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Baby steps to Green City



MASERU – GREEN City, the much touted housing project in Ha Pena Pena, was supposed to be a premium address in Maseru.
A promotional video on Youtube portrays a place of spectacular beauty, with lash gardens, opulent houses and magnificent views.
The pictures in adverts splashed in newspapers portray what looks like a holiday resort rather than a housing project.

Home seekers are told they will have a hospital, school, shopping complex, filling station and a church in the suburb.
A 24-hour security service supported by CCTV was supposed to put those who fret over security at ease.
This was supposed to be a ‘city within a city’, according to some pundits. OM Investments, the little-known company driving the M1 billion project, claims to have the support of a major bank.

Stunning billboards remind you what you will be missing if you don’t partake in the project.
Yet so far those adverts seem to be all there is to the Green City Project.

Not much has happened on the Ha Pena Pena site apart from a parametre wall, an unpaved street connecting to the main road and the shell of what promises to be a majestic gate.
All these were there three years ago when the marketing blitz started.

The excitement at the project’s inception has been replaced by scepticism. Blame that on the promises unfulfilled and the self-imposed targets missed.
“M1 billion Green City project takes off,” announced a headline in a local newspaper in May last year.

“We are still in the first phase of the project which consists of the already registered 96 houses. The project covers 100 hectares of prime land of land at Ha Pena-Pena and will consist of seven phases, each owning a 1 000 square meter playground with 800 residential sites,” said Mahesh Patel, OM Investments’ chief executive.

What Patel did not tell the newspaper was that by that time all he had in hand was a lease for Phase 1 but banks could not fund houses there until the subdivision had been approved by the Land Administration Authority (LAA).

The applications for those individual leases were slowly making their way through the cabinets and files of bureaucrats.
“It was painfully slow,” Patel says.

In July the same newspaper came back with more news on the project, this time giving August as the exact month the construction of the first house would start.
“Construction of the much-talked about luxury comfort living estate of Green City at Ha Pena-Pena will start in earnest this coming month of August when 20-plus houses will have their first foundation laid out in what has become to be known as the ‘City within the City’ by many in the property sector,” the newspaper said.

When August came and no foundation was laid news on the project seemed to dry up. Patel says the project would have been far if the leases had been released on time.
“It took us more than eight months to get leases from the Lesotho Administration Authority (LAA),” says Patel.

As Patel battled to get the leases the 100 people who had registered for the project started building somewhere else.
“They could not wait for us. Some already had their loans approved by their banks and could not wait for us to deal with our issues.”
“Customers ran away because they thought we were not serious. They thought we were playing.”
Patel says as he waited for the leases another problem threatened to upend the project.

It had taken him two years to negotiate prices with the land owners and he was making regular payments to them as agreed.
Yet instead of moving forward he was dealing with dozens of people who claimed to have rights to the land and wanted to be paid.
“You buy land from someone you get the necessary approvals but after a few months someone comes and says his father owned the land.”
“In some cases you find that you have bought land that has already been sold to two or three other people.”

“That means you have to go back to the village community to settle the dispute because it is only them who can know who is the rightful owner of the land.”
That process can take several months, Patel says.

“Meanwhile you cannot move on the project because you might have a serious problem if it turns out that you were wrong.”
“In some cases we would buy a piece of land from a villager then as we are getting the lease you realise that someone has already started building on that land. When you ask them they say they bought the land from the same person who sold it to you.”

Earlier this year OM Investments eventually got the first batch of leases. He says he has 12 clients and is building six model houses.
The last of the 94 leases was approved in January. But he admits his has been a gruelling journey that started in 2010.
Back then OM had a deal to build a complex that was going to have hostels and shops in Roma.
The target market was the students at the National University of Lesotho.

A lease had been granted and OM was at foundation level when the landlord was sued over the land, forcing OM to abandon the project.
“We lost M10 million on that project and the case is still dragging on in the courts,” he explains.  At Green City OM has managed to avoid a similar fate but the cost of the delay has been huge.

Even as the leases were stuck in government offices OM still had to pay salaries and cover other operational costs.
OM’s funders in the Middle East were becoming apprehensive. Patel says he has been shocked “at the pace at which things move in Lesotho.”

“When you start something you tell people it will cost M100 but by the time you finish it you will be asking people to pay M200 because of the delays. People start thinking you are overcharging them.”

“Things don just move fast in this country.”

Staff Reporter

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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