well as the Scotland Yard in the United Kingdom, it is quite surprising that our own institution has already finished with its investigations.” The Hawks is the popular name for South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation which targets organised crime, economic crime, corruption, and other serious crime referred to it by the president or the South African Police Service.
Mr Ramatšella said that corruption had various forms and, in this case, “Thesele has tried to conceal the source of his income by using his son’s bank account for the transaction from Aron Banks”.
He further said that taxation regulations were flouted and the money from Mr Banks was also not declared to the Independent Electoral Commission per the National Assembly Electoral Act, 2011.
“This on its own is contravention of Section 70 (2) of the National Assembly Electoral Act, 2011,” said Ramatšella.
According to this section, “a source of funds or donations exceeding M200 000…must…be disclosed to the (electoral) Commission by the treasurer of the political party concerned”.
“There are many forms of corruption and in Maseribane’s instance, Banks gave him money knowing very well that he (Banks) would later benefit and get the mining licences and this is corruption. ’Maseribane therefore has a case to answer,” Mr Ramatšella said.
He further said the opposition was banking on the international institutions and were keenly awaiting their findings on the issue.
His sentiments were shared by the leader of Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, who said, “we are not convinced that the findings are honest”.
“One is tempted to think that the DCEO’s clearance certificate would incorporate the findings of other organisations that are also investigating the matter,” said Adv Rakuoane.
Democratic Congress spokesperson Serialong Qoo also dismissed the DCEO’s findings.
“Even a newborn baby can see what is happening. Those two are greasing each other’s hands.
“We are just awaiting the findings of the other institutions outside the country which are investigating the matter and we are also going to give them all the information we know pertaining this matter. And when we are done with that the world shall never trust the DCEO,” Mr Qoo said.
Kimetso Mathaba, the leader of National Independent Party (NIP) said while the DCEO had concluded its investigations, this should not deter other institutions from continuing with their own investigations.
“All I can say is that Maseribane has a case to answer to given all the laws that have been flouted. And we still want to know what connects Maseribane to Banks and this is not a matter that can just be wished away simply because DCEO says it has cleared him.”
Meanwhile, the BNP spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe, said “the source of our funds is well known, there is more where that they came from and we are expecting more from the same investor”.
Mr Mofomobe said the money the BNP received was less than M200 000. He also said that Mr Banks was being victimised in his own country for funding the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union (popularly known as Brexit).
“It is sad that Banks is being chased after for funding the Brexit campaign and now this war is being fought on Lesotho’s turf. We respect our own anti-corruption unit and whatever the Hawks and the Scotland Yard may find will be entirely their business. They are not above our own institution,” he said.