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Lighting up dreams



BEREA – A cattle herder from Ha-Makujoe, Thabiso Monokoa, is atop Berea Plateau on voting day. The nearest polling station is two kilometres away and is about to close. He is unlikely to make it, even though he wishes he could cast his ballot and help secure the change he desperately yearns for.


Clad in a worn-out Lefitori (Victorian) blanket of blue and black colours with white stripes, a pair of jeans and gumboots, Monokoa is looking after 12 head of cattle in Berea. He doesn’t wish to be here, but he has little choice.

Dreams of becoming a respected professional vanished in 2008 when the 26-year-old failed to proceed to secondary school after completing primary education because his parents couldn’t afford it.

Although his dreams are up in smoke, he still harbours some hope for his siblings-only if the electorate could vote for a government that can extend the provision of free education to secondary education for poor families like his.

“I have many wishes but the most urgent among them is free secondary education so that my siblings can go to school,” Monokoa told thepost last Friday, on Election Day.

As the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party vacates the seat of power to make way for a coalition government led by businessman Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), some dreams are getting reignited.

Chief among them is a chance at getting an education for thousands of Basotho who can’t afford to pursue their dreams due to poverty.

“The incoming government must extend free education to secondary schools,” said Monokoa.

“Had the government done so in 2008 when the first batch of pupils who received free and compulsory primary education passed to secondary school, I would not be where I am today,” said the 26-year-old.

“Had the government introduced free secondary education at that time, I could have gone to school like other children,” he said.

He said before the election, several parties promised to extend free education to secondary schools.

“May they keep their promises, whichever party wins,” said Monokoa.

The RFP is setting up a coalition government with the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and the Alliance of Democrats (AD), whom it says it shares a common understanding on economic development.

Monokoa said his parents are surviving on piece jobs and struggle to feed their family of five, let alone save enough money to pay for secondary education.

Annual fees for secondary education in public schools, whether state-owned, church-owned or community-owned, range from M1 500 to M3 000, excluding registration and other costs. Uniforms and stationery are paid for separately.

“I was 18 years old when I dropped out of school and out of no choice I had to find a job. I got a temporary job at a construction company as a labourer and after that I have always looked after cattle,” he said.

“I don’t want any child of this country to drop out of school because their parents cannot afford to pay school fees. I know how it hurts. I felt it.”
Monokoa’s experience is not isolated.

A 15-year-old boy we will call Tseko to protect his identity was forced to drop out of school last year to make the sojourn to the capital from Mafeteng, about 80 kilometres away.

The boy said abject poverty and hunger drove him to seek employment.

His grandfather was looking after him and his younger sister because the parents were too poor to take care of them.

‘‘I had no uniform and my parents were unable to pay my fees. Going to school without uniform made me feel like an outcast and I also hated being expelled due to lack of fees. It affected my school work and I dropped out,” he said.

His grandfather gave him his last M300 to buy fruits and vegetables stock.

He said he later opted to sell motoho (a traditional Sesotho sour porridge) as competition was too stiff in the fruits and vegetable business.

“The motoho business is promising as I now have people who I supply weekly,” he said.

“With the little that I make, I have to pay M1 200 yearly for my younger sister’s education to ensure that she doesn’t endure the same pain I did,’’ said Tseko.

A local group, ≠bachashutdown has been campaigning for free secondary education for the past three years.

“Lesotho is experiencing high level of secondary and high school drop-outs students because most families are poor and cannot afford to pay the fees,” the group said in a letter to the incoming government this week.

The group cautioned that failure to implement this measure would result in increased youth unemployment “and the worst part is that they end up in the streets committing crimes”.

The group warned that failure to ensure access to education for children from poor families would promote drug and alcohol abuse and gangsterism.

“Young people are becoming increasingly impatient with the lack of progress towards eradicating unemployment and cannot wait any longer when government continues to pay lip service,” the letter reads. “We will be watching and listening to you with eagerness and hope.”

Lesotho introduced free primary education in 2000 as a strategy towards achieving the Education for All (EFA) goals, and made it universal and compulsory.

As a result, thousands of children enrolled in primary schools but failed to proceed to secondary level because their parents could not afford the fees and other costs.

Experts have noted that failure to make secondary education free has made access to secondary education skewed towards urban areas and higher income groups.

A situational analysis published in the Education Sector Plan 2016 – 2026 says the drop-out rate is a source of concern as it hovers around 25 percent and 21 percent at junior and secondary levels respectively.

The analysis states that it is internationally recognised that repetition is a driving factor for dropping out, “especially at school levels where opportunity costs gain weight”.

“These features describe a secondary sub-sector that does not succeed to promote students efficiently through the schooling process,” states the analysis. “As a consequence, significant amount of resources are also wasted at junior and senior secondary levels.”

Other studies have revealed that barely 30 percent of parents whose children pass primary education are able to afford tertiary education fees.

A recent World Bank report, titled Kingdom of Lesotho: Education Public Expenditure Review, shows that education spending in Lesotho is in favour of the rich and mostly urban residents as opposed to those in rural areas.

The World Bank showed that Lesotho spends more on education compared to all countries in the world as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It states that for every M1 000, Lesotho spends M165 per student in secondary education and M326 per student in tertiary education.

Education spending, according to the World Bank report, is highly regressive and unequal, considering that only a small number of students reach tertiary education.

The institution states that among the lowest income people, the net attendance ratio of 13 to 17-year-olds in secondary education was only 15 percent, while this was 72 percent amongst the richest.

“For instance, for every 100 students that complete their primary education, only 36 complete their secondary education and five complete their tertiary education. This strongly favours the richest quintiles,” the report reads.

Caswell Tlali

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MP defies party, backs opposition



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



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



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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