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Tucked in the corner of the Ministry of Communications offices is an office whose work promises to transform the way people interact with the government.KhibaMasiu, coordinator of the e-Government Infrastructure Project, believes he has an answer to the tedious queues people endure at government offices. He believes the project can make the government more efficient and transparent.

In the following interview, he explains how that will happen:


What is the e-Government Infrastructure Project?


It’s a project for the transformation of government to provide efficientand transparent services to citizens and the private sector through the Information Communication Technology (ICT). The genesis of the project was the World Summit on Information Society which was held in 2010. That summit was emphasising that there is an efficient way to provide services through e-transformation for African countries. Sothey approached Lesotho with this project whose main purpose was to deploy systems for an e-government. Later in 2014 we agreed to make a contract with African Development Bank to implement the project. The Ministry of Finance signed the contract. We as the Ministry of Communication we are the executing ministry. Through that contract Lesotho will get US$12.8 million for the implementation of the e-Government project.
What are the project’s main goals?


There are basically two main objectives. First, it aims to improve the country’s public service delivery through the establishment of a modern core e-government infrastructure and service. The second is to strengthen access to government shared services, including data centres and portals, and facilitation of access to e-applications for government.


What was the basis of these goals?


There was an assessment which found that there is no ICT infrastructure in the country. Let me say there is some infrastructure but it’s not enough for the implementation of an e-Government. It was found that our internet cost is very high. They also found that we have a silo system: each ministry is having its own ICT system without a central coordination process. There is no proper management of the little ICT infrastructure we have. It was realised that our ICT policies need to be reviewed because they do not address what is on the ground at the moment. We also don’t have a legal framework that can enable the country to move towards an e-Government. The government is paying too much for ICT because our initiatives are not coordinated. Basically those are the issues that informed the goals we set to achieve through this project.


What has the government done so far to implement the project?


We have engaged a consultant from Norway (Norway Registered Development Company). It is assisting us to design the e-government system that will help us achieve the goals we have set. After that they will guide us on how to implement that model. The consultants have just finished their work and have given us a report on how to go about the implementation. But I must point out that this is just the preliminary aspect of the project.


What is the next phase?


Now we are doing awareness campaigns in the ministries. We have seen that the transformation process is tough so we need as much buy-in as possible. We need to get the ministries on board. We have four components to this project. The first is the strengthening of core network infrastructure. We want to improve the existing government network so we can make it more effective. Under that we are going to improve the metropolitan network. We will construct base stations in collaboration with the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA). We will do this in the areas that are not serviced by the mobile network companies. We will contribute 75 percent and LCA will contribute 25 percent. The second component is to constructa highly sophisticated data centre in Mohale’s Hoek. The third component is the development of an e-portal. We put everything on the internet so people can get service through the websites. The idea is that everything should be done online. For instance, it should be possible for you to monitor your application for a government service through the internet. Let’s say you have gone to get services from the Ministry of Education and you present your Identity Card. The ministry should be able to get a copy of your ID from the database at the Ministry of Home Affairs.  That is the kind of integration we are looking at.The fourth component is the capacity building. We need to train officers on how to provide the service.


How will this project transform lives?


It will have a huge impact. It will make it easier for people to get access to government services and other crucial information. Let’s say you are in the remote areas of Thaba-Tseka and you want to apply for an ID. What is happening now is that you will have to travel to town to make that application. That costs you money. When you get there you might be told that you don’t have all the documents required so you go back home. That means an extra trip back to the centre. When the application is finally done there is another trip to check if the ID is out. The e-Government project will change that. You can make an application from your home and then monitor if the ID has come out. Secondly, it will increase literacy on the usage of ICT. It will cut government costs. There will befewer and shorter  queues at service centres. We are going to train 500 ICT professionals who will help with the implementation of the project. The selection will be based on where you are and the impact you will make in your area.  We are going to use the wide post office network we have to establish service centres from where people can access the services. We are also going to train 400 government employees to help implement the project. The Ministry of Local Government is building councils in which we are going to place our one-stop centres for the provision of government services. The cornerstone of these centres will be the ICT infrastructure through which people will be able to get services.


What challenges have you faced so far?


One of the challenges is that we are behind schedule on the implementation. It took us a long time to meet the conditions set by the bank for us to get the funding. I can say we are a year behind schedule. But I am hoping that we will meet the 2018 deadline. The other issue is that some people don’t understand how the project will transform the government. They think the project will put them out of jobs. The other issue is that this project needs a lot of political will which I can tell you is there. The government fully supports this project but we just have to work hard. They know it’s going to assist the country in a huge way.

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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