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Mofomobe weighs in on allegations against Moteane

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: [email protected] Advertising: [email protected] Telephone: +266 2231 5356

…escalates the matter to the London Stock Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange.

’Marafaele Mohloboli

Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, has weighed-in on accusations levelled against Public Works and Transport Minister, Matjato Moteane, that the latter is flouting regulations governing the export of diamonds from Lesotho.

Mr Moteane has been accused of facilitating the irregular export of diamonds from Lesotho by top mines Letśeng Diamond, Storm Mountain Diamond, Mothae Diamond, and Liqhobong Diamond.  Letśeng Diamond and Liqhobong Diamonds are owned by England-based Gem Diamonds and Firestone Diamonds respectively, while Mothae Diamond belongs to Australian company Lucapa Diamonds.

In addition to reporting “fraud” against Mr Moteane to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service for investigation, Mr Mofomobe says he has also written to the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) requesting them to rein-in the mining firms that have been accused of violating Lesotho’s laws which “bind” them to charter local airlines when exporting diamonds from the country. The laws in question are the Mining and Minerals Act 2005, as well as the Civil Aviation Act 2008.

Lucapa from Australia is listed on the ASX, while the United Kingdom-based Gem and Firestone, are listed on the LSE.

Mr Mofomobe’s letters to the LSE and ASX, are dated 9 July 2023, and call for urgent intervention. He further states that as a member of parliament who leads a political party, he is troubled by the continued infringement of the country’s laws by Gem, Firestone and Lucapa Diamonds.

“I am writing to bring your attention to a matter of significant concern regarding two companies listed on the LSE, namely Gem Diamonds and Firestone Diamonds … Lucapa Diamonds listed on the ASX,” read the letters.

“The crux of the issue lies in a local airline company (Mohahlaula Airlines) that has been deliberately refused to transport diamonds as per Lesotho’s Mining and Mineral Act of 2005 and the Civil Aviation Act of 2008. This airline has sought parliamentary intervention, and it is my belief that the government of Lesotho is utilising its parliamentary majority to ensure that Gem Diamonds and Firestone Diamonds continue to undermine our nation’s laws.

“I kindly request that you (LSE) thoroughly investigate the actions of Gem Diamonds and Firestone Diamonds … and ASX thoroughly investigate Lucapa Diamonds regarding their compliance with Lesotho’s mining and aviation regulations.

“I implore you to take swift and appropriate action in response to these serious allegations. The consequences of allowing such transgressions to persist could have a detrimental impact on the economic stability and reputation of both Lesotho and the LSE/ASX.”

Mr Mofomobe’s letters, meanwhile, come hardly a week after Mohahlaula Airlines accused Mr Moteane of “fraudulently” awarding permits to the four international mining investors that allow them to transport diamonds out of Lesotho using foreign airlines despite the mines being bound by law to use local companies,

Mohahlaula chief executive officer, Phafane Nkotsi, claimed last week at a press conference in Maseru that his company was the only airline entitled to transport the diamonds out of Lesotho.

Mr Nkotsi also accused Mr Moteane of usurping the powers of the Director of Civil Aviation, Motsoale Lesupi, to issue the permits. Mr Moteane has since dismissed the accusations, saying Mr Nkotsi wants to force the government to illegally legislate against competition among airlines competing for business.

However, Mr Mofomobe’s letters seem to support Mohahlaula’s argument after the aviation firm on 28 March 2023 petitioned the High Court to order government to compensate the company as it had lost M10 million after being sidelined in the ‘illegal’ diamond transportation operations by South African airlines.

Mr Nkotsi has also claimed to have since opened a criminal case against Letšeng Diamonds, Storm Diamonds Mine, Mothae Diamond Mine, and Liqhobong Diamond Mine, through their respective executives Kelebone Leisanyane, Kelebone Leisanyane, Stian Van Blerk, and Motsi Chele respectively, as well as the Department of Civil Aviation, under case number MCCO RCI: 17/04/2023 for not using Mohahlaula.

Mr Mofomobe says he has also filed a fraud case against Mr Moteane as there is evidence suggesting his alleged involvement in facilitating the ‘fraudulent’ diamond exports from Lesotho.

“This situation not only raises concerns about the integrity of our mining industry, but also undermines the trust and confidence of international investors,” Mr Mofomobe’s letters further read.

Speaking to the Lesotho Times about his letters, Mr Mofomobe said he had nothing personal against the Sam Matekane-led government.

“I am just helping them to do things right, that’s all. Nothing personal,” he said.

Contacted for comment, the Prime Minister’s press attaché, Thapelo Mabote, said the government would not bother itself with the letters.

“So far, Mr Mofomobe has not said anything to the government, but instead, has written the letters to those parties and those letters have nothing to do with the government. This means that he will get a response from the LSE and the ASX and not the government,” Mr Mabote said.