Police swoop on ex-LCA boss’ home

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…after High Court authorises pre-dawn raid to recover LCA property

Bongiwe Zihlangu

POLICE and sheriffs of the High Court yesterday staged a pre-dawn raid on the Lithabaneng, Maseru, home of former Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) CEO, ‘Mamarame Matela.

The raid was conducted in line with a High Court order which gave permission to search for the Authority’s assets which were allegedly still in Ms Matela’s possession almost two weeks after her contract expired on 31 March 2022.

According to the interim order issued on 8 April 2022 by Judge Molefi Makara, the applicant (LCA) was authorised to recover a Range Rover vehicle, an iPhone, a Dell Inspiron laptop with a spare laptop adapter, a 12 Inch iPad, a Phillips recording device, an LCA uniform, office keys, LCA credit card, LCA identification card and LCA Board minutes and resolutions “as well as other documents of a confidential nature which are in the possession of the first respondent (Matela).

“The Deputy Sheriff and the police are authorised to do all such things and take all such measures as shall be reasonable in the circumstances to enforce the applicant’s right of attachment herein including but not limited to using such reasonable force as may be necessary to take control and possession of the aforementioned vehicle, documents and items.

“It is declared that the first respondent (Matela) is not entitled to possess the items set out herein,” Justice Makara stated.

In a subsequent interview, Ms Matela yesterday accused the police and sheriffs of heavy handedness in their approach.

She said the officer in charge of the raid and one of the two sheriffs were particularly hostile in the manner they ransacked her house.

She alleged that apart from the official vehicle and the uniform, she did not have any other LCA property to warrant such a massive invasion of her privacy.

She claimed the raid was an attempt by one of Lesotho’s mobile operators and its shareholders to destroy her.

“It has been that long time since I walked out of the LCA office,” Ms Matela said.

“When I walked out of that office on the morning of my suspension (on 2 June 2021), no inventory was conducted to say what I could take with me and what I was leaving behind. I was just told to get out there and then. And I left everything in there.

“When the acting CEO, Nizam Goolam, was given his letter of appointment, I was simultaneously given my suspension letter. When I left that office, he (Goolam) was there. Everything was there. I did not take anything with me,” Ms Matela added.

The former LCA boss was the first Mosotho woman to be appointed CEO in the Authority’s history after she assumed the role in April 2019.

She soon made enemies in several quarters with her combative style.

Under her watch in 2020, the LCA fined Vodacom Lesotho an unprecedented M134 million, saying the mobile communications behemoth was a “serial offender” that had “repeatedly violated” its licensing terms for several years.

Vodacom was ordered to immediately pay M40, 2 million, representing 30 percent of the entire fine imposed on it. The remaining M93, 8 million (70 percent) was suspended for five years on condition that Vodacom does not commit further offences in contravention of its regulatory obligations within that period.

The fine ought to have been paid on 7 October 2020.  When it was not paid, the LCA under Ms Matela’s leadership, decided to revoke Vodacom’s operating licence the following day.

This prompted Vodacom to file an urgent High Court application for an interim order nullifying the revocation. The interim order was duly granted by the now deceased Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo paving the way for Vodacom to continue providing services pending the finalisation of its application for a final order against the LCA decision. Judgement is pending in that case.

Apart from her wars with the two mobile communications companies, Ms Matela has an ongoing battle with former Communications, Science and Technology Minister Keketso Sello and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro. Mr Sello suspended her in June 2021 on allegations of corruptly influencing the awarding of a M531 million tender to Global Voices Group South Africa (GVG) for the supply of a Compliance Monitoring and Revenue Assurance system.

Ms Matela subsequently denied the corruption allegations and filed an application for reinstatement. She alleges she is being victimised for refusing to solicit a M3 million bribe from GVG on behalf of Mr Sello to approve the tender. She further accuses Mr Sello of punishing her for refusing to give in to his sexual advances. She also accuses Dr Majoro of shielding Mr Sello and has penned several explosive emails to the premier to that effect.

After her June 2021 suspension, a tribunal was set up to probe her fitness to remain in office. However, the tribunal was revoked by current communications minister Keketso Sello, who in January this year, sent her on forced leave pending the expiry of her contract. A day before the expiry of her contract, Ms Matela penned a highly charged letter to the CEO of Vodafone, the owner of Vodacom and all its subsidiaries in Africa.

In her letter to Vodafone CEO, Nick Read, Ms Matela accused Vodacom Lesotho of state capture and flouting compliance laws in Lesotho. Her allegations were dismissed by Tšepo Ntaopane, Vodacom Lesotho’s Executive Head – Legal, Regulatory and External Affairs.

“Vodacom Lesotho and Vodacom South Africa reject, in the strongest possible terms, the spurious allegations and claims made by the outgoing CEO of the Lesotho Communications Authority in an open letter to Vodafone.

“As responsible corporate citizens, Vodacom Lesotho and Vodacom South Africa are fully committed to conducting business ethically and adhering to the laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate,” Mr Ntaopane said.

 

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