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Stunning details of how Matela died

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 MASERU – A witness has revealed shocking details of how ’Mahlompho Matela died.
Lekhooa Monaleli told the court that ’Mahlompho told her that she had been strangled.
Monaleli was testifying this week in the trial of Qamo Matela who is accused of the murder of his wife ’Mahlompho.
Monaleli was friends with the couple.
He was testifying before High Court judge, Justice Tšeliso Mokoko, last Thursday.
Monaleli said he went to the couple’s home after Qamo Matela had told him that his wife was not feeling well and he needed help to take her to hospital.
Monaleli said he found ’Mahlompho and Qamo on the bathroom floor. He said ’Mahlompho was sitting between Qamo’s thighs while their children were in the lounge.
Monaleli said Mahlompho looked “tired and helpless”.
“I helped the accused to lift (his wife) and carried her to the car,” Monaleli said.
He said Qamo had thrust a spoon into ‘Mahlompho’s mouth to stop her from biting her tongue.
“I noticed that something might have happened to the deceased (‘Mahlompho) apart from her being ill,” he said.
“What I picked from the deceased was that her eyes showed that she had been assaulted.”
“I kept quiet because this hit me hard,” Monaleli said.
They drove to Willies Hospital in Khubetsoana.
At the hospital, Qamo left them in the car as he went to fetch a wheelchair for ‘Mahlompho.
Monaleli said this gave him a chance to ask ’Mahlompho what happened.
Monaleli said ’Mahlompho told him that Qamo had assaulted and strangled her.
“I asked the deceased why she did not call for help when what happened. The response was that the accused was strangling her.”
Monaleli said ’Mahlompho told him that Qamo had strangled him for a long time.
The court heard that later on the same day, after helping the couple to the hospital and back, Monaleli sent Qamo a voice note on WhatsApp telling him that he had ruined his day.
Monaleli said he later went to the couple’s house with his wife but they could not see ’Mahlompho because they were told that she was still asleep after taking her medication.
Monaleli said seeing that his friend’s family needed help, he arranged for them to see a psychologist.
The crown’s second witness Rorisang Mofolo, ’Mahlompho’s sister, said she received a call on September 4 last year from Qamo telling her that ’Mahlompho had fainted four times.
Mofolo said Qamo told her that he suspect ’Mahlompho might have a heart problem but she was now feeling better after giving her some sugar.
“He also told me that they were waiting for a car to take them to Willies Hospital,” Mofolo said.
“After our conversation with the accused (Qamo) I called my nurse friend to ask about the temperature change issue, she said it might be Covid-19 so the deceased should get tested,” she said.
She said every time she tried to call ’Mahlompho the phone would be picked by Qamo who would speak on her behalf.
Mofolo said during a video call with ’Mahlompho, in Qamo’s absence, she noticed that she had bruises on her face.
She said ’Mahlompho told her she had fainted three times.
Mofolo said she was relieved after Qamo gave him the impression that ’Mahlompho was recovering but was shocked when Monaleli called and insisted that she goes to see her sister.
She said in their telephone conversation ’Mahlompho said she was “trapped in a hell of a marriage…this man is a psycho”.
Mofolo said ’Mahlompho told her that at one point Qamo had helped her pack her belongings and that of the children so they could leave but suddenly changed his mind and said she would not leave with the children.
She testified that ’Mahlompho said Qamo started assaulting and choking her, saying she refused to give his mother M20 yet she had M30 000 in her bank account.
Mofolo said ’Mahlompho was later taken to  Maseru hospital which quickly referred her to Bloemfontein where she died a few days later.
She said when a nurse at the Bloemfontein hospital called her to break the news of ’Mahlompho’s death she advised her to go to the police to open a murder case.
She reported the case at the Mabote police station.
She said when she arrived at the couple’s house she found Qamo crying in the bedroom.
Mofolo said Qamo said: “I am very sorry, please promise me that you will be there for me and the kids and that we will plan the funeral together”.
Mofolo said she did not reply but she went out.
Tholoana Lesenya

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Government is broke

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… Borrows M500m to pay salaries
MASERU – THE government is so broke that it had to borrow a staggering M500 million to pay civil servants’ salaries.
thepost can reveal that the money was borrowed through Treasury Bills from the local market this week.
The borrowing spree comes as the government is battling to pay salaries and suppliers due to a massive drop in tax revenues.
It comes as Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s government is left with two weeks in office.
But those few days left on its tenure have not stopped the government from making plans to borrow more money from the local market.
Highly placed sources told this paper of plans to issue more Treasury Bills in the next two weeks to raise money to pay suppliers.
A source however said there is some reluctance from some technocrats in the Ministry of Finance who believe the government’s books and financial control systems are so shambolic that it doesn’t know exactly how much it owes the private sector.
The arrears fluctuate every day but this paper understands that the government owes between M800 million and M1 billion to the suppliers.
Although the government has been grappling with the financial crisis for the past few years the crunch began to bite this year.
Sources say this month has been particularly terrible for the government.
By last week, a source said, the government had only M150 million for salaries. The total public wage bill is around M600 million.
This explains why the government had to borrow half a billion this week through treasury bills issued by the Central Bank of Lesotho.
The money arrived in the government’s account yesterday afternoon according to sources privy to the transaction.
The government has options to pay the debt in three, six, nine or 12 months. But given its precarious financial position, the government is likely to opt for the 12 months.
This means the debt will be paid on September 21 next year at about 7.8 percent interest. That translates to an interest of M39 million which brings the amount to M539 million.
The latest borrowing pushes the government’s domestic debt to M4.3 billion.
The foreign debt is around M15.6 billion. Although the debt is moderate, the government might be forced to borrow more if revenues continue to drop.
That could spell disaster for the country.
As things stand the government has to cut expenditure or look for ways to generate more revenue.
But with the economy still smarting from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and companies shutting down, there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room.
Donor fatigue and the drop in the Southern African Customs Union, once the anchor of Lesotho’s budget, have made things worse.
Cutting expenditure seems to be the only option but the government appears reluctant to bite the bullet.
Lesotho has consistently failed to implement the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s recommendation to cut the wage bill.
Successive ministers have hinted at plans to retrench some government employees but have never implemented them because that has political implications.
There are signs that the chickens are eventually coming home to roost.
A few days ago Government Secretary Lerotholi Pheko issued a circular announcing a raft of measures to “contain expenditure and overdue payments for ministries, departments and agencies”.
Pheko said due to increasing expenditure pressures and a drop in revenue the government is implementing measures that will contain expenditure to levels that are aligned with available resources.
“The Ministry of Finance will continue to issue monthly warrants only for wages and salaries as well as essential and critical expenditures in line with the approved procurement and cash plans plus availability of funds,” Pheko said.
He ordered chief accounting officers to stop international travel, buying furniture, large maintenance, subsistence allowances, and hiring new staff.
Also, all vehicles other than VVIPS will not fuel more than once a week unless they are for essential services as authorised by the government.
All government vehicles other than for VVIPs and selected offices must be parked at their designated places by 5pm and shall be used only for authorised purposes, Pheko said.
Nkheli Liphoto

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We’ll gang up against RFP, says Rapapa

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MASERU – Lesotho’s biggest political parties have hatched a grand plan to throttle the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) led by Sam Matekane.
The plot was revealed by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) chairman Sam Rapapa at an election rally held in Mashai constituency last Friday.
He said even if the RFP makes it into parliament, they will make sure that it would not be part of the next government.
The plan, Rapapa said, is to “keep the RFP leader Sam Matekane at least as the leader of opposition, with no party to cobble up a coalition government”.
He said Matekane’s “dream of becoming a government alone is practically impossible because” the ABC, the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), the Democratic Congress (DC), and the Basotho Action Party (BAP) “will gang up to sabotage him”.
Rapapa spoke as he appealed to ABC members not to join the RFP which he said will not form a government or be in the next coalition government.
“These big parties will gang up against him (Matekane) and he will not be part of the government,” he said.
Rapapa wondered out loud why anyone would therefore want to leave the ABC to join the RFP.
“We will do everything to stop Matekane from getting into the government,” Rapapa said.
He urged Basotho to analyse critically which parties are likely to form the next government so they vote wisely on October 7.
“Both ABC and DC are likely to form a coalition government,” Rapapa said.
He said although he would in the past viciously attack the DC, he had since toned down after the two parties formed a coalition government in 2020.
In a lighthearted moment, Rapapa compared the political landscape in Lesotho to that of a child who runs away from his home to a neighbour’s house because the head of that house has arrived home with stolen wors.
Rapapa said people who are claiming they are leaving the ABC because it is engulfed in conflicts are lying.
Instead, he said the conflicts are in the RFP which has been battling numerous court battles as party members fight to represent the party in the general election.
“There is no peace in Moruo,” Rapapa said. “There is a fight that is going on in the RFP.”
Moruo, which means wealth, is the RFP’s slogan.
Rapapa urged the members to either vote for the DC or the ABC as there is peace and direction in those parties.
After the election, Rapapa said they will tell Maketane to stand in the corner with his people and a few constituencies.
He said Matekane is going to lead the opposition because they had discussed amongst themselves that he is a businessman and he should go back to business.
“We gave you a job to build roads, (but) you leave them with potholes and join politics,” Rapapa said.
He said Matekane is likely to only qualify as an MP and not a Prime Minister.
The ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, however distanced himself from Rapapa’s statement this week.
He said the party is busy campaigning to win next month’s election to form the next government and has not yet pronounced itself on any coalition deals.
“We have not planned to do anything about Matekane as the ABC National Executive Committee,” Hlaele said.
The ABC leader Nkaku Kabi told another rally in Thaba-Bosiu that “it is still premature as to which parties we would align ourselves with after the election”.
He said there are some parties that had been approaching the ABC to discuss coalition possibilities but they have not sat down to decide to cobble up any coalition agreements with any of them.
“Our committee has never met any party to discuss the formation of a coalition government after the election,” Kabi said.
Kabi said the matter should not trigger any ruckus in the party.
Nkheli Liphoto

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How politicians killed the reforms

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MASERU – WEDNESDAY July 13 and the clock is ticking towards midnight.
Apart from small mobs of skimpily dressed ladies of the night basking in blazing paper fires in corners, the streets of Maseru are empty.
But the parliament building’s lights are glowing and its parking bays crowded with cars. Panic seems to have set in among the MPs inside.
In a nondescript building across town, Senators are also having their moment of anxiety. Rarely had Lesotho’s MPs and Senators burned the midnight oil on official duty.
Both are racing to pass constitutional amendments for the national reforms.
Anyone landing in Lesotho from another planet would have been forgiven for thinking that the bills whose import and wording both houses were haggling over had been drafted a week earlier.
The reality was that those reforms had been in the making for the past six years and the bills had been drafted months earlier.
Yet the lawmakers were now counting minutes to push the bills through before their five-year tenure ended.
It is hard to suppress the feeling that the MPs and Senators did not know that they were attempting to achieve the impossible.
As hours dissolved into minutes, the Senators would approve clauses and immediately send them via email to the MPs for passing.
The last clauses arrived at the parliament 15 minutes before midnight to trigger a mad race.
With five minutes to go, the Speaker announced that they had run out of time because the king had dissolved parliament.
It was an anti-climax of epic proportions.
Years of hard work, hundreds of miles travelled and millions of maloti spent had come to nothing.
There was an eerie silence as MPs streamed out of parliament after midnight.
They failed to pass the reforms they had promised the people and the international community.
The same reforms that years earlier they had vowed to pass come rain or sunshine.
These were the same politicians who months earlier had signed a commitment to “remove all obstacles and impediments that have potential to derail and delay the passing of the 11th Amendment of the Constitution Bill”.
Predictably, the morning after came with excuses, blame-shifting, regret and a palpable fear of the implications of their botched job.
It however was telling that the government sounded more fearful of the international community than Basotho, the very people they were supposed to serve and had given them the mandate.
There was no apology from either the government or the leaders of opposition parties.
The reaction from SADC, which had chaperoned Lesotho’s reforms in cash and kind for more than half a decade, was instant and furious.
The Lesotho delegation that sheepishly walked into the conference room at the SADC meeting in Pretoria a few days later was tongue-lashed by the regional colleagues who threatened sanctions and other censures if the reforms were not passed.
The message was clear: SADC had run out of patience with Lesotho. Pressure was also mounting from the EU, the United States, the United Nations, and the African Union.
The delegation promised that Lesotho would clean the mess. The government was cornered.
But how the government set out to resolve the conundrum would trigger events that would lead to the same conundrum they wanted to avoid.
They used the constitution’s state of emergency clause to recall parliament so they would pass the amendments.
They were on a slippery slope because even as they pondered the state of emergency it was clear this was a desperate measure to get the reforms across the line and appease the international community.
There was an overwhelming consensus in the legal fraternity that there was no legal justification to declare a state of emergency to pass the amendments.
Lesotho’s generally porous constitution was airtight on what constitutes a state of emergency.
Even Law Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane did not sound convinced that it was legally possible to sneak in the reforms via the state of emergency.
In interviews with this newspaper and radio stations, Rakuoane, a lawyer himself, sounded noncommittal as if trying to avoid being blamed for pointing that the government was taking a wrong legal direction.
“We are now in unchartered waters,” he said after timidly hinting at the state of emergency as “our last hope”.
He was probably aware that a declaration of a state of emergency would not pass the constitutional test but still had to be done for political reasons to save face and pacify the clamouring international community.
The members of the Council of State perhaps had the same feeling as they trooped into their meeting to discuss the state of emergency.
The Law Society president, Tekane Maqakachane, gave the council members a mini constitutional law lecture as he forcefully argued against the state of emergency.
Advocate Maqakachane had earlier told thepost that there was ‘absolutely no loophole in the constitution to justify a state of emergency”.
“It’s legally impossible,” he said.
It is inconceivable that the members did not understand that they were about to molest the constitution to achieve a political goal.
You did not need to be a legal expert to understand the constitution’s unambiguous clause about the conditions for a declaration of a state of emergency.
Even those who had not read the clause had probably heard lawyers speaking in the media about the impossibility of massaging the constitution on that issue.
There was neither a war nor a natural disaster. No event imperilled lives and the welfare of the country.
In the end, the council’s decision had nothing to do with legal considerations but the politics of the moment.
They gave Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro what he wanted and he gladly took it.

He was so sure that the council would bend to political will that he told SADC heads of state at a summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo that Lesotho was on course to pass the reforms.

A member of the council would later tell thepost that they understood that what they were doing was unconstitutional but wanted to “kick the problem back to the politicians who had caused it in the first place”.

“He (Majoro) wanted a rubber stamp and we gave it to him. We knew he would run into problems sooner rather than later. I think government lawyers had also told him that problems were coming,” he said.

For a moment it looked as if the government had dodged the bullet. The parliament was recalled and it passed the amendments.

But it wasn’t long before the plan started unravelling.

Journalist Kananelo Boloetsi and lawyer Lintle Tuke filed an urgent court application to have the state of emergency declared illegal and the laws subsequently signed off by the king nullified.

The writing was on the wall.

The import of the constitutional court’s judgement was to nullify the laws and constitutional amendments the King had signed off for the implementation of the reforms. Its impact was beyond killing the reforms.

The court had opened the floodgates for anyone to challenge a government decision based on public interest.

In other words, nearly every citizen had the legal right to sue the government even if they were not directly affected by its actions.

You did not need to show the court a bleeding or festering wound to prove that you had the right to bring a case against the government or a public institution.

All you needed was to prove that your case was in the public interest.

The Court of Appeal endorsed that judgement this week when it dismissed the government’s appeal with costs. The reforms are back to square one.

Where did it go wrong?
It would be naïve to start an inquest into the death of the reforms from the point when the parliament failed to pass the amendments.

The constitutional court’s ruling might have hit the final nail into the reforms coffin but it wasn’t the disease that killed the reforms.

It is a time-honoured fact that politicians never legislate or reform themselves out of power or trim or dilute their powers.

The delays that dogged the reforms were therefore not out of the politicians’ respect for procedures but a strategy.
Constitutional law professor Hoolo ‘Nyane says there was a method in the way the politicians spent months quarrelling over the reforms.

“It was clear that most did not want the fundamental changes that were going to be ushered by the amendments,” Professor ‘Nyane says.

He says a particularly sore point for the politicians, especially those with the potential to be in government, was the proposal in the initial Bill to reduce or dilute the prime minister’s power to appoint senior government officials, senior diplomats, judges and security agency bosses.

Professor ‘Nyane says politicians initially agreed to implement the reforms to appease the international community because they did not think they would go as far as gnawing on their executive powers.

He notes that nearly all the clauses that eventually became contentious had something to do with the power of certain offices or the central government.

“Instead of being a national and technical process, the reforms became a subject of turf wars and power contestations.”

“Right from the appointment of the National Reforms Authority (NRA) it was clear that politicians were trying to carve out their spheres of influence and drive the process to achieve their own agenda.”

Professor ‘Nyane has first-hand knowledge of the internal battles in the NRA and the politicians’ muddling in the process because he was one of the experts that participated in drafting the reforms.

He understood how the prime minister’s power was one of the main sources of the perennial political instability that the reforms were meant to nip in the bud.

It was because of the abuse of the prime minister’s powers that two army commanders were assassinated months apart.

The same can be said of the chaos in the judiciary and the police.

Professor ‘Nyane is of the view from the people that were clear that the prime minister’s powers should be limited.

He however says he watched in horror as politicians in the NRA argued over technical issues beyond their knowledge.

Others, he says, did not hide their loathing for certain clauses and openly complained that they took power from certain offices and the central government.

“In the end, it did not matter what the people wanted in the reforms because the politicians had so many vested interests.”

This explains the brouhaha that ensued after the initial Bill was tabled in parliament.

MPs griped that those in the NRA had sneaked in some clauses to favour them. That is to say, the NRA had misrepresented the people’s views.

One MP told thepost that they will not allow the NRA to dictate what the parliament should do.

“They are trying to make a lame duck of a prime minister by running the country through commissions.

The Bill had commissions for this and that as if the government should always defer to some parallel authorities when it makes executive decisions,” said the MP.

“We are the lawmakers here.”

His sentiments came just as the chaos over which Bill represented the people’s views was starting.

It, therefore, did not come as a surprise to people like Professor ‘Nyane when the Bill that parliament submitted to the Senate did not have the initial clauses limiting the prime minister’s powers.

Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu would later come out during a parliamentary debate to say he was against those clauses.

Mokhothu said the government “must always have power through the prime minister”. “The day we have weakened that office would be the day we would have killed the government, it won’t move,” Mokhothu said.

“You cannot reform by killing one of those sectors which are being reformed,” he said.

He said politicians promise to eradicate crimes through the institutions “therefore it would not be right to deprive the prime minister’s office of such powers”.

“There is a spirit by some people to weaken the prime minister’s office. There would be no reason for the parties to campaign if the prime minister does not have powers,” he said.

Mokhothu was therefore speaking for many other politicians when he stood in parliament to protest against the clauses that clipped the prime minister’s wings.

The only difference with other politicians is that he had the guts to speak openly about it. It is instructive that none of his fellow political leaders challenged his position on those clauses.

The government’s refusal to renew the NRA’s terms was probably one of the most visible signs that the reforms were headed for a storm instigated by politicians.

Once the NRA was out of the way, the politicians could dismember the Bill that was a function of the views of the people to suit their ends.

The prevalent excuse among the politicians was that parliament had the final say on what becomes law.

This was despite that the Bill that they were discussing represented the wishes of the people.

Those clauses were not mere suggestions but instructions from the people about the nature of the reforms they wanted.

As Advocate Maqakachane said this week: “That is what is meant by ‘The Lesotho we want’ slogan of the reforms (See Advocate Maqakachane’s article on Insight 2-3).

Having lost the legitimacy that came with the NRA, the members of the authority resorted to guerrilla tactics. They lobbied Senators to reject the parliament’s Bill and restore the clauses in the initial Bill.

Their influence was clear during the Senate’s debate on July 13.

The Senators wanted to reinstate the clauses that parliament had dismembered from the initial Bill.

The parliament, on the other hand wanted to keep the Bill it had submitted to the Senate.

“What is clear is that many politicians never wanted these reforms from the start. They might have agreed to go ahead with the process but that doesn’t mean their hearts were in it,” Professor ‘Nyane says.

Whose victory is it?
Given the way that politicians delayed the reforms and then fought against some clauses, very few of them may be shedding tears over the government’s defeat in the courts.

As Tuke and Boloetsi basked in the glory of their victory some politicians could have been jumping for joy. The two young men might not have set out to please the politicians but they did.

Their interests coincided with those of politicians bent on killing the reforms.

Now that the courts have reversed the amendments, the international community cannot insist on the reforms being passed before the elections. That is practically impossible.

The government can go back to SADC to report that their hands are now tied because the highest court in the land has blocked the amendments.

The can has been kicked down the road.

Professor ‘Nyane says politicians are the ultimate winners of the chaos.

“They have always liked the status quo and they get to keep it for now.”

Basotho have to wait to fight another day for the Lesotho they want.

Staff Reporter

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