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Covid strikes sex workers



MASERU-Their work deemed illegal and immoral sex workers say they are in a fix as the effects of the outbreak of Covid-19 has left many of them desperate for survival.

Each has a story to tell on how they ended up being part of what is regarded as the world’s oldest profession.
thepost talked to several sex workers who were getting food parcels at an event organised by the Key Affected Populations Alliance of Lesotho (KAPAL), an association taking care of vulnerable groups affected by Covid-19.

Speaking out about their problems is almost impossible because of the public perceptions on prostitution, they said, adding that business is at its lowest ever.
Below are their stories: *Names have been changed.

Tšeli, 19, (name changed) says she feels trapped in the business and cannot break free, having been in the trade since she was nine years old when she fled bad treatment by her mother’s boyfriend.
“I tried to find work but people turned me down saying I was too young. I then decided to be a street kid for survival,” she says.

Her mother took her back home but she couldn’t stay there for long.
“I returned back to the street as the abuse was unbearable. I only ate when she was around. I dropped out of school while in Standard Five. My mother disowned me and now I live with my boyfriend in one of the government’s abandoned buildings in Maseru.”
“She gave up on me and she said I shouldn’t say I am her child to people,” says Tšeli.

Tšeli says she met an older sex worker who lured her into the trade.
“Since I was still a virgin, other girls took me to a forest saying we were going to have a bath. While there, a man came and they asked him to remove my virginity. That was how I was initiated into sex work at such a young age.

She says things were better before the pandemic.
“I was able to buy clothes and food.”
Risks, she says, include rape and sexually transmitted diseases.
“A client raped me recently and infected me with a sexually transmitted disease. He pointed a gun at me because I refused to have unprotected sex with him. I had to agree as I was powerless. Now I need money for medication but I don’t know where to get it. I can’t even pay my rent.
“If I got a second chance, I would still go back to school,” she says.

*Lineo is 21 and she says she has been a sex worker since she was 18. She says she is hoping to change her life.
“I left school while in Form D because my mother was unable to pay for my fees. I am saving up so that I can be able to go back to school,” she says.
She still visits home but “they have no idea what I do”.
“I always lie to them saying I had visited my friend.”
She says she wouldn’t advise anyone to be a prostitute.

“This is not an easy job and it is very risky,” she says.
Grace is a 33-year-old widow who began sex work while still married.
“I wanted to supplement my husband’s income. It was not easy to sneak out every time but looking at the finances, I had to do something to help him. I worked in clubs and guesthouses so that my husband would not find out. He knew I loved fun so he allowed me to go to bars but I would go to guest houses on weekends instead,” she says.

She says at times she would lie that she had clients as he knew she has skills in hairdressing.
“I relied on my mother who is in the same business and things were not easy. It has since been difficult for me. I am emotionally drained. I do not know what to do to provide for my children. I used to make about M1 500 a month. Now, I get around M500. These food parcels will come in very handy. I really appreciate what KAPAL did.”

Grace is not looking at getting out the profession. Rather, she wants the government to regularise sex work.
“If only we could get a building, things would be easier and I believe there would be controls as we would have security. We are willing to pay tax.”
Theresa, 37, says she came to Maseru to look for her now 15-year-old-child’s father. Things have never been this tough in the decade she has been in the profession.

“I am now depending on my pastor and his wife for both food and rent. They knew what I do for a living but they still gave me food and paid my rent until the lockdown was lifted. I had no clients at all during the lockdown.”

She says when she came to Maseru from the rural areas she met some sex workers who welcomed her with her child in their rented house.
“I lived with them as I was only arriving in Maseru and I had no choice,” she says.

Back then, she says, she used to leave her child with strangers for the whole night and pay them M10 in the morning. She bore three other children with some of her clients who decided to date her.
“Two of them have since died. My children are clueless about my work. This work helps me a lot as I am able to fulfil the responsibility of their fathers,” she says.

Also she wishes “old horses like myself” should be assisted to retire from the profession and pursue other means of survival.
“I will quit once I find a stable job. I have been trying but there is nothing to date.”
40-year-old sex worker, Maria, was already a textile factory worker when she joined the profession in 2006.
“I was only trying to put food on the table because factory money wasn’t enough. I was always short of taxi fare and lunch box. I relied on people for basic needs,” she says.

She said she has been working from her home since December last year.
“I thought it pains my family and siblings when they see me in the Maseru streets hence I resorted to working from home. They saw me several times and I wasn’t comfortable with it,” she says.

She says working from home is still challenging as she has to ask her teenage boys to give her space every time she has clients coming.
“I hope they don’t find out because I am afraid of what they might do,” she says, adding that she is not about to quit the profession.
“It is very difficult to stop because even if one finds some work, once there is shortage of something in the house, they go back to sex work. I did find a job as a house cleaner once and earned M700 but it was not enough and I was suffering.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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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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