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The stinking culture of mob justice



BEREA – VENGEFUL villagers burnt two suspected thieves to death last month for allegedly stealing cows from a local widow, as authorities scramble to end mob justice in a country where people often take the law into their own hands.
It was a painful way to die for the suspected thieves and too high a price for their alleged misdeed.

Atop Berea Plateau in the small village of Ha-Thuntšane, about 10 kilometers north of Maseru, an angry mob rounded up the suspected thieves, beat them with wooden sticks (melamu) before tying them up and setting them alight with rubber tires around their necks.
This week, thepost heard from a witness how it all happened.

Tieho Ramajoe is the eldest son of the widow whose cows were allegedly stolen.
Ramajoe said they heard that the thieves were watching every movement in the village, and kept vigil near their target’s house.
As soon as the candles went out at the target’s residence, they pounced and stole the cattle, Ramajoe said.
“Only two were caught but they refused to reveal the other two accomplices,” Ramajoe said, adding that one of the villagers had spotted the cows as the thieves were driving them and tipped off fellow villagers later when he arrived at the village.
The villagers heard later that the cows had been taken to South Africa.

Ramajoe said they went to South Africa, where the cows were said to be and found them at a farm in Free State.
They demanded the cows but the farmer refused to surrender the cows arguing that he had bought them from one of the suspects called Lethusang.
Lethusang was coming to the farm to collect his money as well as bring documents proving ownership of the cows the following day, the farmer is said to have told the mob.

The next day, the villagers hid within the farmer’s compound and suddenly showed up as Lethusang and the farmer exchanged money, said Ramajoe.
He said the farmer assaulted Lethusang before the villagers took him away.
On the way back to Lesotho they asked him to call his accomplice and tell him to come and share the money and the trap worked.
The mob had heard that there were two more accomplices but Lethusang and his friend refused to reveal them.
“Only two were caught but they refused to reveal the other two,” Ramajoe said.

Although Ramajoe did not specifically say he took part in burning them, he said part of the mob told him that “the people responded like that to save my 20-year-old brother’s life because the suspects had threatened to kill him.
Ramajoe said what seemed to have angered villagers was “the death threats (one suspect) directed at my little brother if he survived and also refusing to reveal the other two people he was working with”.
“He kept on saying to him, if I survive this, I am going to kill you. That scared them because he once murdered someone within our village,” Ramajoe said.

He said it was saddening that they had to die “but since it was either them or my little brother then it served them right”.
He said it was not the first time their cows were stolen but in the two incidents “we managed to find them within our village before they could even be sold”.

Ramajoe called on the government to “toughen the penalty for thieves”.
He said his widowed mother now “has a heart attack after this incident and we even had to sell one cow so that we could be able to take her to a hospital”.

“We still fear for our lives and there are certain areas that we no longer walk around because we believe it is still dangerous,” he added.
Following the incident, the local government councilor, the Berea MP and the police held a public gathering warning the villagers of the ills of taking the law into their own hands.

The MP, Motlatsi Maqelepo, appealed to the police “to leave their offices and help residents when need arises, especially regarding thieves”.
In another incident of mob justice, three men of St Monica’s in Leribe were battered to death after an alleged armed robbery in Khomo-ea-Leburu in Mapoteng in January.

The video of their murder went viral, showing an angry group of village men hitting them with wooden rods until they lost consciousness.
The uncle of one of the killed men, Tokelo Montle of Maputsoe Ha-Nyenye, said his nephew along with his two friends were said to have attacked a business in Khomo-ea-Leburu wearing balaclavas and each had a gun.
“They allegedly demanded money from the cashier and she called out for help,” he said.
He said the shop is located near a public bar hence a lot of people showed up the moment they heard the cashier’s cries for help.
“They tried to run for their lives using Ha-Mokhathi road and unfortunately they caught them and started stoning them as well as beating them with rods,” he added.

Montle said that the post-mortem revealed that his nephew’s “four right ribs were broken and his skull cracked as well”.
“Police officers haven’t uttered a word about the investigations to date now.”
Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli told thepost in such cases, they do their investigations and once completed, they arrest the suspects regardless of how many they were.

“There is no other intervention we do other than arresting the suspects and taking them to court; all of them,” he said.
These two cases of mob justice are just a few among the many that are happening countrywide, almost every month.
This is the case especially where stock theft is involved.
Some say this is an indication that people in general have lost hope in justice system hence they resort to mob justice.

Leader of Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP), Jeremane Ramathebane, said this behavior is encouraged by weak political will on the side of the government to capacitate the courts and law enforcement agencies to do their duties expeditiously.
“When the courts cannot function well, people feel it is accepted that they kill the thieves and nobody can stop them when they have so decided,” Ramathebane said.
He said even some politicians are now encouraging this behavior as a way to show people that they take sides with them against the judicial system that does not function well.

“The people speedily set up a kangaroo court and find a suspect guilty of a crime without even giving him a chance to defend himself,” he said, adding: “They then kill him.”

Ramathebane said there should be a national dialogue that will discuss at length this issue and come up with long-lasting solutions.
He said there should be laws that bind villagers to report any activity that might lead to mob justice to the police or else such a village must be held responsible for any human rights violation.
Ramathebane said there should be a special body established by law in every village to stop such crimes.
He said the police must be capacitated to investigate such cases and to ensure that all perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted.

Lemohang Molibeli, Peace Education Researcher at the Development for Peace Education (DPE), said the people in general are weary of non-prosecution of suspects of serious crimes.

“The people are hurt and they have a feeling that the courts do not serve them well,” Molibeli said.
“They only see the suspects driven to the court, a magistrate reading charges against them, advising them of their rights to seek lawyers and later granted bail,” he said.

“This infuriates the people, especially because the majority of them do not understand that bail is a right and that it does not mean that the suspect is off the hook.”

Molibeli said there should be efforts from the courts to go out to the villages to teach the people about court processes so that they understand why people qualify for bail.
“Unless the people understand this they will keep taking the law into their own hands,” he said.
Molibeli also said civil society should be roped in to help with civic education.
He called on the courts to speedily dispense with cases to avoid making victims of crimes think that the suspects have been acquitted of their crimes.
Former police minister Pitso Maisa said this behavior is exacerbated by delayed justice “wherein the courts habitually postpone cases until victims lose hope that justice will ever be served”.
Maisa said the government must make it its business to go from village to village talking to the people about the ills of taking the law into their own hands.

He also said political party leaders should always address this issue in their rallies.
Reverend Tanki Mofana, the Dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Maseru, said the church and politicians should join hands to hold peace workshops for the people.

“We have let ourselves to be ruled by sin to an extent that we see killing each other as just a small thing. We need serious retrospection into our deeds and work to find Christ,” Mofana said.
“Follow God’s ways, address issues of poverty to avoid theft and envy. The ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor should be addressed urgently,” he said.
Churches should teach people.”

President of the Law Society of Lesotho, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, said the constitution mandated the particular authorities to have responsibility of ensuring that laws are complied with.
“When non-compliance takes place action must be taken,” Maqakachane said.
He said the police are mandated to ensure or maintain law and order and “should investigate and find criminals, bring offenders before the courts”.

“The people are expected to assist the police identify the offenders,” he said.
He said it is the duty of the judiciary to enquire into crimes and find whether the suspects committed them or not “if the system is functioning perfectly”.

He bemoaned the corrupt justice system that does not meet the expectations of the public.
“People have lost faith in our judicial system. There is a lot of corruption which our system is plagued with,” he said.
He said because of reality or perceptions of corruption, the people already think the courts come up with doctored results, not reached through appropriate ways.

He also said there is a problem of fatigue in our systems and institutions.
He said these are old fashioned systems that don’t answer the present day challenges.
He said fatigue results from the fact that the systems fashioned according to the colonial times (do not address) conditions of socio-economic issues of today.“They do not respond to the current challenges,” he said.

Maqakachane said when you appoint judges in a manner adopted from the colonial times when such appointments were not based on merits and ethics, you create problems for the modern day society.
He said the way judges and magistrates are appointed is based on personal interests of certain people hence they will work in such a manner that will not be of public interest.
He said the manner of appointment should be open and credible.
He suggested that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which selects judges for appointment, should have a wide representation of people.

He said representatives of the Law Society of Lesotho, Leader of Opposition, government through the Ministry of Justice, chamber of commerce, Lesotho Council of NGOs, Christian Council of Lesotho and the National University of Lesotho Faculty of Law should be represented in the JSC.
He also said lack of resources should be addressed expeditiously if public faith in the judiciary is to be restored.

“When we gained independence together with Botswana, we had the same number of judges but now Botswana has 21 judges and we still have only about 11,” he said.
He said working conditions of judges and magistrates are unacceptable.
“We call upon the law enforcement agencies, prosecutorial team and the judiciary to ensure that the people receive the services that they are entitled to.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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Lesotho’s own brandy



ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.

Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.

Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.

The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.

His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.

As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.

“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.

“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.

Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!

One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!

“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?

He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.

He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.

Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.

He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.

He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.

But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.

However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.

“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.

Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.

“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

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Ready-to-cook vegetables



ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

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