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Nigerian couple in trouble over school

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QACHA’S NEK – A Nigerian couple appeared in the Qacha’s Nek Magistrates’ Court this week for running an unregistered school.

Raymond and Nora Onouha are accused of continuing to operate their school despite that the government had shut it down in April this year. The court heard that the couple kept operating the school until September when it was forced to close again.

The wife, Nora, was the one working at the school while the husband, Raymond, was allegedly managing it from Nigeria. However, Raymond was present in court to answer the charges.

The court heard that the couple opened a pre-school in 2012 which they registered but when the students graduated to the primary level, they enrolled them in their new primary school.

The prosecution says the couple knew that it was not supposed to enroll children in an unregistered school in January this year but continued to do so despite that they were stopped.

Parents whose children enrolled at the school, named Precious Primary School, testified that the school had enrolled students for grades one up to three.

’Matšepo Mokoma, a parent, said her eight-year-old son is in Grade Three at Precious Primary School, confirming that the Onouhas were actually running the school.

Mokoma said her son stopped going to school at the end of September when the government forced the school to close.

Mokoma said her son had been attending the Onouhas’ school for the past seven years, starting from pre-school when he was just two-years-old.

She also told the court as part of the evidence that parents would sometimes be invited to meetings which were chaired by the Onouhas.

“My child has been at Precious school since he was only two and he is now eight years old,” Mokoma said.

She however said she was happy with the quality of education her son got there and she wrote a letter to the owner to enroll him in the primary school when he graduated from the pre-school. Mokoma told the court that she was not aware that the school was not yet registered.

“I only noticed when my child had to stop going to school after it was shut down,” she said.

The Education CEO in Qacha’s Nek district, Lebenya Mothibeli, said Precious Primary was not registered as a primary school but as a pre-school. Mothibeli said his office is not aware whether the school has met the requirements for being a primary school, such as whether the school buildings are safe enough for the children.

“The office is also not even aware whether the school has water in the yard and toilets that are in a good condition for the children,” Mothibeli said.

Raymond said he did not have any primary school students at his school.

“I only have students whose parents wrote letters asking me to keep their children because they are happy with the quality of education they got,” he said.

“Those are the only kids I kept,” he said.

Raymond told the court that the education the children got was suitable for their age but did not mention if it was for primary or pre-school students.

He said he applied for a certificate to operate legally but he waited for a long time for the certificate to be issued, so long that he even went to Maseru himself to see if his application was already at the headquarters.

He said he discovered that his application was still in Qacha’s Nek.

“I understand that Mothibeli did not send my application to Maseru,” he said.

He said Mothibeli never liked it when they registered for a primary school. He accused Mothibeli of deliberately stalling the application. Thato Masoabi, a former teacher at the school, said back in 2020 Precious only had pre school students.

But this year she was teaching Grade One students who were taught primary school subjects. Masoabi said she was instructed by the owner of the school, Nora Onouha, to teach the children the primary school syllabus.

She said Nora once told her that the school is in the process of registering with the Ministry of Education. The Education Act of 2010 requires a mandatory certificate of registration for all schools.

The law forced all unregistered schools to register with the Ministry of Education or they would be closed. It is an offence punishable by a jail sentence to operate an illegal school in Lesotho. The case continues.

Those Ramolibeli

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Suspension was malicious, says Nko

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MASERU – A gunshot wound and an attempted murder charge have not stopped Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko from starting a new fight.

The suspended Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) boss is rolling up his sleeves for what promises to be an epic legal battle to be reinstated.

In an application filed in the High Court this week, Dr Nko argues that the LTDC’s decision to suspend him had a “glaring element of bad faith and malice”.

He says the suspension was procedurally flawed because there was no complainant to instigate it and he was not granted a hearing.

Dr Nko was suspended after he was involved in a shooting incident with guests at an event at a Hillsview guest house on December 27.

He is alleged to have rushed home to take his gun after an argument with some of the guests. Dr Nko and a guest sustained gunshot wounds in the scuffle that ensued.

Reports say the guests were trying to wrestle the gun from Dr Nko when the shots were fired.

The LTDC’s board suspended him two days later, alleging that he had failed to attend an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the incident.

The suspension letter was written by Nonkululeko Zaly who was the chairperson of the LTDC board by virtue of being the principal secretary in the Ministry of Trade.

Zaly, who has since been fired following corruption investigations, also approached the court to force the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to return the assets confiscated during a raid at her house.

Dr Nko, in his court papers, accuses Zaly of usurping the board’s powers to suspend him. He says there was never a board resolution to suspend him.

The extraordinary meeting, he alleges, was a “prearranged dishonest scheme between certain members of the board and social media personnel which were part of the ruse deliberately designed to compromise” his interests.

Dr Nko says the board called him to the 29 December meeting when he was on sick leave and then suspended him without hearing his reasons for failing to attend.

He complains that Zaly wrote his suspension letter on the basis of mere allegations even though she had remained principal secretary and chairperson of the board when the corruption investigations against her were in full swing.

He queries why he was being suspended when Zaly was allowed to hold on to her job.

Zaly appears to have been belligerent when Dr Nko’s lawyers contacted her to query the suspension.

She told the lawyers, in a letter, that their queries were based on misinformation. She also dismissed the lawyer’s request for a record of the board meeting that decided to suspend Dr Nko.

“We are therefore not going to honour any of your demands and if your client is not satisfied, he is free to approach any appropriate forums to pursue these baseless issues,” Zaly said in her letter.

The lawyers say that response shows that Zaly was hell-bent on suspending their client.

Dr Nko wants the High Court to order the LTDC board to reverse the suspension, stop his imminent disciplinary proceedings and release the records of its December 29 meeting.

He also says the board is already conducting investigations on the incident to use as evidence against him in the disciplinary hearing.

Staff Reporter

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thepost columnist wins award

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Maseru – Two scholars associated with the National University of Lesotho have been awarded the 2022 Thomas Pringle prize for the best literary article published the previous year.

Chris Dunton, who is a columnist for thepost, and Lerato Masiea have won the prize, which is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa, for their article “Between rocks and hard places: the controversial career of A.S. Mopeli-Paulus,” which was published by thepost.

Dunton was previously Professor and Dean of Humanities at the NUL and for some years cwrote a column for this newspaper titled “Left Side Story.” Masiea is a lecturer in the NUL’s Department of English and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of the Free State.

Their prize-winning article was published in the journal English in Africa (vol.48 no.3, 2021, pp47-64). In it the authors explore the writings and life of the South African Mosotho author Mopeli-Paulus.

As their title indicates, their subject was a controversial figure, who degenerated from being an opponent of the apartheid regime (he was, notably, one of the leaders of the Witzieshoek Cattle Rebellion, for which role he was incarcerated in the Pretoria Central Prison) to being a high-ranking accomplice in the Bantustan system.

He was a prolific writer in both English and Sesotho (at one point he referred to the compulsive desire to write as a kind of madness!), his best-known works being the poetry-collection Ho tsamaea ke he bona (from time to time a set-text in Lesotho schools), the novel Blanket Boy’s Moon and the autobiography The World and the Cattle.

Dunton and Masiea’s article covers all his writing, published and unpublished (his papers are freely accessible at the William Cullen Library, Wits University) and is especially concerned with the question of cross-border identity.

Mopeli-Paulus was born in Monontsa, South Africa, in the lost territories—much in the news recently—and remained a South African citizen all his life. The dust-jacket for his first novel, Blanket

Boy’s Moon — which was an international best-seller — carries his name with the tag “Chieftain of Basutoland”, but this was a mistake.

Nonetheless, Mopeli-Paulus identified very strongly with Lesotho and has much to say — some of it fanciful, even spurious — on concepts of Sotho identity.

Dunton and Masiea explore this issue in detail, as it remains a topic of crucial importance even today.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane to boot out PS

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MASERU – THE Sam Matekane government is getting ready to get rid of Principal Secretaries appointed by the previous administration.

First to be axed is Nonkululeko Zaly who Matekane fired as a PS for the Ministry of Trade on January 11.

Zaly, who is challenging the decision, suffered a blow yesterday when the High Court refused to hear her case on an urgent basis.

Her case will now have to join the long queue of hundreds of others pending in the High Court.

Lefu Manyokole has been replaced as the PS of the local government ministry.

The axe is also likely to fall on government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, and Foreign Affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko.

The four have been the subject of a graft investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

Their homes and offices have been raided and properties seized as the anti-corruption unit investigates allegations that they received millions in bribes from contractors. The four are likely to be the first to be shown the door.

Indications are however that Matekane could be readying to purge the government of principal secretaries inherited from the previous government. Matekane hints at that impending clean up in his dismissal letter to Zaly.

“You will agree with me that as a Principal Secretary, yours was a political appointment,” Matekane said in the letter that Zaly claimed not to have received in her court papers.

“It follows therefore that the working relationship between yourself and the person appointing you, the Prime Minister in this case, is mainly based on utmost trust and confidence.”

“The trust and confidence components become even more important under the obtaining circumstances where the new government, of which I am the head, has just been installed.”

Matekane told Zaly that his government came with new ideas and policies at the top of which is to fight corruption.

He said he was aware that the DCEO had seized certain documents in Zaly’s possession “evidencing a commission of crime and that you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your possession of those documents”.

“This has eroded all the trust and confidence I had in you as the Principal Secretary and there is no way I can continue with you at the helm of any government ministry,” Matekane said.

Highly placed sources in the government have told thepost that Zaly’s exit is just the beginning of a shake-up that will continue for the next three months as Matekane seeks to bring in new people he trusts and share his vision with.

Meanwhile, Moahloli Mphaka, the government’s special adviser in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission this week told the High Court that there is a plan to fire him and two other senior officials.

Mphaka made the allegations in an urgent application to force the commission to pay his salary and that of Thabang Thite, and Bahlakoana Manyanye who are also part of the lawsuit. Thite and Manyanye are assistant advisers in the commission.

Mphaka told the court in an affidavit that on December 22 last year, the Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko told them that his superiors had instructed him to terminate their contracts.

The reason, Mphaka said, is the fact that they are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) members hired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. He said the government’s delay to pay their December salary was meant to frustrate them into resigning.

Nkheli Liphoto

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