Vumbukani “pained and embarrassed” by corruption claims

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Mohalenyane Phakela | Pascalinah Kabi

FORMER Standard Lesotho Bank chief executive officer (CEO), Mpho Vumbukani, says he is “pained and embarrassed” by the unfounded corruption allegations made against him by the director general of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Mahlomola Manyokole.

Mr Vumbukani accuses Advocate Manyokole of breaching statutory obligations by prematurely divulging sensitive information on investigations, saying the latter’s actions vindicated the government’s decision to commence processes to fire him.

Mr Vumbukani says this in his court affidavit filed in response to Adv Manyokole’s High Court application challenging Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s bid to oust him as DCEO boss.

Among other things, Adv Manyokole alleges in his application that Dr Majoro is only seeking to oust him to prevent him from probing the premier and others including Justice and Law Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao, retired Judge Teboho Moiloa and Mr Vumbukani himself for various corrupt activities.

Justice Moiloa was appointed by Dr Majoro to chair a three-man member tribunal established on 24 December 2020 to probe Adv Manyokole’s fitness to hold office.  He will be assisted by retired Justice Semapo Peete and Polo Banyane.

But the DCEO boss argues in his papers that Judge Moiloa has no standing for such a role as he is himself being probed by the DCEO for corruption and money laundering.

The corruption and money laundering is said to have arisen from alleged irregular transactions in which Mr Vumbukani is said to have purchased a house owned by Standard Lesotho Bank and then sublet it to the bank with the approval of Judge Moiloa who chaired the bank’s board.   Former Finance Ministry PS Mosito Khethisa is also accused by Mr Manyokole of making an irregular payment to a law firm.  The payment allegedly benefited Justice Moiloa.

“The DCEO is investigating a case involving former Standard Lesotho Bank CEO, Mr Mpho Vumbukani,” Adv Manyokole states.

“According to the investigations, Mr Vumbukani sold himself a house belonging to Standard Lesotho Bank with the approval of the Standard Lesotho Bank board and in turn sublet the same house to Standard Lesotho Bank with the approval of the same board. At the material time, Justice Moiloa chaired the said board and himself signed the necessary documentation for the decisions and the transactions.

“Furthermore, Justice Moiloa’s law firm, Webber Newdigate, was getting briefs from Standard Lesotho Bank. The investigations reveal that through collusion, members of the board got similar benefits from Mr Vumbukani who was very close to Justice Moiloa.

“Another case involves Mr Khethisa, the former Finance PS. Investigations reveal that Mr Khethisa paid legal fees to Webber Newdigate for his personal benefit with government funds and Justice Moiloa also benefitted as partner in Webber Newdigate. He (Moiloa) is implicated in the money laundering case which is still being investigated by the DCEO,” Adv Manyokole states.

However, Mr Vumbukani denies the allegations in his answering affidavit. He instead accuses Adv Manyokole of making the unfounded and embarrassing claims as part of a “devoted effort to deflect the court from the investigations or enquiry which aims to probe his fitness to hold office”.

He said it was not proper for Adv Manyokole to divulge his name in connection with any allegations especially since he had never been arrested or charged with any crime. He said the divulging of his name for trial “in the court of public opinion” was likely to have a negative impact on his professional career and employment prospects as his name would be linked to corruption.

“I am both pained and embarrassed by this gratuitous and ill-informed allegation made against me. I am alleged to be having an illicit relationship with a respected and retired judge who was the chairperson of the board of Standard Lesotho Bank. The Director General is completely oblivious of the impact of the allegations made in the above-referenced paragraph and its impact on not only my career and also that of the learned judge.

“I resigned from the Standard Lesotho bank and the very publication of this gratuitous allegation unsupported by both facts and dynamics of corporate governance bears the potential of making my prospects of seeking employment in the financial sector very bleak.

“I wish to take the court into my confidence and assert that the immoderate, illegal and gratuitous nature of the frame of the entire affidavit clearly points towards the lack of competence on the part of the director general to lead such a venerable and delicate institution. For all intents and purposes, I have not been charged for any wrongdoing by the Director of Public Prosecutions and this transaction relates to an incident that occurred more than eight years ago.”

Mr Vumbukani argues that Adv Manyokole’s unprofessional conduct justifies the government’s push to get rid of him.

“I categorically insist that it was both unethical and illegal for the director general to act as he has done and a suspension is most viable option that must be explored given the gravity of his unprofessional conduct. I am of the strong view that this issue alone of publishing the names of persons who are alleged to be suspects and under investigation in a matter to which they have no real or substantive interests is more than adequate to have him removed from office.

“What I found to be most disturbing about my inclusion in this litigation of the Director General of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences is the fact that since he assumed the reins as the head of the institution, my name has been consistently featured in the media for all the wrong reasons.

“What is of utmost importance is the fact that a trend of subjecting the so-called suspects to the court of the public opinion has been a trend adopted by the DCEO under the leadership of the deponent to the founding affidavit (Manyokole).

“To date I remain uncharged of any criminal offence and the Director General conveniently does not disclose the status of the investigations staged against me. My name is showcased in judicial proceedings in which I have no interest implicating me in a sordid crime of corruption with a respected judge and the purpose is none other than to save the embattled director general,” Mr Vumbukani states.

He says he is considering suing Adv Manyokole for defamation.

“I take strong exception to this initiative and I have instructed my lawyers to explore staging a litigation against the Director General in his personal capacity for getting my name besmirched in the mud and consequently tarnished.

“My purported investigation points towards the lack of knowledge and appreciation of the dynamics of corporate governance. It also points towards the lack of conceptual understanding of what corruption is. I am not corrupt and neither is the learned Mr Justice Moiloa.

“I am equally pained by a superfluous and ambitious suggestion that I am close to Justice Moiloa and as a result I corrupted him or vice-versa and that we colluded over a corrupt activity of purchasing a house that is worth M3 320 000,” Mr Vumbukani states.

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