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VCL on DCEO radar?


Mohloai Mpesi

The Directorate Corruption on Economic Offences (DCEO) Director General Mahlomola Manyokole said they are going to initiate investigations to establish truth claims that giant telecommunications company Vodacom Lesotho (VCL) may have been in untoward deeds including money laundering and terrorism.

This after claims by the Chief Executive Officer of telecommunications regulator Lesotho Telecommunications Authority (LCA) ‘Mamarame Matela that VCL attempted money laundering, terrorism and had a go at bribing in order to have a regime change in their favour.

The Directorate boss said the corruption unit will start their investigations once they have had a chance to go through the letter.

“We are not aware of the letter but we will call the LCA boss to tell us about the letter and what they know about Vodacom so that we can launch our investigations. Right now we can’t do anything because we don’t have the letter,” Manyokole said.

The letter in question is one in which the LCA boss wrote to higher ups in the Vodafone group in England, to alert them of an alleged intended move by Vodacom South Africa acting in concert with Vodacom Lesotho, to instigate a campaign to get her fired for fighting VCL’s non-compliance with local laws regarding licensing.

She is said to also be claiming in the letter that the Vodacom bosses even offered a bribe to tune of M2million to former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane, who was largely seen as the actual brains behind the former Tom Thabane-led four party coalition government which saw its demise in May 2020.

Matela has been fingering Vodacom for not complying with the licensing regulations.              

The letter titled “Request for Ethics, Risk and compliance policies governing compliance (sic) with local laws where Vodafone Group has a local presence in various jurisdiction read, “We are concern about the planned regime change funded by Vodacom under the leadership of Mr Moleketi from South Africa and Moteane the local chairman; to reshuffle the current Minister of Communications Science and Technology to ensure my ouster as the CEO of LCA to ensure that the issues rise herein are not resolved for the benefit of Vodacom Lesotho and its shareholders,” the letter addressed to the Vodafone Group’s Nick.

The letter was included in the telecoms giant application in court to have LCA barred from invoking its unified license revocation for failure to pay the M134million fine for failure to abide by its licensing provisions.

The application followed the regulator’s decision to revoke the service provider’s license for failure to comply with its M134 million fine, the lion’s share (70%) of which was suspended for five years.

The on-going tug-of-war between two was said by the regulator’s Chief Executive Officer ‘Mamarame Matela as inter alia politically influenced.

The LCA revoked VCL’s Unified License on Thursday October 8, 2020 citing failure to comply with directives of the regulator after VCL failed to pay part of the M134 million fine for a litany of transgressions.

LCA imposed a fine of M134 million on the mobile network giant citing failure to appoint independent auditors from 2015 to 2019 and lack of remorse; failure to provide adequate mitigating factors and supporting evidence e.g. employees; failure to grant access to view original records; false records in the trial balance – Payee of audit fees; dishonesty by filing a claim for full payment of M9.2million for incomplete work, knowing it to be incomplete; unethical conduct – trial by the media and political interference; failure to comply with directive on out-of-bundle charging; impact on domestic and foreign direct investment; review of financial statements 2019/20 – going concern test.

However, only 30% of the fine was to be paid in the amount of M40 200 000 by 7 October 2020 while the 70% was suspended for a period of five years on condition that Vodacom complies with applicable laws.    

High Court granted it an interim order for stay of execution of LCA’s revocation of the service provider’s unified license pending finalisation of the case before court.

The order was granted by Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo on Thursday October 8 in the matter that was filed the same day, which is also the day when LCA announced the revocation of VCL’s license.

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