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Bathed in the politics of struggle

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MASERU – A BUNCH of criminals.
That is Joang Molapo’s withering assessment of the last coalition government led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
It is a strong sentiment that vividly captures Molapo’s utter contempt for a regime that he says was guilty of perpetrating with impunity serious human rights violations.

He then lists a litany of crimes he says were committed with the tacit endorsement of those at the highest levels of government.
He speaks of the Lesotho army’s stubborn refusal to subject itself to civilian authority, the Bidvest financial scandal, the senseless murder of Mokalekale Khetheng and the ghastly murder of civilians, with their bodies being thrown into Mohale Dam.
It is an argument that he delivers with remarkable eloquence and clarity.

For Molapo, it was the “culture and ethos” from the highest levels of the government that fueled the rot.
He says that culture had to be dismantled.
And so when voters’ trooped to the polling booths in the last general election on June 3, they had a choice either to vote for the status quo or boot out a repressive political system that had outlived its usefulness.

They chose the latter.
Molapo says the last election “was therefore less a popularity contest between political parties but was more of a referendum for the Congress parties”.
The voters, fed up with decades of Mosisili-led rule, gave the congress parties a bloody nose at the polls. To the voters, Mosisili had simply gone way past his sell-by date.

From the shell of the Mosisili-led government rose the new coalition under which Molapo is now serving as Minister of Public Works, a job he was shuffled to from the more glamorous Ministry of Communications last month.
Molapo also serves as the deputy leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), a party that is trying to reclaim its hegemony on the Lesotho political scene following decades of constant decline.

At 52, Molapo, a suave politician who is a brilliant communicator, represents the future of Lesotho. He is among a new generation of leaders who say they want to haul the country from decades of economic sterility.
He admits though that the challenges are monumental.

Youth unemployment and the lack of economic opportunities is breeding “a very destructive political culture” in Lesotho.
“We have a poorly developed culture for the politics of reconciliation and the politics of consensus,” he says.
Molapo is probably speaking from experience. His father, Mooki Molapo, was a distinguished diplomat and politician who served Lesotho in various capacities since independence.

As a staunch BNP cadre, the elder Molapo was in the thick of the action during a difficult period of political upheaval in Lesotho during the 1970s and 1980s. The young Joang witnessed some of the conflicts first hand.
“As Basotho we are not good at accommodating each other,” he says.

That has resulted in national discord and sometimes violent conflict in the last five decades since independence from the British in 1966.
Molapo says “we can only fix this country if we are willing to take some very difficult decisions”.

He wants to see massive long-term investments in agriculture. He argues that is the key to unlocking Lesotho’s vast economic potential.
“We need to understand what we are going to grow and why and develop value chains around those products,” he says.
Molapo says unfortunately, politicians have too often looked at “short-term” interventions to win elections.

“Everyone thinks we are going to have an election next week and people are scared to take decisions with long-term impacts.”
Such thinking must be binned if we are to take this country forward, he argues.
“These short-term interventions are never going to take us anywhere.”

Molapo also wants to see a massive shake-up in Lesotho’s education system to ensure that Basotho “who get out of tertiary institutions have the skills to function in the world”.

“We have to ensure that Basotho understand the value of science and technology, innovation and creativity. They must turn these things into businesses.” Molapo says the government is currently seized with discussions around these issues because Prime Minister Thomas Thabane “has a big vision of where he wants to take the country”.

He says Thabane is however only constrained by “the social, political and other issues” bedeviling this country.
Critics and the opposition have not taken kindly to the Thabane-led government accusing it of embarking on a retributive campaign against ministers and supporters of the former government.
Instead of pursuing reconciliation and forgiveness, the Thabane administration has not been magnanimous in victory by seeking to settle vendettas, they say.

That is nonsense, according to Molapo.
In fact, he is of the view that the call for reconciliation has not been a “genuine call” but smacks of crass hypocrisy.

He says Mosisili and his group from the “congress parties” had been in power since 1993 and never “did anything that talks to national reconciliation”.
“They lied to the people about everything they claim happened in the 1970s and 1980s. They fueled the conflict between the Congress and National party members. Only now when the numbers no longer support them are they beginning to talk of reconciliation.”

He thinks Mosisili and company are “not driven by a genuine desire for national reconciliation”. The Mosisili camp’s call for reconciliation is therefore merely a reflex action for political self-preservation.
In fact it smacks of political opportunism, Molapo says.

Molapo says he sees a genuine opportunity through the SADC-led reforms to “make Lesotho’s political dispensation more equitable”.
“The more equitable it will be, the more stable Lesotho will be.”

A stable Lesotho will mean that the government will have a chance to introduce long-term policies that will benefit the people.
Molapo admits that he was, proverbially speaking, born with a silver spoon in his mouth. As the son of a distinguished diplomat, Molapo grew up virtually shielded from the sea of poverty engulfing Lesotho.

When he was just 18 months old, his father was posted on a diplomatic mission as the Third Secretary at the Lesotho Embassy in Washington, in the United States. The family came back home briefly in 1970.
In 1971, his father was again off to New York after he was appointed Lesotho’s ambassador to the United Nations. While there, the young Molapo enrolled for primary school in New York.

Molapo says this was a very privileged upbringing.
While his age-mates were herding sheep and goats in Lesotho, the young Joang was rubbing shoulders with the children of the “who’s who” of this world.

It was an upbringing that obviously gave him a “head start” in life in shaping his vision and perspective in life.
Even though he came from a very active political family, his father insisted that he must first get a firm grounding in school before venturing into the cut-throat world of politics, advice he gladly heeded.

“He insisted that I should first get a career independent of politics,” he says.
Molapo graduated with a BSc Hon in Civil Engineering from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.

He had initially enrolled for a BSc degree in Mathematics and Physics as majors with Chemistry and Computer Science as minors at the National University of Lesotho but did not complete his studies when he left for the UK to study engineering.
“I had my career as an engineer and was able to come into politics when it was convenient for me,” he says.

But why would a successful engineer risk his career to delve into what is often murky waters of politics where big sharks lurk, ready to pounce?
“I love Lesotho,” is Molapo’s brief response. “I have had opportunities to live and work in the United States, the United Kingdom and in South Africa. I have also worked as an engineer in 20 other countries. I have done projects the length and breadth of the world, yet I am happiest when I am in Lesotho,” he says.

Abel Chapatarongo

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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