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Crossing ‘River Jordan’



MASERU-FOR only M50, the “Butterflies” will help you cross the border into South Africa while floating on an inflatable mattress.
The “trip” across the Mohokhare River that divides Lesotho and South Africa is not for the faint-hearted though.

There have been several incidents when some people have been swept away by the raging waters.
Some women were helped to cross only to be raped after when they were on the other side of the river.
With four or five “passengers” lying on a mattress, the men from the border town of Maputsoe are seen in videos dragging the mattress across the river.
Their luggage is piled on top of the passengers.
It is a scary sight.

But that is the extent to which scores of Basotho are willing to go to leave Lesotho for South Africa.
The men who help Basotho illegally cross into South Africa in Maputsoe declined to speak to this newspaper yesterday.
The decision to risk life and limb to cross the Mohokare River on mattresses comes after the Lesotho government failed to negotiate with the South African government to ease border requirements.

To stop the spread of Covid-19, the South African government requires all foreigners, including Basotho, to produce a Covid-19 certificate showing they tested negative for the disease.
The problem, however is that such a certificate does not come cheap.
A Covid-19 certificate costs a staggering M1 350 at a private clinic in Maseru, a fortune for most Basotho who survive on less than US$2 a day.
The amount is almost equivalent to a monthly wage of a textile worker in Lesotho.

Without a Covid-19 certificate, some Basotho have chosen to cross the border at illegal points along the river such as the one in Maputsoe, risking their lives as they do so.
Last week, one woman fell off the inflated mattress and drowned.

The woman, whose name the police have not revealed, was one of hundreds who made use of the floating mattress to cross into South Africa in Maputsoe, an industrial town bordering the Free State farming town of Ficksburg.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said they have launched investigations into the woman’s death.
On Tuesday this week, the police pulled out yet another dead body out of the Mohokare River near Mokhethoaneng.
They suspect that he too had drowned while illegally trying to cross into South Africa.

The crisis at the border has sparked some soul-searching among Basotho. It has also stoked anger against the government.
Lesotho’s Home Affairs Minister Motlalentoa Letsosa told Parliament two weeks ago that he was surprised after scores of Basotho failed to cross the border despite his agreement to facilitate easier passage for Basotho with his South African counterpart.

Letsosa said he had agreed with his counterpart Aaron Motsoaledi to allow Basotho to cross the border after producing proof that they had tested negative for Covid-19 and that they were not infected.
It would appear that agreement was simply tossed out by the South African authorities.

Under the agreement, Basotho nationals crossing into South Africa would undergo rapid testing at the border.
The rapid tests would cost between M150 and M200. The certificate issued thereafter would be valid for a period of 14 days.
The tests would be done at the border posts of Maseru, Maputsoe Caledonspoort, Van Rooyen’s Gate and Ramatšeliso.

Letsosa said he was shocked when he learnt that only students, truck drivers and teachers were being allowed to cross the border.
Hundreds of Basotho who wanted to cross into South Africa were turned back at the border, leaving them with no option but to look for alternative ways such as the one in Maputsoe.
Most of those who were desperate to cross were afraid that they would lose their jobs in South Africa.

Others were cross-border traders who make a living by buying stock in South Africa for sale back home.
At least 15 percent of Basotho’s 2 million people work in South Africa. Most of them are domestic workers while others work on farms and in the mines.
The unemployment rate stands at a staggering 45 percent, forcing thousands of young Basotho to cross the border to look for jobs in Lesotho’s more prosperous neighbour.

Most of those who cross the border are desperately poor Basotho who have no options back home.
But speaking to thepost on Tuesday, Letsosa condemned the illegal crossing escapades by Basotho insisting there was “no valid reason for people to be crossing the Mohokare River instead of using proper border gates”.
He said even if the people who were crossing the border using illegal exit points had no proper documentation, they should still “go to the border and they will be helped”.

“No one would refuse to allow Basotho when crossing back home as long as they go through the border gates,” Letsosa said.
He said “expensive Covid-19 tests” should not be an excuse to risk life and limb to cross into South Africa unlawfully.
“Even those who exceeded their time of stay in South Africa should just come,” he said.
He said people will not be arrested at the borders as long as they are Basotho.

“If an individual speaks fluent Sesotho, they will not be arrested at all.”
However, Letsosa said nothing about Basotho who are still in Lesotho but want to go back to their jobs in South Africa.
The minister only addressed the issue of Basotho who are trapped in South Africa as a direct result of the Covid-19 restrictions and now want to come back home.

He said he had assembled a team of officers stationed on the side of Lesotho and South Africa to help Basotho come back home.
He advised Basotho to stop crossing illegally as it is risky.
“Should that mattress puncture accidentally they will immediately drown and die,” he said.
Letsosa said the solution might be to deploy heavy security on the river banks to stop such criminal activities.

Nkheli Liphoto

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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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