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A device to test fiatana



ROMA – JUST the name fiatana sends shock waves down the spines of many because of how it is frequently used to poison others while some committed suicide with it.
Teboho Mpakanyane, a Master of Science student (Inorganic chemistry) at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), is developing a device to test the poison.

The simple electrode device machine can tell you immediately if that suspicious bottled material over your dad’s wardrobe is actually Thiodane (Fiatana).
Fiatana is one of the world’s most dangerous chemicals, so we want to identify, quantify and build data on it for our country so as to bring awareness to the community for their welfare.
Fiatana, a chemical that used to contribute to people’s deaths without mercy in Lesotho is officially not in use anymore in the country.
In most countries in the world, you can no longer produce or use Fiatana to kill insects for agricultural purpose.

In Lesotho, this bad chemical was a weapon of choice for those who wanted to take their own lives.
However, whether you knew it or not, the chemical might have already created too many health problems for you as well.
“However, although most of the world has banned the use of Fiatana, some people in many countries are still producing, using and selling it,” Mpakanyane, who is under the supervision of Professor ’Mantoa Sekota in this project, said.

Also, it was banned only 10 years ago, “so, not only may we still have some packages of it in our homes, Fiatana is still having a good time in our environment because where it is being used, it stays — for a long time”.
“In fact, some of it might be still trapped in the soil, ground water, surface water bodies or even some tissues in your body.”
Is it possible that this internationally scorned chemical might still be crossing our borders because our present means to identify it are not so straightforward?

According to Mpakanyane, “that is exactly what we want to know.”
So this electrode device is meant to help identify the monstrous chemical in a very easy, simple, and cheap way so that we can know where it is or who still uses it.
There are existing means to identify it, with high sensitivity and high accuracy, but they are time-consuming, very expensive, hard to maintain and can only be done by experts.
However, what is Fiatana (Thiodane)?
Scientists, those folks who like to complicate otherwise simple things, call it by a fancy name, Endosulfan.

Now, never mind the following description as they complicate it further: “Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide and acaricide.”
In that fancy description, forget about the words organochlorine and acaricide.
Who cares what, on earth, they mean?
Rather, focus on the word insecticide.
Insecticide is a substance that kills insects.
The problem with Fiatana is that it is not only dangerous to insects, it is known to cause a host of various diseases in humans including birth defects, and in fact, it is also suspected to have the capacity to cause cancer.
So where does Mpakanyane’s electrode device come in?

“Although the final aim is to test Fiatana, we are actually developing an electrode that will only test Fiaitana’s sister, a chemical called Chlorothalonil,” he says.
“Just as you and your sister share a lot of genes, and looks as well, Fiatana and Chlorophalonil have a lot in common. In fact, a number of insecticides that you still use in your garden or fields today contain Chlorothalonil.”
This guy, Chlorothalonil, is not as bad as his more dangerous sibling, Fiatana, at least according to what we know at the moment.
Of course, most siblings are not born identical twins.

Even for identical twins, some become more troublesome than others.
“There are two reasons for starting by testing Chlorothalonil. First, since Fiatana is banned already, it is already hard to come by. Second, since the two belong to the same family, when our machine is able to identify Chlorophalonil, it will so easily identify Fiatana.”
So how does this device machine work?
“The idea is to use electrodes to test the content of Chlorothalonil in anything,” he said.
This is how you do it.

You have to know a thing or two about the structure of Chlorothalonil.
When dissolved in super-pure water, and when you pass electricity through that solution, some electrons will move away from Chlorothalonil molecules.
First, we know that those electrons will only be released from the Chlorothalonil molecules if the electricity passing through the solution has a specific power (potential).
That power is controlled by the computer.

No other compound, which is not Chlorothalonil, can release electrons at that power.
So if no electrons are released at all at that power, we know there is no Chlorothalonil in the solution.
If electrons are released, the electrode can detect that and record it on the computer and we know Chlorothalonil is there.
The question now becomes, how much of it is there?

The electrode is not only able to detect the presence of released electrons, it is also able to find how much of them are being released from the Chlorothalonil.
The more electrons are being released means the higher the amount of Chlorothalonil in the solution.
“With that in mind, we are creating a device in which we can place any substance into a proper solution and test if Chlorothalonil is there and how much of it is there, to the smallest concentration possible,” he said.
Once that is done, Fiatana will be tested in much the same manner.

Own Correspondent



A night of horror



THE police arrived in Ha-Rammeleke, a Mokhotlong village, in the middle of the night.
They stormed one house and found a couple sleeping.

They then dragged the man out and ordered him to follow their instructions if he didn’t want to be killed. Their order was that he should scream while announcing to his neighbours that his wife was gravely ill. The villagers who responded to the man’s plea for help didn’t know that they were walking into a trap.

The police rounded them up as they arrived at the man’s house.

Their night of horror has just begun.

Dozens of men and women were frog-marched to the edge of the village.

The police assaulted the men with sticks and whips. They kicked others.

In the crowd was Tebalo Lesita, a 48-year-old Rastafarian with dreadlocks.

He was called to the front and ordered to act like a Rastafarian.

First, they said he should sing Reggae while shaking his head so that his dreadlocks would wave from side to side. He did and they laughed.

“They also ordered me to mimic Lucky Dube.”

Lesita says he only shouted like he was singing because, due to fear, all Lucky Dube’s songs he knew had slipped out of his mind.

“I just mumbled some words as if I was singing. I have never experienced such torment before.”

“I only kept saying ‘Ye ye ye!’”, he says.

They laughed again.

Meanwhile, the police were hurling insults at him.

“I was told that I was smelling rubbish in the mouth.”

Lesita says the police then instructed him to act as if he was having sex.

And when he said he was tired of the act the police ordered him to act as if he was ejaculating.

He did and his tormentors roared with laughter.

The police, Lesita says, wanted him and other villagers to confess that they knew men who had shot and killed a man earlier in the village.

Lesita says after the ordeal that lasted nearly an hour the police ordered him to pray. He claims his body is full of bruises, especially on the buttocks.

“My body is aching all over.”

Lesita says he wants to sue the police but doesn’t know where to start.

“I understand that my human rights have been grossly violated but I do not know which legal steps to follow,” he says.

A week after the assault, he still hasn’t sought medical help.

Nor has he opened a case against the police.

“I find it impossible to open the case against them. I will have to go to the police station to open a case,” he says.

“How can I open the case against the police at the police station?”

As a sheep farmer, Lesita says he cannot afford the taxi fare to travel to Mapholaneng to report a case at Tlokoeng Police Station.

Lesita says he cut his dreadlocks a day after the incident “because they have put me into serious problems”.

“I rue the day that I started growing those dreadlocks,” he says.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, confirmed that there was a police operation in Mokhotlong but said he didn’t know how it unfolded.

Incidents of the police terrorising villagers under the guise of fighting or investigating crimes are common in Lesotho.

It is rare for police officers involved in such incidents to be arrested or prosecuted.

Majara Molupe

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Anger over Chinese businesses



FORMER Mining Minister, Lebohang Thotanyana, says Lesotho is shooting itself in the foot by allowing Chinese companies that win major construction tenders to import everything from China.

Thotanyana was speaking at the Basotho Business Empowerment Forum on Tuesday.

The forum was organised by the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Association.

Thotanyana told the forum that of all the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries, Lesotho is the one benefitting the least from hiring Chinese-owned companies for major infrastructure projects. 


Thotanyana said Chinese companies tend to “import everything save menial labour” in every government job they win.


“We only benefit minimally with the labour force,” Thotanyana said, adding that “more money goes back to the countries that have brought their own machinery”.


“This is exactly what is happening at the Polihali Dam which is under construction.” 


“There should be a value chain so that the economy grows.”


Tempers flared at the forum as local business owners accused the government of failing to protect them against Chinese businesses. 


The forum revealed the growing frustration among local business owners who feel the government is not doing enough to protect them against Chinese business muscling them out of sectors reserved for them. 


The local business owners criticised the government for failing to implement the Business Licensing and Registration Act 2019 that reserves certain businesses for indigenous Basotho. 


They told the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Thabo Moleko, together with a handful of MPs in attendance, that their patience had worn out.


“We want our business from the Chinese and Indians,” Thobei Motlere, the president of the MSME Association said.


“We are not afraid of these Chinese,” he added, adding that they could approach them head-on.


“We want to see the Act implemented now, not tomorrow or any other time. We want to push them out of the business peacefully. We want peace.”


Motlere said they have been pushed out of business by the Chinese yet there is a law to protect them “against unfair competition”.


“We have elected you as MPs but you are doing nothing to save us from the competition yet there is a law in place,” Motlere said.


The MPs tried to respond to some of the issues people but they were booed and heckled. 


“This is not the right place to answer. You should address this in parliament, not here,” said one woman in the crowd. 


Some MPs walked out of the forum in protest but were eventually coaxed to return to their chairs. 


’Maremi ’Mabathoana, a street vendor, said the Chinese sell almost every item.


“We buy from their shops so that we can sell small items. But the Chinese also sell small items,” ’Mabathoana said.


“When we sell a sweet for M1, they sell it for 50c,” she yelled.


“When we sell apples for M4, the Chinese sell them for M2. This is unfair.”


Moeketsi Motšoane, the Mafeteng MP who is the chairman of the parliament’s Natural Resources committee, said he is also facing similar challenges in his home district.


Trying to calm the irked traders, Motšoane said he could bet that some people were being used by the Chinese to kick Basotho out of business.


“There are such people amongst you who are being used by the Chinese to knock Basotho out of business,” Motšoane said.


He told the Ministry of Trade to move swiftly to implement the Act.


“If you do not implement the Act, we will drag you before the committee to account,” he said.


 Moleko, the principal secretary of Trade,  promised to implement the law. 

Majara Molupe

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Labour unions in nasty fight



TWO trade unions representing workers at Polihali Dam construction site have turned on each other.
Instead of fighting for better pay and conditions for members, the Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers (CMQ) and the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA) are locked in a nasty battle that could be linked to a fight over membership.

CMQ alleges that LEWA officials intimidated its members who wanted to vote for a proposed strike against companies working at Polihali Dam.

CMQ also accuses LEWA’s secretary general, Hlalefang Seoaholimo, of conflict of interest which it says renders him unable to effectively represent workers in their battles against employers in Polihali.

CMQ says Seoaholimo is working as a union leader and an employer at the same time. This, CMQ says, is because Seoaholimo’s company, Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd, has been subcontracted by some companies working at Polihali Dam.

The allegations of intimidation and conflict of interest are part of the letter that CMQ’s secretary general, Robert Mokhahlane, has written to the Registrar of Trade Unions.

In that letter, seen by thepost, Mokhahlane pleads with the Registrar of Trade Unions to deregister LEWA over the alleged intimidation and Seoaholimo’s conflict of interest.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that because of Seoaholimo’s shareholding in Domino Blasting, LEWA has “characteristics of a company, not a trade union”.

“At Polihali Dam construction, there (were) workers who were employed by Domino Blasting Services at various projects,” Mokhahlane alleges.

“They (Domino Blasting) have a long list of projects that have references and include some companies involved in the construction of Polihali Dam.”

Seoaholimo is one of Domino Blasting’s four directors and holds 300 of the 1000 shares in the company.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that Seoaholimo cannot claim to be independently fighting for workers’ rights when his company is working with the same companies accused of unfair labour practices in Polihali.

He also accuses Domino Blasting’s human resource officer, Mpho Kanono, of being conflicted because she is also an official of the United Textile Employees (UNITE).

“Both the two officials (Seoaholimo and Kanono) are workers’ representatives within the Wages Advisory Board whereby Hlalefang Seoaholimo is the spokesperson of the workers,” Mokhahlane says.

Mokhahlane also accuses Seoaholimo of “intimidating workers who will be balloting for a strike action by encouraging LEWA members to observe and identify workers” who would participate.

He claims that Seoaholimo mocked a CMQ official who was mobilising workers for the strike at the construction site.

The Labour Code, which the registrar has been asked to invoke, says a union or employers’ organisation may be cancelled by the Labour Court on the registrar’s application.

Seoaholimo has however vehemently refuted allegations that his company is working at Polihali Dam. He told thepost that CMQ is in a campaign to tarnish his name and that of LEWA because “they are aware that workers do not want to join their union”.

He admits that he is a shareholder in Domino Blasting but insists that “as we speak now Domino Blasting does not have a job anywhere in Lesotho”.

“CMQ has to provide evidence that a company called Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd is working and has any employees in Polihali,” Seoaholimo said.

“Domino Blasting does not even have an office anywhere in the country because it is not working anymore.”

“They should identify the people hired by Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd among workers in Polihali.”

He said the company has not operated in Lesotho since 2016 when it completed a project. Seoaholimo, however, says he is aware of a South African company with a similar name working in Polihali.

“I as a person have nothing to do with that company,” Seoaholimo said.

He said it is true that Mpho Kanono used to work for Domino Blasting back in 2016 when it still had contracts but she has since left because “the company stopped working”.

“Mpho Kanono is an official of UNITE and has nothing to do with Domino Blasting at present moment.”

Staff Reporter

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