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Abel Chapatarongo

MASERU – WHEN tempers boiled over after the 1998 general election, Sekara Mafisa was caught in the eye of a major political storm.

Lesotho’s opposition parties accused Mafisa of massaging the election result in favour of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Having rejected the results, the opposition supporters went on the rampage burning buildings in the capital Maseru.

The violent protests were only contained after the regional bloc SADC sent in a crack intervention force.

Mafisa, who led the newly established Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), says charges he had rigged the election were totally false.

He argues that all politicians are squeaky wheels – they all complain they have been cheated after every electoral loss.

“Nobody, not even to this day, has provided proof that the elections were rigged,” he says.

Mafisa says the IEC which he led together with two other commissioners had to amend the electoral law “to allow the ballot boxes to be opened so the protesting political parties could see for themselves”.

“When the ballot boxes were finally opened, nothing was found amiss. No one came up with anything (to back up allegations of irregularities),” he says.

Even when a South African judge, Justice Pius Langa, was brought in to investigate allegations of ballot stuffing, nothing irregular was found, Mafisa says.

“They did a recount and nothing was found. There was no way one could have rigged those elections. The counting was done at the polling stations. The boxes were not moved until the counting was done and signed for by both the IEC staff and party agents at each polling station.”

Mafisa says none of the aggrieved politicians provided any evidence that the election had been rigged.

He says it is unfortunate that politicians in Lesotho are so quick to lay the blame for their electoral loss on the IEC just “to save face”.

That habit has largely contributed to the constant friction between politicians and the electoral management authority.

“They cannot admit to their supporters that they have lost because they will skin you alive,” he says.

So to deal with that challenge, Mafisa says politicians are in the habit of concocting long tales about rigging.

“It is not a nice thing to lose elections when you have supporters who would have placed their trust in you.

“So when you do not achieve your objective of winning an election, you have to give them some kind of explanation and they end up blaming the IEC,” he says.

Mafisa says while politicians might scream about election rigging, the system used in Lesotho is so water-tight as to not allow wholesale cheating.

While there is no election without irregularities, the irregularities were not so significant as to tilt the electoral outcome, he argues.

“If they complain that they were cheated in 1998, were they also cheated in 2006,” Mafisa asks.

“It’s a story that cannot stick. Nobody has come up with proof that the elections were rigged.”

He argues the culture of blaming election administrators after every election “comes out of frustration”.

Mafisa says failure at the polls “denies them an opportunity to go to Parliament to earn a living and when that chance is not realised people become frustrated”.

To deal with the frustrations Mafisa says his IEC recommended total Proportional representation model, a new electoral model that would allow “a sharing of the cake” after the 1998 election dispute.

The new electoral model was an effort to “accommodate people” who would otherwise remain on the periphery of the electoral system.

Mafisa says the winner-takes-all first-past-the-post electoral model had proven inadequate for Lesotho because it meant that if you are beaten by a single vote you gained nothing from the electoral contest.

“It would be as if you were never in the race with the votes cast in your favour going down the drain. The new electoral model sought to correct that anomaly,” he says.

Mafisa says because of the Mixed Member Proportional representation model which came as an improvement on the IEC’s total PR model, “noise” about who gets what after elections has almost died.

“Even small parties can now go into Parliament; the model has provided a cushion so that they don’t fall hard on the ground.”

Mafisa says he joined the IEC in 1997 during what proved to be a difficult phase in the history of administering elections in Lesotho. Prior to 1997 elections were managed and run by the Chief Electoral Officer, a government appointee.

But to align itself with new global trends, Lesotho set up the IEC which was to be owned by stakeholders who were going to have a say in the selection of office bearers of the organisation.

When the IEC was set up, Mafisa says they only had less than a year to prepare for the 1998 elections, no easy task for men who had no experience in running elections.

“There were huge challenges. We had to register voters, set up the database and compile a fresh voters’ register. We also had to demarcate the boundaries afresh as the constituencies were increased from 65 to 80,” he says.

“None of us had any experience in running elections. We had to conduct voter education but at the same time we were also learning. It was just work, work and more work.”

Since charges that charges the election was marked by irregularities, have never been substantiated Mafisa says he remains proud of their work as IEC commissioners during the 1998 election.

“We gave life and shape to an institution called the IEC. We set it up (from scratch),” he says.

“Despite the accusations (of rigging) we produced an election that was proclaimed free and fair by the international community. We survived that storm and only a fool can still make that accusation that the election was rigged.”

Mafisa says “no one has had to deliver an election under as difficult a circumstance as ourselves” because we had no one to learn from.

New commissioners at the IEC can only improve on what his IEC did in the past, he argues.

Mafisa says to deal with the rampant culture of election disputes, we as Basotho “need to grow up and change our mindset and embrace democracy in earnest”.

“We have politicians who want to place wrongdoing where it does not belong even where there is no wrongdoing merely to save their face. We need true leadership that will appreciate the kind of game politics is.”

“Politicians must learn to accept electoral outcomes and play the game by its rules. We need maturity to accept defeat when beaten.”

Unless we change our mindset, Lesotho will continue to be dogged by election disputes in the foreseeable future, he says.

Mafisa was born on May 24, 1949 to parents who were peasant farmers in Matsoku in Leribe. Life in the village was tough for the young Mafisa to the extent he had to seek work as a shepherd when he was still a boy.

There was no monetary reward for his services. After 12 months, his employer would give him a sheep or two as payment.

But in the event he failed to serve the entire 12-month period, he would get nothing as punishment for flouting the contract terms.

“It was a very tough upbringing,” he says.

Because the family was poor, Mafisa only enrolled for Standard One when he was around 17 in the early 1960s.

Mafisa speaks fondly of his mother who went out of her way to bring him up to the required level for him to begin school in Standard One.

“She taught me to read and write and drove me in the direction she wanted. Those were very rigorous sessions,” he says.

By the time he got to Form One, Mafisa was so much in love with school that he vowed nothing would stand in his way.

When his parents could not find money for his school fees, the young Mafisa joined hordes of other youths in digging diamonds at Kao mine in Butha-Buthe.

“I wanted to sell the diamonds to raise money for school fees but we weren’t that lucky.”

Mafisa says he then approached a Catholic nun who was teaching at Pitseng Secondary School to be allowed to work in the school gardens to raise fees, a request which was granted.

He says a Canadian nun, Sister Lorraine, then offered to pay for his school fees and buy his uniform because she thought the young Mafisa had “good brains” that should not go to waste.

He says his passion in law was sparked after he saw one of Lesotho’s early lawyers, Charles Dube Molapo in action at the magistrate’s court in Leribe.

Molapo’s forceful and eloquent arguments in court planted within the young Mafisa a liking for the legal profession.

“When I saw him in action, I took a liking for the practice of law. The way he was arguing, I pictured myself in that position.”

But not everyone was impressed with his choice of a career. Even his closest friends tried to discourage him saying as a devout Catholic he should stay away from a profession “that teaches you to tell lies”.

However, he received backing from an unlikely source. His benefactor, the nun who had paid for his fees, endorsed his choice and so in 1974, Mafisa enrolled for his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

He completed his studies in 1979.

In 1979, Mafisa worked as a prosecutor before joining the Law Office as a government lawyer.

He says it was a period of turbulence politically with scores of Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) cadres who were fighting to topple the government being arrested and tortured in custody.

“There were lots of cases of police torture with so many claims being filed against the government. In the heart of my heart, the job was not very pleasing.”

Mafisa worked in the Law office until 1985 when he joined the Central Bank of Lesotho. In February 1988, he resigned from the Central Bank to enter private practice when he opened S S Mafisa and Company, his one-man law firm.

He practiced as a lawyer until 1997 when he joined the IEC.

Mafisa also served as the Ombudsman between 2002 and 2010.

“I caused ripples at the office of the Ombudsman,” Mafisa says referring to bitter clashes between the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and villagers who had been affected by the project.

“I think I did so much for the rights of ordinary people who had nowhere to run,” he says.

He also says he is proud of the role he played in improving the conditions of Lesotho’s prisons after he penned stinging reports on the state of the country’s prisons.

He is currently serving as one of the Public Service Commissioners, tasked with hiring civil servants.

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‘We lost direction in the ABC’



THE Mechechane MP, Nyapane Kaya, defected from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) to the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) contrary to the expectations that he would cross the floor with Nqosa Mahao’s new party, the Basotho Action Party (BAP). In fact, Mahao had earlier said Kaya was one of the MPs who would dump the ABC for his party. Kaya’s defection to the MEC took many by surprise. Our reporter, Margaret Katimbo, spoke to Kaya the day he joined the MEC. Below are excerpts from the interview.

What does it mean to you having to switch to the MEC?
It gives me special happiness and satisfaction, a special feeling of strength having changed parties. I joined the ABC from the very first day it was formed as a teacher, and I wasn’t even an active politician at the time. It was a vibrant party which filled people with a lot of hope. The problem, however, is that we abandoned the direction which we took with the people from the beginning after we felt cushioned.

I have to accept that the ABC has done a great deal of good things for Lesotho that I can point to but unfortunately there are times when people feel like they have reached a stage where they feel successful and the love for their nation is no longer there. I was aware that with my (ABC) party, there is no longer an interest to maintain the rhythm of working for the people. Having changed to the MEC, I feel that special kind of satisfaction because I trust that I will get the new strength to work for the people.

What attracted you to the MEC?
Well, in particular the MEC leader is one hard-working politician with vigour and a strong wish to produce results in this country. He makes and leaves a mark wherever he goes. Therefore, being close to him this much encourages me and gives me pleasure because I too am a results-oriented politician. I hope that we will work together with other politicians, not necessarily the MEC, in order to give the country the boost it needs. Even better, I worked with him in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where we tended to understand the underlying problem in this country. Corruption has made Lesotho what it is today so I want to align myself with people that fight against it.

By fighting against corruption, does it imply that the current government is corrupt?
There are still instances of corruption but not at the same levels as we saw during the so-called 4 x 4 government. There is some improvement on that but there are reports of corruption that we get especially when working in the PAC. There are still issues I still have to follow up with regards to allegations of corruption. There is a slight improvement I must accept.

Why did you leave Mahao for the MEC?
I must say I have always wanted to work with the MEC for a while now. It was simply a question of time. However, I still had strong alliances with Ntate Mahao’s group so much that by the time they were packing to leave the ABC it would have been thought that I would leave with them regardless of some developments which had already discouraged me. At some point, a WhatsApp group was created and my number was left out. There were other instances where I would get sidelined from meetings I knew they had.

As a matter of fact, I would learn from you reporters that they had held meetings amongst themselves without me. It is only about a week ago when they were preparing to leave the ABC, and they thought that I would leave with them but I told them No, I can’t go with you people. I told them that they had already sidelined me and that they no longer needed me. That is also when they told me the truth that the fact that I had stood for elections for the deputy speaker, it had been the decision rather conclusion in the government party’s caucus as to who would be elected deputy speaker.

However, there was a great encouragement from a number of them that I should stand which I did but little did I know that my group (that was just a small faction) within the ABC felt offended that I had stood for the post, although some had actually voted for me. So that is how and why I left them because to keep such alliances was no longer safe. My political career is now much clearer and this should be the last round in my political journey. Age also has caught up with me. However there are really no guarantees, something might arise in the future.

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Bullet-proofing your online data



ROMA – Dr Makhamisa Senekane, a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Electronics at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is assessing a new way of bullet-proofing your online information to ensure it is safe.
When you send sensitive information online, such as banking information, there is a way to hide that information from crooks.
“However,” he says, “some methods of hiding information (encryption) are very difficult to bullet-proof. That is why we are assessing a new way of bullet-proofing the security of your online experience.”

In the world of information hiding (encryption), you are sending the information from this side and your name is Alice.
And the one who receives the information on the other side is called Bob (Robert).

As far as Alice and Bob are concerned, one can sleep peacefully at night, these folks cause no problems whatsoever.
But then comes the third person called Eve (Eavesdropper, if you know what we mean?) and everything turns upside-down.

Eve is interested in getting the message that Alice is sending to Bob, so that she (Eve) can use this message for her personal gain.
That message may as well be a password you use to log into your online banking system.

If Eve is successful, you may wake up one day with all your money wiped off from your bank account in one stroke.
Now you know why the gurus, like Dr Senekane, are working day and night to make sure that that just won’t happen, if possible.
First, let’s consider one of the normal approaches which Senekane says it’s hard to prove their security.
Rest assured, we are using the simplest examples, in real life, it is more complex.

Suppose Alice is sending a number 10 to Bob on the other side of the online device.
But both know that Eve, that shady character, is waiting like a hungry shark on the route between them, to devour the information.
Hiding now begins.
The computer system generates the information called security keys.
Let’s say it gives the first key to Alice as the number 3 and the second key to Bob as the number 7.
“Prime numbers, those numbers such as 2, 3, 7, 11, 13, 17, the numbers that can only be divided by 1 or themselves, are often preferred because, as they get bigger, they are often hard to deal with,” Senekane says.
A bit of maths here but a simple one will suffice.
On the side of Alice, 10 is raised to power 3 times 7 (Remember 3 for Alice and 7 for Bob).
So 3 times 7 is 21.

So 10 is raised to power 21 which makes the number 1000000000000000000000, that is, 1 followed by 21 zeros.
When Eve the crook tries to steal the information, she comes across this ginormous number.
She is fooled because she doesn’t know that actually, that number represents 10.

When this mammoth number reaches Bob’s side of the system, Bob’s side has two advantages.
It “knows” Bob’s own key, 7, and it “knows” Alice’s key, 3.

Immediately, it can tell that there was a number which was raised to power 3 times 7—a number that was raised to power 21.
To arrive to this mammoth number (1 with 21 zeros), it can only mean that 10 was raised to power 21.
Now it is clear, Alice sent Bob the number 10!

But it appeared to Eve as a huge number she could not make sense out of.
Problem solved?
Not so fast.
It is not difficult to see that should Eve have access to both Alice and Bob’s keys, that is 3 and 7 respectively, she doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize the hidden number sent was actually 10.
“That is why we need to hide these keys also, 3 and 7 and that is the most difficult part,” Dr Senekane says.
“It is hard to prove mathematically, that Eve can’t find the keys and use them for her own benefit.”
That is why he is assessing the use of quantum physics.

In this case, another line is created between Alice and Bob to exchange keys.
But the keys are sent, not as numbers but as photons (very tiny particles that make up light).
The number of particles interpreted in the binary format, are translated to either 3 or 7 for Alice and Bob.
But here is the big trick for Eve.

Photons are quantum particles (that is enough).
When you try to measure them they become something else.

So when Eve tries to measure these particles, they lose their identity (from quantum to classical) and the Bob’s side immediately realises that Eve interfered and the whole transaction stops.
What matters, is not so much that Eve did not see the information.

It is that we can detect that she saw the information and we can stop her on her tracks.
So Dr Senekane and the team are working to ensure that the techniques used to generate these keys using quantum physics are indeed mathematically provably secure.
This is to ensure that if the techniques are implemented correctly, the only way that Eve can interfere without being detected is by violating the fundamental laws of nature; a feat that is quite impossible.

Own Correspondent

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The electronic ticket



ROMA – THATO Rammoko and Mohale Molieleng, two National University of Lesotho (NUL) trained computer enthusiasts, are introducing eventspoynt, your electronic ticket to your favourite events.

It is fully paperless!

You buy your ticket online, you pay online with either M-Pesa or Ecocash or even your bank account and, listen to this one, you only bring your phone to the event!

No paper. Nothing!

Just your phone!

This is it! or inbox Eventspoynt.

So you are one of those in the Born After Technology (BAT) generation who is baffled by the prevalence of paper-based tickets in the 21st century?

Or, are you, perhaps, one of those hardworking fellows who like organizing events but get frustrated when potential clients blame distance or even obscurity, of your ticket selling outlet?

Or maybe you are just a good old environmental enthusiast bewildered by the ever-declining forest resources that help keep our atmospheric greenhouse gases balanced—and you want to see paperless technology reinforced, bit by bit?

Take heart.

Thato Rammoko and Mohale Molieleng have a solution.

“I am a computer trained hip-hop artist,” Rammoko said in an interview.

“It turns out those double passions, computer and hip-hop, combine in him to create the product we are introducing today,” he said.


Everybody somehow knows a thing or two about Lesotho’s rising hip-hop music.

But have you heard a thing or two about the music from an insider?

Okay, listen to Rammoko relate.

“Outside my technology life, I am a hip-hop artist,” he said.

“Some people call our fast-moving music industry sotho-hop.”

In a nutshell, it is a version of hip-hop delivered in a combination of Sesotho and English or in Sesotho only.

It drives young people crazy!

But behind the vibe, pop and fanfare, there are glaring cracks.

“It is an industry that is moving fast, but with no financial rewards in the end,” said Rammoko.

‘In this industry, it is not uncommon for you to be famous, have your music played on radios, TV and all over, while you are broke.”

‘It is a survival industry!”

He added in a tone layered with determination to transform the status-quo.

Here are the problems.

Lack of proper copyright law means “you can sell just one CD for M100, and the next thing you hear your music played across the country, while you remain with that measly M100 you started with, in your pocket”.

Your CD has been copied!

So they have a strategy, they no longer make money through selling CDs.

They give them for free and then organize live events.

“But this alternative is no picnic either,” Rammoko added, holding his breath.

Fraud, fraud, fraud, is a problem here.

“When you are on a stage delivering music to your fans, you can see the hundreds and hundreds in the adoring crowd, only to receive income that clearly doesn’t correspond to the numbers.”

“It leaves you wondering, what happened there—we mean, like— at the gate?”

Oop! Eventspoynt jumps in at this point.

It is a brilliant solution, not only for hip-hop events but for all kinds of events.

Doing it is as simple as ABC.

You go online—register.

Then you choose your event, and the kind of ticket you want to buy, e.g. VIP, Goldern Circle or normal ticket.

Then you pay the given price with your M-Pesa, Ecocash or through your bank account.

During the paying process, a unique number, called order number, is generated.

This you use as a reference when you pay in any of those options.

Once they receive your payment, Eventspoynt folks confirm both by your email and by your order number and your e-ticket is sent to your email.

You can either print it (but please don’t, save the trees), or you can leave it on your phone.

When time comes for the event, you show up with your phone on hand [or your printed paper if you are the Born Before Technology (BBT)].

And here is Rammoko again: “In your e-ticket, there is a code called QR code.”

That is Quick Response two dimensional bar code, it determines if or not you will enter the event.

“We scan the code, in your electronic PDF ticket on your phone or on you printed paper. For scanning we use any phone that has a camera, as long as an app is installed there, to recognise the QR code.”

This time around, no money is exchanging hands.

Thus fraud is kept at bay.

It is stress-free for both the buyers and sellers of the tickets.

All you need to attend you favourite show is to have a phone and money in your M-Pesa account.

That is it!

It doesn’t get easier than that!

The beauty of this system is that it is versatile – all kinds of event organisers can use it as a tool.

And you can buy a ticket, while in any corner of the Mountain Kingdom, or beyond.

Eish! Those are NUL trained computer gurus for you!

Own Correspondent

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