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VODAFONE Foundation has committed USD$8 million (approximately M120 million) in the treatment of Lesotho’s children and pregnant women living with HIV.Vodafone Foundation is working in collaboration with Vodacom Lesotho Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Health.

The project called Moyo, which means close to my heart in Swahili, will identify children and pregnant mothers living with the virus and help them to remain in treatment.They will be helped through a mobile technology and M-pesa mobile-money.

Vodacom Lesotho Board Chairman Matjato Moteane said the aim is to “double the number of HIV positive children on treatment in the next three years”.Pilot projects, which started in September last year, have run through Maseru and Leribe districts where, through mobile clinics, families were encouraged to bring their children out for testing and for those that are infected to keep them on treatment.

“These mobile clinics, staffed with healthcare specialists, mobilise communities on the back of Vodacom Lesotho’s strong brand to come out to sites once every month and receive health services,” Moteane said during the launch.

The technology helps to collect data, manage patients and coordinate services.  M-Pesa will be used to provide transport money for children and pregnant women to health care services. Moteane said in his village home it costs M6 to get to nearest clinic.

“This may look like little money, but for someone who has no money this is too much and through this project we are trying to reach to such people who find it hard getting to a health care service because they don’t have money to get there,” Moteane said.

Vodafone Foundation project manager Lee Wells said the focus of the project “is not only to find children with HIV but to bring health care services to the people in rural areas”.

“The reason Vodafone Foundation became involved in the project was because of a request for additional investment from VCL and we went to our funders who told us they were keen for us to use the networks and our branding to get more children in health care”.

“It’s not about the Vodacom Lesotho brand but it’s about bringing health messages from a trusted partner. We know VCL has a strong reputation here, and all the partners asked that we use the brand to bring all people to the health centres,” Wells said.

An SMS will be sent to a registered member who hasvisited a clinic or was visited by door-to-door health workers to remind them of their appointment.

If they need transport money,it will be sent to them through M-pesa.

Minister of Health, ’Molotsi Monyamane, said he was happy that private companies such as Vodacom are helping in the fight against HIV and Aids.

“I believe, for the first time ever in our country, we have a private sector company putting a huge amount of its resources, its entire workforce and expertise behind an initiative that is targeted at improving the lives of its customers at this scale.”

Monyamane for a long time there has been a gap between health service providers and the patients because health facilities are far from the people.

“Despite the fact that the drugs are free and the information is free there was a gap.” The question, he said, was how to get people to the treatment centres

“The gap was with people accessing our services,” Monyamane said.

The minister said with 212 clinics, 18 hospitals, “we could not encourage people enough to take pills and swallow them”.

“Why? Because we became too regimental, we did not listen to people. We asked people to test and come back three more times while they walk half a day only to be told ‘we are closed’ when they get to the clinics”.

Minister of Communication, KhotsoLetsatsi, said this public-private partnership should be an indication to the rest of the private sector, the development community, and the public sector.

“Telecommunication has proven that when applied meaningfully it can go way beyond connecting individuals telephonically but it can also create opportunities for life improvement across all areas of life, whether is it through driving financial inclusion or through connecting children and pregnant women to much needed lifesaving treatment,” he said.

The United States ambassador, Matthew Harrington,through whom the USAID contributed US$D3 million (about M45 million) to this exciting public-private partnership said the US was very proud to be close and dedicated partner in the fight against the HIV epidemic in Lesotho.

“Today we have come together to celebrate an innovative new approach to the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Harrington said.

“It is an innovation both in terms of funding model, a public private partnership and also because of the way this partnership uses mobile technology to find and to care for as many Basotho children as possible,” he said.

Harrigntoncongratulated Lesotho for the progress it has made against the HIV epidemic.

“We are beginning to see glimmer of hope now, after so many years of hard work and bad news. Despite the burden of HIV, a severe shortage of health workers, and resource limitation, Lesotho has made some progress against HIV epidemic,” Harrington said.

Harrington said the element of partnership that they are supporting is an approach called index-patient tracking, which is designed to identify HIV positive children and start them on live-saving treatment as soon as possible.

“This will be accomplished via door-to-door HIV testing and counseling and provision of outreach services for pregnant women and children,” he said.

There will be a leading celebration of the Moyo Lesotho Benefit concert at ThabaBosiu Cultural Village on Saturday where KingLetsie III and Queen ’MasenateMohatoSeeiso will be present as the patrons of Moyo Lesotho initiative.

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LAA wins another international award



MASERU – THE Land Administration Authority (LAA) has scooped yet another international award from the European Society for Quality Research (ESQR).

The award was presented to the LAA at a function held in Barcelona, Spain, last month.

The award was for best outstanding business results, best practices, quality awareness and achievement by companies in the regional and global markets.

This is the second time that the LAA has received an international award.

Last year the LAA was honoured with an international award on technology.

The LAA Director General, ’Mataeli Makhele-Sekhantšo, said the LAA was established as an autonomous government body by the Land Administration Authority Act.

She said the objective was to modernise and improve land administration services and to reduce land transaction costs.

“The ESQR awards recognise organisations’ distinctive performance improvement, organisational excellence, customer focus and encourage them to share their best practice, experiences and knowledge with other organisations,” Makhele-Sekhantšo said.

“The recognition is independent assurance for organisations stakeholder and customers and it motivates the organisation employees to strive for sustainable excellence,” she said.

The Board Chairman, Ratšele Ratšele, congratulated the staff of LAA for their hard work.

However, he said as much as the organisation has improved, “there are still some challenges which need to be addressed by the government”.

“The organisation still seeks to extend the issue of licenses in all the places across the country,” Ratšele said.

“The act that regulates estate agents still need to be strengthened,” he said.

He said sectional title deals which distinguish the size of land to be registered still need to be reviewed to allow people who can afford to buy small pieces of land.

Local Government Deputy Minister ’Mathato Phafoli said the government is proud of this organisation since “it fulfills the mandate of the local government for administering the lease holding”.
Phafoli said the administration for the lease is not only crucial for regulating land, but also to boost the economy of the country.

“Land is the crucial treasure which needs to be registered with the LAA so that it can benefit even the coming generations,” Phafoli said.

She said one of the government’s strategic plans is to improve food security.

However, agricultural land is being utilised for industrial purposes, business premises and for household purposes.

“We are worried as to how Basotho will in the coming years acquire food,” she said.

She said immediate action must be taken because Lesotho could fail to grow food for its people.

Phafoli said the government is more concerned about agricultural land which is being utilised for industrial purposes instead of food production.

She said this exposes the country to high risk of food security failure.

Refiloe Mpobole

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ETL flies students to USA



MASERU – TWO Basotho students are off to the United States, thanks to Econet Telecom Lesotho’s HigherLife Foundation.

A farewell ceremony for the two was held in Maseru on Tuesday.

HigherLife Foundation is a social impact organisation that invests in human capital. It was formed by Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi, in 1996.

The Public Relations Officer of Econet Telecom Lesotho, Puleng Litabe, said each year they reserve two percent of their budget for the foundation.

She said they have so far sponsored 524 students ever since the foundation was established in Lesotho in 2011.

“These two students will add up to 18 students who studied in America through the assistance of the HigherLife Foundation since its establishment.”

Litabe said of the over 18 students they have sponsored to study in America, five of them are now working in Lesotho while seven of them are working in the US.

She said one student is working in Canada and three students are in their Doctor of Philosophy studies.

The Econet Chief Executive, Dennis Plaatjies, said HigherLife Foundation sponsored the two students since their high school days at Soofia International School in Leribe.

He said after completing their Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education (LGCSE), the foundation took them to Waterford University in Eswatini.

He said the foundation has several programmes with education as the major priority.

He said they assist Grade A students who are vulnerable.

One of the students, Nthati Lehloenya, will be studying at the University of Oklahoma. She said he was raised by a single parent.

Lehloenya said life was not a walk in the park due to financial constraints her family had.

She was lucky to be introduced to the HigherLife Foundation which ultimately changed her life.

“The foundation did not only change our livelihood but it has also impacted our communities,” Lehloenya said.

She explained that while at school she won a M16 000 fund for a community project she was working on at work.

The other student is Mahali Mabesa.

The one will be studying engineering while the other will be studying mathematics and physics.

A parent to one of the scholars, ’Mamahali Mabesa, said in 2012 the financial problems forced her to transfer her daughter from the National University of Lesotho International School (NULIS) to Soofia International School.

She said it was still hard to support her daughter’s education. The teachers realised that her daughter was working so hard and deserved financial assistance.

“They said they could not let this talent go to waste because of our struggle hence they would try all means so that she could be assisted,” Mabesa said.

Meanwhile, Econet Telecom Lesotho yesterday in partnership with Gem Institute Lesotho launched a tree planting campaign for 1 408 apples and peach trees at 16 schools in the lowlands and highlands.

The Founder of Gem Institute, Mpho Letima, said one of their mandates is to encourage the youth to venture into entrepreneurship, technology and agriculture.

She said they have partnered with the school ever since 2016.

Refiloe Mpobole

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LRA’s modernisation project extended to October



MASERU – A four-year project to modernise the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA)’s system which was supposed to have ended in June has been extended to October. The Lesotho Tax Modernisation Project is designed to address weaknesses and target areas for improvement that are linked to the main causes of weak tax administration in Lesotho.

It focuses on improving efficiency and service delivery, increasing Value Added Tax (VAT) compliance, and broadening the tax base. It is also meant to support the LRA to consolidate and deepen reform by focusing on redesigning and upgrading business processes.

It is also meant to develop an enabling legal and institutional framework, introduce modern information and communication technology to increase tax compliance and efficiency in tax administration. It also promotes peer learning and experience sharing with similar national revenue authorities in the region.

The purpose is to strengthen the government’s capacity to raise domestic revenue and provide fiscal space for priority public expenditures including counterpart funding for ongoing operations. The LRA said the project is at 90 percent towards completion.

Speaking at a media briefing in Maseru on Tuesday, the Project Manager, Mokhethi Mabeea, said the project began in July 2018 and it was supposed to end in June this year. They have extended the time to October 2022 because implementation it took longer than expected.

The project, he said, was designed to enhance their services and modernise old systems. Mabeea said they were working on a different scope which includes E-taxation. The E-filing was developed for Value Added Tax (VAT) and Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and deployed for piloting.

“We believe in October it will be up and running,” Mabeea said.

He said E-payment was also developed and under testing while E-registration is under testing development. Mabea said there is the Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse. He said the Business Intelligence was strategically developed and they are still in the process with the strategy which will assist in the implementation stage.

He said Operational Reports and Dashboards were developed and in use. He further said the Data Governance Framework was also completed and it is being operationalised. Mabea said an E-invoicing Solution was established late hence it will be completed around March 2023.

He said they also realised that the staff needed to be equipped with training as technology changes. They included amongst others the Block Chain Technology, special sectors in the financial sector and telecommunications sector, as well as business processes management.

Mabeea said in the Tax Administration Bill that was sent to parliament before it was dissolved two weeks ago. The Income Tax Bill was also sent to parliament while the VAT Amendment Bill has already been considered by both Houses.

Mabeea said that in the category of Small Business Tax Enhancement, they are seeking to treat small and medium entrepreneurs differently in terms of registration and filing of tax. The registration, filing and payment processes have been re-engineered. He said the configuration of the Core Tax Management System is in progress.

He said they are still calling upon all Basotho who are employed to file their returns. He said everyone paying tax should update their registration information. The Digital Service Manager, ’Makhothatso Khanare, spoke of an online rating tool which is still in progress.

She said they had introduced a tool management system in some of their offices to improve the quality of services they offer. She said they had so far achieved a 91 percent satisfaction level.

Khanere said however, they realised that since most of their services are conducted online, the level of satisfaction was not traceable. She said they expanded their rating tool digitally and a new product will be launched next month. She said this will allow all their clients who visit their offices and use the digital services raise their concerns and opinions.

Refiloe Mpobole

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