MASERU – THEY trek to Maseru in their droves in hopes of getting a job and living a better life.
Instead, after failing to land jobs in factories, construction sites, hundreds of people end up living in congested villages around the capital where poverty is rife.
Some resort to other adventures that often land them in jail.
Others, especially young women and girls, become sex workers to survive.
Tankiso Moletoa, 20, lives with her mother in a rented corrugated shack in Ha-Hoohlo towards the border gate of Maseru.
The shack has no windows.
“The environment is unhealthy because we stay within a compound of packed rented shacks,” said Moletoa, whose landlord lives in an old, dilapidated brick house at the premises.
Almost every tenant in the compound is nowhere to be seen during the day.
“They are out to look for piece jobs,” she said.
Each tenant pays M150 per month as rent.
Just outside the shacks, a swarm of flies hovers around. Small tributaries of dirty water run through the compound.
Moletoa’s mother is a factory worker at one of Maseru Industrial Estate factories where she takes home M2 500 a month.
Moletoa says she used to do part time jobs at construction sites in Maseru.
And at times, she would get a job as a part time employee at the factories. Now the piece jobs have dried up and she has to rely on her mother to survive.
Moletoa says her mother used to tell her that the situation would improve once factories reopened, but this is turning into hot air.
Because the buyers from overseas are no longer placing orders like they used to, many factories have remained shut.
As a result, low skilled people such as Moletoa continue to wallow in poverty.
“I cannot get a better job because I did not have a proper education. I only did Form C at school and I did not even write exams because I failed to raise the examination fees,” Moletoa said.
When rural life became too tough for her, Moletoa packed her bags and headed to Maseru to join her mother.
She said problems intensified when her father died and no one could help her pay for her studies.
She says she was split between coming to Maseru to look for work and herding cattle in the rural areas where she would get paid a cow after a year.
Morapeli Lesole, 30, who stays in the same compound as Moletoa, described the situation as extremely difficult.
“I can hardly provide for my small family,” said Lesole, who lives with his wife and a young child.
For him to put food on the table, he seeks jobs at construction sites while his wife does laundry at different homes.
Lesole says he did not go for any formal training to become a builder but gained experience working as a labourer.
He said jobs are hard to come by.
“I have not yet paid rent. Look at the date,” he said.
When he left his home in Mazenod to stay in Maseru in 2016, Lesole hoped he would get a better job to take care of his family.
But it wasn’t to be. He said his family sometimes goes to bed hungry.
“People back home might think that we are hiding in Maseru and living a busy city life oblivious of the fact that we are struggling,” he said.
Tankiso Malepa, 69, who stays in Sea Point, a few metres from the bus-stop, is struggling to cope with city life.
Malepa is unable to work for his family because he is sick.
He said he used to sell cow heads before he fell sick. With the revenue he generated from the sale of cow heads, he paid for his children’s school fees.
Originally, Malepa is from Marakabei and he arrived in Maseru in 1982 to try his fortunes. He secured a small piece of land on a sloppy area where he built two shacks with corrugated iron.
Next to the shacks, he has planted some vegetables for family consumption.
His 19-year-old daughter has enrolled with the Centre for Accounting Studies (CAS) and is in her first year.
He stays in two small shacks with three of his children while the other two have rented accommodation elsewhere.
Running water is a pipe dream. For water, he has to draw from a neighbour’s well and pays M40 per month.
Malepa said his business was booming in the past because many cows were slaughtered locally but of late, they were imported from South Africa as carcasses.
“My family is struggling to survive because we don’t have a reliable and proper source of income,” said Malepa, adding that he informed the then Ministry of Social Development about his illness but was told that the ministry’s coffers were dry.
He said he is still being treated for his illness but sometimes he is told that the clinic has run out of drugs.
“The health centre experiences incessant stock-outs,” Malepa said, his hands shaking as he sits on a chair.
“I would be advised to buy the medication at pharmacies but I won’t have the money to buy the prescribed medication. I feel helpless,” he said.
He said his wife is dead and his children are the ones taking care of him.
Malepa says he hopes the new government will change Basotho lives for the better.
While it is undeniable that food insecurity is an endemic problem in Lesotho’s rural villages, the rural bias of both donors and government ignores the fact that poverty and food insecurity are increasingly important urban issues as well.
A study by a National University of Lesotho’s Urban Planning lecturer, Associate Professor Resetselemang Leduka and others found that Lesotho is urbanising at a rapid rate and this reality needs to be acknowledged, understood and planned for in food security discussions and debates.
“There has been little attention paid to the drivers, prevalence and characteristics of food insecurity in Lesotho’s urban centres,” states the study, which Leduka conducted with five others in 2015.
“Lesotho is experiencing a rapid urban transition with large-scale internal migration to the urban centres, higher urban than rural population growth rates, and depopulation of the more remote mountainous areas of the country,” notes the report.
The number of urban dwellers increased from 127 000 in 1976 to 444 000 in 2006, according to the study.
The UN projects that urbanisation in Lesotho will rise to 39 percent by 2025 and 58 percent by 2050.
Leduka’s study says most of the country’s population live in villages in the lowlands of the country and no one in these areas is more than an hour or two from the nearest urban centre.
Thus, even the country’s “rural” people regularly visit urban centres and have their lives and livelihoods framed by what goes on there.
The study says Lesotho’s rapid urbanisation is evidence of an ongoing shift in household livelihoods away from agriculture and towards wage employment within and outside the country.
“Within the Lesotho agricultural system, farmers themselves have been subordinated as welfare recipients,” the study says.
“Their ranks are dominated by small-scale sharecroppers and small-scale landholders, which are organised only at the household level,” it says.
“Farmers have become passive receivers of technical advice, beneficiaries of public sector subsidised inputs and price takers in local markets, which are particularly volatile because of their small case and isolation from other markets.”
The study found that no effective cooperative or association system operates within the agricultural sector.
It says agriculture has moved further and further from a business undertaking and increasingly toward a mode of social security.
In the process, it says, Basotho families have become increasingly passive in coping with their dwindling resource base.
It says the growing numbers of lowland field owners have done their sums and decided that this kind of production is too risky to continue.
“Lesotho is, and will continue to be, heavily dependent on food imports from South Africa. The only real question in the long-term, especially in urban areas like Maseru, is how to make that food affordable and accessible.”
Unlike many other Southern African cities, the study found, Maseru does not have large areas of informal settlement and shack dwellings.
Most people, including those in the poorer parts of the city, live in basic housing made of brick and tin roofing on clearly demarcated plots.
In the peri-urban areas, traditional rondavels (round huts) are more common as Maseru’s urban sprawl has incorporated neighbouring rural villages.
The study says of the 800 households surveyed, 61 percent lived in houses and nine percent in traditional housing.
Less than 0.5 percent were in informal shacks.
Poor households in Maseru obtain their food from a variety of sources and with varying frequency, the study says.
Around half of the households (47 percent) said they obtain some of their food from urban agriculture, but only 21 percent do so on a regular basis (at least once a week).
A similar proportion of households (49 percent) source food from the informal economy, at least a third on a regular basis and 11 percent daily.
As many as 84 percent of households shop at supermarkets.
The majority (62 percent) do so monthly and 21 percent at least once a week.
Easily the most important source of food on a daily and weekly basis are small retail outlets and fast-food nodes, it says.
Other food-access strategies include the bartering of household goods for food, laundry, babysitting, brewing and sale of wild vegetables in exchange for cash or food, borrowing or buying food on credit, and attending funerals and feasts for free food.
SR mob attacks journalist
MASERU – TŠENOLO FM presenter, Abiel Sebolai, was allegedly beaten and injured by a mob of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) supporters on Saturday.
Sebolai said the mob, which he suspected was drunk, attacked him with fists, sticks and stones.
He said the group was enraged after he tried to take pictures of their cars which belonged to the Ministry of Local Government
Sebolai told thepost that he had gone to Thaba-Tseka with the Thaba-Moea MP, Puseletso Lejone Paulose, on a work trip when he spotted a group of people clad in SR regalia riding in the government vehicle, hoisting beer bottles.
“We were in Mantšonyane when I saw the Local Government vehicle full of men and women with bottles of beer in their hands,” Sebolai said.
“I saw that the majority were wearing Socialist Revolutionaries regalia.”
He wanted to talk about the abuse of government vehicles on his programme the next day.
“I then took out my phone to capture a few pictures and a video,” he said.
He said just as he started taking pictures, the vehicle made a U-turn and approached him.
“The driver came to me and asked me what I was doing with my phone,” he said.
He said he told the driver that there was nothing wrong with taking pictures as a journalist.
“The person I was with reprimanded him and he attempted to walk away only to turn back and punch me.”
“After the first punch, I retaliated by throwing a punch too. I managed to hit him hard and he fell.”
He said the group then jumped off the car and started assaulting him with stones and sticks.
Sebolai said he tried to flee but was stopped by the “stones that were coming to me like rain until I was hit and fell”.
“What nearly took my life was a stone that was thrown while I was falling. It hit me on the forehead and from then I went blind.”
“They were insulting me so much.”
Sebolai said he was helped by a Good Samaritan who risked his life to drag him into his vehicle.
“From there I was taken to the clinic in Lesobeng before an ambulance took me to Mantšonyane Hospital.”
“I went to the Mantšonyane police station where I found the same Local Government vehicle parked,” he said.
“I am told that the Local Government Minister instructed it to be impounded and my assailants arrested.”
He complained that he was injured while doing his work “but the Ministry (of Communications) and MISA are silent about my attack”.
The SR spokesman, Thabo Shao, told thepost that they received a report about the incident and the party does not “condone that behaviour”.
“I hear arrests are not yet made, those people should be arrested,” he said.
The MISA director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, said the board will soon meet to discuss the matter and call the victim before issuing a statement.
“We are going to work it out and then issue a condemnation,” Ntsukunyane said.
Infighting rocks BNP
MASERU – THE Basotho National Party (BNP) has become the latest party to be rocked by infighting triggered by its dismal performance in the October election.
As the party grapples to come to terms with its thumping defeat bigwigs have been pelting each other with blame for the poor performance.
So intense is the internal feuding that the party is now said to be on the verge of implosion.
In the tug of war is the party’s secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane, who this week fired a salvo at party leader Machesetsa Mofomobe.
Hanyane told a press conference on Tuesday that Mofomobe should accept the blame for leading the party to its worst election defeat in history.
He said instead of taking responsibility as a leader, Mofomobe is blaming him for the dismissal performance.
Mofomobe has however fired back, accusing Hanyane of being rebellious.
“It has been a while since I have been shouldering the blame for the general election’s poor results,” Hanyane said, adding that Mofomobe has been instigating his supporters to insult him.
He said the party did not perform well because it didn’t have money to campaign.
He said the BNP did not get its share of the political campaign funding from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) because it failed to account for what it received in the 2015 election.
Out of the M175 000 that the BNP was supposed to get from the IEC, it got only M15 000 as campaign funds, Hanyane said.
He also said those in the past BNP national executive committee, of which Mofomobe was a member, did not account for the campaign funding received in 2017.
“As a result, our party failed to secure M111 000.”
Hanyane said because of the financial problems the party used rentals from its BNP Centre to fund the rallies in Maputsoe, Quthing, Mafeteng and Teya-Teyaneng.
He said this was the first time since 1993 that the party could not afford to print campaign regalia.
Hanyane also said the national executive committee is chaotic under Mofomobe’s leadership.
“They accuse other members of sabotage, which shows a lack of cooperation in the party.”
Mofomobe, Hanyane added, spent more time mocking other party leaders instead of advancing the BNP’s values and policies.
He said instead of pleading with members of other parties to vote for the BNP, Mofomobe called them “idiots beyond redemption”.
No wonder, Hanyane said, people turned against the party.
He said Mofomobe was not ashamed to use valuable campaign time to mock leaders who own aeroplanes.
“He said their aeroplanes were made of cardboxes, and that was his campaign message,” he said.
He also said the BNP supporters were put off by Mofomobe’s close relations with
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu.
“That issue did not sit well with some party supporters and followers in constituencies,” Hanyane said.
He said Mofomobe angered the chiefs and the church, the party’s traditional pillars.
“The chiefs regarded our party as one of the parties that were fighting them and the church too, those are the pillars of the party.”
He said Mofomobe should “go back and apologise to the chiefs and the church for hurting them”.
“The leadership should also apologise to the members where they did wrong.”
Mofomobe however said Hanyane will face the music for organising a press conference without the national executive committee’s approval.
“The party will meet as soon as possible to take internal measures against the secretary general for doing what he did,” Mofomobe said.
He accused Hanyane of ignoring his orders.
“I told him to go on radio to campaign for the Stadium Area elections but he refused and I ended up going there myself,” Mofomobe said.
He said he will not hate Mokhothu without a valid reason.
“I will not hate him just because people want me to hate him,” he said.
He also stated that although they work well with Mokhothu he has his own reservations that include the DC’s support for Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been wallowing in remand prison for the past five years as he goes through trial for murder, attempted murders and treason charges.
The DC is on record pushing for the withdrawal of charges against Lt Gen Kamoli.
Mofomobe said he is not the first BNP leader to work with congress parties as Leabua Jonathan, the party founder, once worked with Basutoland Congress Party (BCP)’s Pokane Ramoreboli who he made justice minister.
Rogue soldier loses bid to save job
MASERU – A soldier who insulted his superior for stopping him from joining a crowd that later killed a civilian during a drunken fit of anger at a bar has lost his bid to overturn his dismissal from the army.
The Court of Appeal last week ruled that army commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, followed the law to the letter when he fired Private Lehlohonolo Alotsi.
The case was before the President of the Court of Appeal, Professor Kananelo Mosito, Justices Phillip Musonda and November Mtshiya.
The court found that on Christmas Day of 2018, Alotsi, together with nine other soldiers, was on patrol at the Ha-Peete Military Base.
They went to a local bar and ended up staying outside the barracks until after 10pm, which is the prescribed time for soldiers to be back inside the barracks. A fight broke out at the bar between the soldiers and some civilians.
The soldiers went back to the barracks and ordered their superior, one Corporal Thabi, to hand over some riffles to them. Corporal Thabi ordered them not to go but his orders were ignored.
Alotsi told the court that he did not go but admitted that he used abusive language against his superior. Thereafter there was a shootout at the bar leading to the death of a civilian. Some civilians were also injured in the shootout.
On New Year’s Eve Alotsi and his co-accused appeared before Presiding Officer, Major Lekoatsa, for summary trial relating to military offences they had committed at Ha-Peete. They all pleaded guilty to the charges laid against them.
Alotsi was charged with disobedience, acting in a disorderly manner, and using inappropriate language to a superior officer. Major Lekoatsa found him guilty and sentenced him to 80 days in detention.
He was also severely reprimanded. Major Lekoatsa told Alotsi that he had 14 days within which to appeal against the sentence.
Alotsi did not challenge both the conviction and sentence at that time and only did so when Lt Gen Letsoela wrote him a letter saying he should give reasons why he should not be fired.
It was during this time when he revealed that Major Lekoatsa had coerced him to confess even though he was not involved in committing the crimes, apart from disrespecting his superior.
In his letter to Lt Gen Letsoela, Alotsi apologised for being out of the barracks beyond 10pm, saying he did not do it intentionally.
“My intention was still to make it back on time but being human, I got carried away,” he pleaded.
“General Sir,” he continued, “here I give a full account of the truth.”
He told the army boss that there was a fight that broke out at a bar and he had no idea how it started and how it ended.
He said they ran back to the barracks to ask for guns to rescue one Private Ramarou.
“I, Pvt Alotsi, was never given a gun, the guns were given to Private Teolo and Private Khoaisanyane,” he said.
“Commander Lesotho Defence Staff, General Sir, I yet again implore you for mercy as I had been in an unwarranted exchange with Corporal Tlhabi, where it appears that I insulted him,” he pleaded.
“I am not a vulgar person at all. I am a soldier who respects a lot, I follow orders,” he said.
“Corporal Tlhabi was ordering me to not go back with the soldiers to go get Private Ramarou. I indeed stayed behind.”
“I deeply apologise, General, Sir.”
The court found that Lt Gen Letsoela has prerogative to fire any soldier or officer if in his judgment his continued service “is not in the best interests of the Defence Force” or the soldier “has been convicted of a civil or military offence”.
“Depending on the gravity of the offence, (the army commander), even in a situation where a soldier is pardoned, (may) still proceed to discharge him or her,” the court said.
“There is no dispute that the offences committed were serious and obviously offended the standing ethics of the force.”
Alotsi had taken the commander to the High Court saying he was being punished twice. The High Court dismissed his application, leading to this appeal.
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