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Drought sends villagers into panic

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                      …….‘We will all perish – our livestock and us – if this continues’…….

ROTHE-AMID scorching temperatures, a cow lay dead in plain sight in Ha-Molungoa village. No one bothers to skin the animal and it is left to rot or become a feast for dogs and vultures – never mind that this is happening in a meat loving community.

For now, there are bigger concerns than meat. Livestock is dying in huge numbers and villagers whose lives depend on the animals are gravely worried.
“It is like the cows are just waiting for death,” Jonkomane Jokomane, a local villager, tells thepost.
Lesotho is in the throes of a debilitating drought largely blamed on climate change. Although the country has faced droughts before, this year’s is worse, according to experts. Villagers and their animals are the hardest hit.

Relying on their livestock for draught power, transport, food, and as a medium of exchange, many people here can only watch helplessly as their animals succumb to the drought.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Networks (FEWSN) says abnormal dryness in Lesotho is affecting the availability of pastures and water, as well as livestock body conditions.
It says should the drought persist, the livestock body condition will likely remain poor and result in below-average prices on the market.
As a result, household income from the sale of livestock will likely be lower than normal, it says.
In Ha-Molungoa village in Rothe, the dire situation is leaving villagers in panic.

At least 20 cows died from starvation and lack of water in November alone in the village. So skinny are animals in the area that people do not bother to skin them for meat when they die.
According to the chief of Rothe, Tota Toloane, there seems to be no respite in sight.

On entering the village, the dried up carcass of a cow in parched land greets thepost news crew.
“This cow died at the beginning of November. There are many more,” says Jokomane, the villager.
It is not the only carcass in the area. About 200 meters away is a spine structure of yet another animal that one can only assume is a cow too.
There are more cows fighting for their lives in the mountain cliffs, according to Chief Toloane.
Many more have already died and there are many skeletons on the mountain slope, evidence that there was once a herd of cows grazing there. The pastures have now turned arid while water sources have dried up.

Katleho Fooko herds his family’s 28 cows daily and he attests to the grave situation caused by the worst drought in living memory.
Two of his cows have died from the drought.

“It was a bitter pill to swallow to watch the cows die in such pain,” he says.
“I left them to be eaten by dogs, termites, worms and ravens,” he adds, shaking his head.
One died while grazing on the little green grass left on part of the land. The other died in the cattle pen at home.
To save the remaining animals, Fooko and his father realised they needed an animal expert. “A vet came and gave each of our cows an injection. I don’t know the name of the injection but I do know that I was told it will help in this excessive drought,” he says.

Villagers have also resorted to buying grass and lucerne to supplement livestock feeding but the high costs means they cannot do this as often as they would like.
Jokomane says he needs M120 for lucerne and M30 for Simile per month, an amount he can hardly afford.
“It is too much for me,” he says, adding, “But what other choice do I have?”

The elderly Jokomane says he has lived and herded livestock in Ha-Molungoa all his life and he has never seen such extreme heat.
He says the situation is better for him as he still has merino sheep and angora goats to rely on when he sells mohair and wool.
“Imagine those that don’t have other sources of revenue?” Jokomane says.

Another villager, Mehauhelo Tsimane, has only been working as a herd boy in Rothe for a month but he has already seen three cows die.
His dog had just joined him from a feast on one of the cows that had died on Lerato River’s dry river bed when thepost caught up with him.
“We only know (that another cow has died) when dogs come back with mouths covered in blood or with a foul smell… they would have been feasting on a dead animal,” Tsimane says.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office in Lesotho, in collaboration with humanitarian partners, issued a report covering May to October highlighting that below normal rains were recorded in many parts of the country from April to September. This impacted negatively on the winter crop and rangelands.
The report showed that rangelands deteriorated earlier (August) than normal, negatively affecting livestock conditions.
Humans are affected too, according to experts.

According to the report, approximately 350 000 rural people are in dire need of emergency food assistance.
The report classifies the four districts of Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek as in urgent need of food assistance.
It is expected that the situation could deteriorate further and more than 430 000 rural people would be severely food insecure, and all of the country’s districts will require emergency food assistance soon.

A UN agency, the World Food Programme (WFP) says the situation has been worsened by successive years of crop failure, low incomes and high food prices, with about 41 percent of rural families spending over half their income on food.

The WFP said over 30 percent of Lesotho’s population across all 10 districts will face high levels of acute food insecurity until March 2020.
More than 70 percent of the population in rural Lesotho is engaged in subsistence farming.
Productivity has been deteriorating since the early 1990s because of unpredictable weather conditions, including persistent and recurring droughts.
Meanwhile, the drought is likely to persist for much longer.

According to the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS), the country was expected to receive normal rains with the possibility of below normal rains between October and December this year.
Most parts of the country are currently not receiving any rains.
The LMS said normal rainfall conditions are expected with the possibility of above normal rains between November this year and March next year, although episodes of dry conditions are expected in-between.

The department further indicated that the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is currently on its neutral phase with most models predicting a slight possibility of a weak El Nino during the period December 2019 to February 2020.

The neutral ENSO can have a mixture of both El Nino (Dry conditions) and La Nina (enhanced rainfall).
Lesotho is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with droughts already affecting harvest yields and causing significant loss of livestock, according to experts.
The climate is predicted to become warmer and dryer, making droughts and floods more frequent and intense.

With less snow on the mountains and an increase in run-off rates, soil erosion will worsen and deplete the soil of nutrients, according to the WFP.
The UN agency says while some climate adaptation measures are being taken, the country lacks the resources for extensive mitigation.
For villagers such as Jokomane, this can only spell disaster.

“We will all perish – our livestock and us – if this continues. God help us,” he tells thepost, surveying the dry landscape around him.

Rose Moremoholo

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MP defies party, backs opposition

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MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane

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THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition

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THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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