By Nthakoana Ngatane
Lesotho Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro must stop wasting our money and tell Germany to rein in Frazer.
When Majoro was Minister of Finance a fraudster usurped his power and the power of the then Prime Minister Tom Thabane and signed an agreement that gave German company Frazer Solar GMBH a contract and rights to demand 850 million rand from the kingdom even if the company had done no work.
That fraudster also undermined the judiciary of Lesotho by single handedly giving the power of jurisdiction to South Africa.
Now Lesotho has to divert its meagre resources from other priorities and pay lawyers, set up commissions and send ministerial delegations to South Africa to prevent the loss of crucial assets now attached, that include water royalties and shares in companies in South Africa, Mauritius, the UK and the USA.
Frazer Solar GMBH says it signed an agreement in 2018 with Lesotho to provide 40 000 solar water-heating systems, 20 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity, 1 million LED lights and 350 000 solar lanterns. I can’t dispute that an agreement was signed, but it wasn’t with Lesotho.
The company says the German government agreed to finance the program, but the Lesotho ministry of finance failed to execute the project’s financial arrangement. No, it didn’t fail to execute, it never agreed to execute.
Frazer says it began legal action against the kingdom in 2019 after what it said were a series of contractual breaches. Frazer says Lesotho failed to engage in arbitration and didn’t respond to demands, so last month it scored a default judgment in South Africa, in which it was awarded 850 million rand in damages.
Lesotho has been running around like a headless chicken since it received that court order on 26 May.
Nearly a month later, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro issued a midnight statement saying the government had finally filed papers to stop the court order issued in South Africa.
“Today, 18th June, 2021 our lawyers filed an application for stay in the High Court of South Africa. As is customary, it is expected that this filing should halt any further action by Frazer Solar GMBH until the courts have dealt with the application for stay. In its application, government disputes that there is a binding supply agreement with Frazer Solar GMBH that can be enforced and that Frazer Solar fully knows this.” Says Majoro’s statement
Majoro says his new Attorney General, appointed this week, has instructed law firms in South Africa to apply for a stay of execution, and a commission of inquiry will find out who is responsible and why the country was caught napping through the court process.
He says he sent a ministerial delegation to South Africa to engage the republic.
Majoro says to his knowledge Lesotho never signed the agreement, and he repeatedly told Frazer directors that no agreement would be signed unless cabinet approved. He says cabinet never approved, but Frazer has a signed agreement that the high court of South Africa recognises.
It is alleged that the minister in former prime minister Tom Thabane’s office – Temeki Tsolo – signed the agreement with Frazer with no clearance from Majoro as minister of finance – or the then minister of energy, but Tsolo claims that his signature was forged.
If cabinet never approved the project or the agreement, then Majoro as Prime Miniter should open a criminal case of fraud against Tsolo or whoever signed that agreement for Lesotho. If Tsolo believes his signature was forged then he should open a case of fraud against Frazer and whoever signed the agreement purporting to be him.
UNDERMINING LESOTHO JUDICIARY
The agreement cites South Africa as the country whose courts have jurisdiction to enforce the agreement and arbitrate between the parties. Lesotho has courts and Germany, the home country of Frazer has courts, so why did Frazer choose the judiciary of another country?
What public official would be so stupid as to subject a government of a sovereign country that they have sworn to serve, to the courts of another country?
When papers were served since 2019 during the court process that resulted in the default judgement – who was receiving those court documents? Where was the Attorney General? Why didn’t they alert the government that it was being sued?
Lesotho was clearly shocked when the final court order was served on 26 May and Majoro called for calm, but what he should do is haul then Attorney General and all the officials in that office who failed to act, before bodies and professional associations that will strip them of their titles to practice law. Not only were they negligent, their conduct threatened state security so it is tantamount to treason.
Frazer has applied for enforcement of the arbitral award in South Africa, Mauritius, United States of America, and the United Kingdom. The assets in these countries include water royalties from the Lesotho highlands water project that are paid through the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, accounts of the Lesotho Electricity Company with Eskom, Lesotho’s shareholding in the West Indian Ocean Undersea Cable Company headquartered in Mauritius, but it later dropped demands against the electricity company.
Lesotho says it now has the Africa Legal Support Facility of the African Development Bank on its side and it has deployed a team of legal experts over the past week – but at what cost to the taxpayer?
The kingdom says law enforcement agencies are also investigating. Well, the first people who should answer are Frazer directors. Where was the agreement signed if it gives primary jurisdiction to South Africa? Who did they sign the agreement with?
If it is true that Frazer disregarded the minister of finance when he told them that only cabinet had the power to decide if and when to sign the agreement, then Frazer is ruthless and unethical and it should be reported to law enforcement agencies in Germany and other territories where it operates. The only remaining alternative is that this is a fraudulent scam perpetrated by Frazer or it too was a victim.
If Majoro should be believed, then Frazer is not owed by Lesotho or its government, Frazer is owed by the person that the company decided to sign the agreement with, not Lesotho. Frazer should collect its 850 million rand from the person they signed with – not from Lesotho.
Nthakoana Ngatane is a Senior Foreign Correspondent and Political Reporter for Eye Witness News
First published by nthakoana says on 19 June 2021