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Cutting down HIV infections



MASERU – IN an effort to reduce new HIV infections, Jhpiego Lesotho has introduced a new project targeting women and girls who are at a substantial risk of HIV infection.

Jhpiego Lesotho is an organisation funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that seeks to deliver transformative health care solutions that save lives.

It works in partnership with national governments, health experts and local communities to develop systems that save lives and guarantee better futures for women and their families.

Jhpiego Lesotho has introduced a project called Maximising Options to Advance Informed Choice (MOSAIC) that seeks to support the introduction of a multi-biomedical HIV prevention strategy that meets the changing needs and desires of women and girls.

“Investments in continued development and the introduction of existing and new biomedical products that are affordable, acceptable, safe and effective for HIV prevention will contribute substantially to controlling the epidemic,” MOSAIC Project Director, Dr Tafadzwa Chakare, said.

The five-year project is funded by the United States of America President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Dr Chakare said the project will help women prevent HIV by accelerating the introduction and scale up of new and emerging biomedical prevention products.

The project will operate in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders that include product developers for implementation.

“This new award will ensure that women, especially adolescent girls and young women, can live a life free of HIV,” Dr Chakare said.

Dr Chakare said the vision is that after five years, women in sub-Saharan Africa will be able to access multiple, effective biomedical prevention options to meet their changing needs and desires.

“Health systems will be enabled to support informed choices and effective use through policies, programming and differentiated service delivery,” he said. “Cost impact targeting guidance will be in place to support efficient use of resources.”

Dr Chakare said this will be done through implementation of HIV prevention activities.

The activities include research processes intended to assess feasibility, acceptability, uptake and pattern of use with a service delivery package providing choice of oral Pre-Exposure Profilaxis (PEP), among others. The protection ranges from one day to six months, he said.

He said Lesotho is one of several countries where MOSAIC has been introduced.
Jhepiego Country Director, Dr Nyika Mahachi, said MOSAIC comes at a time when the country is moving towards achieving epidemic control.

“It has been a long journey to get to where we are,” Dr Mahachi said.

“There were not many prevention interventions 15 years ago and as we are trying to reach epidemic control, we also need to ensure prevention of new infections,” he said.

He said despite the overall progress in some populations, HIV incidence amongst adolescent girls and young women in many regions across the sub-Saharan Africa remains high.

“Four in five new infections in persons aged 15-19 years occur among females,” he said.

“Biological, structural and behavioural factors all contribute to the disproportionate rate of HIV infection and the subsequent complications for many adolescents and young women.”

Maketekete Thotolo, the Executive Director of the Lesotho Network of People Living with AIDS (LENEPHWA), said even though Lesotho is on the right track, the country was still recording new infections.

“In order to attain this epidemic control, we are working towards reaching the 95-95-95 target but since we still have new infections, we are not even sure that by 2030 we would have reached the target,” Thotolo said.

The 95-95-95 is a UN global commitment to diagnose 95 percent of all HIV-positive people, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 95 percent of those diagnosed and achieve viral suppression for 95 percent of those treated by 2030.

“So, this attempt to reduce new infections will help us attain that. In order for us to reach the 95s targets or end AIDS by 2030, we need to completely eradicate new infections,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Aids Commission Chief Executive, Lebohang Mothae, told thepost that the drivers of new infections are behavioural, biological, structural and socio-cultural.

Mothae said early sex debut, inter-generational relationships, sex work and sex exploitation, inadequate condom use and concurrent sexual partners are the main causes of infections.

She also said gender inequality, harmful cultural norms and practices, worsening poverty and unemployment are amongst the causes of new infections.

“Lately, we learnt that children as young as 10-years are engaging in sexual activities leading to unplanned pregnancies. And these children are not infected or impregnated by their peers but elders,” she said.

She added that “our legal, socio-cultural and policy barriers hinder us from protecting children and even where they are protected, their problems are not reported at police stations”.

She noted that there is high prevalence among women aged 15-44 at 29.4 percent, 71.9 percent among female sex workers and 32.9 percent among male sex workers.

She said according to the 2020 statistics, 80 percent of new infections are recorded among young women aged 15-34 and the largest number of new infections, 29 percent, occur among women who had never married.

Uncircumcised men who never married contributed 26 percent of new infections, while 13.5 percent of new infections occurred among couples with a male partner of positive status.

Mothae said new infections put the country at risk.

“We have to take responsibility and hold those responsible accountable. Prevention is better than cure and we need to make it everyone’s business to end violence that results in new infections.”

‘Mapule Motsopa



A night of horror



THE police arrived in Ha-Rammeleke, a Mokhotlong village, in the middle of the night.
They stormed one house and found a couple sleeping.

They then dragged the man out and ordered him to follow their instructions if he didn’t want to be killed. Their order was that he should scream while announcing to his neighbours that his wife was gravely ill. The villagers who responded to the man’s plea for help didn’t know that they were walking into a trap.

The police rounded them up as they arrived at the man’s house.

Their night of horror has just begun.

Dozens of men and women were frog-marched to the edge of the village.

The police assaulted the men with sticks and whips. They kicked others.

In the crowd was Tebalo Lesita, a 48-year-old Rastafarian with dreadlocks.

He was called to the front and ordered to act like a Rastafarian.

First, they said he should sing Reggae while shaking his head so that his dreadlocks would wave from side to side. He did and they laughed.

“They also ordered me to mimic Lucky Dube.”

Lesita says he only shouted like he was singing because, due to fear, all Lucky Dube’s songs he knew had slipped out of his mind.

“I just mumbled some words as if I was singing. I have never experienced such torment before.”

“I only kept saying ‘Ye ye ye!’”, he says.

They laughed again.

Meanwhile, the police were hurling insults at him.

“I was told that I was smelling rubbish in the mouth.”

Lesita says the police then instructed him to act as if he was having sex.

And when he said he was tired of the act the police ordered him to act as if he was ejaculating.

He did and his tormentors roared with laughter.

The police, Lesita says, wanted him and other villagers to confess that they knew men who had shot and killed a man earlier in the village.

Lesita says after the ordeal that lasted nearly an hour the police ordered him to pray. He claims his body is full of bruises, especially on the buttocks.

“My body is aching all over.”

Lesita says he wants to sue the police but doesn’t know where to start.

“I understand that my human rights have been grossly violated but I do not know which legal steps to follow,” he says.

A week after the assault, he still hasn’t sought medical help.

Nor has he opened a case against the police.

“I find it impossible to open the case against them. I will have to go to the police station to open a case,” he says.

“How can I open the case against the police at the police station?”

As a sheep farmer, Lesita says he cannot afford the taxi fare to travel to Mapholaneng to report a case at Tlokoeng Police Station.

Lesita says he cut his dreadlocks a day after the incident “because they have put me into serious problems”.

“I rue the day that I started growing those dreadlocks,” he says.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, confirmed that there was a police operation in Mokhotlong but said he didn’t know how it unfolded.

Incidents of the police terrorising villagers under the guise of fighting or investigating crimes are common in Lesotho.

It is rare for police officers involved in such incidents to be arrested or prosecuted.

Majara Molupe

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Anger over Chinese businesses



FORMER Mining Minister, Lebohang Thotanyana, says Lesotho is shooting itself in the foot by allowing Chinese companies that win major construction tenders to import everything from China.

Thotanyana was speaking at the Basotho Business Empowerment Forum on Tuesday.

The forum was organised by the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Association.

Thotanyana told the forum that of all the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries, Lesotho is the one benefitting the least from hiring Chinese-owned companies for major infrastructure projects. 


Thotanyana said Chinese companies tend to “import everything save menial labour” in every government job they win.


“We only benefit minimally with the labour force,” Thotanyana said, adding that “more money goes back to the countries that have brought their own machinery”.


“This is exactly what is happening at the Polihali Dam which is under construction.” 


“There should be a value chain so that the economy grows.”


Tempers flared at the forum as local business owners accused the government of failing to protect them against Chinese businesses. 


The forum revealed the growing frustration among local business owners who feel the government is not doing enough to protect them against Chinese business muscling them out of sectors reserved for them. 


The local business owners criticised the government for failing to implement the Business Licensing and Registration Act 2019 that reserves certain businesses for indigenous Basotho. 


They told the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Thabo Moleko, together with a handful of MPs in attendance, that their patience had worn out.


“We want our business from the Chinese and Indians,” Thobei Motlere, the president of the MSME Association said.


“We are not afraid of these Chinese,” he added, adding that they could approach them head-on.


“We want to see the Act implemented now, not tomorrow or any other time. We want to push them out of the business peacefully. We want peace.”


Motlere said they have been pushed out of business by the Chinese yet there is a law to protect them “against unfair competition”.


“We have elected you as MPs but you are doing nothing to save us from the competition yet there is a law in place,” Motlere said.


The MPs tried to respond to some of the issues people but they were booed and heckled. 


“This is not the right place to answer. You should address this in parliament, not here,” said one woman in the crowd. 


Some MPs walked out of the forum in protest but were eventually coaxed to return to their chairs. 


’Maremi ’Mabathoana, a street vendor, said the Chinese sell almost every item.


“We buy from their shops so that we can sell small items. But the Chinese also sell small items,” ’Mabathoana said.


“When we sell a sweet for M1, they sell it for 50c,” she yelled.


“When we sell apples for M4, the Chinese sell them for M2. This is unfair.”


Moeketsi Motšoane, the Mafeteng MP who is the chairman of the parliament’s Natural Resources committee, said he is also facing similar challenges in his home district.


Trying to calm the irked traders, Motšoane said he could bet that some people were being used by the Chinese to kick Basotho out of business.


“There are such people amongst you who are being used by the Chinese to knock Basotho out of business,” Motšoane said.


He told the Ministry of Trade to move swiftly to implement the Act.


“If you do not implement the Act, we will drag you before the committee to account,” he said.


 Moleko, the principal secretary of Trade,  promised to implement the law. 

Majara Molupe

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Labour unions in nasty fight



TWO trade unions representing workers at Polihali Dam construction site have turned on each other.
Instead of fighting for better pay and conditions for members, the Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers (CMQ) and the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA) are locked in a nasty battle that could be linked to a fight over membership.

CMQ alleges that LEWA officials intimidated its members who wanted to vote for a proposed strike against companies working at Polihali Dam.

CMQ also accuses LEWA’s secretary general, Hlalefang Seoaholimo, of conflict of interest which it says renders him unable to effectively represent workers in their battles against employers in Polihali.

CMQ says Seoaholimo is working as a union leader and an employer at the same time. This, CMQ says, is because Seoaholimo’s company, Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd, has been subcontracted by some companies working at Polihali Dam.

The allegations of intimidation and conflict of interest are part of the letter that CMQ’s secretary general, Robert Mokhahlane, has written to the Registrar of Trade Unions.

In that letter, seen by thepost, Mokhahlane pleads with the Registrar of Trade Unions to deregister LEWA over the alleged intimidation and Seoaholimo’s conflict of interest.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that because of Seoaholimo’s shareholding in Domino Blasting, LEWA has “characteristics of a company, not a trade union”.

“At Polihali Dam construction, there (were) workers who were employed by Domino Blasting Services at various projects,” Mokhahlane alleges.

“They (Domino Blasting) have a long list of projects that have references and include some companies involved in the construction of Polihali Dam.”

Seoaholimo is one of Domino Blasting’s four directors and holds 300 of the 1000 shares in the company.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that Seoaholimo cannot claim to be independently fighting for workers’ rights when his company is working with the same companies accused of unfair labour practices in Polihali.

He also accuses Domino Blasting’s human resource officer, Mpho Kanono, of being conflicted because she is also an official of the United Textile Employees (UNITE).

“Both the two officials (Seoaholimo and Kanono) are workers’ representatives within the Wages Advisory Board whereby Hlalefang Seoaholimo is the spokesperson of the workers,” Mokhahlane says.

Mokhahlane also accuses Seoaholimo of “intimidating workers who will be balloting for a strike action by encouraging LEWA members to observe and identify workers” who would participate.

He claims that Seoaholimo mocked a CMQ official who was mobilising workers for the strike at the construction site.

The Labour Code, which the registrar has been asked to invoke, says a union or employers’ organisation may be cancelled by the Labour Court on the registrar’s application.

Seoaholimo has however vehemently refuted allegations that his company is working at Polihali Dam. He told thepost that CMQ is in a campaign to tarnish his name and that of LEWA because “they are aware that workers do not want to join their union”.

He admits that he is a shareholder in Domino Blasting but insists that “as we speak now Domino Blasting does not have a job anywhere in Lesotho”.

“CMQ has to provide evidence that a company called Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd is working and has any employees in Polihali,” Seoaholimo said.

“Domino Blasting does not even have an office anywhere in the country because it is not working anymore.”

“They should identify the people hired by Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd among workers in Polihali.”

He said the company has not operated in Lesotho since 2016 when it completed a project. Seoaholimo, however, says he is aware of a South African company with a similar name working in Polihali.

“I as a person have nothing to do with that company,” Seoaholimo said.

He said it is true that Mpho Kanono used to work for Domino Blasting back in 2016 when it still had contracts but she has since left because “the company stopped working”.

“Mpho Kanono is an official of UNITE and has nothing to do with Domino Blasting at present moment.”

Staff Reporter

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