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Makgothi heeds call of duty



MASERU – When Lesotho army commander Lt Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo was gunned down in his office at the Ratjomose barracks in Maseru on September 5, there was pandemonium in Maseru. Amid the confusion, there was one voice that sought to reassure the nation and explain how the audacious plot was executed.

It was the voice of Lesego Makgothi, Lesotho’s newly appointed foreign affairs minister.
Eloquent, shrewd and smart, the 52-year-old Makgothi became the authoritative voice on the Lesotho crisis.
One time he would be fielding questions from international media, the next he would be addressing local journalists, all done with a degree of sophistication unseen in these shores for some time.

Although this was by all accounts unchartered waters, Makgothi was the “star of the show”, as he eloquently articulated the Lesotho government’s position on the crisis with aplomb. His position was that the Lesotho government was under siege from rogue elements within the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and only a military intervention by SADC would save the country.

It was a persuasive message that quickly found takers within SADC.
The result was that SADC head of states unanimously agreed to send a standby force to stabilise Lesotho and help the new government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane implement the regional bloc’s recommendations.
Although Makgothi had entered Lesotho’s treacherous political arena a decade earlier in 2006 when the ABC was formed, he had largely remained an unknown quantity, politically, over the years.

His appointment after the June 3 election as foreign affairs minister might have come as a surprise to many Basotho.
Yet, those within the ABC party say he remained among some of the most respected cadres within the movement.
His rise to the helm of the key ministry was therefore no accident, they say..

Makgothi acknowledges that Lesotho has gone through turbulence over the last 50 years since its independence from the British in 1966.
He believes the SADC-driven reforms present a rare opportunity to fix what has been ailing this country over the past five decades.
Key among these reforms are the security and constitutional reforms.

“If we don’t get these two right, we will never be in a stable environment,” he says.
Makgothi believes the biggest problem for Lesotho has been its electoral model that is a recipe for political instability.
Lesotho uses a Mixed Member Proportional Representation electoral system.

Under the model, 80 MPs are directly elected in constituencies with the remaining 40 MPs being elected through the Proportional Representation (PR) system. He says experience has taught him that the mixed member electoral model “creates instability for parties in Parliament and the governing parties themselves”.

That is why we have had three coalition governments in the past five years since 2012, all with relative degrees of success.
That has had devastating consequences for issues of governance in Lesotho, particularly on the issue of political stability, he argues.
Makgothi believes part of the solution lies in copying the South African electoral model, lock stock and barrel, where they use a “100 percent PR system”.

“I personally would want Lesotho to adopt that model. It creates stability for parties in Parliament as well as stability within the parties themselves.”
“It is also cheaper to deal with. This is because if you lose a member in Parliament you don’t need to go for a by-election. You simply shift to the next in line on the party lists submitted to parliament.”

He argues that way, the “party will have full control over MPs in Parliament”.
Makgothi says he has already discussed this proposal informally with his colleagues within the ABC and their response has been very positive and encouraging.

He says he hopes he can persuade his colleagues in Parliament to adopt this proposal during the SADC reforms.
Makgothi is also clearly peeved by a provision in the current constitution that allows MPs to cross the floor.
He argues this provision is one of the biggest causes of political instability in Lesotho.

“When one crosses the floor it can be a critical move that can collapse a government. We will need to look at matters like this when we get to the reforms.” He thinks when an MP crosses the floor, “it must trigger a by-election to ensure there is stability”.
Makgothi argues it is unconscionable for any Prime Minister to want to serve more than two five-year terms.
“If a Prime Minister wants to serve for more than two terms, that creates instability,” he argues.

“Why would someone want to serve more than two terms? Political life is madness and insanity.”
He says the same reasoning should apply to MPs who must serve a maximum of four five-year terms and pave way for younger politicians to introduce new ideas.

“You must make way for others to come in.” He says his ABC party strongly believes that the SADC-driven reform process must be as inclusive as possible “with everybody who is supposed to be there being there”.
“That is why we are trying by all means to ensure that all those who are in self-imposed exile are back in the country,” he says.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and his deputy at the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Tšeliso Mokhosi, fled Lesotho three months ago claiming their lives were under threat.

They were later joined in exile by Democratic Congress deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, who also made similar allegations.
The Lesotho government however says it has no intention of harming its own citizens and has requested that they come back home, an offer that is still to be taken. Makgothi is also not too happy with the liberal approach that allows “too many political parties in Lesotho” which do not command any significant support on the ground.

He believes there is “something wrong for a country of 2 million people to have close to 30 political parties”.
The foreign affairs minister remains hopeful however that the SADC-driven reforms will usher in a period of stability for Lesotho.
He also believes the Lesotho army, which critics say has been the source of the country’s problems for decades, will need a total make-over to enable it to play a constructive role in a democratic society.

“The military needs to know its role. It must protect the constitution and abide by it.”
Critics accuse the Thabane-led administration of not being magnanimous in victory by vigorously chasing after former government ministers who served under former premier Pakalitha Mosisili.
Makgothi says that is not true.

He says the government is only committed in implementing SADC decisions.
“The Prime Minister is committed to enforce the SADC decisions and in enforcing these decisions it would appear as if we are chasing Ntate Mosisili’s people.” “That is why we started with beefing up the SADC oversight committee to be on the ground and act as an early warning mechanism so that in the long run we do not appear as if we are settling scores.”

Makgothi also waded into the political crisis unfolding in Zimbabwe saying the “transition was long overdue”.
He admitted the manner of the transition had however “raised eyebrows and questions” because the Zimbabwean “army was deep in this”.
“The army has fallen short of pronouncing this as a coup because we will never condone any democratically elected government being toppled by soldiers.”

He says Lesotho is waiting for directions from South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma who is the current SADC chairman.
But does Makgothi harbor any ambitions for higher office?
Any politician worth his salt would surely want a strike at the country’s top job, we ask.
And what we got was a caveat.

“I might have a change of heart in the next five years but right now I want to keep serving in this capacity as long as possible. Eventually I want to go into farming,” he says.
Makgothi was born on February 23, 1965 at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru.
He says he grew up in a “rough neighbourhood” of Thibela in Maseru.
His father died when he was eight.

He says the Makgothi family, particularly his grandfather, Dichwanyo, was very active within the ANC in Tshieamelo in Thaba-Patswa in South Africa.
Fed up with the injustices and brutal repression by the Afrikaners in the Free State, his grandfather sought refuge in Lesotho in the 1930s.
His father, Makgothi Magkothi, was also politically active in his own right and when the younger Makgothi was born, he was almost bathed every day in the politics of that dark era.

Magkothi says although he was young, he remembers vividly the repression of the early 1970s where he saw people being beaten and harassed for belonging to the Basotoland Congress Party (BCP), a party that was viscerally opposed to the then government led by Chief Leabua Jonathan.
Makgothi’s maternal grandfather, Paki Mofoka, and his grandmother, Mmakwadi Mofoka, staunch BCP activists, and his tough mother, Makehilwe Makgothi, also played instrumental roles in shaping his early political conscientisation.
He says the atrocities committed during the state of emergency by youths aligned to the BNP infuriated him as they ran counter to what he believed was just.

“I was not happy with what the regime was doing to its own people. In 1985, BNP youths ran rampage around towns, setting up roadblocks and beating people. The country was on the verge of lawlessness.”
That was how he found himself joining politics.

He was soon to go through a period of disillusionment particularly after his hero, Ntsu Mokhehle, left the BCP to form the LCD in 1997.
It was the ABC whose narrative of fighting hunger and poverty was persuasive enough to draw him back into politics in 2006.
Makgothi holds a Masters in Business Administration and Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from the Management College of Southern Africa in Durban, South Africa, an IT diploma from Rand Afrikaans University as well as a Diploma in Business Studies from National University of Lesotho.

Abel Chapatarongo

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The beauty queen of Lesotho



MASERU – WHILE many children her age were still adapting to the early years of school after kindergarten, Reatile Molefe was already plotting her life goals. Barely 10-years-old, Molefe already knew exactly what she wanted to do in life.

“I was already geared towards being a model at that early age. I was already portraying fancy and modest moves linked to modelling,” said the beauty queen, now aged 22.

It didn’t take time for her mother to identify the potential and found a need to sharpen it further.

“My journey in beauty pageantry started at the age of eight in 2009. The reason my mom thought I should hop into pageantry was because I was active and smart. I also had role models from the industry by then. I mean, I had an ambition of every little girl’s dream of being a star or being dressed in cute ball gowns so I also had a strong desire to be like that,” she said.

“I started my cat walking lessons at Little Miss Lesotho Companies but didn’t win. Not winning gave me motivation to work more towards my craft, it pushed me into wanting more as I couldn’t settle for less,” she said.

Molefe now boasts of 14 tittles to her name. She has donned the beauty pageant crowns in all stages of her life.

“I was crowned Queen in my two previous schools. I was Miss New Millennium High School in 2012 and Miss Lesotho High School in 2017. The 14th title I scooped made me believe in myself even more as I got to gain experience competing with people from different countries,” said Molefe, who has also made a bold statement by competing at the international level.

Molefe attributes her prowess to her high levels of confidence.

“Pageants create a bonding experience where women lift each other up, but what gives me an upper hand is being comfortable, secure with myself and being me throughout,” said Molefe, adding that her favourite category during pageantry competitions is when models are asked to strut the ramp in evening wear.

“That’s when the audience and the judges get to see the creativity, the poise and eloquence of the queens,” said Molefe, who believes that the audience’s response can destroy or build a contestant’s confidence.

“The audience can play either of the two roles during a contest. They may make a positive impact on females taking part because they teach them how to be resilient thus prepare them for real world situations. On the other hand, the audience may also make a negative impact and lead to a whole host of mental issues among participants who may be worried about their image and appearance. This can lead to harmful side-effects,” stated Molefe.

Like other women in the modelling industry, Molefe has come across some challenges.

“An example is trying to get enough support from the general public on my first international contest,” she said.

Another was the cost of competing in beauty pageants as well as evolving body changes, she said.

“Being a beauty queen is not a walk in the park, especially when being judged by the community. And, yes, pageants do help women grow in confidence but without proper mental health support, they can also create insecurities. But through all the struggles, I am thankful to my family and friends. They are my biggest supporters. I may have gone through it all but their unbending support has kept me going,” she said.

Molefe says she considers being crowned second runner up in the Miss Culture International competition held in Johannesburg in 2021 as her most outstanding achievement. She was also crowned Miss Culture Lesotho in 2018.

“What was intriguing to me about this contest was the fact that I was the youngest among the contestants. It proved to be a learning experience for me and it deepened my knowledge about what the modelling world really entails.

“I never doubted myself but I thought I wouldn’t make it as I was the youngest. I got to compete with people of different races, which got me even more motivated. I learned a lot in participating in a multi-racial event,” she said.

Pageantry isn’t just about looks, according to Molefe.

“There is to more to it, like being able to embrace glamour. Beauty is subjective and it can be interpreted in different ways according to the perception of individual viewers. I consider being beautiful as an inside and out perception but the golden rule is to brim with confidence to make it in pageantry,” said Molefe, urging parents to enroll their children in pageantry schools at an early age “even as early as three-years-old”.

“This gives them ample time to develop because the young ones are able to easily learn from others to improve their skills and boost their self-confidence,” said Molefe, who dreams of a day when a beauty queen is considered a legendary woman in Lesotho.

One of her goals is to assist in educating the youth, especially young women, about menstrual health and other sexual and reproductive health issues.

Her target group is mainly girls that live in rural areas and small towns.

“Pageants promote goal setting, encourage us to value personal achievement and community involvement,” she said.

Calvin Motekase

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The stock-theft menace



MASERU – IF you recently enjoyed a nice beef stew at a restaurant in Lesotho there is a high possibility that the slaughtered cow might have been stolen from a farm in South Africa.

If you are in South Africa, it is equally possible that the cow was stolen from a cattle post in Mokhotlong or any other mountainous region of Lesotho.

That is because cross-border stock-theft is on the increase between the two countries. In fact, it has become a thorn in the flesh for farmers on both sides of the border.

Since 1990, 85 percent of livestock owners on the border villages of Lesotho have lost animals to thieves as compared with 49 percentage from non-border villages, according to a study published by Wilfrid Laurier University.

Earlier this month, this problem came into sharp focus when four Basotho men were picked up by the police in Thaba-Nchu in the Free State.

These men, aged between 24-51 years old, were travelling in a car bearing Lesotho number plates. They were transporting cattle that did not have documents.

The SAPS informed their counterparts in Lesotho who rushed to the place to repatriate the suspects.

Maseru Urban Commanding Officer Senior Superintendent Rantoane Motsoela said their investigations uncovered that the cattle crossed into South Africa at Ha Tsolo through the Mohokare River.

Then they were transported from the border into South Africa.

S/Supt Motsoela said they have found that the cattle already had tattoo marks from one farmer in Ficksburg.

But the suspects had no documents to prove that the animals belonged to them.

Both the cattle and the car are still in the hands of the SAPS while investigations are continuing.

S/Supt Motsoela said the suspects are assisting the police with investigations.

In another incident police recovered five cattle of a Mosotho man in Qwa-Qwa, still in the Free State Province.

These cattle were reported stolen in Tšehlanyane in Leribe at the beginning of this month.

Police under their sting operation “Zero Tolerance to Stock Theft” launched their investigations that led to the discovery of the cattle.

The Leribe District police commanding officer Senior Superintendent Samuel Thamae said they were able to recover the animals with the help of the community who tipped them off.

S/Supt Thamae said they stormed Qwa-Qwa with their counterparts in South Africa to identify the stolen animals.

After convincing the SAPS that the cattle belonged to the concerned farmer, they were released to him.

The Mokhotlong District Administrator (DA) Serame Linake says they have been battling cross border stock theft for years.

He says Basotho in Lesotho would go to South Africa to steal the animals that they sell back to South Africa in Vanderbijlparkl after getting fraudulent documents.

Linake says these animals, cattle and sheep, are sold at an auction in Vanderbijlpark.

He says the South Africans on the other hand sometimes also cross the border into Lesotho to steal the animals.

To fight this theft, they have formed good relations with the SAPS, chiefs and councillors.

Linake says when animals are stolen from South Africa into Lesotho, their counterparts simply inform them on this side so that they could waylay them.

“Stolen animals are strictly sold in Vanderbijlpark in South Africa,” he says.

He says in his district animals are not sold in the butcheries like is the case in Maseru and other lowlands districts.

Linake says they are now struggling to control theft that takes place between the northern district and Qwa-Qwa because the perpetrators are Basotho who have now migrated to South Africa.

He says these perpetrators have lived in Lesotho and know all the corridors that they could use to come and steal animals in Lesotho and go back to South Africa.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says stock-theft is a grave problem in the country.

He says they have formed a special team that is going to reinforce the team that is already dealing with stock-theft in the country.

When there is an alarm that some animals have been stolen, this new team is informed so that it can lend a helping hand.

S/Supt Mopeli says the theft happens within the country’s borders and between Lesotho and South Africa.

S/Supt Mopeli says they are managing to deal with the theft because they arrest the perpetrators and bring them before the courts of law.

He says the public should alert the police when they see animals being stolen so that they can be saved from the hands of thieves.

Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola says they have registered big successes in curbing cross-border theft especially after having a post in Mokota-Koti in Maputsoe.

He says they usually hold frequent patrols at the borders to fight this crime.

“We also hold frequent crossings with the South African army to share information regarding cross-border theft,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Lt Col Lekola says they sometimes use air patrols as another way to fight stock-theft.

He says they usually erect camps along the borders so that they can stop animals coming out of Lesotho or vice-versa.

“Last year we had a successful collaboration with South African soldiers where we patrolled the borders from Leribe to Mafeteng. The South African army was on their side and we were also on our side,” he says.

He says they were working together with the police and they reaped good results.

Lt Col Lekola says some herd boys report the theft of livestock long after first trying to track the animals themselves.

He says this gives the cattle rustlers a chance to hide.

He advised the farmers not to erect cattle posts near the borders because they are stolen easily.

“When the South Africans enter Lesotho borders to trace their stolen animals, they make the first encounter with the animals at the cattle posts and drive them away,” Lt Col Lekola says.

He appealled to farmers to work collaboratively with their herders to pay them their dues.

He says some farmers do not pay their herders and those herders usually bounce back to steal the animals in revenge.

“They enter the cattle posts easily because the dogs know them,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Because Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, stock-theft takes place easily between the two countries especially in the provinces of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

The porous borders make it easy for the movement of animals to take place between the two countries.

And the theft between these countries has been happening since time immemorial.

The cross-border menace continues to take place despite patrols that are organised by the security agencies from both countries.

A Transnational History of Stock Theft on the Lesotho–South Africa Border, Nineteenth Century to 1994 Journal states that stock theft has long been a problem along the Lesotho–South Africa border.

It says from Moshoeshoe I’s cattle-raiding in the nineteenth century through to the start of the democratic era in Lesotho (1993) and South Africa (1994), the idea that stock theft is both prevalent and an international problem has been generally accepted by all.

According to Farmer’s Weekly livestock theft has a much more detrimental effect on the economy than previously thought, and is becoming more violent.

It says organised livestock theft feeds into other more serious types of transnational organised crimes such as drug, weapons and human trafficking.

And ultimately this results in the creation of illicit financial flows.

Challenges to safety included no fencing along large stretches, and the lack of a suitable roads to enable South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to conduct border patrols effectively, Farmer’s Weekly says.

In a piece published in November on the International Security Studies (ISS) website, ISS Today, stock theft was on the rise in South Africa, with 29 672 cases recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the 2018/2019 financial year.

This represented an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year.

The ISS said the problem is exacerbated by porous and poorly secured borders, lack of capacity to monitor the border, and mountainous terrain that is difficult to police.

“Such challenges create opportunities and trafficking routes for criminal networks to smuggle livestock, drugs and, at times, firearms across the border.”

The ISS said the transnational livestock theft affects farmers revenue and adds to consumer costs.

It says thousands of animals are stolen and sold through the black market.

And this hurts the economy and goes even further to impact consumers, as these animals could have provided meat.

Majara Molupe

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Matekane to launch microchip project



MAPUTSOE – PRIME Minister Sam Matekane will this Sunday launch a new microchip project designed to combat the rampant stock-theft in Lesotho.

The launch will be held in Peka in Leribe.

Speaking at a rally for his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) in Maputsoe last weekend, Matekane said the government is weary of the rampant stock-theft that impoverished rural farmers in Lesotho for decades.

“When your livestock leaves your kraals your phones will alert you and your families,” Matekane said amid loud cheers.

He asked the people to go to Peka in great numbers to witness the launch and learn from the livestock microchipping experts how the project will work to combat stock-theft in the villages.

The project was first spearheaded by Thomas Thabane when he was the Home Affairs Minister in 2003.

That year, 120 rams were implanted with the microchip identification system in Masianokeng.

The rams belonged to a company called Mahloenyeng Trading Company (Pty) Ltd.

The then police boss, Jonas Malewa, had microchipped 64 horses at the Police Training College (PTC) a year earlier in a pilot project.

The Home Affairs Ministry had contracted a company called Primate Identity Technology ran by a Jewish man, Yehuda Danziger, to carry out the pilot project.

Danziger was also tasked with observing any side-effects the animals could have after the implantation of the microchip.

The government introduced the microchip implantation technology after realising that stock thieves would easily erase the branding and tattoo marks with red hot metal and acid.

The stock thieves also cut off stolen animals’ ears if they bore the owner’s identification marks.

Microchips are tiny electronic devices, about the size of a grain of rice, which could be stored in a capsule and implanted near the animal’s tail to make it easy to identify and trace lost or stolen animals.

The project however never picked up with successive government not showing any political will to carry it through.

Things are now set to change with Matekane launching the project this Sunday.

Tšepang Mapola & Alice Samuel

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