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8 MPs fight for PM’s post



MASERU-A fierce battle to succeed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has ensued in the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party amid revelations that eight MPs had now entered the race.
Nearly a week after Thabane announced his intention to retire the ABC is yet to reach a consensus on who should replace him as Prime Minister.
Instead, there has been massive jostling among the MPs with others going as far as lobbying coalition MPs to back them.

This has only widened the divisions within the party as each camp aggressively pushes its own preferred candidate.
Senior ABC sources last night said this could be the reason why Thabane has held off giving a specific date he intends to leave office.
An investigation by thepost has revealed that the ABC’s executive plans to nominate two candidates to replace Thabane.
The first is as former Minister ‘Matebatso Doti, who is the party’s deputy spokesperson.

The second is Health Minister Nkaku Kabi who is the deputy general secretary.
Sources say the committee will nominate those two in the next few days and the plan is to make an announcement early next week.
A source however says there are fears that the two might not be able to get enough support from some ABC MPs.
Doti was reluctant to confirm her candidature but said she will accept the position if offered.
“I have not said l want to lead this party especially when the leader is still there. But there will be a Special Conference that will decide. But if they give me an offer, I can accept it,” Doti said.
Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Water Affairs Minister Samonyane Ntsekele is also in the running and is said to be Thabane’s preferred candidate because of his proximity to the prime minister.
Ntsekele fought in Thabane’s corner during the brutal factional battles over the party’s executive committee.
He is also said to have become “extremely close” to Thabane since the First Lady skipped the country to avoid arrest for the alleged murder of the prime minister’s wife Lipolelo Thabane.
But some party insiders say his proximity to Thabane and his wife could work against him.

“He is seen as Thabane’s man and very few people want Thabane to continue to pull the strings when he is out. He is probably a good man tainted by his association,” the source said.
Ntsekele could not be reached for comment.
Also in the running is Sam Rapapa, ABC chairman, but sources say he could have alienated some MPs by openly clamouring for the premiership when his camp joined forces with the opposition to try to pass a vote of no confidence against Thabane.

“Many MPs saw his actions as betrayal motivated by ambition. He is unlikely to get the numbers,” says another source.
Rapapa confirmed that he wants to be the next prime minister.
“I am willing to accept the offer with two hands, in fact l am gunning for the post as the leader of the party if there is a vacancy,” Rapapa said.
“It is not a secret that l even want to be the next Prime Minister. If you could remember that during the party’s hard times when we lodged a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister, my name was suggested.”

Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro is in the race but is said to have the support of a small clique of MPs who sources say “like the fact that he is a technocrat and has credibility with development partners”.
“He will have to widen his support base among the MPs if he wants to win,” another source says.
Majoro could not be reached for comment.
Public Works Minister Prince Maliehe is also in the mix and some party insiders say he might command the support of half of the ABC MPs. His Achilles heel, party insiders say, is his closeness to Thabane and his wife.

Prince Maliehe was not available for comment.
There is also Fako Moshoeshoe who is the chairperson of the ABC’s parliamentary caucus. It is not clear if his leadership of the caucus would help him sway ABC MPs to his side.
Moshoeshoe said no one has approached him about the position but he will not refuse if nominated.
“MPs will be the ones to decide because they represent the people. But I cannot refuse if they ask me to lead this party,” he said.
“Tomorrow we will have a meeting that could at least shed some light in the party. I cannot go to the people and ask them to make me a leader.”
The other contender is Motlholi Maliehe, the former ABC chairman and current Social Development Minister, who Thabane once fired after a nasty fall out.
Maliehe said “if people could come to me and ask me to do so, l can accept the offer”.

“I joined politics at an incipient stage but l have never asked people to elect me into power,” Maliehe said.
“People in Butha-Buthe constituency have voted me into power five times. I was groomed by the late Ntsu Mokhehle. It would be God’s finger if they choose me. It is a simple job that l can do.”
The last name in the hat is Matsépo Ramakoae, the Matsieng MP, whose source or level of support among ABC MPs is not known.
Ramakoae said she only heard that her name was amongst those which were being suggested for the succession.
“If they want me to lead the party l cannot reject the offer. I can take over,” Ramakoae said.

“I think with the experience that l have gathered from different organisations both locally and internationally, l can be able to apply to move this party to the next step.”
Since Monday the ABC MPs has been locked in long meetings to discuss who should take over. Thabane has not said when he will leave.
There was speculation last night that there are some ministers who are trying to persuade Thabane to stay or delay his exit a little longer because they are unsure of their future he leaves immediately.
Others close to him are said to be insisting that Thabane should not leave until he is certain that his wife will not be prosecuted.
Some say despite being away, the First Lady still wields a lot of influence on the Prime Minister and is insisting that he holds on to power for her sake.

Staff Reporter

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Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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