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Theft of drugs irks health minister



‘Makhotso Rakotsoane

MASERU – HEALTH Minister ’Molotsi Monyamane says he is gravely concerned by the rampant drug theft at government hospitals and clinics.

Monyamane told thepost yesterday that many times officials at government-owned health centres have been caught red-handed in possession of drugs whose source they cannot explain.  “It has come to our attention as the ministry that this is rampant and many peddlers in the streets who sell drugs in bulk do not have slips that show where they bought them from,” Monyamane said.

“Many of them do not even have relevant documents allowing them to sell drugs,” he said.
The minister said government hospitals and clinics are the source of these drugs.
His sentiments come three months after a Mafeteng man, Khotso Ntemere, was charged with stealing drugs from Mafeteng Hospital. According to the charge sheet Ntemere stole drugs worth M90 645. Police deputy spokeswoman Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki said Ntemere was nabbed after other workers at the hospital realised that some boxes of drugs were missing on September 2 last year.

Motseki said the investigations showed that Ntemere who used to work at the hospital as a counsellor used a window that he knew was broken to get inside the storeroom. Motseki said Ntemere sold some of these drugs to a private doctor of Chinese origin who works in Mafeteng. It is however not clear why the Chinese doctor was not charged together with Motseki as an accomplice. Motseki said investigations are on-going.

For years the Ministry of Health has complained about the alarming rate of pilferage at government hospitals. It would seem that employees at government-owned hospitals and clinics work in cahoots with private surgeries and pharmacies.  Common medicines are free at government hospitals and those owned by the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL). But in most cases the facilities do not have such medication.  Yet most pharmacies, some of which operate near such hospitals and clinics, are fully stocked with such drugs.

Monyamane does not believe this is a coincidence but an indication that medicine from government health institutions is being illegally channelled to private pharmacies.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO) has revealed that it had discovered that there are rogue elements among some local pharmacists.
The DCEO said some pharmacists or other medical professionals employed by government steal drugs for resale at their private pharmacies.

The DCEO also says government pharmacists work in connivance with some doctors so that they refer patients to their own pharmacies.  The DCEO spokeswoman ’Matlhokomelo Senoko said currently there is only one local private pharmacist who is facing charges of corruption. Of particular interest to the syndicates are drugs for HIV, tuberculosis, Hypertension (BP), Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and Diabetes.

Incidentally these are infections that affect Basotho the most. The Lesotho Review 2015 edition says between 350 000 and 380 000 Basotho are currently living with HIV, and that the prevalence rate stands at 22.9 percent among those aged 15 to 49. Furthermore, around 36 000 children aged 14 and under have HIV, and there are 150 000 AIDS orphans in the 0-17 age bracket.

The study says Basotho people have also had to contend with a second epidemic, tuberculosis (TB), which spreads rapidly and is particularly deadly to an immune system already weakened by HIV. Lesotho has the fourth highest TB incidence in the world, estimated to be 630 per 100 000 of the population in 2012.

Furthermore, some 80 percent of patients identified with TB are co-infected with HIV.
Lesotho also faces an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, with WHO and other surveys undertaken in 2012 showing the prevalence of hypertension at 31 percent and diabetes at 1.3 percent. In 2012, hypertension was among the top ten conditions seen in outpatient departments, with stroke and heart failure responsible for six percent of deaths in males and two percent in females.

Deaths due to diabetes accounted for two percent and three percent for males and females, respectively. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Lesotho, and the leading cause of cancer death among women in the country —particularly for women living with HIV, who are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women who are HIV-negative.

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Mokhosi charged with murder



MASERU – FORMER Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi has been charged with the murder of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.

Mokhosi briefly appeared before Chief Magistrate ’Matankiso Nthunya who told him that he had the right to apply for bail at the High Court.

Mokhosi is the fifth suspect in the murder of Khetheng. Other suspects already in custody are police officers Thabo Tšukulu, Mabitle Matona, Haleokoe Taasoane and Mothibeli Mofolo.

They are alleged to have murdered Khetheng on March 26 last year near Ha-Mokhalinyane in the district of Maseru.

His family would spend the next one and half years looking for him while the police insisted that he had been released.

The then government also insisted that it did not know where he was.

A testimony by a brave police officer broke the case and led to the arrest of the police officers. The police discovered that Khetheng had been given a pauper’s burial.

He was properly buried in Mokhotlong on Saturday.

Mokhosi who is also the deputy leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is represented by Attorney Qhalehang Letsika while the prosecutor is Advocate Lesaoana Mohale. He is expected to appear in court again today.

Sitting in the dock, wearing a navy blue jacket, Mokhosi looked sickly and tired.

Mokhosi handed himself to the police on Monday morning. He was accompanied by some LCD members who were however refused entry into the police headquarters premises.

His family has alleged that Mokhosi was beaten while in police custody.

A family member said the former minister’s face and wrists were swollen, an allegation the government has denied.

“We have found that ntate Mokhosi has been beaten up. He has a swollen mouth and his fingers could hardly hold a spoon so that he could eat,” said the family member. Communications Minister Joang Molapo however said Mokhosi was treated well. He said the former minister had access to his doctor and lawyer.

“We have presented him to the courts as the law requires. Due process was followed,” Molapo said.

The family member said on Tuesday Mokhosi asked to see a doctor but the police decided to take him to Katlehong Filter Clinic against their will. He was later allowed to see his doctor on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the LCD has slammed the police for allegedly beating Mokhosi during the interrogation.

LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata said the police are carrying out Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s instructions at his political rallies and in parliament that they should beat up suspects.

“The police should remember that their acts of beating people are a crime,” Sekata said.

He pleaded with SADC, the AU, the Commonwealth, the UN, the EU and other international organisations which are friends to Lesotho to help the Basotho nation out of this “crisis”.

Sekata also pleaded with the Christian Council of Lesotho and the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations to join in the battle against the police’s brutality against the public.

“We appeal to ambassadors of South Africa and the United States of America to also be roped in the fight against police brutality,” Sekata said.

 Majara Molupe

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Khetheng murder suspects face suspension



MASERU – FOUR police officers suspected of murdering Constable Mokalekale Khetheng have been slapped with letters requiring them to explain why they should not be suspended. The officers were supposed to have furnished the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli with their written explanations yesterday.

Police spokesman Inspector Mpiti Mopeli confirmed that the police authority had written to the officers.
Last night Mopeli said some had already responded while others were yet to do so.
The police officers Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Inspector Mabitle Matona, Haleokoe Taasoane and Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo are being held in custody while investigations continue.

Two weeks ago a magistrate told the suspects that they have a right to apply for bail at the High Court. Mopeli said the move to suspend the police officers is meant to ensure that they don’t interfere with investigations. Asked if they would be paid their monthly salaries while on suspension, Mopeli said “that would be the decision of the employer”.

It was unclear whether the fifth suspect, Assistant Commissioner of Police Tšeliso Moerane had also received the ‘show cause’ letter.
Mopeli said his efforts to find out if Moerane had also received the letter were fruitless.

It is still unclear how Moerane is connected to the Khetheng case. He was arrested a few days after the arrest of the other four suspects.
Khetheng will be buried on Saturday in Mokhotlong district, three weeks after his body was exhumed from the paupers’ cemetery.
Khetheng was arrested in March last year in Sebothoane, Leribe, and transferred to Hlotse where he went missing.

One of the officers who arrested him, Sergeant ’Mabohlokoa Makotoko, told the High Court in a habeas corpus case that she had heard that Khetheng was taken away by a group of soldiers and police officers. She also told the court that her superiors instructed her to come to Maseru at the Law Office where she was pushed to change her statement about Khetheng’s disappearance but she refused.
Makotoko, who worked directly under some of the suspects in Leribe, was later charged with indiscipline and fired.
She has since been reinstated after her bosses’ arrest.

Staff Reporter

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Cable thieves nabbed



Leribe – EIGHT suspects were on Sunday arrested by the Leribe police for allegedly stealing Econet’s copper cables.
The suspects, seven men and one woman, are from the villages of Sebothoane, Khanyane and Mankoaneng.
In recent weeks, Econet has been grappling with an upsurge in incidents of cable theft in Leribe. This is in addition to what the telecommunications company has long suspected to be wanton vandalism of its network infrastructure around the country.

The incidents which include the cutting fibre and stealing of copper cables have cost Econet millions of maloti, money the company says could have been used to help connect other areas in the country.

In some areas Econet’s copper network has been totally wiped out, disconnecting individuals, government departments and health centres.
The vandalism in Leribe affected Motebang Hospital, Ministry of Education, Department of Traffic and Lesotho Electricity Corporation offices.
This is in addition to thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses that rely on the network for communication.

Puleng Masoabi, Econet’s Public Relations Officer, said the arrest of the eight suspects was made possible by the help of villagers who tipped off the police.
“We therefore wish to take this opportunity to applaud members of the Leribe community who provided information that has been helpful to police investigations and led to the arrest of these perpetrators”.

Masoabi said it is important for communities to always remember that the Econet’s infrastructure in their areas belongs to them because it is there to help them.
“It is the duty of every person to protect the infrastructure because it’s a national asset out of which we all benefit,” she said.
“Those stealing cables and vandalizing the network are not only sabotaging Econet but also the economy, their communities and other essential services. Hospitals and banks rely on this network for communication.”

“As Econet we continue to appeal to the public to jealously guard the network infrastructure.”
The suspects also had LEC cables in their possession.

Staff reporter

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