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Bureaucracy rocks cattle farmers

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MASERU – IN DIRE need of money to cater for his family’s urgent needs, livestock farmer Motsamai Botsane thought he could count on his cattle. For years, he has survived on breeding and selling livestock.
Based in Tša-Kholo in Mafeteng district, Botsane relies on farming for survival.

Botsane cannot sell his livestock beyond the Tša-Kholo area because the local authorities have run out of bawys forms, a government-issued document proving ownership of livestock.
Bawys issuers have offices in every area chief’s court, where traditional leaders also issue confirmation letters called tlakana-tšooana to villagers who want to register their livestock.

A farmer who does not have a bawys can only sell livestock to people under the jurisdiction of his area chief because his village chief would have issued him with a tlakana-tšooana.
The shortage of bawys is depriving farmers such as Botsane of a market outside their families.

Botsane said things changed for the worse for him three months ago when he wanted to sell cattle to Maseru-based customers. He had also found a customer in Kolo. Although Tša-Kholo and Kolo are in the same district of Mafeteng, Kolo is not under the Tša-Kholo chief.
“I am a family man and it’s very sad that I cannot provide for my family when I have cattle to sell,” Botsane said.
He said although he can sell to people in his village using the tlakana-tšooana, most buyers are from outside.

“It is not really helping me because often buyers come from other places. I have lost three customers based in Maseru and Kolo. I am really struggling,” said Botsane.
And he is losing hope that the problem will be solved soon.
“Worse, the person responsible for issuing those documents doesn’t even know when they will be available,” lamented Botsane.
His other worry is that with the coming of spring he has to shear his sheep and goats and the bawys are mandatory for farmers to be attended to at shearing sheds where officials are strict on proof of ownership to stem stocktheft.

“I don’t really know what I am going to do without those documents. I am stranded,” he said.
Another farmer, Monaheng Jeke of Ngope-Tšoeu, said he last sold livestock last year.
“My house caught fire and all the documents for my livestock got burnt,” Jeke said, adding that he is failing to replace the documents due to the shortages.

“I wanted to sell a cow to rebuild my house but I could not because I didn’t have bawys. I am afraid if this takes longer my house will be destroyed for good and it will require more money to repair,” he said.
He said Covid-19 related restrictions on movements had already made it difficult for him to access markets outside his area.
“Even when the restrictions are eased, I can’t sell because the lack of documents is still a problem,” he said.

“I hope the authorities can solve this problem soon. It’s not only affecting commercial farmers, many other Basotho are struggling to make ends meet because of this problem,” Jeke said.
Likolobeng councillor, Llyod Tšoene, said the shortage of bawys has worsened the situation of many Basotho already hit by Covid-19 related economic hardships.
Tšoene, who spoke from Maseru district, said residents need to sell their livestock to survive.

“But how are they expected to do that? And this doesn’t only affect sellers but buyers as well,” Tšoene said.
“We usually collect the bawys from Roma police station but we were told that they have not received them yet. I tried to find out from the Home Affairs Ministry, Agric and Forestry (but) all these parties denied being responsible for the documents,” Tšoene said.
He said he approached the Local Government Deputy Minister for assistance last week without any success.

“I am still waiting for the deputy minister’s response. If we can find out where the police get them, it would be easier to pester the responsible person with requests for the public’s assistance,” he said.
The councillor for Ha-Mokhasi, ’Maselloane Koena, said farmers are starving despite having animals which they are willing to sell.
“Some people trying to marry are having problems as they are unable to send animals to in-laws as bride price because of lack of proof of ownership.

The cows paid as part of the bride price are usually driven to the chief’s place for the bawys to be changed into the name of the bride’s parents. This is to ensure that the bride’s parents become lawful owners of the cows, otherwise the marriage would be deemed void, according to Sesotho customs.
However, commercial livestock farmers are the most affected; this is their main livelihood, said Koena.
“We really don’t know what the problem is and residents are demanding answers that I don’t have. Now it’s worse as shearing started on Monday,” she said.

“I hope farmers will be allowed to use tlakana-tšooana (for shearing) because it is not their problem that the documents are in short supply,” said Koena.
The Ha-Leronti Area Chief Mothetsi Maama in the Mokema area in Maseru condemned the shortages.
“Villagers are trying to survive on their own without government support but a mere piece of paper has become a hindrance to their advancement,” said Chief Maama.
“We really need help before things get out of hand, people are vulnerable,” Chief Maama said.

Thaba-Phechela MP, Mohau Hlalele, said lack of personnel was worsening the situation, noting that some vacancies for officials who issue bawys have been vacant for up to five years.
“People resorted to travelling to faraway places for help. People take long trips for that document,” Hlalele said.
He said he approached the Forestry Ministry, which claimed to be too broke to deploy civil servants to do the job.

Hlalele said he wished the job could be done by the Home Affairs Ministry because it is its responsibility to mark animals.
“It could make sense that way and maybe we wouldn’t be having this problem,” he said.
He said people have been clamouring to register their animals “on a daily basis”.
“I even resorted to transporting bawys issuers to rotate in the constituency but this did not eradicate the problem,” he said.
He said the rotational system was only helpful as a temporary solution.
“We would come together with chiefs and councillors to transport and feed them for them to execute the job. There is a need for a permanent solution,” Hlalele said.

The forestry ministry chief information officer, Morero Mokotso, said the ministry had nothing to do with the issuance of bawys.
“I have asked all relevant people and they confirmed that there is no such thing here,” Mokotso said.
The Home Affairs ministry spokesperson, Hape Marumo, also said the ministry only conducts checks when marking animals and does not issue bawys.

“We only confirm that the animal indeed belongs to a certain person when we come to do the marking,” Marumo said.
The spokeswoman for the Local Government ministry, ’Makena Setho-Letsie, said the ministry only provides human resources for implementation of the bawys issuance.
“It is not our responsibility to have them printed. The Ministry of Finance procures it. The shortages mean the Ministry of Finance didn’t buy them,” Setho-Letsie said.

The Finance Ministry Information Officer, Keneuoe Mojaki, attributed the shortages to delays in paying the printers for “reasons I can’t disclose”.
However, she said the issue was being given due attention.
“As we speak, payment has been made and we will start receiving them,” Mojaki said.

’Mapule Motsopa

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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

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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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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