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Lesotho

Lesotho’s cyber law not well thought-out, potentially violates human rights: Analysts

Lesotho Times - Ven, 20/05/2022 - 10:52am

Herbert Moyo

LESOTHO is edging closer towards enacting a draconian cybercrimes law that prescribes hefty fines and lengthy jail terms for various cyber and computer crimes.

People could be fined as much as R15 million and jailed for up to 25 years for vaguely defined “offences against critical information infrastructure or protected computer systems”.

This follows last week’s approval of the Computer Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, 2022, by the National Assembly.

What is now left is for the Bill to be sent to the Senate for further deliberations and if approved, it would then be taken to His Majesty King Letsie III for royal assent before it is gazetted into law.

But the broadly worded law has drawn the ire of analysts who see it as an attempt to smuggle back Criminal Defamation laws which were outlawed by the Constitutional Court after a challenge by Lesotho Times publisher and CEO, Basildon Peta, in 2018.

The Bill seeks to stifle vigorous social media debate by jailing people accused of posting “falsehoods”, among other things. It also includes military officials in regulatory bodies to be established to oversee its implementation.

Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Samuel Rapapa, has been pushing for the adoption of the Bill which was first tabled in parliament by his predecessor, Keketso Sello, last year.

Addressing a cybersecurity workshop last week in Maseru, Mr Rapapa said Lesotho was lagging behind in cyber security issues due to the lack of policies and strategies, thereby exposing it to all sorts of cybercrimes.

This is a view shared by the World Bank which said in a 2020 report that, “Lesotho’s cyber security preparedness is relatively low”.

“There is a lack of strategies, institutions, and legal instruments to regulate and positively improve cybersecurity in Lesotho, and the private sector is concerned about the level of the country’s risk exposure.

“The Government of Lesotho has drafted the initial version of the Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Bill but efforts to finalise it have not yet led to new legislation being passed. Lesotho has benefitted from international expertise in the drafting process, improving the quality of the draft bill. For example, the draft bill was reviewed by the Council of Europe in 2019,” states the World Bank’s February 2020 report titled “Lesotho Digital Economy Diagnostic”.

If passed into law, the cyber act is expected to plug the gaps identified by the World Bank and reiterated by Minister Rapapa.

It will give the state powers to monitor cyberspace, define cybercrimes and prescribe penalties that include fines and lengthy prison sentences.

While there is a broad consensus about the need to regulate cyberspace, legal experts are however, critical of the Bill.

The analysts say that in its haste to regulate cyberspace and combat cybercrimes, Lesotho risks enacting a law that has not been well-thought out.

In its current state, the proposed act potentially has a chilling effect for rights to free speech, expression, privacy and other freedoms, the analysts warn.

Among other things, the Bill provides for the creation of the National Cybersecurity Advisory Council and the National Cyber Security Incident Response Team.

The National Cybersecurity Advisory Council shall be responsible for advising the government on cybersecurity policy development and national cybersecurity strategies.

On the other hand, the National Cyber Security Incident Response Team will be tasked with providing cybersecurity incident response capabilities to the country. It shall provide technical assistance to law enforcement agencies when so requested.

“It shall provide Lesotho with cybersecurity intelligence, alerts, warnings technical assistance, eradication of threats and recovery from cyber-attacks. It shall build awareness among the general population on how to be safe on cyber space and build capacity for the sustained ability of the country to manage cybersecurity risks.

“In this way, the Bill provides a live and functional body to protect its cyber space,” section 12 of the Bill states.

The proposed Advisory Council will include a director-general, a director, representatives of the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA), Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL), the private sector and institutions of higher learning.

The proposed Council will also include representatives of the security agencies, namely, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), National Security Service (NSS) and Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

Mokitimi Tšosane, a legal and human rights officer with the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), is apprehensive of the Bill in general and in particular the role of members of the security agencies in monitoring cyberspace.

“The inclusion of members of the security agencies in the proposed council amounts to a militarisation of digital surveillance,” Adv Tšosane said in an interview this week.

He said the security agencies had over the years been accused of partisanship and doing the bidding of politicians. They had committed grave human rights violations in the process, hence why the security agencies had to be reformed in line with the recommendations of SADC.

“It was bad enough to have military people regulating civilian behaviour but to have an unreformed security sector performing this task as envisaged by the Bill is worse and spells doom for the observance of human rights and freedoms,” Adv Tšosane said.

In its adverse critique of the Bill which Adv Tšosane helped craft, the TRC notes that, “the Bill suffers from lack of consultations in its drafting hence the inelegance”.

“The Bill suffers from conceptual and definitional deficits. The Bill is constitutionally flawed as it does not consider the basic constitutional rights and freedoms to privacy, fair trial, and expression.

“While the country needs progressive cyber legislations, the current legislation is an oppressive tool by a government bent on excluding the general public from the greater information society in this information era. Therefore, it is vital that the Bill be revised and reworked with regard to all comments received from all stakeholders including the public and private sector, as well as the legal profession and information security practitioners.

“The most prominent characteristic of the Bill is that it does not strike a balance between civil liberties and the government’s interest in ‘national security’ and law enforcement. For example, the Bill brings into the picture digital forensics which in practice deals with identification, collection, preservation, examination, and analysis of information stored or transmitted in binary form in a manner acceptable for application in legal matters. However, closely linked to digital evidence seizure is the right to privacy. While the Bill introduces the use of forensic tools, it leaves behind procedures that comply with the constitution and international human rights instruments to protect the right to privacy,” the TRC argues.

The renowned human rights body also raises the alarm over the manner in which government through the communications minister, Advisory Council and Response Team, “assumes extreme and extensive powers in policing cyberspace”.

“The government powers in terms of the Bill are arbitrary and limitations on the rights and freedoms not demonstrably justifiable. Essentially, the Bill disregards right to privacy, right to fair trial, freedom of expression and freedom from arbitrary seizure of property. The Bill comes as a trap targeting cyber users especially dissidents and will shrink the media, civic and political space. In its current form, substantial provisions of the Bill will surely not pass the constitutional muster/constitutional scrutiny if it is enacted into law,” the TRC says in its report on the Bill.

Elaborating on this, Adv Tšosane said some of the provisions criminalising the publication of falsehoods were subjective and were likely to be abused by politicians and pliant police officers to victimise the media and others considered dissidents by the political establishment.

He was referring to Section 43 of the Bill which states that, “a person who publishes information or data presented in a picture, text, symbol or any other form in a computer system knowing that  such information or data is false, deceptive, misleading, or inaccurate, and with intent to threaten, abuse, insult, mislead or deceive the public, or conceals commission of such an offence, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding R500 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both”.

Adv Tšosane said such provisions “smacks of an attempt by politicians to smuggle back the notorious criminal defamation offence which was outlawed by the Constitutional Court in 2018 after a challenge by (Lesotho Times publisher and CEO) Basildon Peta”.

“With such provisions, satire by the media could be criminalised as publication of falsehoods. Cartoonists like (South African) Zapiro would not be able to publish online,” Adv Tšosane said.

In its report, the TRC proposes that this entire section be repealed “because it is likely to be abused and threaten freedom of expression”.

“This section flies in the face of a multiplicity of ordinarily allowed, tolerated, and countenanced ways of society poking fun at itself for comic effect, social commentary and political satire or caricature; and it is likely to be abused by powerful groups against socially constructive exertions of the categories like conventional and social media including citizen journalism, artists and cartoonists, and even mainstream scholars,” TRC states.

Lengthy prison sentences of up to 25 years and R15 million have been proposed as punishment for vaguely defined “offences against critical information infrastructure or protected computer systems”.

These prison sentences and fines are draconian and unreasonable more so in a country where many people get by on a less than a dollar per day, another prominent lawyer, Letuka Molati said.

“This is a bad law. The stricter the law, the worse the law. It does not make sense to legislate for payment of fines that are beyond the financial capabilities of the majority of the population. That bill, if enacted into law as it is, shall be a law that serves only the rich not ordinary members of the public.

“The other problem is that the Bill appears not to give the courts a wide latitude to determine what an appropriate sentence should be. It raises a possibility of a Constitutional compliance challenge. Don’t overrule litigation being filed to attack the constitutionality of the act after it is enacted,” Adv Molati said.

Another lawyer, Fusi Sehapi, concurred.

“The sentences prescribed in the Bill are ridiculous and excessive for a country like ours where an ordinary person would struggle to pay a R2000 fine,” Adv Sehapi said.

Fellow prominent lawyer, Napo Mafaesa said, “Although we will only know for certain which rights will be greatly affected by the Bill when there has been a complaint, it is likely that the right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression will be first casualties of the Bill should it become law.

“As to the fines proposed, some are excessively high. It will be a mockery of justice if the suggested fines become law. Given our economic climate, the suggested penalties will be impossible to meet and the result will be prison sentences at a time when government is already failing to cope with overcrowding in the jails.

“We have some unscrupulous institutions and these could abuse the Bill if it is passed into law in its current form,” Adv Mafaesa said.

Herbert Moyo is a journalist researching digital surveillance with support from the Media Policy & Democracy Project (MPDP) jointly run by the University of Johannesburg and Unisa.

The post Lesotho’s cyber law not well thought-out, potentially violates human rights: Analysts appeared first on Lesotho Times.

Categorie: Lesotho

Cases of suspected and confirmed Monkeypox are being investigated in the United States of America, Canada, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

PCFM - Ven, 20/05/2022 - 7:48am

Cases of suspected and confirmed Monkeypox are being investigated in the United States of America, Canada, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

According to health authorities, most recent case was confirmed in the US and 13 suspected cases are being investigated in Canada.

Five infections have also been confirmed in Portugal as well as seven in Spain.

Monkeypox is most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa. It is a virus that does not spread easily between people and the risk to the wider public is said to be very low.

However, health experts say it could be a pandemic if not treated to be cleared in the early stage.

Categorie: Lesotho

Authorities in Sudan have ordered a morgue in the capital Khartoum, to shut down because bodies there are starting to decompose in the heat because of frequent power cuts

PCFM - Ven, 20/05/2022 - 7:46am

Authorities in Sudan have ordered a morgue in the capital Khartoum, to shut down because bodies there are starting to decompose in the heat because of frequent power cuts.

The facility is said to hold nearly 1,000 unidentified corpses.

A health ministry official Hisham Zain al-Abidin said that, the morgue was so overwhelmed that many bodies were left on the floors and rodents were scavenging on them.

Rights activists have expressed concern that its closure may cover-up the truth of how many were killed during protests against govenrment.

Categorie: Lesotho

Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of ex-offenders President Mr. Nkalimeng Mothobi has revealed their plan to curb the spread of vigilanteeism commonly known as Manomoro in the country

PCFM - Ven, 20/05/2022 - 7:45am

Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of ex-offenders President Mr. Nkalimeng Mothobi has revealed their plan to curb the spread of vigilanteeism commonly known as Manomoro in the country.

Mothobi said this yesterday at the Lesotho Correctional Services where the association delivered hygiene materials that comprised bath and washing soaps, disinfectants and toothpastes.

He said they will fight these vigilantees who have taken over the lives of Basotho, where they will visit prisons to unite in prayer and stand against these crimes.

LCS’ Director-Rehabilitation ‘Maseeiso Mahemu said Covid-19 dealt them a heavy blow and as a result, they are unable to buy food and other necessities for inmates.

Mahemu said it was now very difficult for inmates to survive and this gift could not have come at a right time.

Categorie: Lesotho

Lesotho Meteorological services –LMS has issued a warning that there is a possibility of snowfall over the highlands and some other high lying areas from tomorrow evening to Sunday, accompanied by scattered widespread rain elsewhere

PCFM - Ven, 20/05/2022 - 7:45am

Lesotho Meteorological services –LMS has issued a warning that there is a possibility of snowfall over the highlands and some other high lying areas from tomorrow evening to Sunday, accompanied by scattered widespread rain elsewhere

According to LMS’ press release, it will be cloudy as the day progresses tomorrow in the lowlands but cold to very cold with light to moderate north-westerly winds. 

There is a 60% posibility of widespread rain and thundershowers which will become heavy at night and also a possibility of snow over the highlands and other high lying areas.

LMS has therefore warned against travelling in the highlands to avoid possible accidents that may occur.

Categorie: Lesotho

South Sudan says it is sending its army along the border with Sudan, following ethnic clashes that have killed more than 40 people.

PCFM - Gio, 19/05/2022 - 12:15pm

South Sudan says it is sending its army along the border with Sudan, following ethnic clashes that have killed more than 40 people.

The government has accused UN peacekeepers in the region of failing to protect civilians who live there.

The ethnic clashes are between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya Arab communities who cross from Sudan looking for pastures.

The two groups have long-running disputes that have displaced thousands of people over the years.

On Monday, nearly 30 people were killed in Leer county in the latest bout of fighting, which began in late February.

Categorie: Lesotho

The family of a 20-year-old black student who was the victim of a suspected racial incident at Stellenbosch University in SA opened a criminal case against the alleged perpetrator.

PCFM - Gio, 19/05/2022 - 12:14pm

The family of a 20-year-old black student who was the victim of a suspected racial incident at Stellenbosch University in SA opened a criminal case against the alleged perpetrator.

The perpetrator-a white male student, was suspended from the university on Monday over urinating on the belongings of the black student over the weekend, damaging his laptop.

In a statement, Stellenbosch University’s spokesperson, Martin Viljoen said, the university strongly condemns the destructive, hurtful and racist incident.

Viljoen said the victim is receiving counselling over the incident.

 

Categorie: Lesotho

A 25-year-old from Manamaneng Ha Jakobo in Thaba-Tseka will re-appear in court over the murder of a 27-year-old man from the same village at Meriting.

PCFM - Gio, 19/05/2022 - 12:13pm

A 25-year-old from Manamaneng Ha Jakobo in Thaba-Tseka will  re-appear in court over the murder of a 27-year-old man from the same village at Meriting.

Police say that the suspect had just arrived from South Africa with a gun which he claims he was going to sell to the deceased.

As they fiddled with the gun trying to teach each other how it is operated, the suspect accidentally shot the deceased. He was arrested by the villagers who later handed him to the police

A 9mm gun and three rounds of ammunition were found at the scene.

He appeared briefly before court earlier this month

Categorie: Lesotho

Police’s Operation Basali Campaign will kick off in the coming weeks.

PCFM - Gio, 19/05/2022 - 12:12pm

Police’s Operation Basali Campaign will kick off in the coming weeks.

According to Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Bohang Lintle Phasumane, this crime prevention campaign, which is facilitated by LMPS women’s network¹, will take place in May and November.

LMPS Women’s Network, an affiliate of SADC police forces, was founded in 2007 to empower women police officers, to fight gender based violence and facilitate peace building.

ACP Phasumane indicated that, in 2013, the SADC police management gathered in Namibia and agreed that this operation should focus on crimes against women.

 

Categorie: Lesotho

Former first Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane says, she intends continuing her charity work she started years ago.

PCFM - Gio, 19/05/2022 - 12:11pm

Former first Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane says, she intends continuing her charity work she started years ago.

Thabane said this during one of her charity visits where she had extended a helping hand to a seven-year-old girl in Ha-Tsautse, Maseru who is living with her mentally challenged mother.

She explained that she is on a mission to visit all the families she has assisted in the past, to see how they have been coping. She mentioned that she visited this family back in 2014 when the now seven-year-old girl had just been born and that, she was happy that the family is doing well.

Ha Tsautse chief, Paseka Sehlabo said, the family has been struggling to find an orphanage for the girl since her mentally challenged mother cannot take care of her.

Sehlabo thanked Mrs. Thabane for remembering this family and said he hopes that, she will do everything in her power to ensure that the child finds an orphanage where she will be safe and taken care of.

 

Categorie: Lesotho

Lifofane up for sale

Lesotho Times - Mer, 18/05/2022 - 10:20pm

Leemisa Thuseho

PREMIER league side, Lifofane, is up for sale, the management has said.

The management announced yesterday that it had decided to sell the team due to financial challenges.

“It has been a very long and expensive season,” the management said in a statement on Wednesday.

“There were a lot of challenges that we encountered to finish this season which started in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“(Raising) financial resources became difficult because of the lockdown and the long season…it was difficult to finish this season. The management knocked on different doors for assistance, but nothing came up. Therefore, a decision had to be made about the future of the team.

“The conclusion is to sell the team to give it to a new management.”

The management said preference will be given to anyone willing to keep the team in the Butha-Buthe district.

Lifofane general manager Letšolo Maliehe told the Lesotho Times yesterday that running a football club was expensive.

“It is true that we have decided to sell the team. It is very expensive to run a premier league team in the country while there is nothing one gets in return.

“I think there are lot of things that must be done to make it sustainable to run football teams including changing how football is being governed.”

Lifofane was promoted into the premier league in 2019 and they are the only premier league team in Butha-Buthe.

This is the second premier league team which is up for sale after the Kick4Life management announced that it was selling the team’s status last week.

The post Lifofane up for sale appeared first on Lesotho Times.

Categorie: Lesotho

The United Nations says the number of severely malnourished children worldwide is rising because of the combined effects of the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and armed conflicts.

PCFM - Mer, 18/05/2022 - 12:49pm

The United Nations says the number of severely malnourished children worldwide is rising because of the combined effects of the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and armed conflicts.

The UN children’s fund, UNICEF added that, treating them has become more expensive because of the rising cost of therapeutic food.

UNICEF said Afghanistan is particularly at risk with over a million children who suffers severe malnutrition.

It said with the effects of drought, that figure could reach two million.

Categorie: Lesotho

Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embaló has dissolved the parliament, three months after saying he had survived a coup attempt.

PCFM - Mer, 18/05/2022 - 12:48pm

Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embaló has dissolved the parliament, three months after saying he had survived a coup attempt.

Embalo accused the lawmakers of corruption and cited persistent and unresolved differences with parliament.

He said he has defended and protected, under the guise of parliamentary immunity, deputies heavily indicted for crimes of corruption, harmful administration and has become tired to be entangled in all this chaos.

Embaló dismissed the government, but kept both the prime minister and his deputy in place in order to keep things running until the next legislative elections.

Guinea-Bissau has seen more than a dozen coups or attempted coups since independence in 1974.

 

Categorie: Lesotho

American President Joe Biden has approved the re-deployment of US troops in Somalia, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump.

PCFM - Mer, 18/05/2022 - 12:47pm

American President Joe Biden has approved the re-deployment of US troops in Somalia, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Trump withdrew about 700 US troops from Somalia in 2020. The move to re-establish a military presence in the East African country, comes as long-overdue elections delivered a new president.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former peace activist, promised to work closely with international partners as he took office yesterday.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud: Who is Somalia’s new leader? – BBC News

The deployment was requested by Somali government to support the fight against militant group al-Shabab.

 

Categorie: Lesotho

Lesotho Mounted Police has warned Public bar owners to be vigilant about illegal activities happening in their businesses.

PCFM - Mer, 18/05/2022 - 12:43pm

Lesotho Mounted Police has warned Public bar owners to be vigilant about illegal activities happening in their businesses.

During last week’s campaign, police were able to confiscate weapons at several public bars.

Amongst others, they found about 87 knives, swords and screw drivers

Police also warned against bad behavior after consuming alcohol saying, people should drink responsibly.

Categorie: Lesotho

Vodacom Lesotho has handed over M300, 000 computer lab to Tṧehla Primary School at Matsoku in Leribe.

PCFM - Mer, 18/05/2022 - 12:41pm

Vodacom Lesotho has handed over M300, 000 computer lab to Tṧehla Primary School at Matsoku in Leribe.

On behalf of the managing director of Vodacom Lesotho, finance director Mrs. ‘Mamoorosi Raditapole said, the company appreciates that the success of the children makes the company successful and they strive to create a better future for future generation.

Raditaplole said the computers come with internet connection and appealed for them not to be used for school purposes only, but also for other significant activities such as promoting both Basotho culture and Leribe tourism through social media.

The principal of the school, Mrs. ‘Mamollele Lethoko thanked Vodacom Lesotho saying, it has contributed immensely to enhancing computer literacy.

Lethoko said the lab will improve her school’s performance now that students will acquire necessary skills needed to further their studies.

 

Categorie: Lesotho

The Court of Appeal has handed down the judgment that disqualifies Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane from presiding over one treason case.

PCFM - Mer, 18/05/2022 - 12:40pm

The Court of Appeal has handed down the judgment that disqualifies Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane from presiding over one treason case.

The Court of Appeal’s President Prof Kananelo Mosito said, the apex court had also reversed Chief Justice Sakoane’s decision to suspend the lead prosecutor Advocate Shaun Abrahams from prosecuting this treason trial. This move paves a way for the re-instatement of the South African former director of public prosecutions, Adv. Abrahams to take charge of the case.

Adv. Abrahams will resume prosecuting the treason trial in which the accused are former Lesotho Defense Force cmander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, Litekano Nyakane, Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsielo, Minister of Development Planning Hon. Selibe Mochoborane and former Deputy Prime Minster Hon. Mothetjoa Metsing

 

Categorie: Lesotho

Unregistered subscribers to be cut off

Lesotho Times - Mar, 17/05/2022 - 4:58pm

Bereng Mpaki

MOBILE network users who fail to comply with the legal registration of SIM cards will be cut off until they do so, according to a new law.

The Communications (Subscriber Identity Module Registration) Regulations, 2021 seeks to enable easy identification of a mobile number user.

The new requirement will help curb criminal activities perpetrated with the use of mobile devices and SIM cards by anonymous users.

Lesotho’s two mobile network operators, Vodacom and Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL), say they are ready to register existing and new SIM cards when the process legally kicks off by 24 June 2022.

The two companies this week said they were at advanced stages of putting up necessary infrastructure to facilitate registration of SIM cards for all users.

Unregistered users will be cut off until they register.

Vodacom’s managing director, Mohale Ralebitso said the company’s registration system would be ready early next month ahead of the 24 June commencement.

Mr Ralebitso was addressing the media during a meeting by regulator, Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) where ETL managing director, Dennis Plaatjies was also present.

“We are ready to start SIM registration by early June 2022,” Mr Ralebitso said.

He noted they would conduct a pilot SIM registration on a limited basis ahead of the national roll-out to ensure readiness of their systems.

“Currently we are busy with the user authorisation testing (UAT) for the registration system that we have designed, and it will be ready by the end of May 2022 such that we can officially start the registration by the 24 June 2022.”

Mr Ralebitso said they were also hiring additional employees to help with the registration process over the next 12 months.

“We will have people working separately for the registration process and they will be contracted for the period of the registrations drive. We have already spent M8, 1 million to prepare for SIM registration,” he added.

The company would announce in due course on where and when registration services would be available around the country.

On his part, ETL managing Director, Dennis Plaatjies said they were also preparing to be ready by 24 June 2022.

They were targeting to wrap up the process before its allocated 12-month period.

“As ETL, we are also in the process of procuring a registration system from an external supplier, and our team is also on UAT and certain other nice modifications,” Mr Plaatjies noted.

He said their system would verify the authenticity of the user’s ID card in real time through an interface with the national Identity and Civil Registry at the Home Affairs Ministry.

On his part, Thato Ponya, the LCA’s chief regulatory officer indicated that the regulations had considered public input after initially being rejected by parliament.

“This bill took a journey before it was passed. I remember last year after its gazetting, the media were against it and even called it a draconian law.

“Parliament ordered us to go back and conduct thorough public consultations on the regulations, and we did that accordingly. So we have now developed the new regulations which reflect the public input,” Mr Ponya said.

The National Assembly had found that some of the key stakeholders whose input was not sought included during development of the initial subordinate law covering the media and security agencies like the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), the National Security Service (NSS) and the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

Mr Ponya said users be required to produce their national IDs for SIM registration since 90 percent of the population now had the documents.

He added that stakeholders had been given a six-month grace period before implementation of the regulations from 24 June 2022. Registration is given 12 months to be completed.

The post Unregistered subscribers to be cut off appeared first on Lesotho Times.

Categorie: Lesotho

Defer tourism levy introduction: stakeholders

Lesotho Times - Mar, 17/05/2022 - 4:53pm

Bereng Mpaki

THE government’s intention to impose a tourism levy from 1 July 2022 without proper ground work could compound the Covid-19 ravaged sector’s woes, stakeholders have warned.

The levy will be collected by the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) on behalf of the government.

The government says collected revenue would be re- invested into development of tourism infrastructure around the country.

It will also be used to promote Lesotho as a destination of choice for both local and international visitors.

Starting from July 1, accommodation establishments will charge an additional five percent levy on their bookings; travel agents an extra M10 per ticket for the levy, while event organisers will charge an additional M5 per ticket.

Tourists who bring safari vehicles and motorbikes will be charged M20 and M10 respectively to enter the country.

According to the new regulations, those with leisure and speed boats will pay M20 upon entry while local and international adult tourists will pay an additional M10 and M20 respectively, on top of the fees payable to access tourism attraction sites.

Tour operators will pay a flat M1000 levy annually.

All players in the industry will have to register with the LTDC to facilitate the collection of the levy.

From the collections made from the tourism subsector players, the LTDC will establish a Tourism Development Fund. This will be used for development and maintenance of tourism products; private sector development; tourism destination marketing; and capacitating of frontliners.

However, tourism players are unconvinced about the move, saying it could back fire for their businesses.

They believe the levy could not have come at a worse time as the sector is currently struggling to recover from the slowdown in business brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A levy-induced hike in charges would chase away customers and ruin their businesses.

Local hospitality establishments are among the worst hit by Covid-19 as they have operated intermittently since March 2020 when the government imposed the first national lockdown. Only businesses regarded as essential services were allowed to open during the lockdown.

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted, hotels were only allowed to operate partially for limited times. The restrictions were only lifted in January 2022 to allow full operation.

At the height of the pandemic in 2021, luxury hotel Mpilo Boutique was one of the high-profile casualties as it was forced to shut down due to economic pressures inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The classy hotel owned by business mogul-turned politician, Sam Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC), is yet to reopen despite the lifting of the lockdown restrictions.

Some tourism businesses have retrenched workers and remain unoperational to date.

Bokang Kheekhe, an entrepreneur and organiser of the famous annual Maletsunyane Braai Festival, is not convinced by the “hushed approach” in which the government is introducing the levy.

Mr Kheekhe said there was a lot of groundwork that needed to have been done ahead of implementing the levy to cushion the industry.

He feels the levy must not be implemented immediately.

“This is obviously a very well appreciated effort by the government. However, I believe there is some critical groundwork that should have preceded the levy’s implementation.

“The government must first pour money into aggressive promotion of the country’s tourism attractions and events both locally and internationally in order to drum up demand, which was curtailed by Covid-19. Only when we are attracting a sizable number of international tourists into the country will we really see the levy idea coming to fruition,” Mr Kheekhe noted.

The implementation of the levy should be deferred for at least six months to facilitate a robust country marketing campaign to ensure collection of the anticipated revenue.

“The government should also consider delaying implementation of the levy for at six months to give itself an opportunity to embark on aggressive marketing and promotion of the Lesotho tourism products to stimulate demand.

“Again, when they finally implement it, I would like to see them introducing it incrementally by starting at starting at 2, 5 percent rate for accommodation facilities in the first year, and may be go up to five percent in the subsequent years,” Mr Kheekhe said.

Botleng Guest House managing director, Puleng McCarthy, also believes the high levy rates would kill the tourism sector.

“Why set the levy so high at five percent when other countries started at one percent? We are not against the imposition of the levy, but we are saying it should be planned in such a way that will not kill our businesses.

“We are effectively making it difficult for tourists to visit Lesotho by imposing the levy because some of us have pre-existing contracts with clients which we cannot just change,” Ms McCarthy said.

Morija Guest House manager, Bridget ‘Mapalesa Hall, questioned the government’s wisdom of targeting an ailing industry to raise funds for its spending.

“Most of us have performed miracles to keep our small businesses going during the Covid- 19 pandemic.

“I know the government needs money but why does it target an industry that has suffered most and is yet to recover from Covid-19? I find it strange that we are being targeted,” she quizzed.

‘Mamothe Mohapi, the managing director of the Ka Pitseng and Molengoane guest houses, argued that the levy would deter patrons from visiting their facilities.

“The levy will force us to pass on the costs to clients and this will scare them off. The charges are too steep, and I urge the government to reduce them,” Ms Mohapi said.

On his part, LDTC’s head of finance and administration, Thetso Thamae, said the stakeholders were consulted on the levy development around 2018.

Mr Thamae pointed out that the levy rates which the stakeholders were now questioning were part of what was agreed upon during the consultations.

He however, said there was never going to be a good time to intrude the levy if not now, adding that there was no going back on the introduction of the levy as the government needed money to finance its budget.

“The stakeholders raised some profound and pertinent concerns such as the levy being too steep especially for accommodation facilities,” Mr Thamae said.

“We will continue with preparations to implement the levy on 1 July 2022 as planned since the government needs money for its spending. However, we will recommend the downward revision of these levies taking into account the impact of Covid-19 which was not in the picture when the rates were discussed with stakeholders in 2018.”

He said that even if the levy had been much less there would still be opposition because some people were naturally averse to paying taxes.

LTDC’s Tourism Levy Coordination Officer, ‘Masalang Khasake, defended the imposition of the levy, saying it would be ploughed back to develop the tourism sector.

On her part, Member of Parliament under the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) ticket, Tšepang Tšita-Mosena said the levy would only serve to uplift the ailing the sector.

The National Assembly’s natural resources, tourism and land cluster portfolio committee had in 2021 advised for revision of some of the levy rates before implementation of the tourism levy.

It also found there was no requite M2, 3 million budget from the government to implement the levy during the 2021/22 financial year.

“I think this is an opportune time to introduce the levy as the country is on the verge of recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. This will help to uplift the sector in the long run.

“Admittedly, it will be difficult for consumers to adjust to the new prices in the beginning, but eventually they will get used to it. Change is sometimes painful but it gets better with time. We should not think the tourism sector is being targeted with the levy, but is only meant to improve the industry for the better in the long run,” Ms Mosena noted.

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Categorie: Lesotho

Majoro, Kabi meet under church mediation

Lesotho Times - Mar, 17/05/2022 - 4:31pm

 

..as the ABC bigwigs seek to close ranks

’Marafaele Mohloboli

WHEN all else fails, human beings have been known to seek divine intervention, either through traditional healers or via clergymen.

This is a well-travelled road by many and it is one that Prime Minister Moeketsi and his All Basotho Convention (ABC) have now taken in their desperate bid to resolve their bitter power struggle which threatens their party’s chances of retaining power in the upcoming elections due any time from October this year.

After months of bitter infighting and an unsuccessful bid by Mr Kabi to wrest power from Dr Majoro, the two have escalated their bid to reconcile to the church.

Last Thursday, Mr Kabi and Dr Majoro met at the premier’s official State House residence in Maseru under the mediation of Bishop David Thakadu Ramela of St Paul African Apostolic Church.

This publication has seen a leaked picture of Dr Majoro and Mr Kabi sitting next to each other and holding a stick under the watchful eye of Bishop Ramela. According to sources close to both politicians, they were made to hold the stick by the Bishop and recite a pledge to work together to iron out their differences.

Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme’s mobile phone rang unanswered yesterday when this publication called him for comment on the matter.

Mr Kabi confirmed the meeting with Dr Majoro in the presence of Bishop Ramela. He however, refused to give away much, only saying, “we are only four months away from the elections, so let’s give Basotho a chance to vote for the person they would like to have as their leader”.

The ABC leader referred the Lesotho Times to Bishop Ramela for further comment.

On his part, Bishop Ramela said he had mediated between the allies-turned-foes at State House last Thursday.

“It’s true that I mediated between the two leaders last week on Thursday. We met at State House and the atmosphere was cordial as both parties were very welcoming and open for frank discussions. I begged them to swallow their pride, forget about their egos and move forward together for the sake of Basotho.

“I offered to meet them because they both confide in me. I therefore felt there was need for me to do something about it because my role as a Bishop is to be an instrument of peace. It was not a difficult task because I am always there for them, giving advice whenever they face difficulties.

“I had been talking to them separately and asking that they meet but for some weird reason, it seemed they were avoiding each other. Hence I took it upon myself to make sure they meet,” said Bishop Ramela.

He said his mediation should not be construed to mean that he was an ABC member. He was only mediating because as a “Man of God”, he had a responsibility of reconciling warring parties, he said.

“Both Ntate Majoro and Ntate Kabi honoured me by agreeing to meet. They agreed to cast aside their differences and work towards the reunification of their party. All I can say is that they both have the interests of the party at heart but they have allowed the enemy to infiltrate them.

“I am hopeful that they are both going to do what’s best for the party and Basotho in general because they are mandated to serve the nation,” Bishop Ramela said.

Dr Majoro and Mr Kabi’s face to face meeting came against the background of earlier meetings between their representatives late last month.

ABC sources close to the talks said the two politicians had been forced to try and close ranks in order to save the party from being completely obliterated in the upcoming general elections.

The ABC was already on the back foot due to incessant infighting, which began three years ago when former leader Thomas Thabane rejected the February 2019 election of his former deputy Nqosa Mahao. The subsequent infighting allowed the Democratic Congress (DC), which had only recovered from its own debilitating internal squabbles, to gain ground on its main partner in the current coalition government.

As if the DC recovery under Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu (who took the mantle from founding leader Pakalitha Mosisili in February 2019) was not enough, prominent businessman Sam Matekane then formed his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party in March this year.

In just two months, the fledgling RFP has managed to attract prominent politicians like former cabinet ministers Mahali Phamotse, Tlohelang Aumane, Leketekete Khetso and former deputy minister ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli. All these joined from the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD). Their arrival added to the RFP’s already stellar cast of personalities including former Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane; former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and prominent Moshoeshoe Walk organiser, Thabo Maretlane. Former Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) head of investment promotion, Mokhethi Shelile, prominent businessman Lephema Lebona and former Accountant General, Sam Mphaka, former DC stalwart, Tlohang Sekhamane, had joined the RFP at its inception.

Faced with this existential threat, the warring ABC sides had then agreed to talk peace and try and unite ahead of the elections.

Mr Kabi and Dr Majoro had gone to war after the prime minister refused to relinquish his position after losing the party’s leadership contest to Mr Kabi in January.  The ABC leader subsequently supported a parliamentary vote of no confidence against Dr Majoro but the prime minister prevailed.  He even vowed to remain in power until the elections though he quit the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC).

Faced with the prospect of losing the elections Mr Kabi had then engaged Dr Majoro through intermediaries.

The Kabi faction to the talks which got underway last month is led by Thaba-Phatšoa legislator, Mahala Molapo, and former secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele.

The Majoro faction had appointed Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation Minister, Motlohi Maliehe, and the party’s Likhetlane constituency legislator, Lekhetho Mosito, to represent it.

Messrs Maliehe, Mosito, Ntsekele subsequently confirmed that there were ongoing talks between the two factions but refused to divulge more details. They also refused to give any hint about whether any progress had been recorded.

Yesterday, Messrs Molapo and Mosito said although the talks were moving at a snail’s pace, they were hopeful that they would bear fruit.

“The talks are ongoing but not at a pace one would have liked. We intend to hold a joint caucus early next week where each side will present its case as part of efforts to reach a consensus. It is worth noting that there is hope that all things will work out for the common good in the end,” said Mr Mosito.

On his part, Mr Molapo said “we are still in talks and both parties agree that they must work together. The mood is great but we still need to iron out some issues, including the fact that we now have two ABC factions in parliament. That said, we remain hopeful that everything will work out just fine,” Mr Molapo said.

Some sources privy to the matter attributed the delays in reaching a reunification deal to hardliners on both sides.

“The two sides have met more than twice but they haven’t not come up with anything concrete as they are surrounded by supporters who are totally against the talks and don’t want anything to do with peace. Both Majoro and Kabi know what they want but they are torn between their supporters and they feel obliged to appease them.

“The two men are good friends but they have allowed their supporters to derail them. Given the pressure that they are both faced with, it is difficult to reach an agreement without facing resistance from some diehards on both sides,” said the source.

As if to confirm the presence of hardliners, ABC spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, yesterday said he was unaware of any talks between the two factions.

“I don’t know about the talks you are referring to. As far as I know, there have never been any peace talks and I’m surprised about it,” Mr Masoetsa said.

Last month, the ABC spokesperson also rubbished the idea of talks, saying, “Those who have gone their own way have gone and we have nothing left to discuss with them”. This was in reference to Dr Majoro and his faction after the premier had defied NEC calls for him to hand over power to Mr Kabi.

Mr Masoetsa and Dr Majoro have their own feud. This after the ABC spokesperson was briefly detained last year after he announced that Dr Majoro was no longer prime minister in the wake of the NEC decision on 2 December 2021 to recall him and replace him with Mr Kabi.

Mr Masoetsa blamed Dr Majoro for his arrest but the premier denied any involvement.

After Mr Kabi subsequently won the ABC leadership contest, Mr Masoetsa was among the NEC members who called on Dr Majoro to relinquish the premiership to the new leader. Dr Majoro rejected the calls and survived the vote of no confidence subsequently pushed against him.

Given the presence of hardliners, it remains to be seen if Dr Majoro and Mr Kabi will eventually resolve their differences to enable the ABC to stand any chance of winning the high stakes elections.

 

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Categorie: Lesotho