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A bitter Christmas to forget



BUTHA-BUTHE – TWO days after the joys of Christmas, villagers in Ha-Shishila in Kao were in grief as police embarked on an indiscriminate revenge attack that killed one person and left the village in fear. The villagers say December 27, 2018 is a day that will forever remain etched in their memories because of the horror they experienced at the hands of the police.
The cries of grown up men who were being mercilessly beaten by the police filled the village. Women and children wailed non-stop, crying for their husbands and fathers who were being brutalised.

Villagers who survived the ordeal say they had never experienced anything like it before.
Poshoane Moloi was one of the unlucky ones who will not be able to talk about the incident. He died as a result of the beatings.
Villagers say Moloi’s death saved them from further beatings because the police, realising that they had killed Moloi, ended the violence they were unleashing.
It had all started with a quarrel between a man and a woman at a local bar in nearby Lihloahloeng a day earlier.
They exchanged harsh words which led to the man slapping the woman.

A policeman who tried to intervene was attacked with fighting sticks by several village men and he ended up in hospital nursing serious wounds.
Police at a nearby satellite post rushed to the scene, arrested the man and locked him in cells.
This enraged some village men who stormed the police post and threatened to burn it down if their friend was not released.

Police spokesman, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the angry mob overpowered the police and took their friend by force.
The satellite post police asked for reinforcements from the district commander and the December 27 horror was in the works.
One of the victims, Leoma Leoma, said the police banged on his door demanding that he step out in the wee hours of the morning.
His wife told them to wait as the couple was undressed but the police responded with unprintable insults, Leoma said.
One of the cops broke through the window.

The others forced the door down.
“They took me out of the house and told me to lie down. They were already torturing me, they hit me with a hard stick and told me to go to the river where I found a lot of men already there. They were crying as they were being tortured,” Leoma said in a shaky voice.

Leoma said the police continued beating him and other village men, forcing them to roll on the stony hard ground by the river side.
Worried about her husband’s fate, Leoma’s wife, ’Mamorena Leoma, followed to the river.
She said the police beat and insulted her.

“While still beating me, they asked me the whereabouts of one Poshoane Moloi and I told them that I did not know where he was,” ’Mamorena said.
“When I arrived at the river side, the police told me to go to their Quantum minibus that was parked there, saying I should cry in it. I went there but one police officer told me to go home,” she said.
Keketso Fane, a victim and a witness to Poshoane’s death, said there were over 70 police officers, claiming he recognised some of the cops as also having been present when the police killed Terene Pitae last year.

Pitae was killed during a clash between villagers and the police.
On December 27, the police were beating everybody in sight – young and old alike, said Fane.

They had rounded up the whole village and took all the men they saw to the river for the beatings.
Fane said Poshoane’s death saved their lives because when the police realised that he was dead, they stopped torturing them.
Fane said the way Poshoane was killed shocked him.

Tied with a wire, Poshoane’s head was put on a stone while other the cops were using another stone to cut his dreadlocks, said Fane.
This they did after beating him to a pulp, he said.
“I realised that Poshoane’s head was hanging, and after a while, one policeman said to another: ‘Squad mate! This dog hasn’t died yet, Mokoteli said we should kill this dog’. I then realised that he was no longer moving,” Fane said.

The police took his body away and left the village.
“Later we heard that Poshoane was no more,” he said.
A six-month pregnant woman, ’Mathabo Khau, said she was not spared the violence.
Khau described the police actions as “horrific”.

“I could not believe what the police were doing to me,” she said.
“They kicked me like I was not a person. They hit me with their weapons on my belly and told me that they would force me to give birth right there,” she said, her voice trembling with anger.
Khau said the police were insulting her, referring to her private parts.

“The next day, I rushed to the hospital where I was told that they could not hear the heartbeat of the child, I cried,” she said.
“They told me they would do whatever they could to help me save the baby,” she said with eyes full of tears.
She said she was given some medication and later she heard “the baby kicking”.

“I was relieved that my child was still alive, but I am worried about the condition of my child after birth,” she said.
Butha-Buthe police boss, Senior Superintendent Teboho Khesa, sounded unapologetic.
He said they did not deliberately target villagers whose names were on their list but “took the whole village because, for example, if a sheep has lumpy wool all the sheep in the kraal should be dipped” to cure them.

Khesa said he was not pleased with what happened.
“(You) have to stay out of trouble, disassociate yourself from people who are criminals and the police will not bother you,” Khesa said.
“Allow the police to do their job and stop interfering with their business because that itself is against the law,” he said.
The villagers said they have been living in fear since the beatings.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Law and Safety committee, Lekhetho Mosito, led his committee on a fact-finding mission in Kao last week.
Mosito said the committee is willing to help stop the conflict between the community and the police.
Some are not counting on that happening. Several villagers have run away from home and are suspected to have taken refuge in South Africa despite Mosito’s assurances.

Itumeleng Khoete

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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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