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Council owes M7 million in rentals



MASERU -THE Maseru City Council (MCC) owes its former landlord a staggering M7 million in monthly rentals.
Yesterday, the council left the property owned by a local company, Moonshine, for new offices at the Fairways Plaza.
This was in defiance of an order by Local Government Principal Secretary, Nonkululeko Zaly not to leave the offices.

The council was told that Zaly had written to the town clerk instructing him not to move the offices to the new one.
Town clerk, Advocate Moeko Maboee, told the council at a meeting on Tuesday that he received Zaly’s letter that morning instructing him to stay put.
The council however decided otherwise.

“We would rather work from a tent instead of working from an expensive office that we cannot afford,” a councilor said.
Zaly had suggested to Maboee that they should rent another building near Pitso Ground but her instruction was defied.
The contract between the MCC and Moonshine lapses next week.

There was a standoff between the council and Zaly on Tuesday after Advocate Maboee disclosed that they were moving.
Advocate Maboee told the bewildered councilors at an indaba held at the MCC Hall in Upper Thamae that they were paying M637 000 in rentals every month.

He told them that the Fairways Plaza is cheaper as the council will only pay M250 000 per month.
The council’s accountant, ’Mabibi Seboka, said they had already paid M250 000 as a deposit at Fairways.
Seboka said they have “shocking arrears” at their current office premises.
“We need to find a new, cheaper office space, especially when our contract ends on 31 July this year,” Seboka said.

Advocate Maboee said he established a committee to help them find a new office space where they would pay affordable rent.
And that committee has found the office space at Fairways Plaza where rent is only M250 000.
Advocate Maboee said they informed the Local Government Ministry about the issue.

“But yesterday the ministry ordered us not to vacate the office,” Advocate Maboee said.
Advocate Maboee said they wrote countless proposals to help them acquire their site and build their own offices but they did not have a site.
He also said they wrote to the minister telling him about the high expenses but never received a response.

“Yesterday we were told not to vacate the office we are currently using under those high rents,” he said.
A member of the council, Mothetsi Maboee, said they are “tired of huge rents”.
“We rather use tents or park homes for our meetings,” he said.
He said everywhere in the world, city councils have their own buildings for offices and they do not have to pay rentals to other property companies in their own cities.

It is only the Maseru City Council in the whole world that does not have its own building in its own city, he said.
“It is embarrassing that we do not own the offices,” he said.
He said they were pleading with those responsible to help them vacate this expensive office.
He said they need to build their own offices or else they would hold their meetings in tents.

The Maseru Mayor, Nthabeleng Ntšasa, said the town clerk did not inform them about the decision before making a move, adding that they have asked him to consult them before making any major decisions.
“We must be told why the ministry refuses to allow us to vacate the offices,” Ntšasa said.

“Whoever does not allow us to vacate the expensive building should at least state their reasons,” Ntšasa said.
Zaly said she was surprised because she once asked one of her officers to look for an office for the MCC.
“My officer found an office next to Pitso Ground but the MCC refused to go there,” Zaly said.
“I never understood why the MCC decided to hire such an expensive office in the first place,” she said.

Zaly said they still needed to sit down for discussions with the town clerk on the same issue and the way forward.
Meanwhile, the councillors rejected a decision to find a company that will manage parking fees after the town clerk said he discovered that the parking marshals were lining their pockets with the collections.
The decision was reached after the MCC accountant ’Mabibi Seboka told the Tuesday meeting that she had found that the revenue was not how much it should be.

Seboka told the councilors that she pays parking marshals a whopping M285 000 per month but they collect only M100 000 for her.
“I found out that the large amount of funds was not coming to my office at all,” Seboka said.
She also said many companies came asking for the job to run the parking business in the city.
She said the council picked a company called PKF, a firm of accountants, on an agreement that 20 percent of the collections would be theirs.
The councilors rejected this on Tuesday.

The Stadium Area councilor, Mabusetsa Khutlisi, said the project should have been discussed with the finance committee first.
“But instead you decided to make decisions alone without involving us,” Khutlisi said.
He said they need to be told about all the projects so that they can research before recommending it to pass.

Nkheli Liphoto

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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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