In the wake of being accused of peddling fake news for our story ‘Ramaphosa brought down the Lesotho government’, we decided to publish our 1. emailed questions to the Office of the Deputy President, 2. their response, 3. our emailed questions to Bidvest spokesperson, 4. their response, 5. the press statement from the Deputy President’s office, and 6. our story once more for reference.
The student representative council of the National University of Lesotho wrote a letter addressed to SADC’s Oversight Committee, in which they demand Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa should resign from his position as SADC’s facilitator to Lesotho.
1. Is Mr Ramaphosa aware of the letter and what is his response to it?
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has no shareholding in Bidvest. It is a matter of public record that the Deputy President resigned as a director of Bidvest in November 2013 and divested from his shareholding in the company in November 2014. The allegations by the students’ representative council are therefore completely unfounded.
1. Weekly Xpose has spoken to a number of high-ranking politicians and cabinet ministers in Lesotho who claim that the contract was awarded irregularly. Was the awarding of the contract in your view above board?
2. Did Bidvest bid for the contract? If so are you willing to provide proof?
3. Some cabinet Ministers and the National University of Lesotho’s (NUL) Student Representative Council (SRC) have put the blame on Mr Cyril Ramaphosa who they claim is a shareholder at Bidvest and played a role in the awarding of the tender to Bidvest. Is Mr Rapahosa still a shareholder at Bidvest?
4. Did Bidvest’s proximity to him play any role in the contract being awarded to the company?
Please find below the response from Bidvest Bank, it can be attributed to Mkhuseli Setuse Bidvest Bank’s Executive: Fleet and Asset Finance.
Bidvest Bank can confirm that in July 2016 it was awarded the Government of Lesotho Fleet contract by Lesotho’s former Minister of Finance, Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla. The awarding of the contract was endorsed by the Cabinet. At all times, Bidvest Bank has complied with all legal requirements, including the submission of competitive pricing terms. Bidvest Bank rejects any accusation that it has acted improperly.
TO : ALL MEDIA
ATTENTION : NEWS EDITORS/NEWS WIRES
ISSUED BY : RONNIE MAMOEPA
DATE : 01 MARCH 2017
DEPUTY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA HAS PURSUED HIS SADC MANDATE IN LESOTHO WITH INTEGRITY
The Office of the Deputy President notes with concerns the peddling of fake news by the so-called Weekly Xpose which reproduces lies and innuendos about his business dealings.
The recycled allegation in the Weekly Xpose story titled “Ramaphosa brought down Lesotho government” is without substance and can only be characterised as a poor attempt to impugn the integrity of the Deputy President.
We say here without fear of contradiction that Deputy President Ramaphosa has pursued his SADC mandate to help stabilise the political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho with integrity.
The mandate has been conducted in an inclusive transparent and open manner.
In this context, the Deputy President in all his official visits to Lesotho, has met openly and transparently with all role-players including His Majesty King Letsie III, Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili and his government (including coalition partners), all opposition political parties, the Christian Council of Lesotho, the NGO sector and College of Chiefs.
At no stage has the Deputy President utilised his SADC facilitation mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho to pursue the so-called private business interests as the fake news suggests. In fact it is a matter of public record that the Deputy President long severed ties with Bidvest and this has been declared to the Cabinet Secretary and to Parliament.
His declarations of interests, in line with the Executive Code of Ethics, are open to public scrutiny as published by Parliament on the 21stof February this year. The Deputy President’s only interest in Lesotho is working with all parties to secure lasting peace and stability as mandated by SADC.
Those who continue to peddle these spurious allegations must take responsibility and provide proof. They must also be prepared to shoulder the responsibility of mitigating the damage of their acts on the mediation process since they only serve to plant seeds of mistrust and confusion.
It was the Deputy President and SADC facilitation team that brought about the stabilisation of the political situation in Lesotho culminating in the signing of the Maseru Political and Security Accords laying a basis for the reopening of parliament and the holding of elections which were declared free and fair by international observer missions.
The Deputy President continues to interact with all role-players in pursuit of the SADC mandate to ensure constitutional and security reforms and the implementation of the recommendations of the Phumaphi Commission of inquiry into the death of Lt. General Maaparankoe Mahao.
The unfortunate thing about fake news is that they are not bound by any ethical code, not least those prescribes for journalists and news agencies. Had there been any ethical standard in the work of Weekly Xpose, they would have at least contacted the Office of the Deputy President to seek clarity or details before they pressed the ‘live’ button.
Nothing will distract the Deputy President from working with all role-players in Lesotho and in pursuance of the SADC mandate to ensure the people of Lesotho like the rest of the people of SADC enjoy the benefits of political and security stability and economic development.
‘Ramaphosa brought down Lesotho government’
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been accused of abusing his position as Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator to Lesotho to further his own business interests in the country.
The accusations relate to a multi-billion rand contract that was allegedly irregularly awarded to Ramaphosa-linked company, Bidvest Limited, by the Lesotho government last year. Weekly Xposé understands that Bidvest had originally been awarded a six-month contract to run the government fleet from October 2015 to end-March 2016, after the expiry of the government’s fleet-management contract with Avis.
It is alleged the Lesotho government had promised to exclude Bidvest from any new tender to find a new fleet management firm to replace Avis. However, the government cancelled the tender process, preferring instead to enter a new long-term deal with Bidvest, which allegedly did not bid for the tender as earlier agreed, considering the six-month contract it already had. Under the deal, Bidvest is supplying government with vehicles and maintaining the fleet.
A joint-venture company shortlisted for the tender is challenging the contract in court.
The controversial four-year deal has split Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s party, the Democratic Congress (DP). Several high-ranking members of the DP and cabinet ministers have condemned the contract, saying the process was corrupt, and demanded it be terminated while others put the blame squarely on Ramaphosa.
Following the controversy sparked by the contract, Mosisili sacked four ministers and suspended his party deputy, the country’s longest-serving Cabinet Minister Monyane Moleleki, and nine other DP national executive committee members. Moleleki went on to form his own party, the Alliance of Democrats (AD) which is now pushing for Mosisili’s ouster.
Moleleki, who is also Mosisili’s long-time friend, told Weekly Xposé that the Bidvest deal “effectively collapsed the Lesotho government”. He added: “That corrupt process is the immediate cause of the collapse of our government.” Asked if Ramaphosa had any influence on the awarding of contract to Bidvest, Moleleki declined to comment, only saying “Mr Ramaphosa is still the SADC facilitator. It would be very unprincipled and undiplomatic of me to cast aspersions on his integrity.”
However, Moleleki’s former cabinet colleague, who preferred to remain anonymous, was less diplomatic, accusing Ramaphosa of abusing his SADC status to “advance his business interests”. “There is no doubt that Mr Ramaphosa had a huge influence on who was awarded the contract. His links to Bidvest are well documented. We find it highly troubling that a man of his stature can abandon his mandate of stabilising the country, and instead be so ruthless in pursuing his selfish business interests.”Instead of working for peace and stability in Lesotho as his SADC mandate dictates, Mr Ramaphosa, has to the contrary brought down the Lesotho government,” said the former cabinet minister.
Not only has the Bidvest contract destabilised the Lesotho government, it has also earned the wrath of the National University of Lesotho’s (NUL) Student Representative Council (SRC) who demanded Ramaphosa’s resignation as SADC facilitator. They accused him of being “compromised by business interests” in Lesotho.
In its letter addressed to the regional bloc’s Oversight Committee a few weeks ago, the NUL SRC accused Ramaphosa of having vested interests in the Bidvest contract. “Is there any third force behind Lesotho’s problems? It is believed that Mr Ramaphosa is pushing his business agenda with the Bidvest here in Lesotho, as most Basotho believe that Mr Ramaphosa played a very prominent role in ensuring that Bidvest gets the government fleet tender under the very dubious conditions in 2016,” reads part of the letter which Weekly Xposé is in possession of.
“We stand to suffer the most as currently students who depend on the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) bursaries are not sponsored in the middle of their education programmes despite them having passed in their academic years.
“This we are told that government has no money to fund education. It appears there is only money for Bidvest and elections as for our future and right to education there is no money,” the students said.
“We opine that this country is under siege by a few individuals who clearly seek to protect their interests which adversely affect students’ right to education by all means,” the letter stated.
Contacted for a comment, Ramaphosa’s spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said: “Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has no shareholding in Bidvest. It is a matter of public record that the Deputy President resigned as a director of Bidvest in November 2013 and divested from his shareholding in the company in November 2014. The allegations by the students’ representative council are therefore completely unfounded.”
Weekly Xposé also sent a list of questions via email to a Bidvest spokesperson, who responded via email with a response from Mkhuseli Setuse, Bidvest Bank’s Executive: Fleet and Asset Finance: “Bidvest Bank can confirm that in July 2016 it was awarded the Government of Lesotho Fleet contract by Lesotho’s former Minister of Finance, Dr Mamphono Khaketla. The awarding of the contract was endorsed by the Cabinet. At all times, Bidvest Bank has complied with all legal requirements, including the submission of competitive pricing terms. Bidvest Bank rejects any accusation that it has acted improperly.”