…announcement timing raises eyebrows

DCEO finalises Metsing graft probe

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU –Amid the flurry of activity surrounding the opening of preparatory talks for national reforms, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) was quietly putting final touches to a docket on allegations of corruption against former deputy prime minister Mothetjoa Metsing.

DCEO officials announced on Wednesday they had completed investigations into suspicious deposits into the accounts of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader and were ready to haul him to court. Public Eye can report the investigations are complete and the anti-graft body is awaiting Metsing’s arrival back into the country from his temporary base in South Africa so he can be taken to court.

DCEO Public Relations officer, Matlhokomelo Senoko confirmed to Public Eye on Wednesday investigations into the unusual movement of funds into Metsing’s accounts were complete. “The investigations are complete; we are still waiting for his return so he could be taken to court to face his charges,” she said. Her boss DCEO director Boroto Matsosa had earlier on Wednesday hinted the same at a public seminar in Maseru.

The DCEO’s move is likely to provoke mixed responses from both opposition and government as the two belligerent sides on Wednesday made a battery of concessions to clear the way for the reforms to begin. One of the key agreements was a moratorium on prosecution of Metsing and dropping of an extradition request made to the South African government should he voluntarily end his self-imposed exile.

The DCEO has in the past four years been investigating suspicious deposits made into Metsing’s accounts but he rushed to court to scupper the investigations. In 2014, when investigations were ongoing, Metsing lodged a constitutional case against the DCEO alleging investigations or interrogation of his bank account was a violation of his right to privacy.

He had asked the court to declare the acquisition of his account information by DCEO from two banks as unconstitutional. Metsing had argued that the investigations into his accounts were a strategy to tarnish his name by his coalition partners then. But the High Court dismissed his application in February 2015, which he subsequently appealed against but this was again rejected by the Court of Appeal in November 2015.

The suspicious deposits into Metsing’s account were made while he was Local Government and Chieftainship minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the 2012 coalition government headed by Dr Thomas Thabane. Metsing allegedly received M328, 000 and M118, 000 between April 2013 and June 2013 and that a deposit of M524, 964 into his account was also unexplained.

This was after the allocation of a road tender to a construction company that was working on the roads in some parts of Maseru. The company, which was awarded the M120 million tender, is alleged to have won the tender because of Metsing’s influence. As part of its investigations, the DCEO last year summoned the former deputy premier to its offices to help with the investigations, a move that Metsing described as a plan to tarnish his image.

It was unclear last night whether Metsing would be dragged to court following Sadc’s intervention and the subsequent deal staying proceedings against him. In a letter to Sadc facilitator to Lesotho, the LCD leader had demanded that the charges against him be dropped to enable his full participation in the reforms.

“I hereby state my minimum requirements for my return and where applicable other exiled leaders return to Lesotho: security guarantee and dropping of all charges and court cases against Hon Metsing, Hon Mokhosi and leader of Socialist Revolutionaries Mr Teboho Mojapela and similarly placed persons to enable fair and fully inclusive participation without fear or favour of all key role players,” read part of the letter. The government had in the letter responded to a number of issues raised by the LCD leader such as undertaking to provide adequate security for him as well as consulting the relevant departments to ensure that the court cases pending against him would not prevent him from fully participating in the national reforms processes.

But is also stressed that it does not have the leverage to interfere with court processes and decisions of independent departments and agencies. “While committed to the principle of inclusivity in the reform process, the government may not legally have the authority to de facto grant immunity from prosecution to individuals charged with criminal offences or other offences, it must be emphasised that such acts would also create precedence that will be binding on government in future.”

On Wednesday night, government had however softened its stance and undertook to withdraw the extradition application but said this would only be done upon receiving a written commitment from Metsing that he will return to Lesotho. “Further to our letter of August 8, relating to the conditions for the return to Lesotho of Leader of Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Honourable Mothetjoa Metsing, we wish to kindly inform you that government reflected on its proposals for the said return and makes amendments to its earlier proposal: that immediately upon his arrival in Lesotho, government undertakes to withdraw the extradition application for his return filled with the courts of law in the Republic of South Africa,” part of the letter states.

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