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Big cheer for the girl child



When times are hard, as they often do for most families in Lesotho, the choice is often between buying food for the family and buying sanitary pads for the young girls.

In most cases, it is the former that wins the battle of wills.
That leaves most girls, particularly in rural areas, without any protective wear.
As a result, they risk facing shame in school or opting to stay home and miss school altogether, sometimes for almost four days every month when they are on their periods.
That is the sad reality confronting girls in most rural schools.

But thanks to UNICEF, through Hlokomela Banana, a charity organisation fronted by Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso to promote the rights of the girl child, the girls had something to smile about last week when they received sanitary pads.

A shy but beaming Motšelisi Nkesi, a student at Ribaneng High School, was in a buoyant mood, declaring that “boys will no longer see our shame”.
Of course, having your periods is nothing to be ashamed of as a women. Instead, what she meant was that the sanitary pads will help protect the girls’ privacy during menstruation.

Culturally, it brings shame and dishonour for a man to see that a woman is on her periods.
Grateful to UNICEF and Hlokomela Banana for the gifts, Nkesi talked briefly but strongly about how important it is to give girls sanitary pads.

“We are very grateful,” she said.

“We are thankful that our school has been selected among others to receive this help.”

The gifts, according to the school principal, Puleng Nkaleche, came at a time when the school was grappling with abject poverty that has struck almost every family in the area.
Nkaleche said most of her students come from poor families that cannot even afford food, let alone other necessities like sanitary pads.

“You can see them, they don’t have proper uniforms,” Nkaleche said.

Nkaleche said many of her students come from child-headed families and are orphans, while others have been abandoned by their parents.
The children, she said, have no money to buy menstrual pads every month.

Hlokomela Banana, which means take care of girls, is an aid project for girls initiated by Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso’s National Trust Fund.
The purpose of the initiative is to provide sanitary wear for school-going girls countrywide, in every school, to counter girls’ absenteeism from school during their menstrual periods.

Hlokomela Banana was helping girls in 35 schools countrywide at the beginning of this year.
Speaking at the handover ceremony at Ribaneng High School, Hlokomela Banana coordinator, ‘Makhamathoane Malie, said at the beginning of this year UNICEF added 12 more schools, bringing the total number of schools they are assisting to 47.

Ribaneng High School was one of the schools which was added to the list this year.
Malie said it was worrying that girls would not go to school during their periods hence the establishment of Hlokomela Banana, which she said focuses on the welfare of girls.

She thanked UNICEF for stretching its helping hand to ensure that Hlokomela Banana’s objective is achieved.
This was the first time Hlokomela Banana had visited Ribaneng High School and Malie said now that it is on its list of schools it helps, it will receive the pads four times in a year.
Hlokomela Banana handed over 116 packets to the school.

Each girl is expected to spend three months with her packet, after which Hlokomela Banana will be back to give packets for the next three months again.
Speaking at the ceremony, the UNICEF Lesotho country representative Dr Deepak Bhaskaran said since last Thursday was the International Day of the Girl Child, UNICEF was celebrating together with Ribaneng High School girls.

“UNICEF continues to invest and advocate for action towards investing in girls in a meaningful way, protecting and promoting girls,” Dr Bhaskaran said.
Dr Bhaskaran said UNICEF, on the International Day of the Girl Child, would henceforth celebrate and support girls’ leadership.
Dr Bhaskaran said the theme of the year was about investing in girls’ leadership and wellbeing.

“You are all our future leaders,” he told them.

“The International Day of the Girl Child is of great important for all of us, as it calls upon all of us to acknowledge the remarkable potential and abilities of girls,” he said.

He said girls have the pivotal role in shaping Lesotho’s future.
He said girls all over the world, including in Lesotho, are facing challenges that include period poverty, gender-related vulnerabilities” among others.
He also said girls face challenges of “inequality and child marriages, which put them at disadvantaged positions”.

“These challenges often disrupt girls’ education, limiting their development opportunities,” he said.

Dr Bhaskaran also said child marriages and sexual worries also are to blame for exposing girls to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and unwanted pregnancies.
These, he said, cause physical and emotional suffering that can perpetuate a cycle of pain and have long-lasting and devastating repercussions.
“Sadly this happens here in Lesotho in quite large numbers,” he said.

“At least girls like you are speaking up about these issues that matter to them. They seek better education, better health services, and more information about sexual reproduction health,” he said.

He encouraged girls to turn these aspirations into reality by boldly investing into their rights and choices.
He said they should fight against discrimination based on age, gender, ethnicity and other factors.

“You are our bright future,” he said, adding that every girl must strive to complete her education.

Eagerness to support girls’ cause has seen UNICEF stretching its helping hand in various projects down the years, and this year it partnered with Vodacom Lesotho Foundation to train them in coding.
In January the partnership saw 273 girls in Leribe district undergoing training in a series of Code-Like-A-Girl.

That was a continuation of the training programme that the two partners began in December last year.
At that time, 1 287 girls had been trained through CAMARA Lesotho, increasing the total number of adolescent girls trained in coding between December 2022 and January 2023 to 1 500.

Code-Like-A-Girl is a five-day training workshop geared towards bridging the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers.
The programme is offered to girls aged 14-18 in high schools.
It provides basic knowledge of computer languages and development programmes, including HTML, CSS, GitHub, and Bootstrap, enabling students to develop a website by the end of the one-week course.

Vodacom Lesotho Foundation launched the Code-Like-A-Girl programme in 2017 and had reached more than 2 364 girls in Lesotho in January this year.
The programme aims to tackle the low representation of girls in STEM education, get more girls into careers requiring coding skills, or help them get a start as STEM entrepreneurs.
At the time, Dr Bhaskaran said the partnership aimed “to foster their creativity and design abilities, preparing them for a transition to work”.

Staff Reporter

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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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