Sunday Times (Johannesburg)
September 22, 2002
The corruption honeymoon in Southern Africa is over, top officials in Lesotho warned this week, urging foreign companies doing business here to clean up their business practices.
Their comments followed a landmark decision by the Maseru High Court ruling that an agent of Canadian-based engineering firm Acres International had bribed the former chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project with the full knowledge of the company. Sentence is to be passed on October 7, but Acres has already indicated its intention to appeal.
Company officials pleaded guilty to the two charges, involving more than R5-million, and said they had acted “in good faith and retained a highly regarded Lesotho engineer as [the company’s] independent local representative “. Without Acres’ knowledge he had “secretly paid part of his fee” to water project director Masupha Sole.
The two officials’ version of events was specifically rejected by newly appointed Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla, who found the company’s credibility had been “left in tatters” by the case. Sole has since been sentenced to 18 years in jail for charges related to accepting bribes from a number of firms, several of which are now being tried for corruption.
Reacting to the Acres judgment, Lesotho’s Minister of Natural Resources, Monyane Moleleki, said it was often assumed that corruption thrived in the Third World and that it was a particularly “African” problem. “This case shows such a perception is incorrect. It takes two to tango . . . The case should show the rest of the world Lesotho had to be taken seriously “by its friends in the First World” and that “we can do business with integrity and decency”.
South Africa’s Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, Ronnie Kasrils, said the outcome of the case demonstrated that “much of the corruption with which Africa is so often associated is actually a contagion from the rich world”.
Categories: Africa, Lesotho, Odious Debts
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