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Dignity for the girl child



MASERU – WHEN Mpeo Kherehloa is on her periods, all she wants to do is stay home. “Whenever I sit down, I wonder whether I have stained my clothes. It is very painful,” she said.

Kherehloa, who is visually impaired, was speaking at the first ever national Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) stakeholders’ consultative forum held by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The forum was part of commemorations for the global menstrual hygiene day, which is celebrated annually on May 28.

This year’s theme was ‘Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030’. The multi-stakeholder forum was aimed at discussing the status, bottlenecks and opportunities to accelerate MHH in Lesotho, as well as to develop strategic partnerships and synergies.

Kherehloa, who is a member of the Lesotho National League of the Visually Impaired Persons (LNLVIP), said menstruation is a very big challenge for people living with visual impairment.
She appreciated the initiative to bring men on board in addressing this issue.

“As I am totally blind, I need their help should I stain myself anywhere they see me. They shouldn’t be afraid to tell me what they see,” she said.

World Vision Youth Representative, Tlotliso Masiu, said limited access to sanitary towels, information, infrastructure and taboos around menstruation are some of the challenges faced by young women and girls, especially in rural areas.

“If we can address this issue, I truly believe we will have taken a major step forward in developing young women and girls,” said Masiu.

He said 20 percent of the population have no access to clean water, while 27 percent still use unimproved sanitation facilities.

“This means 27 percent of our population are not using the proper materials for their menses and thus will set them back from developing not only as humans but as girls. I believe we should begin to implement menstrual hygiene rooms so that girls have a safe space to change without any embarrassment. We must break the cultural norms and taboos,” said Masiu.

He said to help women through their menstrual cycle, men should be cautious of what they say or do.

“Certain phrases that we may use as men that undermine women may make them feel ashamed of their body and the process they are going through in their lives. I believe we must educate ourselves on this issue as we have to take measures to help them feel comfortable – the safer we keep our women and the more comfortable we make them feel, the more comfortable our future will be,” he said.

As the Champion of Menstrual Health and Hygiene in Lesotho, Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso said over the years, efforts to respond to MHH have too often been in silos and not well coordinated.

“It has been my wish to see stakeholders work together to address this issue comprehensively. It is pleasing to note that we seem to be headed in the right direction. Your (stakeholders) participation is a clear testimony of the fact that this subject of national importance is dear to your hearts too,” she said.

She said menstruation should be seen for what it is – a common, everyday fact of life for all women and girls.

“Regrettably, we still have many adolescent girls and young women that use rags for sanitary towels. Some are without water to wash their hands and bodies after menstruation. Even worse, some have no toilets for their privacy.”

The Queen said some schools still don’t have sanitary facilities and girls in those schools miss classes during menstruation. In some communities, some discriminatory and harmful cultural and gender norms, stigma and taboos that prejudice women and girls are rampant.

“This needs to change and we should each commit to be part of that change, including men and boys. A call should be made on boys and men to be part of menstrual health training at our schools and in our communities – they need to be part of the conversation for menstruation to be normalised,” she said.

She appealed to all stakeholders to work together.

“Let us do all we can to secure the dignity of our girls and women. Let us unite around efforts to make menstruation a normal fact of life. Let us focus on the solutions, remove the obstacles and identify the opportunities and strengthen our collective efforts to accelerate access to menstrual health and hygiene in Lesotho.”

“We should strive for change,” she said, adding that menstruation is a biological function and nobody should be discriminated against or disadvantaged because of a biological function.
She said girls in schools don’t understand why condoms are given out for free when sanitary pads are not.

“So why shouldn’t sanitary towels be given out for free in schools?” she asked.

“Let us support them to reach their full potential without hindrance. I look forward to a day when I can go to any school, community and workplace and be met with smiles from girls and women knowing they don’t face any challenges and hindrances,” she said.

Acting Minister of Health, Motlohi Maliehe, said the initiative was an opportunity for them to break the silence, raise awareness and change the negative social norms around MHH as well as create a conducive environment where women and girls are able to manage their monthly menstrual cycle in a dignified and healthy manner.

“With this, we want to reaffirm our commitment of promoting good menstrual management,” said Maliehe. He said to effectively manage menstruation, women and girls require basic needs such as clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

He also called for affordable and appropriate hygiene products, information and good practices and a supportive environment where women and girls can manage menstruation without embarrassment and stigma.
He said the challenges they face encompasses more than a basic supply or infrastructure.

In many parts of the world, Lesotho included, Maliehe said experience of menstruation continues to be constrained by cultural taboos and social norms, lack of information on menstruation and lack of appropriate menstrual products leads to unhygienic and unhealthy practices whereby some end up using old clothes, dirty rags or even fail to manage their menses.

This is negatively impacting their education, health, safety and human development. He said the theme adopted at the forum aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 3 (ensure health and wellbeing of our people), SDG 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable education) and SDG 6 (ensure access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all).

He said strides have been made to address the concern by setting up an enabling environment for the empowerment of women and girls such as national plans, policies and laws.

“In 2019, Parliament voted to eliminate value added tax (VAT) charged to sanitary towels,” he said, noting however that despite the achievements “there is still a long way to go.”
World Vision Lesotho National Director, James Chifweli, said the responsibility of NGOs is to complement the government’s work.

“The main mandate to look after the citizens lies with the government but we know that it is a great responsibility that requires collaboration, hence we are among the key stakeholders to complement what it is doing at the national level.”

Deputy Minister of Water Mankoe Maime said his Ministry is implementing many water supply projects and a major one is the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme.

“This will increase and sustain access to water to 1.5 million people which is about 75 percent of Basotho country wide.”

He said the ministry provides sanitation facilities for institutions; schools, clinics and vulnerable households.

“We are trying hard to reach areas with water and sanitation services so we are leaving no one behind,” said Maime.

Acting Minister of Social Development, Keketso Sello, said the partnership will make it easier for the ministry to manage menstruation better.

“We are quite happy with our development partners who are facilitating most of the needs of the community.

“However, it shouldn’t be our responsibility alone to understand the vulnerability of girls pertaining to this issue but the ownership of the government at large — know the importance of injecting more so that we don’t have to cut important services.”

He added: “It is our role to ensure that the government understands that it is their direct responsibility to ensure that girls don’t experience what they are experiencing because if we don’t have much, they won’t get as much as they need which is not what we want.”

“We are doing everything in our capacity to ensure that by 2030, we call this issue history.”

’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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