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Tyhali: go well, true soldier



MASERU – VUYANI Tyhali, a firebrand trade unionist who contributed immensely in the struggle against apartheid, was buried in his home village of Mjanyane, Quthing, last Saturday.

Tyhali died on October 5 after a long illness, just two days before the October 7 election. He was 62. He is survived by his wife and three children — two boys and a girl.

As a trade unionist fighting against oppression, Tyhali worked with the South African Communist Party (SACP) underground operatives in Lesotho.

An uncle to the deceased said Tyhali was admitted in hospital but was later discharged to go home where he was under the care of his wife.

Tyhali, a towering figure in the working class’ struggle against oppression, will be remembered for his activism in leading the teachers’ trade union for 25 years.

He fought both against the military junta that took over power in Lesotho in 1986 and successive democratic governments that came into power thereafter.

He retired from active unionism in 2015 shortly before he was appointed a consular at the Lesotho’s high commission in South Africa.

The former Matsepe High School principal died at a time when teachers are in the middle of yet another labour struggle.

His military commander-like tactics are glaringly missing during this time when the government has for the past five years bluntly refused to meet teachers’ union leaders to discuss their grievances.

The leadership of the union he founded in 1990, the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) which he served as secretary-general for over two decades, should take a leaf from his stewardship if it wants to force the government to listen.

Below is a summary of his struggle, as he put it in his retirement article.

The LTTU was born at the end of a long, countrywide strike by three teachers’ organisations, the National Association of Lesotho Teachers (NALT), the Lesotho African National Teachers

Association (LANTA) and the Lesotho Union of Teachers (LUT).

This was after the military junta received advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to cut salaries of all civil servants in 1988, during the rule of the late Major-General Metsing Lekhanya.

So, in 1990 the government ushered in what was called the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) when the three teachers’ organisations came together to form the LTTU.

At the time, the Lesotho Teachers Association (LAT) refused to come on board due to its cordial relations with the government.

Under Tyhali’s leadership teachers countrywide embarked on a major strike that was on a scale not seen before in the country.

The military government, which was pro-apartheid South Africa, was at the time afraid that Tyhali was being used by Umkhonto we Sizwe, a military wing of the African National Congress.

This was because active members in the teachers’ struggle had direct contact with the Committee for Action and Solidarity for Southern African Students (CASSAS) formed by Chris Hani at the

National University of Lesotho (NUL). This led to the arrest and detention of some struggle leaders.

CASSAS was led by Nthakeng Selinyane, a well-known academic and government critic, the late Advocate Maaparankoe Mahao, who later became the army boss, and Professor Kananelo Mosito, who was at the time president of the SRC at the NUL.

The three then young men worked hard to twist the government’s arm to listen to teachers by mobilising different youth organisations to support the cause.

Tyhali, a tenacious plotter, organised 20 beautiful young ladies to meet top officials in the military government with instructions that they should “smile and dress for the occasion”.

The officers agreed to meet the teachers’ representatives, at long last.

At the time, Tyhali and his comrades were being secretly aided by the late Mokhafisi Kena, the leader of the Communist Party of Lesotho (CPL), which was operating underground after the banning of communism in Lesotho in 1970.

The CPL had been established with the aid of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the two parties were operating together underground.

Tyhali and the comrades’ legal team consisted of Advocates Seana-Marena Mphutlane and Lekhetho Rakuoane, who is now leader of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD).

At the time, Advocate Mphutlane’s office was used as the Lesotho’s headquarters for Umkhonto we Sizwe and his car was used for operations. The two lawyers were CPL members.

Advocate Rakuoane was detained for chairing and organising a successful stay-away in support of the striking teachers.

The military government drafted the Education Order No 12 of 1990, which banned teachers from forming and joining trade unions.

Tyhali at the time said they were emboldened by Professor Nqosa Mahao, then a law lecturer at the NUL and a CPL strategist. Professor Mahao pointed out the loopholes in the Education Order No 12 of 1990.

The government, in a bid to test the strength of its new draconian law, expelled 25 teachers from Life High School but Advocate Rakuoane won the labour case.

That was the end of the government’s trouble-making, until lately, as far as teachers are concerned.

Tyhali’s leadership was also on display during democratic rule under the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP)-led government.

The LTTU took centre stage in opposition to King Letsie III’s unconstitutional dissolution of parliament. This was after the new government refused to reinstate his father, the late King Moshoeshoe II, who had been deposed by the military junta.

Also during the same year Tyhali and the young Maaparankoe Mahao led a march that resulted in peace talks between the warring Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) groups — the Ratjomose and

Makoanyane barracks — that were fighting against each other. At the time Mahao had not yet joined the army.

Speaking at Tyhali’s funeral on Saturday, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane said: “The deceased championed the rights of the working classes. He was a towering figure in the trade union movement who was always in the battle front for unions.”

Adv Rakuoane told mourners that Tyhali did not back off from fighting for the rights of the working class.

The leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, Nkaku Kabi, attributed his political career to Tyhali’s influence.

Kabi said during his time at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT), he approached Tyhali over some work-related issues. He said Tyhali advised him to unite with others who were also oppressed to embark on an industrial action.

Kabi said Tyhali took him as far as Gauteng, South Africa, to seek advice from workers’ associations such as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the African National Congress (ANC).

“The first time I set foot in Luthuli House, I was with the deceased,” Kabi told the mourners at Tyhali funeral service. At his burial at the foothills of Mjanyane Mountain, the deceased was heaped with praises for fighting for the rights of the Xhosa people.

Tyhali pushed for children to be taught in their mother tongue at schools, arguing that language is part of culture.

Tyhali’s childhood friend, Nkululeko Gobizembe, said he grew up with Tyhali, whom he described as a loving person.

One of the important memories shared about Tyhali was when the late High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomncongo met him at the court’s premises and expressed disbelief, asking why the trade unionist had not been initiated at his age.

Gobizembe said Tyhali went to initiation school following Justice Nomncongo’s mocking utterances, saying he was inkwenkwe encinci (little boy).

Tumisang Mokoai, former Consular General of Lesotho in Johannesburg, said Tyhali was a hard worker who always delivered on set tasks.

“The King has lost an important person who loved his people and served them with love all the time while at work,” Mokoai said.

“He was not a person of material things but he was productive at work,” he said.

The SACP and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) were represented at the burial.

In a statement, the SACP said: “As an internationalist, he also worked closely with the South African underground movement in Lesotho during the struggle against the apartheid system.

“His role as an internationalist contributed to the dislodging of apartheid in South Africa, bringing peace to the region.”

Majara Molupe & Caswell Tlali


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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