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Restoring a sense of humanity



BEREA – A dilapidated single cracked mud room with malfunctioning doors under corrugated iron sheets is what ’Mabatho Lepono had called home since childhood.

The windows to her house were broken, and for the 30-year-old blond woman, home was far from safe…and inhabitable.

“It was my home, but I really never felt at home. It was a serious threat to my life,” Lepono told thepost recently.

Thanks to Habitat for Humanity – Lesotho, Lepono is now a proud owner of a two-roomed house that she can safely call home at her rural Ha-Morolong village, about 20 kilometres north-east of Teya-Teyaneng town.

It has not been an easy life for Lepono. Lepono’s mother was just 16-years-old when she gave birth to her out of wedlock – something frowned upon in a highly patriarchal country such as Lesotho.

She got married about two decades ago leaving Lepono in the care of an unemployed 63-year-old grandmother, ’Mamontši Lepono.

’Mamontši was seven years shy of reaching 70-years , the age when she could benefit from state grants for the elderly.

That meant working hard under tough conditions to take care of her blind grandchild.

“When she became of age to receive the old-age pension, it was so measly that it could barely cover our monthly groceries,” recalled Lepono, the grandchild.

The elderly were earning about M300 every month at that time. Repairing the house was deemed a luxury the family could hardly afford. When ’Mamontši fell ill, Lepono’s mother, Rantšo, returned home.

When ’Mamontši died, Rantšo was forced to return with her husband to take care of Lepono. But that didn’t improve the situation. Rantšo said Lepono became ill when she was very young, and her vision deteriorated with time.

When she was doing her Grade Six at St David Primary School, her teachers called, realising that she was short-sighted.

“We then rushed her to a nearby clinic for assessment where it was confirmed that she had lost her vision. I was advised to buy her glasses but I couldn’t because they were and still are expensive for me,” Rantšo said.

“I can’t afford them as we all (my husband and I) rely on piece jobs,” said the 48-year-old mother, adding that “the incident forced my daughter to drop out of school because I couldn’t even afford to send her to schools that offer special education”.

To commemorate the 2022 World Habitat Day, Habitat for Humanity Lesotho partnered with different media houses to build a two-roomed house and an improved ventilated pit latrine for Lepono.

This year’s theme for the commemoration was “mind the gap, leave no one and no space behind”.

Bohlokoa Mokhotho, on behalf of Habitat Lesotho National Director, said the United Nations designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of towns and cities, and on the basic right to adequate shelter for all.

It is also intended to remind the world that “we all have the power and responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns”.

“Extending a helping hand to the Lepono family reflects on the theme of not leaving anyone behind especially those in dire need of safe and acceptable shelter,” Mokhotho said.

“We shouldn’t leave anyone behind,” she said.

Lepono expressed her gratitude to Habitat.

“I am short of words, I don’t know what to say to express how thankful I am,” she said.

A neighbour, ’Mamakhooa Nqheku, said the family has been struggling for years and she is happy for the assistance.

“We watched for years as ’Mabatho was being cared for by her grandmother who relied on a pension grant,” Nqheku said.

“We often helped them with food and running errands as the grandmother had walking challenges and she would take forever to fetch water or go to the shops,” she said.

“At times we would meet her at night and end up taking her home with a wheel barrow.”

Local Government Minister, Lebona Lephema, also participated in building walls and offered the family M5 000 for Christmas celebrations. He said the theme highlights the importance of taking care of each other.

“We should continue holding hands together for the betterment of Basotho,” Lephema said.

He said the initiative was in line with the government’s policy to ensure that vulnerable Basotho have better housing.

“We have gathered here together as a sign that each of us has a (role to play) to accelerate better housing in response to the government’s policy to see that every person lives in a well-designed, safe house and where basic services are easily accessible,” he said.

The Khafung Constituency MP, Chopho Lekholoane, thanked Habitat for “their visible care in people living with disabilities”.

The Centre for Affordable Housing in Africa’s 2020 report about Lesotho, says 29.3 percent of the total population lives in urban areas, mainly in the capital city of Maseru and its surrounds.

It notes that the housing deficit in Lesotho is estimated at 98 711 dwellings, mainly in urbanised zones.

“This number is expected to increase if national housing deliveries are not successful in delivering housing to meet escalating demand,” states the report.

It identifies the biggest challenge as lack of capacity and technical knowledge by financial institutions to deliver microfinance products geared to the housing market. This, the report notes, is a disadvantage to those in the population who cannot afford housing mortgages.

According to the report, the majority of formal financial institutions in Lesotho are risk-averse and lack long-term capital for housing.

“This is mostly because private property in Lesotho is still in its infancy.”

The Lesotho Housing Profile, published in 2015 by the UN Habitat, says the institutional framework for housing has many of the necessary components, such as respect for the home and limitation of state procurement of property, enshrined in law and the constitution.

The regulations controlling housing development, however, are outmoded and ready for recasting to be relevant to the housing affordable by ordinary Basotho rather than to a small elite, according to the report.

“Housing has a relatively lowly place in government structures, having no dedicated ministry,” the report says.

“There is a need to form a more focused approach to housing supply, bringing functions together under one dedicated ministry,” states the report.

In 2018, the government introduced the National Housing Policy after the one that was drafted in the 1980s failed.

The policy seeks to address the rights of all stakeholders, including those of people in situations of vulnerability – children, youth, elderly, people with disabilities, displaced people and migrants, slum dwellers, urban poor, indigenous peoples, homeless people, minorities, people living with HIV/AIDS.

The policy aims to create an enabling environment for housing development for all, as housing constitutes a social good and long term investment for Basotho households.

It says recognition of housing as a social good implies that the government “has a responsibility to enable access to adequate housing especially for those who are unable to do so”.

‘Mapule Motsopa


Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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