Expatriate project manager also accused of racism
MASERU – A string of allegations bordering on racism and sex for jobs have marred the multi-billion maloti Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). Implemented by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), Phase II involves construction of the Polihali Dam and reservoir, a water transfer tunnel and associated access roads, bridges and telecommunications infrastructure.
Firmly at the centre of the allegations of sex for jobs and racism is a white South African, Pieter Botes, employed as a project manager by HSPY joint venture that is contracted by the LHDA for road rehabilitation.
HSPY is a joint venture of a local company Structuretone Construction and three South African firms; Hillary Construction, Polokwane Surfacing and Yarena Civils contracted to build a road between Ha Seshote and Polihali Dam.
Another joint venture HSP, comprises Hillary Construction, Structuretone Construction, and Polokwane Surfacing. According to a Public Eye investigation, Botes was first officially implicated in allegations of violence against Basotho in 2019 by Lietsiso Mohapeloa, the owner and director of Motebong Lodge, situated at Ha Lejone – a village in the Leribe district. It is on a ridge above a bend of Malibamatšo River, 15 kilometres east of the Mafika-Lisiu Pass, which links Ha lejone with the community of Pitseng.
“I register a complaint against Mr Pieter Botes. I have known Mr Botes since he arrived in Lesotho in September 2019, when he was a resident at Motebong Lodge where his company HSPY had arranged accommodation for him and other staff members,” said Mohapeloa in a statement.
“During his stay at Motebong Lodge, Mr Bores had numerous unpleasant tendencies in which he displayed aggression and insolence towards staff from the house keeping department, another director Mrs Mpontšo Mohapeloa and later towards our manager Mr Tseko Mohlolo and our barman Mr Mochoti Letuka,” he added.
Mohapeloa narrated that his worst encounter with Botes was in November 2019, when the latter arrived at the lodge playing loud music in his Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).
“The loud music was disruptive and an inconsiderate nuisance to the many people who were seated on the outside area. Mr Pieter Botes emerged from the vehicle and was the driver. As the song ended, a second song was played, with a much increased volume,” Mohapeloa stated.
He indicated that he approached Botes to request him to stop his music but the latter responded aggressively.
“…he became very aggressive, pointing fingers at me and advancing aggressively threatening to attack me including pushing me. Shockingly of all, Mr Botes threatened to kill me.
“As Mr Botes was being restrained from attacking me, he continued the litany of insults directed at me calling me a ‘poes’ variously and ‘half a poes’. These insults were hurled at me in front of the 50 or so guests in a manner that was clearly meant to cause hurt and to seriously impair my dignity,” he said.
Following this nasty encounter, Public Eye has established, Botes was slapped on the wrist by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Hillary Construction, Trevor Freestone.
“I understand that you are under pressure, however, you need to have the emotional intelligence to conduct yourself in an acceptable manner,” said Freestone in an email to Botes in December 2019.
Freestone’s email confirmed that a confrontation with Mohapeloa at the Motebong lodge was not an isolated event. “I have also received various complaints from other parties about your aggressive behaviour. I do again understand some of your frustrations but still that is no excuse. We have enough issues to deal with, so let us not complicate our lives,” Freestone noted. He added: “I am sure you have your side of the story, which you are welcome to express. Please treat others with respect that they deserve and do not let it happen again.”
In the official final warning notice to Botes, Freestone indicated that the former was accused of “unacceptable conduct/behaviour in that you used foul language towards the owner of Motebong Lodge in front of members of the public”. “Your actions bring the company name into disrepute,” he also said. Fast forward to 2021, the same Botes is embroiled in fresh allegations of sex for jobs.
His subordinates, some residents in communities around the project site and Ha Lejone police who spoke to Public Eye on condition of anonymity all indicated that Botes slept with women from the surrounding villages and later gave them jobs.
When contacted this week, director of Structuretone Construction Esaieh Kometsane Letuka distanced himself from Botes and “issues related to him” but acknowledged many allegations levelled against him.
“For the record, Mr Botes is an employee of Hillary Construction which is a partner in the joint ventures of HSP and HSPY, and Mr Botes is seconded to the HSPY Joint Venture as a construction manager or project manager, not my partner,” Letuka said in an email.
“Regarding his problematic conduct, I do confirm that he was reported to the police and there was a case and there is a judgment for that case. Also, his employer Hillary Construction gave him a final warning regarding that matter,” he added.
Letuka also confirmed that Botes calls him “a Mosotho idiot”.
“About his violence and insults to other Basotho colleagues that he is supervising, including impregnating women around nearby communities, I was once approached by one police investigating officer about this matter and I referred him to Mr botes employer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Hillary Construction Mr Trevor Freestone as I have heard on a number of occasions that Mr Botes refers to me as a Mosotho idiot that he cannot listen to or give any respect. So I have distanced myself from any issues related to him,” he said.
He added: “So I would also want to refer you to his employer Mr Freestone from Hillary Construction as this might be one of his mandate when they came to Lesotho that I am not part of. Can we kindly meet to discuss these issues if possible so that I can fully understand full details of this information?”
Freestone decline to comment on the allegations levelled against Botes. He said: “We do not respond to the media, however, we can confirm that we do have a grievance procedure in place. Any aggrieved individual should follow the procedure to have their case heard. We will thus have no further engagement with you.” Botes and LHDA’s public relations manager, Masilo Phakoe, did not respond to emailed questions.