May 22, 2002
Pretoria – The South African government has welcomed the conviction for bribery of Masupha Sole, chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project – a joint venture between the two neighbours.
Water Affairs Minister Ronnie Kasrils has commended the Lesotho government in a letter for its resolve to fight corruption and prosecute, at considerable cost, those involved.
“He also indicated South Africa’s willingness to consider any request for help to fund the prosecution,” said the water affairs and forestry department in a statement.
Sole was found guilty on Monday in the Maseru High Court on 13 counts of bribery.
He was convicted of accepting bribes from international consultants and contractors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and France to induce him to grant them contracts in the water project.
Sole was the first person to be convicted in this matter. Trials of the companies and intermediaries alleged to have paid the bribes were proceeding, the department said.
South Africa helped to collect and evaluate evidence.
“This is an important test case for the Nepad (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) initiative, which aims at promoting good governance and weeding out corrupt practices,” said the department.
Valuable lessons learned
It added Sole’s conviction should strengthen the Crown’s case against the other parties.
The department said the case had exposed a clique of parties and individuals who took part in malpractices, as well as the methods they used to conceal acts of bribery.
“The lessons learnt in this process will be strictly applied in further development projects.”
Kasrils is to brief his cabinet colleagues on the implications of the case for the future participation of international and local companies in publicly funded projects.
“Contacts will also continue with the representatives of the countries in which the companies are based, as well as with multilateral organisations such as the World Bank with a view to bringing the matter to a speedy conclusion.”
It was proposed that the challenges of addressing corruption in large water projects be debated at the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development.