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Big steps against AIDS



QACHA’S NEK – PAULINA Khabejana, 52, is grateful to the government and development partners for availing antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people.

Khabejane, from Qacha’s Nek, witnessed how her husband, who was a migrant mine worker in South Africa, died from an AIDS-related illness in the early 2000s.

She says she will never forget how she nearly died when she fell sick immediately almost at the same time as her husband.

She says she began to lose a lot of weight and was only saved by doctors at a hospital in Qacha’s Nek who prescribed for her antiretroviral drugs.

“The doctors did not ask for my permission,” Khabejane says.

“They just prescribed antiretroviral drugs and told me that if I would not take them I would die,” she says.

“I took the drugs and I’m still alive.”

Khabejane was speaking to thepost at an event to commemorate World AIDS Day in the district last week.

She says the picture of her husband’s frail body before he died, and how she too lost weight severely when she fell sick, motivated her to take up her antiretroviral drugs.

Khabajane is one of the 230 000 Basotho who are on antiretroviral treatment in Lesotho. This is the fifth year since Khabejane began her antiretroviral treatment. Her husband died over 15 years ago.

She says it is a pity that her husband died at a time when being HIV positive was seen as a death sentence. There was also a lot of stigmatisation for people who would have tested HIV positive, she says.

And when her husband died, antiretroviral treatment was not yet available to everybody who needed it.

“It was so embarrassing to tell people that someone was HIV positive because at the time, we believed a person with HIV was of loose morals and was sleeping all over with everyone,” she says.

Her husband was working in South Africa in the mines and would come home for the weekend.

“I remember quite well that I got ill some weeks after he left for South Africa but I did not tell him and I quickly recovered,” she says.

“Later that same year he told me that he was sick and he might come back home on sick leave. A month later he arrived, so weak that he was unable to pick up a plastic bag, so weak and so thin that he was not able to finish a glass of water.”

Khabejane says her husband was taken from one hospital to the next but never recovered.

“One day the doctors told me he had to test for HIV and when I came back to check on him I was told that he was HIV positive,” she says.

“I felt sick in the stomach because I knew how HIV was passed from one person to another.”

He kept on losing weight until he was gone, she says.

“I was left with this disease, had many questions with no answers. I tried to be strong for my children.”

She says she was living in misery, she got sick, and had severe stress after she lost her love and someone who brought bread for her children.

“I had to accept that he left me with this incurable disease.”

But years passed and later she too got seriously sick. Luckily for her, she fell sick at a time when the antiretroviral drugs were available to everyone, which saved her life.

“I’m happy I am still alive, I never thought I would see these years,” she says.

“I wanted to live, I wanted to be there for my children, I am happy and thankful that the treatment helped us to go on with our lives although it was not easy.”

The latest statistics reveal that at least 280 000 people in Lesotho are living with HIV. The HIV prevalence rates for the adult population currently stands at 21.1 percent.

The battle against HIV is however far from over with 7 700 new HIV infections recorded every year. The disease is mowing down 4 700 people every year with 230 000 people on antiretroviral treatment.

Speaking during the World AIDS Day commemorations on December 1, King Letsie III: “Today we stand tall for the systems to be strengthened, many lives spared, and some new infections averted.”

The king said that the dream of an AIDS-free Lesotho is closer to reality.

He said Lesotho has demonstrated resilience, perseverance, and commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat.

Prime Minister Sam Matekane, speaking at the same occasion in Maseru, said Lesotho remains committed to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

“Leave no one behind and rally together with everyone towards an AIDS-free Lesotho,” Matekane said.

Lesotho reached the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target by 2020, with 90 percent of the population aware of their HIV status, 97 percent of those aware of their HIV status on treatment, and 92 percent of those on treatment virally suppressed.

Lesotho is among the first countries to adopt decentralisation of care from hospitals to nurse-led health centres to scale up the provision of antiretroviral therapy.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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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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