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A deadly concoction



….Basotho migrant workers ill after taking lengana overdose….

MASERU-WITH no known cure in sight, the Basotho migrant mine workers who work in South Africa felt desperate and exposed.
And so to boost their immunity and keep the deadly Covid-19 at bay, they decided to gulp enormous quantities of a traditional herb, lengana (Artemisia afra), that has been touted as a cure.

Now scores of these migrant workers are now reported to have fallen seriously ill after they overdosed on the herb.
A doctor in a Covid-19 isolation facility in Carltonville, in Gauteng, told thepost on Monday that the workers who recently crossed into South Africa have not yet started work because they are all ill.

The workers were subjected to a two-week quarantine about a month ago.
Dr Nkareng Maepe said failed to report for work after they drank excessive quantities of the lengana concoction.
Dr Maepe said some of the miners were suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and some had damaged livers.

She said one of the patients has a brain aneurysm.
A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain.
It often looks like a berry hanging on a stem.
A brain aneurysm can leak or rupture, causing bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

“He still took his medication but excessive drinking of (lengana) suppressed the pills and they failed to work well and we are still praying for his recovery,” Dr Maepe said.
“It hurts that traders sell it (lengana) without asking people of their sickness – they just give it to them,” she said.
Dr Maepe said the lengana medicine should be scientifically approved – it must have a batch number, manufacturing date, expiry date, registration number, dosage and storage conditions.

“People should not just drink it based it on what others told them,” she said.
She said people should use aseptic procedures to ensure cleanliness of the environment to avoid contaminating the product.
“The place should be disinfected,” she said.
Dr Maepe said people with chronic diseases should be very careful as lengana competes with their medication and there has to be a winner.

“With my patients, lengana won,” she said.
“Anything in excess is poisonous.”
A Qacha’s Nek pharmacist, Retšelisitsoe Mahlaha, said people should understand some basics of medicine before taking traditional medicines.
He said a pure plant is a combination of many different compounds (chemicals), not just the compounds that help it achieve the effects that people are interested in.
As such, he said, it could be harmful because of one compound but at the same time beneficial because of another.

“So before a drug is created, first, the compound of interest is isolated from the rest of the compounds,” Mahlaha said.
Secondly, he said, with every drug out there, people need to fully understand their pharmacological properties, and these includes how the drug gets to achieve its intended effects, how long it takes before it starts to do that, and how long it takes to clear it from the body.

He also said users should understand side-effects that can be expected with its use, the correct dosage range below which the drug is ineffective and when it becomes toxic.
They must also evaluate its safety when used by pregnant women and those with different chronic conditions and which drugs and food may affect its activity and how.

He said the above issues are points of major concern regarding the usage of lengana.
“We know its benefits but at the same time we do not have sufficient knowledge about it yet to confidently guide its appropriate use,” Mahlaha said.

He said it has been noted to have medicinal benefits that include its ability to relieve pulmonary ailments, hemorrhoids (piles), headache, fever as well as its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
He said its known side-effects include insomnia, restlessness, tremors, convulsions, nausea and vomiting.

Mahlaha said it can be used as fresh or dried leaves infused in boiling water and used to steam (inhalation) or alternatively the leaves (about a tablespoon) can be infused in a cup of boiling water and allowed to steep for about five minutes and cool before drinking.
“I would highly recommend steam inhalation over drinking it and only using it when there are pulmonary symptoms and not as a form of prevention for Covid-19,” he said.

“If we do drink it, I advise sticking to once daily and a tablespoon in a cup of boiling water, steeping for roughly five minutes and drinking, not boiling the leaves with the water.”
For Basotho, he suggested daily supplementation with Zinc and Vitamin C supplements to boost the immune system.
“Anyone on other medication should check with their health professional before taking supplements and allowing at least two hours in between taking the Zinc and other medicines.”

A National University of Lesotho (NUL) Senior Botany Lecturer, Dr Lerato Seleteng-Kose, recently told this newspaper that lengana was used to treat fever and other related illnesses.

But the recent Madagascar case that revealed its potential influenced Basotho to use it without any scientific basis.
Dr Seleteng-Kose said because of fear people end up being irresponsible.
“It is toxic to drink it in certain concentrations. There has to be (a limit) to how much liquid one drinks,” Dr Seleteng-Kose said.

Dr Seleteng-Kose said she has been teaching about it through the media and some of the responses she got was that their forefathers have been drinking it for long and nothing happened to them.
“The history surrounding it makes it hard for some to understand the importance of concentration,” she said.

“This calls for concern because we want to prevent something but we should be careful of the after-effects as they can be seen after a while.”
Dr Seleteng-Kose said some even take in the lengana without seeing any signs of illness.
She called on Basotho to rather staff it in their nostrils to inhale it.
“That way the concentration will not be as high as when drinking it.”
“Let’s consult scientists to avoid harming our health due to fear,” she said.
She said it was shocking the way it is overharvested, noting that in a year it won’t be available.

“Whatever medicinal plant used, can they plant a little of it on their plots to avoid extinction as its absence could scare them even more,” she said.
“Now that we are diverging from western to traditional medicine, let’s have all these plants even in small proportion for their sustainability.”
She said she has been working with the Department of Environment in an effort to sensitise Basotho through radio programmes and talks with local government councillors and chiefs.
“It has had a positive impact.”

She also suggested that lengana should be listed under the protected plants.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour spokeswoman, ’Mamolise Falatsi, said the ministry through its migrant liaison has not received any reports of ill miners.

Kali Moeletsi, a manager at the Employment Bureau of Africa (Teba), a recruitment agency for mines, said they were not aware of the situation.
However, he said they will follow it up and take it from there.
In Madagascar, President Andry Rajoelina has been pushing a herbal concoction, Covid-Organics, as a cure for Covid-19.

The concoction is made from the same artemisia plant that is being used in Lesotho.
Yet despite the efforts, Madagascar has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases with 13 000 cases and 162 deaths as of this week.

’Mapule Motsopa

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Mahao, PS in big fight



PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors



MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue



LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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