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Cattle disease hits Lesotho



QACHA’S NEK – BOVINE ephemeral fever or three-day stiff-sickness (TDS) has hit the mountainous regions of Lesotho, affecting at least 50 cattle.
The Ministry of Agriculture announced the disease outbreak last week and warned farmers to be vigilant and report any symptoms to the nearest veterinary services office.
The TDS is an insect-transmitted disease caused by a virus transmitted to cattle by biting insects such as mosquitoes and midges.

Cattle with this disease have difficulty swallowing and suffer from constipation. They spend most of the time lying down as they suffer sudden onset of fever and their bodies become stiff, making moving around to graze difficult.
TDS subsides in three days hence the name “three-day stiff-sickness”.
Affected pregnant cows usually abort and milk intensely decreases in lactating ones. Experts say the disease suppresses the fertility of bulls.
TDS outbreaks happen when rains are above-average, say experts, noting that an infected animal usually develops life-long immunity.

Farmers in Lesotho’s mountainous regions panicked this week when the disease hit their area.
Tsekiso Mphutlane of Mphaki, in Quthing district, said his herdboy informed him on Tuesday evening that his cow was showing some worrying symptoms as it had not grazed the entire day.
“It left well in the morning and I was really surprised in the evening when I received the report,” Mphutlane said.

He said the cow looked very hungry that evening and they assumed it was suffering from gastro-intestinal disease, often referred to as nyooko by farmers, and he prepared a concoction of herbs for it.
“It didn’t move the next day and we tried another four litres of herbal remedy thinking it was an illness we could treat but we also failed,” he said.

He said he then decided to inject the animal with maxitet 13.5 %, a medicine for the treatment of heartwater, tick-borne gall sickness (anaplasmosis), pneumonia, navel-ill, joint-ill and foot rot in stock, but there was still no difference.
He said the cow took two days lying in the same place and it was only on a Sunday morning when it stood up and moved.

“I had already lost hope. I felt helpless and resigned to seeing it die under my watch. There was nothing I could do about it,” he said.
He said he met with a veterinary doctor during the ordeal but she did not provide him with any solutions, hence the decision to take matters into his own hands.
“I couldn’t just let it suffer. I had to do something.”
Another farmer, Mosola Molise, said he noticed that his cow was not well when it limped and struggled to stand.

“I really didn’t know what that meant until I read on social media that there was an outbreak of the disease but I did not believe it at the time,” Molise said.
He said it was his first time dealing with the disease “and those two days without it grazing or drinking were stressful”.
He said his father advised him to use traditional herbal concoctions.
“Hopefully they will help,” Molise said, adding that he was worried as the illness meant that he could not use his oxen in the fields.

“Worse, we are trying to cure a disease we do not know about. I am really worried and I don’t know what to do as our vet hasn’t said anything,” he said.
He said his neighbours are also stressed.
The Mphaki councillor of Ha-Peete, Karabo Lesala, said although villagers were panicking, the area’s Agricultural Extension Officer said the disease won’t last for long.
“It’s not something new hence animals will recover quickly,” Lesala said.
The village chief for Maqokho, Chief Tanyele Tanyele, said the outbreak hit early February, with at least 50 cattle affected in his village alone.

“At first we thought it was a gastro-intestinal problem but reports revealed otherwise,” Chief Tanyele said.
He said farmers were stranded as they did not know how to treat the disease and their efforts failed.
“We tried olives, potassium permanganate and Maytenus hetrophylla (sefea-maeba) and others with no luck. We are now waiting for God’s will (to be done),” he said.
He said he had since reported the matter to the Agriculture Extension Officer who promised to consult the vet on their behalf.
In Qacha’s Nek district, farmers were complaining that they were not getting any help from their district vet.

A farmer from Thaba-Ntšo Ha-Lepekola, Pelaelo Linono, said he was unable to figure out how he would survive without his cattle because they are his only source of income.
“What I saw that morning was shocking. My cattle were standing still; not moving, not grazing, not even drinking water,” Linono said.
He said the cattle started “coughing like people and saliva was coming out of their mouths yet at the same time they seemed tired”.

“I did not know what to do and I thought the coronavirus had infected our livestock. I lost hope because I was thinking if they are well this coming winter I will sell two of my cattle and have money for my family as usual,” Linono said.
He said when he was still thinking about that, the vet came and vaccinated the affected cattle in the village.
“We consider ourselves so fortunate that he came but unfortunately he did not vaccinate them all, so now the cattle that were not vaccinated are getting sick,” he said.
Another farmer, ’Maseabata Sefali of Tebellong, said she faced similar problems with her cattle.

“These are just what my husband left me when he died 10 years ago,” Sefali said.
“Although some of my cattle were stolen some time ago, I have more than 10 because two remained and they kept multiplying,” she said.
Sefali said she was afraid “this unknown sickness” would kill all her cattle.
“I depend on them. They are my only hope and they are helpful to me because I am able to feed the orphans I take care of,” she said, expressing gratitude that the vet had vaccinated the animals.

The Director-General of Veterinary Services, Dr Marosi Molomo, confirmed the outbreak of TDS, which the farmers of Quthing, Thaba-Tseka, Qacha’s Nek, Mokhotlong, and Semonkong in Maseru district have named litšika (muscles).
She said some cattle remain miserable until they are given supportive treatment or antibiotics.
“The outbreak is a result of the heavy rainfall,” Dr Molomo said.
She said the disease is common and the only difference is “the upsurge this year and it surprised us”.

“It’s not dangerous as some animals can still recover without any treatment and it hasn’t given us any problems all these years,” she said.
“Surprisingly this year most districts were affected at the same time in late January to date but we are addressing the matter in collaboration with farmers and agriculture officers at the district level.”
She said they were expecting to deal with quarter evil (serotsoana) this time of the year, especially when they have not vaccinated cattle.
The focus, she said, had been on preventing the outbreak of quarter evil while being unaware that farmers would encounter TDS this year.

She said most cattle that were infected by TDS are recovering.
“We are currently approaching farmers to assist them. Most of the animals are recovering and very few died, possibly because they already had some underlying illnesses before TDS attacked,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) Information Officer Mahlape Koali, last week alerted farmers about the outbreak in Thaba-Tseka, which she said has affected all areas.
“Many cattle died,” Koali said, although exact figures are yet to be compiled.

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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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