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Corpse spends three days in ward



MASERU-THE corpse of a suspected Covid-19 patient spent three days in a Mokhotlong hospital ward because health workers were too terrified to remove it, the High Court heard yesterday.

The shocking revelation was heard during an urgent application filed by the Coalition of Health Professionals (CHP) in which they want the court to endorse their right to stay away from work.
The workers say they must be allowed to stay away from work until the government provides them with protective gear.
The CHP said the “health workers were scared to enter the ward” and remove the corpse.

The case vividly captures the rampant fears among health workers in dealing with Covid-19 cases.
It could also be a sneak peek of what could lie ahead for Lesotho if nothing is done to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The health workers, who downed tools on Monday, want the government to urgently provide them with personal protective clothing to combat the disease.

In an affidavit presented to the court, CHP President Ngqabuthu Mothibe said when the National Covid-19 Secretariat (Nacosec) was informed of the situation “it did nothing to remedy the situation” until after three days.
The patient died in Mokhotlong Hospital.

The CHP spokesman, Dr Mojakisane Ramafikeng, told thepost last night that the patient had recently travelled from South Africa and had symptoms of Covid-19.
His family, on seeing the symptoms, rushed him to the hospital where he later died.
“That hospital, like many others in the districts, has no capacity to manage Covid-19 cases,” Dr Ramafikeng said.
“The Nacosec was called but unfortunately it went there after three days,” he said.

“It is not only Mokhotlong, many other hospitals have similar problems.”
Dr Ramafikeng said even at the Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital, Lesotho’s national health facility, Nacosec was delaying to attend to suspected Covid-19 cases.
He said it was also not clear if family members were immediately followed up to be tested after their interactions with their deceased relative.
The Nacosec spokesman, Tumisang Mokoai, could not be reached for comment at the time of going to the print last night.

Meanwhile, Minico Mothibeli, 38, who had been placed in isolation after showing Covid-19 symptoms, died in a Mafeteng hospital this week.
The family has accused the hospital and its staff of gross negligence.
The family said there is no indication that health workers attended to Mothibeli at the Mafeteng quarantine facility until she died.

Her sister, ’Marelebohile Shoahle, said Mothibeli went to see her doctor at one hospital in Maseru for an operation.
But the doctor told her that the operation could not proceed because she was having difficulties breathing.
Shoahle said the doctor referred her late sister to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru for Covid-19 tests.

She said the doctors confirmed that she had Covid-19 symptoms and she was immediately transferred to Mafeteng Hospital for quarantine.
When the family went to visit her, they were told it was not possible to see her since she was now in isolation.
Shoahle said they went back and called her on her phone. She told them she was feeling cold and wanted something to warm herself up.
But when they took a heater to the hospital the nurses refused to allow them to drop it for her.

Shoahle said the doctor told them that their sister was critically ill.
“The doctor told us that there was no oxygen and the plugs were off,” she said.
She insisted that the family should have been allowed to see their sister when her health deteriorated.
This was in spite of the restrictions placed by the Ministry of Health on all Covid-19 patients.

Shoahle said the doctor told them that her sister had TB and that it had been diagnosed late. She said they then demanded that their sister be transferred to another hospital where she could be given oxygen.
But they failed.
She said they later discovered that the plugs were purposely put off because some staff members were ordered to switch on the plugs.
Shoahle said her sister called her in the middle of the night and they prayed together asking God to save her.
“I told her not to despair,” she said.

She said her sister then cried inconsolably and never answered her phone.
Shoahle said the other people who were quarantined together with her sister told the family that they tried to save her but they failed.
Shoahle said they were told by other patients that the nurses ignored her pleas for help.

The two cases paint a picture of health workers who are not only petrified but appear woefully equipped to treat Covid-19 patients.
The CHP and five other health practitioners’ associations it represents filed the application in the High Court as the number of their members who have contracted Covid-19 hit 22 yesterday.
“On the other hand, the Covid-19 regulations call for expeditious and safe storage and disposal of the remains of Covid-19 (patients),” Mothibe said in the affidavit.

“All these circumstances and situations, violate and/or impose a threat of violation to health workers’ own lives and health,” he said, in the affidavit.
What irked the health workers more is that M700 million has been set aside “to safeguard health workers and their clients against Covid-19 by availing them with the requisite medical tools and equipment,” according to Mothibe.

He said from this amount, M80 million is meant for Covid-19 risk or hazard allowances.
“The health professional work is by nature dangerous in particular during the prevalence of Covid-19 and poses a threat to the health professionals’ own lives and the lives of their families,” Mothibe said.
“The Covid-19 is a deadly disease and recently the rate of persons testing positive is rising at an alarming rate,” he said.

The application was filed after the Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Thebe Mokoatle circulated a memo in which he threatened to punish any health worker who downed tools.

The health workers want the High Court to declare that they have a right to stay away from a dangerous workplace.
Mothibe said “the government has done nothing reasonable in the discharge of its legal duty to avert harm posed to the Basotho population and health professionals”.

He argued that “the only legal route open to them is to remove (themselves) from a dangerous place to save their own lives, without forfeiting their remunerations and other benefits”.

Staff Reporter

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Mahao, PS in big fight



PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors



MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue



LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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