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Basotho demand accountability



MASERU – A RECENT survey by Afrobarometer shows that 57 percent of Basotho want the government to be accountable to the people even if that limits its efficiency.
Afrobarometer is a Pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in African countries.
A total of 1 200 Basotho were interviewed in December last year.

The survey says even though the majority of Basotho want a government that is accountable to the people, they still prefer a government “that can get things done”.
The survey also revealed that 62 percent of the respondents “support limits on executive power”.
“Majorities say the Prime Minister should be accountable to Parliament (62 percent) and must always obey laws and the courts (86 percent),” the report says.
More than half of citizens say that in practice, the Prime Minister rarely or never ignores parliament and the courts.

The Afrobarometer team was led by Advision Lesotho and interviewed 1 200 adult Basotho in December 2017.
The findings also show that 62 percent also favour limiting the Prime Minister to a maximum of two terms in office.
Lesotho currently does not have term limits for the Prime Minister.

Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, for instance, was at the helm of the country from 1997 until he lost power in 2012. He however briefly bounced back again in 2015 until he was ousted again in June 2017. “Citizens widely support limits on executive powers and see voters and Parliament as responsible for holding the Prime Minister accountable,” the survey says.
It also says the majority of Basotho want average citizens to have access to information held by public officials.
They however acknowledge that getting such information may not be easy.

A majority of Basotho say that information held by public officials should also be accessible to the public and about four in 10 believe they would have trouble obtaining information about development plans and school budgets.
In terms of accountable versus efficient government, Afrobarometer findings show that 57 percent of Basotho say it is more important that the government be accountable to the people than to “get things done”, a modest decrease from 62 percent in 2014.

Four in 10 disagree, arguing that having an efficient government is more important, even if citizens “have no influence over what it does.”
Parliamentary power to hold the executive accountable is also endorsed by the majority at 62 percent who agree that “Parliament should ensure that the Prime Minister explains to it on a regular basis how his government spends taxpayers’ money,” the findings show.
This continues an upward trend in public support for executive accountability to parliament, from about four in 10 in 2008 and 2012.
The survey has also revealed that the proportion of respondents who say the Prime Minister should not have to “waste his time justifying his actions” to parliament slumped from about 50 percent in 2014 to the current 36 percent.

In practice, a majority (58 percent) of Basotho say the Prime Minister “never” or “rarely” ignores parliament, also an increase from 50 percent in 2014.
On the other hand, the proportion of respondents who say the Prime Minister “often” or “always” ignores parliament also increased to 22 percent while the proportion of “Don’t know” responses declined from 37 percent to 21 percent.

Judicial oversight and controls are also important checks on executive powers in a democracy, Afrobarometer says.
Almost nine out of 10 Basotho (86 percent) share the view that the Prime Minister must always obey the laws and courts, even if he thinks they are wrong.
This represents a 20 percent point increase from 66 percent in 2014.
Conversely, the findings indicate that the share of Basotho who feel that the Prime Minister as the elected leader of the country, should not be bound by laws and courts dropped by about half, to 12 percent.

When asked how often the Prime Minister in fact ignores the courts and laws, a slim majority, 54 percent, of Basotho say he “never” or “rarely” does.
On the issue of transparency, the Afrobarometer says citizens need information if they are to hold their political leaders accountable.
Transparency is thus a prerequisite for accountability, Afrobarometer says.

57 percent of Basotho demand transparency, asserting that information held by public authorities should be shared with the public.
One in three, believes instead that such information should be only for the use of government officials.
Afrobarometer says better educated respondents are more likely than their less-educated counterparts to want such information shared with the public: 60 percent among those with secondary or post- secondary education, compared to 49 percent of those with no formal education.

Among 26 African countries surveyed by Afrobarometer, Lesotho is near the average of 54 percent who say the public should have access to such information, though countries vary widely in their views, from 36 percent of Ivoirians to 74 percent of Malawians.
Another aspect of accountability is communication, as when the citizens let their leaders know what they think and expect.

Only one in 10 (11 percent) say they contacted a Member of Parliament at least once during the previous year to discuss an important problem or share their views.
Contact was somewhat more frequent with government officials (16 percent) and political party officials (19 percent).
About one-third (32 percent) of respondents say they contacted a community councillor. The most frequent contact was with traditional leaders (52 percent) and religious leaders (38 percent).
As for taking action to express dissatisfaction with the government, about three in 10 respondents (28 percent) say “they joined others in their community to request action from the government” once or twice, several times or often during the last year.

“One in five (19 percent) say they contacted a government official to ask for help or make a complaint, while fewer say they contacted the media (16 percent), participated in a demonstration or protest march (15 percent) or refused to pay a tax or fee to the government (5 percent).

Majara Molupe

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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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