THE Vodacom Lesotho Foundation this week delivered 1000 reusable menstrual towels to 10 schools in Mafeteng and Quthing in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.
The towels worth M250 000 were donated under the foundation’s Dignity Campaign, which aims to provide girls with reusable sanitary towels with a five-year life span.
Vodacom Lesotho yesterday the towels were a sustainable resource.
“The towels are a sustainable resource, which allows girls to wash and reuse them, rather than having to buy disposable sanitary towels every month,” Vodacom Lesotho said in a statement yesterday.
“In addition, they are inexpensive and environmentally friendly, with a social benefit that stands to greatly mitigate the disadvantages many disempowered girls endure during their process of maturing.”
Vodacom Lesotho executive head of legal, regulatory and external affairs, Tšepo Ntaopane, said the move was meant to ensure that girls do not have to skip school during their menstrual cycles.
“Through this campaign, we aim to ensure that girls have access to safe and hygienic-sanitary products, as well as raise awareness around women’s health.
“We look to help girls reclaim the dignity that poverty denies them; enable them to make a lasting and positive impact on the communities they live in and society as a whole.
“We believe that when girls and women have health and education it means our communities and the world are stronger.”
He added that Vodacom Lesotho was committed to addressing social ills that Basotho were going through.
“This initiative is cross-cutting; it ensures the dignity and health of our adolescents is preserved; it also ensures that we keep them in schools.
“It is also in line with our mandate to invest and support initiatives that are aimed at helping alleviate some of Lesotho’s most pressing social challenges.
“We support this through our focused social investment activities aimed at using ICT to improve access to education, address community health challenges, combat gender-based violence, and advance economic empowerment. We achieve this through partnerships with reputable organisations, government, industry leaders, and other technology partners,” Mr Ntaopane said.
Among others, the pads were donated to Bereng, Matsepe, Hope, Mafeteng, St. John’s Hermitage, Eagles Peak Qacha’s Nek and Mohlapiso high schools in Mafeteng and Quthing districts.
The Day of the Girl Child is a brainchild of the World Conference on Women. During the conference’s 1995 edition in Beijing, it was decided that 11 October annually be dedicated to the growth of girls around the world.
The day focuses on the rights, safety and education of girls. The core objective is to make girls an active part of the progress of the world.
This year, the day was celebrated under the theme: “Digital generation, our generation,” in acknowledgement of the growing digital world and how a digital gap can also widen the gender gap. The theme was focussed on bridging the digital divide.
EIGHTEEN farmers will today complete a five-day capacitation training on Global G.A.P (good agricultural practices) standards under the training of livestock farm assurers.
Farm assurers are independent, on-site advisors and consultants who help producers navigate the steps necessary for implementing good agricultural practices and obtaining Global GAP certification.
Global GAP is a brand of smart farm assurance solutions developed in Germany with cooperation from producers, retailers, and other stakeholders from across the food industry.
The partnership includes the Standard Lesotho Bank (SLB), the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), FinMark Trust, and the Agriculture, Food Security and Marketing Ministry.
Speaking during the farm assurers’ training launch yesterday, director of marketing in the Agriculture ministry, Lekhooe Makhate, said the trained farm assurers would be expected to train other farmers on market standards compliance.
“These trainees are the nucleus which will train others towards ensuring their production facilities conform to international market standards and also that agriculture lives up to the expectation of being a key economic driver,” Mr Makhate said.
On her part, Mabula Tšoene from the UNDP, said they were happy to be part of the partnership as they were aware that agriculture was one of the resilient sectors that would be critical in the post Covid-19 economic recovery.
Overall, a Global GAP expert will train 50 farm assurers who have already been selected. Following completion of today’s training, the next training will target two groups of 20 candidates each. These will be trained to become consultants in the fruit and vegetable production subsectors.
Once certified, the major responsibility of farm assurers will be to train farmers in the designated value chains to help them implement the agreed farming practices and meet the set standards.
The programme is meant to promote the agriculture into becoming a viable venture that can develop the economy as one of the key sectors identified to drive economic development under the second National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II).
Local farmers have in the past been constrained by lack of recognised production standards which kept them out of formal markets. But through the partnership of the Green Value Chains (GVC) and the Supplier Development Programme (LSDP) initiatives, this could soon be a thing of the past.
GVC seeks to contribute to the national recovery agenda, by promoting the green economy through value chains. The project is meant to build capacity and resilience of the local agricultural sector to produce and supply the local market through sustainable production, processing, and marketing processes.
- says he and Majoro are leading antagonistic party factions,
- as SG Hlaele blasts Majoro and other party figures for snubbing gig at Thabane’s home,
- says their behaviour is “unacceptable” and amounts to ill-discipline
ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has for the first time publicly admitted that he and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro are leading two party factions which are locked in a messy leadership war.
However, Mr Thabane insists that he remains the “legitimate leader elected by the majority of ABC members and not just a small clique”. He says he does not have any plans of relinquishing the post anytime soon.
Dr Majoro is also the ABC’s deputy leader, having been coopted into the national executive committee (NEC) to replace the former incumbent, Nqosa Mahao, who jumped ship in April this year after falling out with the prime minister and other ABC bigwigs.
So serious is the bad blood and infighting within the ABC that Dr Majoro, chairperson Samuel Rapapa and three other senior NEC members are said to have snubbed an invitation to celebrate the party’s 15th anniversary celebrations with Mr Thabane at his home over the weekend. Dr Majoro has however, denied snubbing the event. The premier said he was on official government business in Mokhotlong on the day. In any event, the ceremony was not communicated through the official party channels, the premier said.
The other three who did not turn up for the event which was held at Mr Thabane’s Makhoakhoeng home in Ha Abia, Maseru, are deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and his deputy ‘Matebatso Doti.
ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele described the quintet’s no-show as “unacceptable”.
Of the five, Dr Majoro and Mr Rapapa are known to harbour ambitions of replacing Mr Thabane and leading the party in next year’s eagerly anticipated elections. It is not clear whether Messrs Kabi, Masoetsa and Ms Doti have any ambitions of their own. Nor is it clear if they are supporting any of the leadership hopefuls, though Mr Kabi is said to have drifted from Mr Thabane into Dr Majoro’s camp.
Mr Thabane was premier from June 2017 until he was forced out by his own party in May 2020. At the time, NEC members who included the now opposition Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader, Prof Mahao, and Mr Hlaele said he was no longer fit to be prime minister due to his failure to rein in his wife, ‘Maesaiah, who was accused of meddling in government and party business.
The NEC also said he had to clear his name after being accused alongside Maesaiah of the June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo. There is still no indication as to when the Thabanes’ murder trial will eventually begin in the High Court, if at all.
Until the weekend, Mr Thabane had refrained from publicly commenting about his relationship with the man who succeeded him as premier in May 2020.
But Dr Majoro and others’ absence from the party’s 15th anniversary celebrations finally jolted him into speaking out. He admitted that he and his ABC deputy are leading factions in the troubled party.
He however, reminded all and sundry that he remained the legitimate leader of the party.
“We were 17 when we crossed the floor in parliament (to form the ABC in 2006),” Mr Thabane said.
“I thank all Makobotata (ABC members) for the role each of you has played in the ABC since its formation, particularly the committees that lead the party at a national level. I thank you my fellow men and women.
“However, I am not happy at all because you have formed factions. There are now people belonging to the Majoro and Thabane camps. Fellow men and women, let us stand firm on our project. Tell me men and women of the ABC, what should I do? Should I step down to free you?”.
He then requested Mr Hlaele to urgently organise meetings between him and the party’s constituency committees, saying that he had since realised that some people had “forgotten” that he was still the legitimate ABC leader.
“I realise that you have forgotten that I am the legitimate leader of this party. I was not appointed by a clique of people but I was voted in by the majority of the Kobotata members,” Mr Thabane said.
His remarks were seemingly a jibe at Dr Majoro who only became prime minister after being endorsed by the ABC parliamentary caucus. He then got the backing of the Democratic Congress and other opposition parties to become premier after Mr Thabane’s ousting. Dr Majoro had also originally lost the deputy leadership contest to Professor Mahao in 2019. He was only coopted into the post by fellow NEC members after Prof Mahao’s acrimonious April 2021 departure from the party to form his own BAP.
At the time, Prof Mahao claimed that he had jumped ship after discovering a plot by Messrs Thabane, Hlaele and Dr Majoro to oust him from the party.
It had then looked like the ABC’s factional battles were over as Mr Thabane and Dr Majoro appeared to have smoked the peace pipe, resulting in the former endorsing the premier’s cooption into the NEC to replace Prof Mahao.
But the past few months have shown that Prof Mahao’s departure only got rid of just one of the leadership hopefuls and the infighting is likely to continue until the 82-year-old Mr Thabane is replaced as party leader.
The octogenarian founding ABC leader nonetheless seem determined to cling on. Some top sources close to Mr Thabane have hinted that he is even contemplating a comeback and might seed a return to the premiership.
“Fellow ABC members, remember where you come from and how you got to where you are today,” Mr Thabane said in probable reference to Dr Majoro.
“There is no way that anyone should be raising questions regarding who the leader of the party is. The leader remains the leader. There is no government which does not draw its mandate and power from its supporters,” he added.
All along, some NEC members, particularly Mr Masoetsa had publicly spoken out against Dr Majoro’s alleged propensity to ignore the NEC whenever it came to decision-making in government.
Mr Masoetsa had said although the premier had the prerogative to make executive appointments, he was still obliged to consult the NEC as he was a party deployee to government.
He recently said that the fed-up NEC was in the process of issuing circulars to the constituency committees to advise on the appropriate measures to take against Dr Majoro for repeatedly snubbing the NEC even though he had been coopted to the deputy leader’s post to facilitate ease of communication between the party and the government.
Mr Thabane’s weekend remarks seemingly confirm that despite his previous silence on the issue, he too is against Dr Majoro’s way of operating.
Mr Hlaele spoke to the Anglican Church of Lesotho (ACL) radio station on the sidelines of the weekend celebration and condemned what he said was the “unacceptable” behaviour by Dr Majoro and other NEC members who snubbed the celebratory event.
He said he had informed all NEC members of the celebration in the committee’s WhatsApp group but only the party’s minutes secretary, Likhapha Masopha, had bothered to communicate that she would not be able to attend.
“Those who are not here today (Saturday) all knew about the event because we have an NEC group. I informed all of them in that group that the leader, Ntate Motsoahae Thabane, had requested that they come and celebrate the ABC anniversary with him. Only one person, the minutes secretary, issued an apology. I expected to see everyone else here celebrating with the leader.
“Even the honourable deputy leader (Majoro) of the party is part of that group that did not attend but I don’t know his reasons for not showing up. He did not want us to know why he is not coming. It is only Mme Likhapha Masopha who issued an apology, all the others were expected to be here.
“I cannot speak on behalf of those who did not come but I can say that their behaviour is unacceptable. When the leader of the party has spoken and given an order, his word is final. Those who did not come are ill-disciplined and their behavior is unacceptable.
“We have also heard the leader (Thabane) saying there are cliques in the party and I can say that this is another clique that does not align itself with the call of the leader for their own reasons,” said Mr Hlaele in reference to the group of senior party officials who did not pitch up.
He was later to change tack in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, saying the unnamed ABC individuals who organised the celebrations had belatedly informed him of the event on Friday night.
“I only received the message from the organisers of the event on Friday night. I immediately informed fellow NEC members, requesting those who could to come and celebrate with the leader (Thabane). As the NEC, we were not involved in organising the event. We were just celebrating with him (Thabane) by showing up for the event organised by people from two constituencies in Maseru.
“I dispatched the message to attend the celebrations to NEC members between 8 and 9pm on Friday in our NEC WhatsApp group. I clearly indicated that those who were available may come to celebrate with the leader.
“The spokesperson (Masoetsa) also issued an apology (for not attending). But I cannot speak on behalf of him (Majoro). But I heard from his official speech (on Sunday) that he had been in a cabinet meeting on Saturday to address Covid-19 issues,” Mr Hlaele said.
In separate interviews with this publication, Mr Masoetsa said he did not attend the celebrations because he was in South Africa while Mr Rapapa said he had not been invited.
Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, denied allegations that the premier had snubbed the party celebrations. He said the premier could not make it to the event because he was out on a well-known official assignment in Mokhotlong, a task that his “esteemed leader (Thabane) knew about- service delivery to Basotho”.
“Secondly, the NEC had not sat and decided upon that celebration. The very same allegation was addressed during the sitting of the NEC on Monday this week where all sides agreed that no proper communication regarding the celebration was done as an invitation was posted in a WhatsApp group, not via a circular, which is an official communication to all members of the party. Therefore, the failure to make it to the festivity shouldn’t be seen or described as a snub,” Mr Moseme said on behalf of the premier.
At the time of going to print, Mr Kabi and Ms Doti and had not responded to messages sent to them on the issue.
Authoritative ABC figures said Mr Thabane’s decision to cling to power might cost the ABC dearly in next year’s general elections.
“What we need is a complete renewal of the party but the old man does not seem to get it…He has developed this unfortunate sense of entitlement wherein he believes he must remain leader because the ABC is his project,” said a senior ABC figure who spoke on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter.
“As long as he clings on, there is no chance of re-uniting the party because there is a clique that remains loyal to him and that is very disruptive.”
. . . as three more soldiers file M10, 9 million damages claim against army boss
LESOTHO Defence Force (LDF) commander, Mojalefa Letsoela, has been slapped with three fresh lawsuits for a combined total of M10, 9 million damages. The claims are by three more soldiers who were allegedly subjected to unlawful arrest and torture in 2015.
The three are Thoriso Mareka, Seabata Chaka and Motlatsi Mokhobo. Their ranks are not given in the three separate applications they filed this week in the High Court. The trio are demanding a whooping M10 950 000 as damages for the unlawful arrests, detention and torture they allegedly suffered at the hands of their colleagues including the late Captain Tefo Hashatsi and Major Bulane Sechele.
Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Letsoela is already facing another staggering M57 million lawsuit from other serving and former soldiers for their alleged torture and unlawful arrests by fellow soldiers in 2014.
The soldiers allege that they were subjected to torture and degrading treatment by their army colleagues during and after the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Lt-Gen Letsoela is only being sued in his capacity as army commander for the atrocities which were allegedly committed by soldiers then under the command of former LDF chief, Tlali Kamoli.
Lt-Gen Letsoela and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first and second respondents respectively in the applications.
Mareka is demanding a total of M5 110 000, Chaka wants M2 930 000 and Mokhobo wants M2 910 000.
Mareka’s claim is broken down as follows: M2, 4 million for unlawful arrest and detention, M180 000 for medical expenses, 580 000 for contumelia, M750 000 for pain and suffering, M300 000 for malicious prosecution before the Court Martial and M900 000 for travelling expenses.
“The plaintiff was arrested by his juniors, the late Captain Hashatsi, Retired Colonel (Thato) Phaila and some agents or employees of the Lesotho Defence Force on or around 5 June 2015,” Mareka states in his application.
“They handed him over to the LDF personnel who in turn took him to Setibing Military Base for what they styled as ‘interviews’ and or ‘investigations’.
“The plaintiff was brutally assaulted and tortured by the officers of the LDF at Setibing and he could not see them as he has a sight problem. He was interrogated about his relationship with the late (LDF) commander, Lt-Gen (Maaparankoe) Mahao, and the freezing of a loan facility for the soldiers by the management of the LDF.”
Mareka states that his wife subsequently filed a High Court application to compel the LDF to produce him dead or alive. The application was duly granted by the now retired Justice Teboho Moiloa, who ordered that he be placed under open arrest, on 1 July 2015. He further alleges that the then LDF command delayed to release him as they initially questioned the authenticity of Justice Moiloa’s order.
“In view of the attitude they displayed towards the court order, this suggests the military then had a blank cheque to do whatever it wished with detained soldiers. The plaintiff maintains that his original arrest was illegal. He had been abducted and captured for the reasons which motivated his wife to launch the habeas corpus proceedings (to compel the army to produce him dead or alive).
“The plaintiff maintains that he had been taken into military custody unlawfully and he had been charged for mutiny maliciously. The plaintiff maintains that the torture he endured at Setibing and the defamation he suffered due to the charge of mutiny where the LDF had failed to furnish him with the remand warrant and signed written reports in reports in respect of allegations which led to his imprisonment were antithetical to the rule of law and due process.
“As a result of the unacceptable treatment by his juniors and the torture, the plaintiff has suffered damages in the sums categorised (totalling M5 110 000) for which he holds the defendants liable to pay,” Mareka states.
Chaka’s M2 930 000 claim is broken down as follows: M2 million for unlawful arrest and detention, M200 000 for hospitalisation, M180 000 for contumelia, M250 000 for pain and suffering, payment of M300 000.
He also alleges he was arrested on 1 June 2015 and taken to Setibing Military Base where he was tortured by his fellow colleagues.
“This group (of soldiers) tortured the plaintiff by assaulting him and in the scope of their assignment to torture him brutally. They told him that ‘he must know that Setibing was a hell’. They forced him to confess to the crime of mutiny which the plaintiff did not know about and when he failed to do so they continued to attack him in turns with hard objects. This has resulted in his permanent disability as he thereafter had to undergo a hip replacement operation.
“The unshakable duty of these LDF officers to inflict pain continued even after they had been ordered to produce the body of the plaintiff in the habeas corpus proceedings. They were so indifferent to the required need of the plaintiff to undergo the hip operation until they were compelled by the order of this court to allow him to be operated. Notwithstanding that, the living and health conditions of prison were not conducive to his ailment.
“The actions and decisions of the subordinates of the first defendant (army commander) were unlawful and wrong. The defendants remain jointly and severally liable. The plaintiff avers that the decisions to place him under close arrest and prosecute him before the Court Martial had no merit. The jurisdictional facts for the imposition of a closed arrest were absent; hence he contends that he must be compensated,” Chaka states in his court papers.
Mokhobo’s M2 910 000 claim is broken down as follows: M2 million for unlawful arrest and detention, M180 000 for hospital expenses, M180 000 for contumelia, M250 000 for pain and suffering and M300 000 for general damages. He claims he was arrested at Ha Ratjomose Barracks on 17 May 2015 and also taken to Setibing Military Base.
“The arresting team handed over the plaintiff to another callous LDF group that consisted of Captain Makoae, Major Sechele and Lieutenant Colonel Mochesane and Sergeant Ramoepane on 18 May 2015. This group had been assigned to torture the plaintiff at Setibing Military Base and kicked his testicles, suffocated him with a tube and caused him to roll in the water.
“The above-mentioned LDF officers and their colleagues assaulted and insulted the plaintiff and during the course of this ordeal, told him that he was going to die and they were going to sleep with his wife. These atrocities were carried out to elicit confessions and incriminating evidence meant to connect the plaintiff with an imaginary mutiny plot.
“The plaintiff would be tortured by being beaten up, drowned in the cold water and be made to dry himself by sitting on a hot corrugated iron sheet. This took two days of serious torture and the plaintiff’s wife launched the habeas corpus proceedings which served before the now retired Justice Semapo Peete. It was in response to the orders of this court that the plaintiff was brought before court in a very bad shape. This court ordered that he be taken to doctors and be attended to urgently as private parts of his anatomy had clearly been rendered dysfunctional owing to the tortures he suffered. He routinely attends to medical treatment.
“The plaintiff avers that the investigations into the alleged mutiny plot could have been conducted without torture and death threats. He was placed in closed arrest and solitary confinement only to be acquitted after some years of suffering in 2017. He avers that the LDF command exercised undue influence on the prosecuting authority to conjure up spurious charges against him before the Court Martial in a covert campaign such that he could be considered a fascist and mutineer. The verdict of acquittals talks to the malicious prosecution and unlawful arrest and detention,” Mokhobo states.
The trio’s damages claim follow those of six other soldiers who are demanding a combined M57 million from Lt-Gen Letsoela for the same alleged unlawful arrests and torture during the Kamoli era.
Of the six, Lieutenant Colonel Mojalefa Mosakeng, Sergeant Selebalo Sejake Sergeant Lintle Rantuba and Corporal Sello Lefoka are demanding M11 million each.
Corporal Litšitso Mahase is demanding M7 million while Corporal Lehlohonolo Bolofo wants M6 350 000.
Save for Corporal Lefoka, the six soldiers are among 16 plaintiffs who originally filed the M32 million lawsuit against Lt-Gen Letsoela this June on the same grounds of torture and unlawful arrest.
However, 12 of the 16 plaintiffs, who are still serving soldiers, were subsequently suspended from the army to pave way for a Board of Inquiry to probe them for mutiny in connection with the lawsuit.
Lt-Gen Letsoela set up by the Board of Inquiry to probe what he saw as mutinous behaviour after the soldiers teamed up with their retired colleagues to sue him for the damages over their 2014 ordeal. Lt-Gen Letsoela characterises the soldiers’ decision to sue him as amounting to a mutiny.
All these civil claims are still pending before the High Court.
BEGINNING next month, Lesotho will introduce Covid-19 passports under which sporting events, social activities and some services will only be accessed by people who have been fully vaccinated.
This was said by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in a televised address on the Covid-19 situation in the country over the weekend. He also announced further relaxations to the lockdown including the resumption of contact sporting activities like football. In the more relaxed blue colour code of restrictions, premier league stadia will be allowed to host spectators at 50 percent of their capacity while A Division soccer matches will be allowed a maximum of 2500 fully vaccinated spectators.
Social gatherings are now permitted with much bigger crowds of up to 500 people while restaurants and night clubs are now permitted to host sit-in customers at 50 percent capacity provided they have been fully vaccinated.
Covid-19 passports are digital or paper documents that show that a person has been vaccinated against the virus. They could also help the holders to get into other countries and places where proof that one has been vaccinated is required. For instance, the United Kingdom has now removed virtually all African countries from its red list which stipulated a 14-day quarantine period for visitors into its territory at huge cost of more than M40 000. But valid vaccination certificates would now be required for anyone wanting to enter the UK.
Dr Majoro said the passports would help protect the nation against the deadly pandemic which had by yesterday infected a cumulative total of 21 481 people and caused 653 deaths.
“Last month, the government said it was contemplating the introduction of vaccination cards before people can access some services,” Dr Majoro said.
“The government has now identified some of these services that will require the vaccination cards. These include attending sporting events, political gatherings, entertainment, creative and cultural industries, entering liquor stores, restaurants, night clubs, gymnasiums, parks and other public recreational areas. This means that from 1 November, one will need a vaccination card to access these services.”
Dr Majoro said service providers had a responsibility to ensure that they only served fully vaccinated people upon production of the Covid-19 passports.
However, Lesotho Liquor and Restaurant Owners Association president, Motseki Nkaeane, feels that the government has acted hastily without consulting them.
Mr Nkaeane said the government should have consulted them to draw up a plan for the gradual implementation of the Covid-19 passports.
“While we are not against the introduction of the Covid-19 passports, we feel that the passports should have come into effect by January 2022 earliest. 1 November is too soon because the mass vaccination programme is ongoing and has not reached all the people in all districts.
“Implementing the measures by 1 November will certainly lead to the loss of business by our members. When customers come in and we demand the vaccine cards, they will simply go to illegal traders who do not comply with the laws of the country.
“This is really bad for our businesses. After all, we are still trying to recover from the restrictions which have negatively impacted on us over several months. We are not against the implementation of the vaccine cards because we know that this is for the good of our country. But it would be better if these measures were introduced early next year,” Mr Nkaeane said.
PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has again reshuffled his cabinet. The premier yesterday moved Agriculture and Food Security Minister Likopo Mahase to a new portfolio as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Mr Mahase’s previous post has been given to Mr Nkaku Kabi who was Water Affairs minister. Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kemiso Mosenene, takes over as Water Affairs minister.
Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, said in a statement the latest appointments were with effect from yesterday. The premier has reshuffled his cabinet and principal secretaries on several occasions since taking over from former incumbent Thomas Thabane in May 2020.
His last reshuffle was on 4 June 2020. It saw the likes of former Public Service Minister Samuel Rapapa being moved to the Communications, Science and Technology portfolio. He swapped portfolios with Mr Keketso Sello whose tenure had been blighted by sexual abuse allegations levelled against him by the now suspended Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) CEO, Mamarame Matela.
In the latest reshuffle, Mr Mahase’s reassignment is widely viewed as a demotion in the wake of last week’s sensational allegations that 4000 bags of fertiliser had disappeared from the agriculture ministry’s warehouse at Ha-Foso, Berea. The fertiliser is part of the government subsidised inputs to farmers for the recently commenced 2021/22 summer cropping season.
It is believed that the fertiliser was released by ministry officials to politicians and other well-connected individuals for resale on the black market at inflated prices. This is to the detriment of ordinary farmers who rely on government subsidised fertiliser and other inputs to plant crops every farming season.
The fertiliser is procured by the government and sold at a subsidised price of M144 to approved retailers. These retailers are in turn expected to resell a bag for M181 to ordinary farmers. The fertiliser is supposed to be sold on a first-come-first-served basis to the approved dealers.
However, government sources and ordinary farmers have alleged that some cabinet ministers, legislators and politically connected individuals jumped the queue and purchased the fertiliser through the back door. They allege that these powerful people are short-changing ordinary farmers by hoarding the fertiliser and reselling it at exorbitant prices of as much as M600 per bag.
In addition, some of the fertiliser is allegedly being smuggled across the border to farms in the neighbouring Free State province and other parts of South Africa where it is resold for huge profits.
Mr Mahase addressed a hastily arranged weekend press conference where he denied that fertiliser was missing from the Ha-Foso depot.
Despite his denials, Police Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed that they were investigating the allegations. He said he could not comment on the claims that senior politicians were involved in the looting of fertiliser for resale at inflated prices locally and in South Africa. He said they would only issue a full comment once they had completed their investigations.
. . . another seven to be appointed “soon” to address crippling shortage of judges
TWO new judges, ‘Malebona Khabo and Realeboha Mathaba were yesterday sworn in by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane at the Royal Palace in Maseru.
Another seven are expected to be sworn in “soon” as the government moves to address a crippling shortage of judges which has been blamed for the huge backlog of cases in the High Court.
Justices Khabo (61) and Mathaba (46) yesterday took the judicial oath before Justice Sakoane at a ceremony that was also attended by His Majesty King Letsie III, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, fellow judges and other government officials.
“I, ‘Malebona Khabo, do swear that I will in my capacity as judge in the High Court of Lesotho, administer justice to all persons without fear, favour or prejudice in accordance with the constitution and other laws and customs of Lesotho. So help me God,” Justice Khabo swore.
Justice Mathaba also swore a similar oath to administer justice without fear or favour.
The two judges join an under-staffed bench comprising of only seven judges, namely, Justices Sakoane, Tšeliso Monapathi, ‘Maseforo Mahase, Molefi Makara, Moroke Mokhesi, Keketso Moahloli and Polo Banyane.
All the judges, save for Justices Mahase and Mokhesi, attended the swearing-in ceremony. Also present was Zimbabwean Judge Charles Hungwe, who was specifically recruited to try high profile cases involving politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies.
Judicial Service Commission (JSC) secretary, ‘Mathato Sekoai, said the two new judges would be posted in Maseru. Justice Mathaba will sit in the Commercial Court while Justice Khabo would sit on the ordinary High Court bench.
Advocate Sekoai said the JSC had been given the greenlight by the government to hire an additional seven new judges.
She said two of the soon-to-be recruited judges would be posted to the Leribe High Court which is currently not functional due to lack of judges.
Justice Khabo is the former Labour Court president. Her curriculum vitae (CV) states that she is an expert in Labour Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms.
She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Law (BL) degree in 1979 and Bachelor of Laws Honours (LLB Hons) in 1983. Both degrees were attained at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). In 2000, she graduated with Masters in Labour Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Justice Khabo began working as the legal officer in the then Ministry of Employment, Social Welfare and Pensions in 1985. She left in 1989 to become Senior Legal Officer in the then Ministry of Local Government, Urban & Rural Development.
She joined the judiciary as the Labour Court registrar in 2002. She became the court’s acting president in 2012 until 2015 when she was appointed substantive president. Justice Khabo retired from the Labour Court in March this year.
Justice Mathaba’s CV states that he has over 16 years of experience in senior roles in tax administration, the water sector, legal practice, prosecution as well as drafting bills, complex financing and subsidiary agreements.
He holds a BL and LLB Hons both from NUL. He furthered his studies at the University of Free State where he attained a Masters of Laws (Business Entities) in 2016.
He began practising as an advocate in 2002. In 2004, he joined the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) as its legal officer. In 2007, he was promoted to be the authority’s Head of Litigations. Six years later in 2013, he was again promoted to the post of Commissioner for Enforcement. He served in that capacity until his departure from the LRA in 2018. He even served as acting LRA Commissioner General from 2015 to 2016. Upon leaving the LRA, he joined the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) as its chief legal officer and company secretary.
Justices Khabo and Mathaba were interviewed by the JSC on 16 August 2021 alongside other three shortlisted candidates, Moneuoa Kopo, Kuena ‘Mabotsoa Thabane and Mamotšelisi Khiba.
The five were publicly interviewed at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre by Justice Sakoane and fellow JSC members, Justice Banyane, Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa and Public Service Commission (PSC) chairperson Moshoeshoe Sehloho.
Their appointment ends a long-drawn recruitment process which was marred by controversy when it was initiated by former acting Chief Justice Mahase and former Attorney General Haae Phoofolo in August 2020.
Justice Mahase and Advocate Phoofolo’s controversial bid to recruit five new judges without involving other JSC members was nullified in December 2020 by the Constitutional Court.
Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo had met on 20 August 2020 in their capacity as JSC members and recommended that His Majesty King Letsie III appoints Deputy Attorney General Tšebang Putsoane, lawyers Tšabo Matooane, Mokhele Matsau, Maliepollo Makhetha and Adv Kopo as High Court judges.
But the five were not appointed with authoritative government sources saying that King Letsie III had refused to appoint them on the grounds that judges had to be recruited by all the JSC members.
Justice Sakoane was the other member of the JSC, then in his capacity as a nominated High Court judge. The other JSC member is PSC chairperson, Mr Sehloho.
Former Justice and Law Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao also waded into the issue when he publicly attacked Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo for acting on their own without the active participation and input of their JSC colleagues.
The stand-off prompted the little-known White Horse Party to file a September 2020 constitutional application to force King Letsie III to appoint the five as judges as per Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo’s recommendations.
The obscure political outfit also petitioned the court to declare that Prof Mahao had actively interfered with the independence of the JSC by publicly questioning Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo’s moves to have the five appointed without his or the government’s knowledge and input.
But Prof Mahao filed a counter-application for the nullification of Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo’s 20 August 2020 meeting and their subsequent recommendations for the appointment of the five as judges.
The Constitutional Court consolidated the White Horse application and Prof Mahao’s counter-application and heard them as one case.
The court dismissed the White Horse Party application on the grounds that Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo did not constitute the JSC quorum.
They also ruled that the White Horse Party did not have the legal standing to file the application because it had no interest in the appointment of judges.
The court then ordered a fresh process to recruit judges.
The JSC went back to the drawing board and on 15 February 2021, it published an advertisement calling on qualified people to apply or be nominated to fill the seven vacancies of judges of the High Court.
However, the exercise was halted on 23 April 2021 after the judiciary had been allocated a meagre budget of M937 366 for the April, May and June expenses of all the courts countrywide.
The recruitment process was again plunged into controversy when it resumed in August. This after the JSC snubbed some top lawyers and all magistrates including the country’s three highly experienced Chief Magistrates ‘Matankiso Nthunya, ‘Makampong Mokgoro and Manyathela Kolobe from its shortlist.
Ombudsman Tšeliso Mokoko, a former Defence and National Security principal secretary, was also overlooked.
They had all submitted their applications but the JSC only shortlisted Ms Khabo, Thabane and Khiba as well as Messrs Mathaba and Kopo.
However, the recruitment of only two judges will not be enough to reduce the backlog of cases in the High Court estimated at more than 4000.
It is therefore seen as imperative that the JSC makes good on its promise and urgently recruit another seven judges. Should this happen, the number of judges will increase to 16.
THE main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Democratic Congress (DC) parties are livid with their junior ally, Machesetsa Mofomobe, of the Basotho National Party (BNP).
This after the BNP leader, who is also the Minister of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing, used his weekend rally in Khubetsoana, Berea to belittle and ridicule his senior coalition partners.
The motor-mouthed Mr Mofomobe accused DC leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu of hypocrisy, saying now that he was in government, he had become silent on the issue of police brutality.
Before joining government in May 2020, Mr Mokhothu used to keep count on the statistics of alleged police brutality, Mr Mofomobe charged.
He also accused Mr Mokhothu of leading the unpopular campaign to give legislators monthly fuel allowances of M5000 each.
“When Mokhothu was in opposition he used to count the number of people who have been killed by the police but now that he is in government and eating butter, he is quiet,” Mr Mofomobe told BNP supporters.
“He used to say that Basotho were hungry but today he has given MPs M5000 each for petrol allowances. If you make the mistake of voting these congress people in 2022, the doll on their tee shirts (Mokhothu) and his suckling, (Popular Front for Democracy (PFD leader Lekhetho) Rakuoane, will take power and you will be in trouble.”
Mr Mofomobe had no kind words for the ABC’s Kolonyama legislator and Defence and National Security Minister, Halebonoe Setšabi. He accused the minister of standing idly by while army commander, Mojalefa Letsoela, set up a commission of inquiry to prefer mutiny charges against soldiers who had sued the army for their alleged wrongful arrest and torture during the tenure of former army boss, Tlali Kamoli.
He alleged that Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Letsoela had appointed a commission exclusively composed of the allies of the detained murder and treason-accused Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.
The loquacious BNP leader also attacked ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa for allegedly meddling in BNP affairs. He said Mr Masoetsa and “his sandals and duck-toes should leave the BNP alone”.
He said his party would soon file a High Court application to be allowed to recall its former deputy leader, Joang Molapo, from parliament. Chief Molapo became a proportional representation (PR) legislator on a BNP ticket in the wake of the 3 June 2017 elections. However, he dumped the party to join the Monyane Moleleki-led Alliance of Democrats (AD) in July 2020. The BNP failed in its efforts to recall him after the Speaker of the National Assembly, Sephiri Motanyane, said there were no legal provisions to support his recall.
“We shall submit all the relevant documents and audios to prove that Chief Molapo has defected to the rotten Machache tree,” Mr Mofomobe said. This was in reference to Mr Moleleki who represents the Machache constituency in parliament.
The garrulous Mr Mofomobe also said his party would not support the plot to topple Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro because the motion is being pushed by those who are bent on protecting the interests of former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane and her allies. Ms Thabane is the controversial wife of ABC leader and former premier Thomas Thabane. The motion is being sponsored by Mokhotlong legislator, Tefo Mapesela. Mr Mapesela dumped the ABC in April this year to form his own Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP).
Contacted for comment, Mr Masoetsa said they had resolved to ask Mr Mofomobe to explain his utterances. He said the ABC was surprised by the BNP leaders’ utterances when it had been benevolent enough to include his party in government.
“My party has decided to write to him and formally ask him to explain his utterances. Therefore, I will not comment further until this matter has been officially dealt with,” Mr Masoetsa said.
PFD leader, Advocate Rakuoane, who is also Law and Justice minister, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, DC spokesperson and Mining Minister, Serialong Qoo, has demanded a public apology from Mr Mofomobe for his “filthy utterances”.
“It is quite disheartening for a whole leader of a party to make such filthy utterances concerning his colleagues who he gets to sit with in cabinet. The leader (Mokhothu) is his colleague and yet he is belittling and ridiculing him like that. They are both part of the governing coalition and they make decisions together.
“How could he say those things? He should be ashamed of himself and apologise to everyone he has slandered. I believe that he is mentally challenged and probably wasn’t thinking straight when he said all those things.
“He has a serious mental problem, I guess. He seems to have totally forgotten that he is a party leader and he is now embarrassing himself. How will he sit at the same table with his colleagues who he has slandered? He should introspect,” Mr Qoo said.
He said he could have given Mr Mofomobe a piece of his mind but had refrained from doing so because that would be stooping as low as the BNP leader had done. However, he cautioned Mr Mofomobe to tread carefully.
AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo also blasted Mr Mofomobe for his baseless and unwarranted attacks on AD leader Mr Moleleki.
“He has stooped very low by referring to our leader as a rotten tree. This is even lower than when he was the BNP youth league leader and party spokesperson. He (Mofomobe) is quite petty and we are not going to retrieve him from the abyss that he has dug himself into. He is still immature.
“We feel sorry for him because his own party members will humble him by ditching the party as they are doing. They are leaving one by one. He will not even be able to walk down Kingsway Street without being laughed at. He has stooped to the lowest levels,” Mr Litjobo said.
LDF spokesperson, Captain Sakeng Lekola, referred all questions to Defence Minister Setšabi who was not reachable for comment yesterday.
LESOTHO is nowhere near fulfilling its 24-year-old pledge to ensure that half of all legislators and other posts in other state institutions are occupied by women.
The country made the pledge in 1997 along with other southern African countries in what has come to be known as the SADC Protocol on Gender. While other SADC countries have fared no better, it is even more disturbing that Lesotho is not even close to reaching the 30 percent quota for female MPs which ought to have been implemented by 2005 latest.
The last elections held in 2017 showed that women representation had actually decreased from 25 percent to 23 percent.
Faced with the ever-growing choruses of criticism over the failure to empower women, the National Reforms Authority (NRA) has come up with a novel proposal to push through constitutional amendments that will see the number of electoral constituencies slashed from 80 to 60.
Proportional Representation (PR) seats in parliament will then be increased from the current 40 to 60 to accommodate more women and thus meet the 30 percent threshold.
Addressing the media last week, NRA chairperson, Pelele Letsoela, said the 2019 second plenary session of the national stakeholders’ dialogue had mandated the NRA to ensure that women and other disadvantaged groups were well represented in the National Assembly.
According to his way of thinking, this can only be achieved by reducing the number of constituencies from 80 to 60 and increasing the PR seats from 40 to 60. The new PR seats will then be given to women and other disadvantaged groups to ensure they are well represented in parliament, he said.
But analysts are sceptical of the NRA proposals.
While conceding that it is time Lesotho and other SADC countries made good on their promises, the analysts do not believe that bringing women into parliament through the PR system is the best way to go.
If anything, Thlohang Letsie, a political science lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) believes this will worsen the instability that Lesotho has been experiencing since the PR system was adopted in 1998.
“Increasing PR seats will not solve the problem of under-representation of women. It will not enhance democracy. Rather, it will cause more problems. The PR system will not lead us anywhere. It will only benefit the small parties that are pushing their own personal interests of gaining access to government resources.
“In fact, the NRA is mainly made up of people who are members of small parties so they are pushing their personal interests instead of the interests of Basotho. Basotho have already shown that they do not have any trust in the PR system during the stakeholder consultations that were done,” Dr Letsie said.
Another analyst Sello Sello concurred, saying “instead of actually empowering women, increasing women’s representation via the PR system only serves to buttress the stereotypes that women are not electable and they can only be brought into the political fold courtesy of the generosity and goodwill of male-led political parties.
“Far from empowering women, the PR representation actually disempowers them and renders them stooges that will be beholden to their parties for pushing them higher up the PR lists to enable them to get into parliament. I think women would better off if the laws were amended to force political parties to field more female candidates. If they are elected then they will derive their power and legitimacy from the people. But the PR system means they have no legitimacy from the electorate and as such they will not be taken seriously.
“Besides, I don’t understand why the NRA is pushing these amendments to increase the PR seats when last year’s survey findings by the Afrobarometer research institute revealed that most Basotho are opposed to the system on the grounds that it has increased instability in the country,” Mr Sello said.
It appears that the PR system is generally associated with instability everywhere. According to https://www.tgs.kent.sch.uk/bbcnews, “the coalition governments that the PR system often produces can be weak and indecisive due to the different parties each trying to get their own way”.
This has been evident in Lesotho’s successive short-lived coalition governments which have failed to last the distance due to ideological and policy differences.
Both Dr Letsie and Mr Sello could also be right as the introduction of the PR system has coincided with greater political instability in the country.
The PR system has helped revive the fortunes of unpopular political parties such as the once mighty Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
In the last elections in 2017, the BNP did not win a single seat. Its five seats are all courtesy of the PR system. The party has used the seats to help bring down the previous Thomas Thabane-led government and to bargain for cabinet posts in the current Moeketsi Majoro-led administration.
BNP leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, has been rewarded with the post of Small Business Development, cooperatives and Marketing minister.
The LCD only won one seat in the last elections but the PR system enabled it to gain another 10 seats. It has exploited these seats to pass itself as a formidable opposition party which has to be consulted at every step of the reforms process. In fact, the reforms process was delayed for more than a year when its leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, was in exile in South Africa from 2017 to 2018.
It had to take a SADC brokered agreement between the government and opposition to get him to return to the country to participate in the reforms process. With its one seat, Mr Metsing would have certainly not had the clout to stall the reforms process had it not been for the PR system.
It also appears that Dr Letsie has a valid point in arguing that the NRA is composed of leaders of small parties who are driving their own agendas instead of effectively spearheading the reforms process.
Mr Letsoela leads the little-known Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) while NRA deputy chairperson Liteboho Kompi is a member of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC). The MEC only won one elected seat in parliament and gained another five through the PR system.
Another analyst and women’s rights activist, Mpho Litima, said, “reserving PR seats for women is not a panacea for the underrepresentation of women.
“The empowerment of women has to be a gradual process starting at the grassroots levels in society. Lesotho is a patriarchal society and there is therefore a need to address these cultural aspects and teach people about the importance of having female politicians.
“The political parties must then push for more females in leadership. The laws should then be amended to create a minimum threshold for female officials in the leadership structures of political parties.
“The parties should be compelled to groom women for influential positions rather than appoint them for PR seats. Women should earn these positions and that way they will earn respect,” Ms Litima said.
However, youth activist, Motsamai Mokotjo, supports the NRA proposals.
“The NRA proposals might have some loopholes but the important thing is that we have started the process of increasing the number of women in the National Assembly. We had to start somewhere and this is where we are starting from. Females need to be heard and their views are essential for running the country. The same applies to persons with disabilities and these also need to be given a platform to articulate their concerns,” Mr Mokotjo said.
The PR system may well be a starting point for increasing women’s representation in parliament. But as pointed out by other analysts, it is only so because the NRA has ignored the general sentiment against the PR system. It is only a starting point because the NRA has chosen not to push for amendments to compel political parties to field more women candidates in elections.
THREE Finance Ministry officers were yesterday arrested and grilled by the police in connection with the M50 million which has gone missing in the ministry.
Police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, confirmed the development last night, saying “three men from the Ministry of Finance are in police custody”.
He said the three were assisting the police with investigations over the M50 million that went missing last month. The funds went missing in the Finance ministry last month, with minister Thabo Sophonea saying the government became aware of the theft on 20 September 2021.
“We received a report on 20 September that there were allegations of embezzlement of funds by way of effecting payments to companies in and outside the country. Some of these businesses are not part of the government supplier list.
“We established that there have been few attempts to process payments, and some of these payments were successfully processed and paid into the suspects’ bank accounts. There are also other payments which were unsuccessful. This embezzlement of funds was done by civil servants and their friends in and outside the country and it is estimated that M50 million of the public funds has been embezzled,” Mr Sophonea said.
He said the theft was unfortunate as the government purse was almost empty and it was struggling to pay its suppliers.
Mr Sophonea said a case of embezzlement had already been reported to the relevant authorities and that investigations were ongoing.
He also indicated that the officers suspected to have been involved in the embezzlement had already been suspended.
“We have already suspended officers who are close to the payment process to allow investigations to go on without any interruptions. We are also investigation our own payment process with the banks as well as improving security of public funds,” Mr Sophonea said.
Countries around the world are reeling from the Covid-19-induced economic meltdown and similarly, Lesotho has been negatively affected, he said.
“It is unfortunate that while we are still confronted with these challenges, there are some people who decided to embezzle government funds. We appeal to all Basotho to give information which will assist in ensuring that doers of these cruel actions face the wrath of the law,” Mr Sophonea said.
Ours is a country where there is rarely any good news to report concerning the government and its related entities. Usually the stories are about the misappropriation or wastage of funds by public officials, their general ineptitude and failure to deliver services to the public. That is if we are not lamenting the ever-escalating killings of civilians.
But the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) is bucking this unenviable trend and turning out to be a rare breath of fresh air. Under the leadership of Malitaba Litaba, NACOSEC is finally delivering on its mandate to coordinate the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Established by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro in June 2020 to replace the discredited inter-ministerial National Emergency Command Centre (NECC), NACOSEC immediately found its back against the wall.
Although it had an excellent leader in former CEO, Thabo Khasipe, the secretariat still found the going tough as it was starved of funds to mount serious Covid-19 awareness programmes, recruit and pay an adequate number of health professionals to fight the scourge. Nor could it procure sufficient consumables for testing the public for the virus.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Khasipe threw in the towel after only a few months at the helm of the secretariat. No one could blame him for refusing to have his reputation sullied in that poisoned atmosphere where well-meaning members of the secretariat often found that they could not do their work due to constant meddling by some government officials bent on throwing their weight around even in places where they were not needed.
Deprived of funds, the indications were that NACOSEC would turn out to be the all-too-familiar story of failure.
But thanks to support from Lesotho’s international development partners and the local private sector, the secretariat has acquitted itself well over the past few months. The results are there to show; mass awareness campaigns have been successfully conducted to educate people about the dangers of the pandemic and the necessary actions to protect themselves and prevent its spread.
As our Vox Pop with people from various districts showed last week, the public is now well-informed about the misconceptions regarding the vaccines as well as the importance of getting jabbed.
The infection rates have been brought under control thus enabling the country to ease the hard lockdown and allow the resumption of various socio-economic activities. The borders have been re-opened and tourists can once again visit our iconic Thaba Bosiu mountain and enjoy our breathtakingly beautiful high-altitude scenery. It is a pity that the easing of the restrictions has come a little too late for international visitors to partake in the snow-filled, winter-inspired activities at Afriski.
But we are fully confident that when concluded, the ongoing mass vaccination campaign will ensure that we will never again have to impose a hard lockdown and prevent tourists from coming into our country because of Covid-19.
The vaccination programme is perhaps NACOSEC’s biggest success story so far.
By the end of last month, more than 18 percent of the population had been vaccinated against the pandemic. This was well above the target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which had asked countries to ensure that at least 10 percent of their populations would have been jabbed by the end of September 2021.
NACOSEC’s successes would not have been possible without the generous support of all-weather partners like the United States, China, France and the WHO. The local private sector ably led by business mogul Sam Matekane also played their part in procuring vaccines.
Hats off to NACOSEC for the sterling job so far. However, the war is not over and we urge NACOSEC not to rest on its laurels. The public is also enjoined to get jabbed. There shouldn’t be any more excuses because NACOSEC has taken the vaccines to the streets and bus stops where they can be easily accessed by vendors and taxi drivers among others.
Even congregants can now access the vaccines in their places of worship.
Let us all get jabbed to achieve herd immunity in the population. Only then can there be a resumption of full-scale socio-economic activities.
Anyone with a fifth of a brain would have to agree with me that our debauched electoral system is partly to blame for our perennial economic and political woes.
Our Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system was originated in good faith after the chaos of the 90s to ensure as wide a representation of political parties and political viewpoints in parliament as possible.
However, in my very humble opinion the system has served its purpose. It must now be ditched. It has now tended to create more problems than solutions. Talk of the doctrine of unintended consequences.
Because of the MMPR system, every Khotso, Keke and Keketso, who can master a few votes in their derelict village now lay claim to a proportional representation (PR) seat. This has created the untenable situation wherein leaders of political parties without any firm support nor philosophies slither their way into Cabinet. The result has been unwieldly coalitions not based on principles, values and policies but on political marriages of convenience.
The biggest problem is with the manner in which the PR seats are allocated wherein a party that has won most constituencies in the 80 contested seats is penalized by being given fewer of the 40 PR seats to compensate for those who would have performed dismally in the constituencies. Now tell me, what kind of an electoral system seeks to rescue and compensate losers? If you lose, you lose and you should get lost. That is not the case here. These compensatory seats are responsible for converting politics in Lesotho into a business segment. The consequences have of course been tragic.
We can never have a coherent government of a single political party or even two parties elected on the basis of good policies because the current system makes it virtually impossible for any one party to win a governing majority. It would have been better if the PR seats where allocated on the basis of the overall votes obtained in an election so that a party that wins more votes gets more PR seats rather than vice versa.
While the British first past the post system , on which our electoral system was originally entirely based, is not ideal, I would have hoped that the National Reforms Authority (NRA) would have devised a better alternative in which it becomes possible to produce a coherent government and close the doors for the current conveyer belt opportunism benefiting every Khotso, Keke and Keketso.
But alas, the NRA is now hell bent on promoting another cloud cuckoo land electoral system. Surely not again.
The elections in constituencies are the central thesis of democracy. Here, constituency representatives are elected directly by the electorate and must be accountable to those who have elected them. Tragically in Lesotho, once elected, these MPs are allowed to become prostitutes or rather crosstitutes. They can jump from one party to another – to entrench their personal interests – without the mandate of their electors in the constituencies. That is a monumental injustice. The current floor crossing system is defective. The NRA would have been better of proposing the elimination of this practice of prostitution (crosstituion) and ensure that MPs cannot defect without facing the electorate again. I would also have hoped that the NRA would ensure an overhaul of the electoral system and consolidation of the 80 contested parliamentary seats to ensure PR votes are distributed in a way that avoids punishing winners in constituencies and rewarding losers. Tragically this is not the case.
The NRA wants the constituency seats – which represent direct democracy – slashed from 80 to 60 seats to increase the quota (PR seats) to 60. They (NRA) claim this is what most Basotho who partook in the plenary consultations they are coordinating want. I don’t believe it. The NRA are lying. Which mad Basotho would want an increase in the quota seats?
Reducing the constituency seats would not have been a problem if the story ended there. Who wouldn’t want a smaller parliament of hopefully serious players? Instead, the NRA want to reduce the contested seats to increase the dubious PR seats from 40 to 60 and keep the number of MPs in the National Assembly at the current 120 by creating more backdoor opportunities. That is wholly untenable? What do we achieve by increasing these back door seats? Nothing.
I could not believe my eyes when I listened to NRA boss Pelele Letsoela unveil this dubious proposal at a press conference in Maseru this week. Whatever those who have come up with this proposal are smoking must be undeniably intoxicating.
The rationale of increasing the number of PR seats is ostensibly to accommodate more women and disabled people and other unmentioned special interest groups.
Now hang on a minute. Who says Lesotho needs more women representation to attain the much elusive economic and political prosperity? Who says Lesotho needs more one eyed or one legged people in Parliament to achieve the hitherto elusive economic and political prosperity? What stops anyone without one or both eyes or with one hand from contesting elections in the constituencies? Who says we need more large, farting women in parliament to get on to a new road to Damascus?
Who else will fill this huge quota of 60 backdoor seats? Will we have a quota for nyatsis or the crocodiles who loiter at the junction near the now defunct Victoria Hotel in these 60? Will the 60 include a quota for herdboys, as a special interest group? What will stop shebeen owners from demanding their quota of the 60 seats? Or the cabbage vendors?
The fact is we don’t need more PR seats. What we need are direct elections of representatives elected in constituencies on the strength of their policies and principles. Even though a first-past -the-post system only is not ideal, I would not mind if the story ended there. Imagine a parliament with only 60 hardworking MPs elected in bruising elections and who are not allowed to crosstitute? Imagine a parliament with only 60 MPs who spend their time on real work and not fighting for measly M5000 fuel allowances? Part of the problem with the current parliament of 120 is that it is too unwieldy for a small country of only two million inhabitants. Most of the MPs have nothing to do.
Let the NRA propose confining parliament to 60 elected MPs only and then establish stringent criteria of who qualifies to contest elections. One criteria could be confining parliamentary candidates to people who have established and run successful businesses – including car washes – and earned at least one million maloti in their bank accounts. Just imagine how many chancers would be disqualified. Such criteria would ensure that only hardworking people- who have already earned their keep – would go to Parliament. Once there, they can focus on real business because they already have the means and not fighting for pitiful M5000 allowances. Unless we stop politics being seen as a business by the ever proliferating professional politicians in Lesotho, then we are doomed. Instead of achieving that objective, the NRA wants more quotas to create more opportunities for chancers. How is that going to help this country develop?
There are many talented disabled people out there. Who said they need a special quota in parliament? After all, many in the current crop of MPs are already disabled insofar as they are mentally deranged. Just consider the cases of Charlatan Phori, Mapesela and even Machesetsa. So why create a quota to have more of these deranged characters? In any event, nothing has stopped them from contesting elections? That is why they are in parliament in the first place? So why increase the quota to have more of them in parliament. Have those pushing this warped proposal considered its ramifications? Have they considered the effects of having more brainless people in parliament under the guise of quotas for the disabled and special interest groups? Me thinks not.
And why are we so patronizing towards disabled people. Why do we always think they require freebies? There are many disabled people who are successful through sheer hard work. They can contest elections and win without the need for quotas. Let everyone who wants to be in parliament contest seats based on their political and economic intellect.
I don’t mind if the entire parliament ends up with people with split foreheads and no legs. I don’t mind if the entire parliament ends up with 120 large buttocked women. As long as they contest elections on merit and are elected based on their policy articulations, so be it. What I am totally opposed to are any form of quotas for free rides into Parliament. It goes without saying – from past experiences – that such free riders tend to be dunderheads. Once in parliament, they serve the sole purpose of warming and farting on those benches. We have already had enough of that.
Mr Letsoela told the nation at his press conference; “If we have 60 first-past-the-post seats and 60 PR seats, we will finally be able to achieve the 30 percent women representation in parliament”.
My question to him is, so what? What are the benefits of having a 30 percent quota of women in parliament? What have the other countries who have abided by such a quota achieved? How are these women going to be selected? Will they be required to be slim, medium built or fat? Will flight attendants be required? Yes we need women in Parliament. But we don’t need a quota for them. Let any woman who think they fit the political bill emerge and contest elections. They must win on merit and not slither into Parliament via a patronizing quota system.
The current multi-sector reforms process is our last chance to build a viable democracy based on merit. What Lesotho needs, and needs badly is a meritocracy where people rise to positions of influence in the government, in the judiciary and in the security agencies on merit. That’s a meritocracy. The last thing we need is people seeking a role in politics as the easiest way to earn a living.
We have a chance to change our lost ways. The NRA has the perfect chance to ensure we do things differently. It all starts with an electoral system that ensures that we elect worthwhile human beings as our political leaders in parliament based on merit and not quotas. It’s either that or we remain a Middle Ages country.
A SITTING prime minister will in future only be ousted by a minimum two thirds majority vote of all the members of the National Assembly.
This according to a proposal recently submitted to the National Reforms Authority (NRA) by leaders of various political parties.
Established last year, the NRA is tasked with spearheading the implementation of constitutional, security sector, media, judicial and governance reforms which were recommended by SADC in 2016 to achieve lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
Addressing the media on the reforms progress in Maseru this week, NRA chairperson, Pelele Letsoela, said the authority had received and adopted the political leaders’ proposal for a minimum two thirds majority vote before a prime minister can be removed from office.
Under the current laws, a prime minister can be removed from office by a simple majority. If passed by parliament, the new law would prevent situations where prime ministers live in constant fear of being toppled, Mr Letsoela said.
He said this will enable premiers to effectively discharge their mandates without fear of being removed from office.
“A recent 14th NRA plenary session received and adopted a report from political leaders proposing that a prime minister can only be removed through a two thirds majority parliament vote in the event of a no confidence motion being filed and voted on,” Mr Letsoela said.
“An elected prime minister should not constantly live in fear of being removed without any reasonable excuse. The (proposed) amendment will ensure that a premier is able to freely discharge his mandate,” Mr Letsoela said.
Lesotho’s current laws, which allow prime ministers to be kicked out on the basis of a simple majority vote in parliament, have contributed to endemic instability in the Kingdom.
Since 2012, there have been four short-lived governments as legislators have taken advantage of the laws to oust sitting prime ministers.
Ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Thomas Thabane, was the first victim when his three-party administration collapsed in early 2015, barely two years after its inception in 2012. His successor, former Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, fared no better. His own seven parties’ regime collapsed on 1 March 2017. This was only two years after its formation.
Mr Thabane returned in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 elections at the helm of a four-party coalition. However, he again failed to last the distance when his party joined forces with the then opposition DC and other parties to oust him in May 2020.
His place was taken by his former Finance minister and current ABC deputy leader, Moeketsi Majoro.
Just like his predecessors, Dr Majoro is now in the eye of the storm. He is facing a no confidence motion filed by former ABC legislator and cabinet minister Tefo Mapesela.
Mr Mapesela has gone to court to demand that voting on his motion be done by secret ballot after the National Assembly Speaker, Sephiri Motanyane, had ruled that voting be done by a show of hands. While the general consensus is that Dr Majoro has enough support to survive the motion, the extent to which ABC MPs will back him is not assured. Some like former cabinet minister Chalane Phori have already indicated they would support Dr Majoro’s ouster.
Last week, ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa told the Lesotho Times that Mr Thabane and other national executive committee (NEC) were considering unspecified action against Dr Majoro for repeatedly snubbing them when it came to making executive appointments in government.
He said the ABC’s NEC was on the verge of writing circulars to the party’s constituency committees detailing the premier’s alleged transgressions and requesting them to give them “guidance” on what measures to take against him.
Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, defended the premier, saying he alone had the prerogative to make executive appointments.
It remains to be seen what “guidance” or disciplinary measures the constituency committees will recommend against Dr Majoro. Ultimately, it is only the legislators who can oust Dr Majoro by passing a no confidence vote against him in parliament.
Due to opposition within the ABC ranks, Dr Majoro will require the support of other parties to survive Mr Mapesela’s motion when it is eventually brought to vote under the current laws.
. . . PR seats to be increased to accommodate women, disabled and other disadvantaged groups
THE National Reforms Authority (NRA) says it is working on constitutional amendments that will see the number of electoral constituencies slashed from 80 to 60.
Proportional Representation (PR) seats in parliament will then be increased from the current 40 to 60 to accommodate more women and provide for legislators representing disabled persons and other disadvantaged groups, the NRA said.
Addressing the media this week, NRA chairperson, Pelele Letsoela, said the 2019 second plenary session of the national stakeholders’ dialogue had mandated the NRA to ensure that women and other disadvantaged groups were well represented in the National Assembly.
He said this could only be achieved by reducing the number of constituencies from 80 to 60 and increasing the PR seats from 40 to 60. He said the new PR seats would then be given to the disadvantaged groups to ensure they are well represented in parliament.
“Plenary II mandated the NRA to ensure that disadvantaged groups such as women, people living with disabilities and the youth are well represented in parliament,” Mr Letsoela said.
“The NRA believes the only way it can deliver on this mandate is to introduce constitutional amendments to reduce the number of constituencies from 80 to 60. The number of PR seats will then be increased so that these disadvantaged groups can easily be represented in parliament,” Mr Letsoela said, adding they will next month introduce the relevant constitutional amendments to parliament to achieve this.
He said increasing women’s representation to at least 30 percent of the MPs was long overdue as this had been agreed more than 20 years ago by SADC nations. He said the SADC countries’ ultimate goal was to ensure 50-50 representation in parliament.
Back in 1997, Lesotho joined other SADC countries in committing to ensuring the equal representation of women and men in the decision-making positions of member states and SADC structures at all levels by 2015. They also committed to achieving at least 30 percent representation of women in parliament by 2005.
But 24 years since that commitment was made, Lesotho is nowhere near meeting the 30 percent benchmark on women’s representation in parliament.
Instead, Gender Links Lesotho revealed that after the last elections in June 2017, only 27 out of the 120 seats were held by women as compared to 2015 when women held 30 seats.
Commenting on the proposed constitutional amendments, Mr Letsoela said “if we have 60 first-past-the-post seats and 60 PR seats, we will finally be able to achieve the 30 percent women representation in parliament”.
He said NRA would next month start working on constitutional amendments and subsequent legislation to provide for the reduction of constituencies and their delimitation in terms of the envisaged laws to enable greater representation of women and other disadvantaged groups.
“We are therefore asking the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to walk shoulder to shoulder with NRA on this issue (of the constitutional amendments),” Mr Letsoela said.
The delimitation of constituencies under the current laws is already proving to be a hot potato with the Democratic Congress (DC) and its congress allies threatening court action if the IEC goes ahead with plans to delineate constituencies before next year’s elections.
Although the IEC is constitutionally mandated to delineate constituencies, the congress parties want the electoral body to leave the exercise in the hands of the NRA which is currently seized with the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
The parties also argue the delimitation exercise should not proceed on the basis of the last census which was held in 2016 as they say it is now outdated.
They further argue that parliament had agreed that the exercise should be deferred and next year’s general elections should be held under the existing constituencies.
The congress parties’ position on the delimitation exercise is at odds with that of the main governing All Basotho Convention (ABC) and its allies who support the preliminary delimitation exercise which was conducted in 2018.
The preliminary exercise was conducted under the previous commissioners, Mahapela Lehohla, ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Makase Nyaphisi whose tenure expired in January 2019.
Their successors, Mphasa Mokhochane, Karabo Mokobocho and Tšoeu Petlane, were appointed in November 2020.
The next step would have been the issuance of a gazette inviting the parties and the public to comment on the proposed new constituencies.
This was belatedly done on 24 September 2021 when the IEC’s acting Director of Elections, Lehlohonolo Suping, issued the gazette inviting the political parties to make representations on the proposed constituencies. The IEC’s proposal reduced the number or rural constituencies and created more urban ones because of migration. The congress parties fear they will lose because they consider the rural constituencies their strongholds.
Last week, the IEC invited the political parties to a closed meeting over the proposed new constituencies and the long overdue by-elections.
However, the meeting degenerated into a slanging match as tempers flared over the IEC’s plans to proceed with the delimitation of constituencies.
Asked about the controversy, Mr Letsoela said they were not taking sides on the matter. He said there were some problems which had to be addressed through constitutional amendments to enable the delimitation exercise to continue because they wanted the constituencies reduced to 60 from the current 80.
“We think it prudent that Section 67 of the constitution which speaks to the delimitation of constituencies be amended because as it has some controversies. For example, it says the IEC must depend on the census in order to undertake the delimitation exercise. But some people who vote in the Berea constituency, for example, are captured in the census as Maseru inhabitants. That issue has to be addressed because we think the IEC is using wrong figures.
“We are not supporting anyone here but we just want the country to work towards the delimitation of constituencies,” Mr Letsoela said.
Limpho Sello | Bereng Mpaki
A HAIL storm which pounded the northern districts of Lesotho last Thursday leaving a trail of destruction has crippled services at Seboche Hospital in Butha-Buthe.
Seboche Hospital was immediately forced to suspend several services after the storm which destroyed the roof of its main building. The storm also destroyed several businesses in Maputsoe.
Butha-Buthe district administrator, Tṧepa Chaba, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that the damage to the roof led to an electrical fault which has crippled all services requiring electricity. The services have been suspended until further notice.
The hail left the asbestos roofing sheets with holes which left electrical connections and equipment flooded with water, he said.
“The second floor of the main building was left flooded with water which affected electric wires and equipment and we had to turn it off to avoid further damage,” Mr Chaba said.
“All the patients who were admitted at the hospital were then transferred to Butha-Buthe and Motebang hospitals because those were the only available options since the patients still needed further medical treatment.
“However, the hospital is still offering some services in the other block which was not affected by the hail storm. These services include antenatal care, out patients and the collection of medication.”
He said the hospital was only assisting patients whose conditions were “non-critical”.
He however, could not be drawn into revealing how much the damage is worth and how long it would take to repair.
The Health Ministry was still engaging the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) over the matter, he said.
“We are compiling a report and once it has been completed, I will be in a position to give concrete information and what decision would have been reached.”
The disaster has created pressure for Butha-Buthe and Motebang hospitals because of the patients who are being diverted from Seboche, Mr Chaba said. Other resultant challenges include staff shortages at Butha-Buthe and Motebang, he added.
“The hospitals were already overwhelmed and with more patients coming in from Seboche, it means Motebang and Butha-Buthe are extremely burdened,” Mr Chaba said.
Meanwhile, several businesses in Maputsoe were also destroyed by the hailstorm last Thursday.
The damage, which is estimated to run into thousands of maloti, has now left at least 28 workers out of employment.
Five victims sustained minor injuries and were treated in hospital as outpatients.
Labour and Employment Minister, Moshe Leoma, who visited the area last weekend said several supermarkets’ roofs caved in due to the storm. Apart from the infrastructure, goods were also destroyed, he said.
Apart from restocking, at least seven businesses must also spend thousands in repairing their buildings before they can resume operation.
“I have been to Maputsoe and the damage to business property by the hailstorm is significant as 28 people are temporarily out of work,” Mr Leoma said.
“During my visit to the area, I spoke to the business owners who, fortunately, have insured their operations against natural disasters. They however, informed me that they were awaiting their insurers to step in so that work to restore operations can start as soon as possible.
“While that is an area outside my scope of work, I have agreed to assist them for the sake of the workers who are out of employment at the moment.”
The business owners have also assured him that they would retain their workers once they reopen.
Mr Leoma also said the government will not be rendering any assistance to the affected business as it is cash-strapped. However, owners of residential properties that were affected by the hailstorm will receive assistance after cabinet this week agreed to avail funds to help them.
“Cabinet has agreed to mobilise funds to assist owners of houses that were affected public by the hailstorm around the country. However, the said assistance will not be extended to affected businesses,” Mr Leoma said.
A CLERGYMAN has been gunned down in a suspected crime of passion.
Reverend Bohlale Phakoe, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church pastor and director of foreign marketing at the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL), was gunned down in cold blood on the night of 2 October 2021.
He was murdered on the day when he was launching his hospitality business, the Matholeng Gardens in Marabeng, Berea. The project boasts of entertainment and conferencing facilities.
He was allegedly murdered by one Reitumetse Lemphane of Sehlabeng sa Thuathe, Maseru. Sources close to the matter said that Lemphane had accused the pastor of having a long-running adulterous relationship with his wife.
Police spokesperson Senior superintendent Mpiti Mopeli this week confirmed that a male suspect had been arrested and remanded in custody in connection with Rev Phakoe’s murder.
“The suspect has appeared in court on charges of murder and illegal possession of a firearm whose serial number was erased,” Senior Supt Mopeli said.
“The suspicion is that the deceased was allegedly in a love relationship with the suspect’s wife,” Senior Supt Mopeli said.
According to the sources, Lemphane took the drastic decision to kill Rev Phakoe after the latter had ignored several warnings to stop his alleged affair with his wife. The wife also worked for Rev Phakoe in his business project.
“It is not surprising that he (Phakoe) died in this fashion. Lemphane was always in tears, crying over his troubled marriage which he said was being torn apart by Ntate Phakoe. Each time he would confront Ntate Phakoe, the latter would just laugh off the issue and this deeply hurt Lemphane. He said his wife had treated him like a fool because he was not working,” the source said.
Another source said on the night of the shooting, Lemphane had driven to Matholeng Gardens to confront Rev Phakoe over the alleged affair.
“It was already late after 9pm and the staff, including Lemphane’s wife, were busy cleaning up the place when Lemphane entered the premises. The place had been locked but Lemphane was allowed to enter after asking to see Rev Phakoe ostensibly to congratulate him on the opening of the facility.
“Rev Phakoe was accompanied by one of the workers when he came to meet Lemphane. The worker then left them after Lemphane asked the pastor to get into his car so that they could talk. No one knows what was said in their conversation but not long after the worker had left them, the sound of gunshots was heard,” the source said. He said Rev Phakoe’s body was found with wounds on the back of the head and neck. There were more wounds on the left ear and left shoulder.
His brother, Sekola Phakoe, said they were “deeply pained by our brother’s untimely death and we still don’t know the motive behind his murder”.
He became the latest statistic of Lesotho’s ever-increasing homicide rates.
Lesotho now tops the World Population Review rankings for the most murders in Africa. It is ranked sixth in the world after El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Jamaica and the Virgin Islands.
LESOTHO must define its national identity and reposition itself as an internationally attractive brand before it can claim its share of the international marketplace.
This was said by Vodacom Lesotho managing director, Mohale Ralebitso, at a panel discussion this week to commemorate Lesotho’s 55th independence anniversary.
Lesotho’s post-independence history has been blighted by political instability, corruption and a host of social ills such as high murder rates which have prevented the country from attracting significant foreign direct investment to enable it to realise its development potential.
This year’s independence celebrations were commemorated against the background of serious concerns that the economy could suffer serious damage if the country is forced to pay off £50 million (M856 million) damages to Frazer Solar. The damages are for the government’s alleged breach of a 2018 contract the German company claims to have entered into with the previous Thomas Thabane-led government for the supply of solar water heating systems, solar generated electricity, LED lights and solar lanterns over four years. The government is fighting the damages award by a South African arbitrator in the local and South African high courts.
Mr Ralebitso and other discussants alluded to these problems during this week’s discussion, on the country’s development prospects, in Maseru. The live discussion which was organised by Brand Africa Lesotho Chapter. According to its website, Brand Africa is an international African organisation “which seeks to inspire an urgent brand-led African renaissance”.
Others on the roundtable discussion were Brand Africa founder and chairperson, Thebe Ikalafeng, Lesotho Times editor, Herbert Moyo, independent journalist Nthakoana Ngatane and Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) Investment Climate Reforms Manager, Reboneng Makoa. The discussions revolved around what must be done to build the Lesotho brand to market the country as an investment destination.
In his contribution, Mr Ralebitso said Lesotho should leverage its tourism potential and culture to build its brand.
He said Lesotho must also tackle corruption and social ills such as the high murder rates which had catapulted the country to first position for the highest homicide rates in Africa and sixth in the world.
He said there was not much to show for the country’s 55 years of independence as Lesotho remained largely dependent on other countries, particularly South Africa.
He alluded to the fact that some territories which had belonged to Lesotho in the 19th century had now become part of South Africa.
“There is nothing independent about Lesotho,” Mr Ralebitso said.
“We are a case study on dependency. How do you build a brand when more than half of your asset base is disconnected from you? We have a lot of work to do to build our national brand,” he said.
Mr Ralebitso also pledged M20 000 towards the creation of a fund to assist youth start-ups in the country.
This after the youthful funder of Leseli Hub, Ntsukunyane Matete, had bemoaned the lack of funding for youth initiatives. Leseli Hub is into the outdoor advertising business.
Mr Matete, who was in the audience, had said that many youths had vibrant business ideas and had established companies which had collapsed due to lack or limited funding.
Mr Ralebitso also challenged locals to either start their own ventures or buy foreign entities like Aranda Textiles that were capitalising on Lesotho’s heritage by manufacturing and selling the world-famous Basotho blanket.
He said India had already shown the way by taking over well-known western motor vehicle brands like Jaguar and Land Rover.
On his part, Mr Ikalafeng said Africans had not used their independence to grow their own internationally recognised brands.
“We are a continent marked mostly by poverty, hunger, poor health and violence. It is devastating that after close to 60 years of the so-called independence, we are still struggling to show what we can do with our independence.
“Independence has not been good for us as we have become lazy waiting for the government to look after us instead of creating jobs.
“The biggest problem in Africa is corruption in public offices. It is also becoming rampant in the private sector. Corruption has slowed down development in Africa,” Mr Ikalafeng said.
The situation was worsened by Africans’ hatred of indigenous brands, he said.
On his part, Mr Makoa said there was need to revise the country’s fiscal policies to attract foreign direct investment.
Mr Moyo highlighted the negative impact of social ills on the country’s potential as an investment destination.
He said in as much as the media wanted to highlight positive stories, it could not camouflage or pay lip service to serious human rights abuses, political instability and the rampant murders currently bedevilling the country.
THE Ministry of Transport has petitioned the Finance ministry to reverse its decision to nullify the awarding of a tender for consultancy work at Moshoeshoe 1 International Airport to a South African company, LTE Construction.
The Ministry of Transport had in June 2021 awarded the tender to supervise the refurbishment of the airport to the controversial LTE Construction. But the decision was reversed by the Finance ministry’s Public Procurement Advisory Division (PPAD) after complaints that the tender had been unprocedurally awarded to LTE Construction.
The PPAD is a division within the Ministry of Finance tasked with overseeing public procurement by state institutions. The Ministry of Transport has now asked the ministry to reverse the PPAD’s decision.
The PPAD cancelled the tender award after the WSSL Joint Venture, allegedly linked to controversial Chinese businessman Yan Xie, had complained that LTE had been unprocedurally awarded the tender.
The tender is for the provision of consultancy services and supervision of whichever company will be selected to refurbish the country’s only international airport.
LTE is a controversial company which has often hit the headlines in South Africa for allegedly corruptly winning tenders worth billions. LTE has been accused of claiming payment for projects it did not complete in Gauteng Province and of bungling some water projects in Limpopo. It has been accused of buying politicians in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and of making contributions to that ruling party to cover its alleged devious tracks.
LTE had been chosen from a list of six companies, including WSSL, which had been invited to submit their bids through a selective tendering process by the transport ministry. It is not clear which other companies had been invited to bid.
Disgruntled with the outcome, WSSL successfully appealed to the Ministry of Finance’s PPAD to order the transport ministry to redo the tendering process.
WSSL alleged that it had been treated unfairly as it had not even been allowed to see the evaluation report which would have shown where it fell short in its bid.
The PPAD had also ordered the transport ministry to conduct an open tender process to allow any interested company to bid for the work.
The PPAD communicated its decision to the Ministry of Transport in a 10 September 2021 letter to the ministry’s principal secretary, Maile Masoebe.
However, Mr Masoebe this week said he had since petitioned the Ministry of Finance’s Tribunal to overturn the PPAD’s decision. Apart from the PPAD, the Finance ministry also has a separate Tribunal which adjudicates disputes in tenders.
“I can confirm that the Ministry of Transport has referred the matter to the Tribunal,” Mr Masoebe said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
“All the papers were filed last week and the consortium challenging our decision to award the tender to LTE has already been served (with the papers). We are just waiting for the Tribunal to inform us of the hearing date. However, I cannot go into further details as this is now a legal matter,” Mr Masoebe said.
The impasse could cost Lesotho dearly. Government sources this week said the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had issued fresh threats to close the Moshoeshoe I Airport if it is not refurbished by year-end.
ICAO first issued the threats to close down the airport in December 2020. It said several years of neglect had left the airport facilities in a state of disrepair.
Should the work not be finished in line with ICAO’s demands, the airport could be forcibly closed by the international body which is tasked with regulating all international aviation activities, the sources said.
Its closure will create a huge crisis as new travel arrangements would have to be made for His Majesty King Letsie III, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, ministers, government officials, diplomats, captains of industry and other ordinary travellers who rely on the airport for international travel. They would most likely be forced to travel long distances by road to international airports in South Africa.
The ailing tourism sector, which is already reeling from the Covid-19 induced intermittent lockdowns which have caused a decline in tourist arrivals, would be thrown into further turmoil by the closure of the airport.
LESOTHO this week commemorated its 55th independence anniversary with analysts saying there was little to celebrate due to years of chronic instability which have stunted the country’s socio-economic development.
The country has not done its international reputation any favours with the succession of short-lived governments, rampant corruption in the public sector, poor infrastructure and general lack of investor-friendly policies.
“Throw in our propensity to murder each other, then you have a hellish country where no-one even angels would not dare to set foot in,” said a political commentator Sello Sello.
Mr Sello could well be right because with each passing week, more corpses are added to the long list of murders that have turned Lesotho into Africa’s homicide capital and the sixth most murderous nation on planet earth.
Unsurprisingly, the anger over the rampant killings, particularly the murders of defenceless women have prompted widespread calls for Lesotho to dust off its dormant death penalty and resume executions of convicted criminals.
The last execution was carried out on 25 November 1995. Lesotho had joined other “progressive” nations in imposing a moratorium on executions as they are considered to be a cruel, degrading and inhuman form of punishment.
However, Deputy Prime Minister and Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, is among those who believe there must be zero tolerance and swift action against the killers. His DC predecessor and former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and former attorney General, Haae Phoofolo, are also convinced that executions are the only way to punish the criminals and deter like-minded people.
But analysts are not convinced that implementing the death penalty will solve Lesotho’s homicides problem.
Rather, the country must focus its energies and resources on fully equipping the entire law enforcement system- from the police to the judiciary- to fully execute their mandates to investigate, arrest and conclude trials of suspects.
“Criminals are emboldened by the knowledge that nothing will happen to them,” Mr Sello said.
“They know that the police are underfunded to investigate and arrest them. In the few instances where they are actually arrested, the criminals know that they won’t even spend a night in custody. They will be swiftly granted bail and get back to the streets to traumatise the families of their victims. Trials hardly happen due to the serious shortage of judges which has resulted in a huge backlog of over 4000 cases. Where trials are begun, they hardly reach their logical conclusion due to various challenges. If these issues are tackled to enable the wheels of justice to turn swiftly, would-be criminals would probably be deterred by the knowledge that they will be locked away from society for life or for a very long time. The resourcing of the law enforcement system should be our primary concern instead of rushing to implement a death penalty which has never been proven to be effective in countries where it is being implemented,” Mr Sello said.
National University of Lesotho (NUL) political science lecturer, Motlamelle Anthony Kapa, concurred. Professor Kapa said simply implementing the death penalty without tackling the law enforcement’s challenges in dealing with crimes was not the panacea to Lesotho’s homicides problem.
“A party in government should not be calling for the return of the death penalty,” Prof Kapa said.
“If they are serious about dealing decisively with murders, they have to start by capacitating all the institutions responsible for the criminal justice system. The immediate goal should be to capacitate the police and the judiciary.
“The police force and the judiciary have evidently failed to deliver on their mandates to fight crimes including murder. It is common knowledge that the judiciary is perennially underfunded and this year has not been an exception. For the first quarter of the current financial year, the judiciary was allocated a measly M937 366 which had to be shared by all the country’s courts including the High Court and Court of Appeal.
“With these trifling amounts they are allocating the judiciary, there is no way the huge backlog of cases will ever be cleared. This also applies to the police. They need to be capacitated to investigate the cases faster. We also need to address the root causes of murder which happen to be social ills. These murders are an indication of the ills in our society that include unemployment and poverty,” he said.
The President of Lesotho National Council of Women, ‘Mabataung Mokhatali blamed the “monstrous crimes” on the Basotho culture which did not train children, especially males, to value the sanctity of life.
There is need to revisit and revise the cultural norms to instil a respect for human lives, particularly those of women, Ms Mokhatali said.
“At times our culture works against us. Children at a tender age are taught that females are the inferior gender and that the males can do whatever they want to do with the defenceless females.
“We need to teach our children from infancy to value life. We have to be intentional about reshaping our culture and instilling respect for human life in the young generation,” Ms Mokhatali said.
Media practitioner-cum human rights activist, Ray Mungoshi, said there was no empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of the death penalty.
“Looking at the United States of America (US), you will realise that high murder rates persist in the very states that insist on the death penalty. There is no evidence that the death penalty will be effective in preventing murders in Lesotho,” Mr Mungoshi said.
His views are in tandem with those of human rights organisation, Amnesty International, which has said apart from being a cruel and degrading punishment, the death penalty has not been proven to be an effective deterrent in any country where it has been imposed.
One only has to look no further than fellow SADC country, Botswana to appreciate that executing criminals does not necessarily deter like-minded people from committing murder.
Botswana is the only SADC country that still executes convicted murders. This year it has already executed some killers.
But despite this, Botswana has clinched the 22nd spot on the World Population Review rankings of the most murderous countries in the world.
It is ranked above war-ravaged and unstable countries like Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and even Iraq.
Clearly, the death penalty is not working there. It is unlikely to work here either.
If anything, Amnesty International believes the “human justice system is not infallible and sooner or later, innocent people will get killed because of mistakes or flaws in the justice system”.
“The death penalty legitimises an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.
“There is ample evidence that such mistakes are possible: in the USA, 130 people sentenced to death have been found innocent since 1973 and released from death row,” Amnesty International says.
Given the lack of proof of the efficacy of the death penalty and the risk of executing innocent people along with real murderers, analysts say Lesotho should rather focus its energies on addressing the root problems behind the killings which include cultural factors. The government should also capacitate the law enforcement agencies to do their job of nabbing the criminals and incarcerating them for life or for very long periods . These measures have better chances of deterring would-be criminals, the analysts argue. The knowledge that crimes are vigorously investigated and culprits caught and punished with long jail sentences is a better deterrent than state sanctioned murders.
A WEEKEND car crash at Ha-Phallang near Semonkong has claimed the lives of two of Deputy Prime Minister and Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu’s chauffeurs. The deceased chauffeurs are Tšeliso Sefali and Nkopane Mothibeli.
Messrs Sefali and Mothibeli were in the company of Mr Mokhothu’s son, Tšepang Mokhothu, when their vehicle overturned. They were travelling from Qhoali, Quthing to Maseru when the accident occurred, instantly killing the two.
However, Tšepang escaped with injuries and he was rushed to the nearby St Joseph’s Hospital where he was treated as an out-patient before being discharged.
Some witnesses had alleged that the white 4×4 government vehicle had been over speeding when the accident occurred.
“We were travelling from an event in Semonkong when a white 4×4 GD-6 bakkie labelled CABINET overtook us at a lightning speed. We were all alarmed by the vehicle’s speed. A short while later, we found that the vehicle had overturned.
“All the windows were broken and two men had been thrown out of the car. There was a younger one who appeared scared and traumatised by the whole incident. He was rushed to hospital. Police from Maseru were called and they called their Semonkong colleagues to attend to the scene,” a witness said.
Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed the accident. He said they “are investigating this matter and it is yet to be established who was driving and what could have caused the accident”.
Mining Minister and DC spokesperson, Serialong Qoo, urged people to refraining from pointing fingers and apportioning blame for the accident.
“People might be opinionated and fabricate stories. The best thing is to wait for the police findings on the matter. The police are the only ones who can give us the facts on this issue,” Mr Qoo said.