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A fighter for women’s rights

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MASERU – Early in her life, Liteboho Kompi joined politics for fun.

“I did not have any further dreams than being just an ordinary Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) member who could be seen dancing to the party’s political songs,” said Kompi, recalling her novice days in politics.

In 2012 when the Democratic Congress (DC) was born after a split from the LCD, some members approached Kompi asking her to stand for elections at her then Qaqatu constituency.

But she lost the primary elections. After the loss, the LCD accorded her an opportunity to be a Proportional Representative (PR) Member of Parliament (MP).

Later, she landed a job as a Deputy Minister of Education and Training.

“Since then, my love for politics has intensified. I became exposed to issues that I never knew when I became an MP,” says the 40-year-old.

Before becoming an MP, Kompi says she had always fought against child marriages which are common in most parts of the rural Lesotho.

“Child marriages frustrate the development of the girl child because they cannot further their studies to the next level. I believe that education is a key to success. Once the girls get married at an early stage, that move usually throws banana skins in their lives,” Kompi says.

While in parliament, she says she advocated for the enactment of anti-child marriage laws.

“It was my passion to teach people in the village about the negative consequences of child marriages. I would throw in parliament hot debates. I also did the same in the villages. Some people do not understand that it is illegal for girls to get married while still young because their bodies are not yet ready for such burdens. The sad reality is that some parents push for the marriage of their daughters who are still at a tender age oblivious of the predicament they are putting them into,” she says.

“This is what I have been fighting for,” Kompi says, adding that she is going to continue her fight until the practice is eradicated.

The vibrant and energetic MP says she talks about child marriages on all public platforms so that people could understand it.

The MP entered the race for a second time in the same constituency under the LCD but she lost yet again in 2015 but that did not dampen her spirit in politics.

One of the important milestones in her political journey was securing a job as deputy Minister of Health. Kompi strongly advocated for maternal issues while at the Ministry of Health.

“I am gravely concerned about the deaths of mothers when delivering babies,” Kompi, who joined Selibe Mochoboroane when he split from the LCD to form the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) in 2017, says.

“In fact I was a founding member of the MEC. I became a member of the Executive Committee serving as the public relations officer, a position I still hold,” says Kompi, whose major task is to communicate party issues and policy positions to the public.

Kompi also became a member of the National Dialogue Planning Committee, whose function was to gather public opinion regarding the national reforms process.

There were three representatives from opposition parties in the reforms committee. Later, Kompi landed a job as deputy chairperson of the National Reforms Authority (NRA), whose task was to formulate reforms for the country in designated areas.

Another area of her interest is to see women at village level being empowered and economically emancipated. Kompi wants to see women financially independent.

“The current situation now is that many women still rely on their partners for financial resources yet it is possible for women to break through these barriers,” she says.

She says most women still venture into poultry farming with “abysmal ignorance”.

“So they have to be trained and equipped with skills so that they can graduate out of poverty. Others are in crop production with limited skills in that field,” says Kompi, who is also an enthusiastic farmer who keeps poultry for sale.

Kompi believes that it is high time that the country moves from peasant farming and adopt commercial agriculture as a strategy to fight poverty.

Incredibly, Kompi is unafraid and unashamed to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. She also goes out under the baking sun to tend her crops in the fields.

In the October 7th elections Kompi threw her hat in the ring contesting the elections in Likotsi constituency under the MEC banner. She lost the elections to the Revolution for Prosperity’s (RFP)’s Lineo Rantšo.

Frustrated after the massive blow, her party offered her a PR seat in the 11th Parliament. Among issues that she plans to push in parliament is to see factory workers being given a fully paid three-month maternity leave.

“I am also going to push to see that the working hours of factory workers are flexible,” she says.

Since her constituency covers the Tikoe Industrial Estate, she regularly sees women hunting for jobs in the factories struggling to access facilities such as toilets.

Kompi says women looking for jobs need decent places to relieve themselves.

Asked about her future plans in politics, Kompi says she is not aspiring to be leader of her party one day.

“That is not my project at all,” she says, adding that being a leader comes with an avalanche of responsibilities.

When further asked if she wants to be a Prime Minister of this country one day, she was quick to shake her head in denial.

“I don’t want to be leader of a political party, let alone to be a Prime Minister of this country,” Kompi says.

Regarding the recent elections, Kompi believes her party performed well compared to other political parties. The MEC bagged the Thabana-Morena constituency which was won by party leader Selibe Mochoboroane.

Kompi says some big and old parties suffered a massive blow in the past elections.

“So our party, small as it is, did its best in the elections. But there are still some gaps that we want to cover as a party in order for us to grow from strength to strength,” says Kompi, adding that the party is satisfied with the coalition marriage with the RFP.

The MEC has four Proportional Representatives (PR) MPs in the government. The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is also part of the marriage.

“We are being consulted adequately on critical issues in the government,” she said.

She says this means the government could last up to five years because it is operating in line with the coalition agreement.

“Undeniably, there is no marriage without problems,” Kompi says.

For her, the private sector could help rekindle the troubled economy by creating jobs for the unemployed, especially youths who are roaming the streets with nothing to do.

Majara Molupe

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Suspension was malicious, says Nko

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MASERU – A gunshot wound and an attempted murder charge have not stopped Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko from starting a new fight.

The suspended Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) boss is rolling up his sleeves for what promises to be an epic legal battle to be reinstated.

In an application filed in the High Court this week, Dr Nko argues that the LTDC’s decision to suspend him had a “glaring element of bad faith and malice”.

He says the suspension was procedurally flawed because there was no complainant to instigate it and he was not granted a hearing.

Dr Nko was suspended after he was involved in a shooting incident with guests at an event at a Hillsview guest house on December 27.

He is alleged to have rushed home to take his gun after an argument with some of the guests. Dr Nko and a guest sustained gunshot wounds in the scuffle that ensued.

Reports say the guests were trying to wrestle the gun from Dr Nko when the shots were fired.

The LTDC’s board suspended him two days later, alleging that he had failed to attend an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the incident.

The suspension letter was written by Nonkululeko Zaly who was the chairperson of the LTDC board by virtue of being the principal secretary in the Ministry of Trade.

Zaly, who has since been fired following corruption investigations, also approached the court to force the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to return the assets confiscated during a raid at her house.

Dr Nko, in his court papers, accuses Zaly of usurping the board’s powers to suspend him. He says there was never a board resolution to suspend him.

The extraordinary meeting, he alleges, was a “prearranged dishonest scheme between certain members of the board and social media personnel which were part of the ruse deliberately designed to compromise” his interests.

Dr Nko says the board called him to the 29 December meeting when he was on sick leave and then suspended him without hearing his reasons for failing to attend.

He complains that Zaly wrote his suspension letter on the basis of mere allegations even though she had remained principal secretary and chairperson of the board when the corruption investigations against her were in full swing.

He queries why he was being suspended when Zaly was allowed to hold on to her job.

Zaly appears to have been belligerent when Dr Nko’s lawyers contacted her to query the suspension.

She told the lawyers, in a letter, that their queries were based on misinformation. She also dismissed the lawyer’s request for a record of the board meeting that decided to suspend Dr Nko.

“We are therefore not going to honour any of your demands and if your client is not satisfied, he is free to approach any appropriate forums to pursue these baseless issues,” Zaly said in her letter.

The lawyers say that response shows that Zaly was hell-bent on suspending their client.

Dr Nko wants the High Court to order the LTDC board to reverse the suspension, stop his imminent disciplinary proceedings and release the records of its December 29 meeting.

He also says the board is already conducting investigations on the incident to use as evidence against him in the disciplinary hearing.

Staff Reporter

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thepost columnist wins award

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Maseru – Two scholars associated with the National University of Lesotho have been awarded the 2022 Thomas Pringle prize for the best literary article published the previous year.

Chris Dunton, who is a columnist for thepost, and Lerato Masiea have won the prize, which is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa, for their article “Between rocks and hard places: the controversial career of A.S. Mopeli-Paulus,” which was published by thepost.

Dunton was previously Professor and Dean of Humanities at the NUL and for some years cwrote a column for this newspaper titled “Left Side Story.” Masiea is a lecturer in the NUL’s Department of English and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of the Free State.

Their prize-winning article was published in the journal English in Africa (vol.48 no.3, 2021, pp47-64). In it the authors explore the writings and life of the South African Mosotho author Mopeli-Paulus.

As their title indicates, their subject was a controversial figure, who degenerated from being an opponent of the apartheid regime (he was, notably, one of the leaders of the Witzieshoek Cattle Rebellion, for which role he was incarcerated in the Pretoria Central Prison) to being a high-ranking accomplice in the Bantustan system.

He was a prolific writer in both English and Sesotho (at one point he referred to the compulsive desire to write as a kind of madness!), his best-known works being the poetry-collection Ho tsamaea ke he bona (from time to time a set-text in Lesotho schools), the novel Blanket Boy’s Moon and the autobiography The World and the Cattle.

Dunton and Masiea’s article covers all his writing, published and unpublished (his papers are freely accessible at the William Cullen Library, Wits University) and is especially concerned with the question of cross-border identity.

Mopeli-Paulus was born in Monontsa, South Africa, in the lost territories—much in the news recently—and remained a South African citizen all his life. The dust-jacket for his first novel, Blanket

Boy’s Moon — which was an international best-seller — carries his name with the tag “Chieftain of Basutoland”, but this was a mistake.

Nonetheless, Mopeli-Paulus identified very strongly with Lesotho and has much to say — some of it fanciful, even spurious — on concepts of Sotho identity.

Dunton and Masiea explore this issue in detail, as it remains a topic of crucial importance even today.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane to boot out PS

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MASERU – THE Sam Matekane government is getting ready to get rid of Principal Secretaries appointed by the previous administration.

First to be axed is Nonkululeko Zaly who Matekane fired as a PS for the Ministry of Trade on January 11.

Zaly, who is challenging the decision, suffered a blow yesterday when the High Court refused to hear her case on an urgent basis.

Her case will now have to join the long queue of hundreds of others pending in the High Court.

Lefu Manyokole has been replaced as the PS of the local government ministry.

The axe is also likely to fall on government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, and Foreign Affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko.

The four have been the subject of a graft investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

Their homes and offices have been raided and properties seized as the anti-corruption unit investigates allegations that they received millions in bribes from contractors. The four are likely to be the first to be shown the door.

Indications are however that Matekane could be readying to purge the government of principal secretaries inherited from the previous government. Matekane hints at that impending clean up in his dismissal letter to Zaly.

“You will agree with me that as a Principal Secretary, yours was a political appointment,” Matekane said in the letter that Zaly claimed not to have received in her court papers.

“It follows therefore that the working relationship between yourself and the person appointing you, the Prime Minister in this case, is mainly based on utmost trust and confidence.”

“The trust and confidence components become even more important under the obtaining circumstances where the new government, of which I am the head, has just been installed.”

Matekane told Zaly that his government came with new ideas and policies at the top of which is to fight corruption.

He said he was aware that the DCEO had seized certain documents in Zaly’s possession “evidencing a commission of crime and that you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your possession of those documents”.

“This has eroded all the trust and confidence I had in you as the Principal Secretary and there is no way I can continue with you at the helm of any government ministry,” Matekane said.

Highly placed sources in the government have told thepost that Zaly’s exit is just the beginning of a shake-up that will continue for the next three months as Matekane seeks to bring in new people he trusts and share his vision with.

Meanwhile, Moahloli Mphaka, the government’s special adviser in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission this week told the High Court that there is a plan to fire him and two other senior officials.

Mphaka made the allegations in an urgent application to force the commission to pay his salary and that of Thabang Thite, and Bahlakoana Manyanye who are also part of the lawsuit. Thite and Manyanye are assistant advisers in the commission.

Mphaka told the court in an affidavit that on December 22 last year, the Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko told them that his superiors had instructed him to terminate their contracts.

The reason, Mphaka said, is the fact that they are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) members hired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. He said the government’s delay to pay their December salary was meant to frustrate them into resigning.

Nkheli Liphoto

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