South African Press Association (Johannesburg)
November 29, 2001
MASERU – Defence lawyers taking part in the multi-million rand bribery trial of former Lesotho Highlands Development Authority chief executive Masupha Sole on Thursday applied for the re-opening of the defence’s case in the Maseru High Court.
Defence counsel Advocate Hae Phoofolo asked Judge Brendan Cullinan to subpoena the chief executives of a number of international construction companies to testify on what he called crucial evidence.
The evidence would relate to letters to Sole’s successor from one such company that they made no bribe payments to him.
Phoofolo submitted that Sole only heard about the letters after the Crown and the defence had both closed their cases.
According to the President of Acres International of Canada, OT Sigvaldson, his company as a matter of principle did not engage in corrupt business practices — including the payment of bribes.
He added that he had no knowledge of any payments of any bribes to Sole.
Sigvaldson said he engaged a Lesotho consulting engineer firm, Associated Consultants and Project Managers to represent his company.
He said “the need for an experienced local representative on a foreign project was normal and usual for international construction projects.”
The representative, the late Zalisiwanga Bam, was a respected Lesotho engineer whose integrity was such that he became the honorary consul for Canada in Lesotho, he said.
Sigvaldson said the inference that money paid by Acres to Bam were intended as bribes for Sole was “pure speculation” and not based upon fact.
Sole has been charged with 16 counts of bribery and two of fraud.
He is alleged to have received bribe money from international contractor firms to award them lucrative contracts for the construction of the giant two-nation Lesotho Highlands Water Project that supplies water to South Africa’s industrial heartland.
The trial continues.