Connect with us


Dignity kits for girls



QUTHING-WHEN Thembekile* (name changed), 14, started menstruating, her aunt taught her how to use an old cloth as sanitary wear.
She also taught Thembekile about the right undergarment to use to avoid embarrassing leakages. Broke and unable to help Thembekile with proper sanitary wear, this was the best that the aunt could do.

Thembekile and many other girls in Quthing district are being forced to rely on old pieces of cloth during their monthly periods because their families are too poor to afford sanitary pads.
Their plight has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic as most parents, who are usually employed in South African vegetable and fruit farms at Ceres in the Western Cape, are back in Lesotho and not earning any income or remain in South Africa without jobs.

During the start of the lockdown in March, a lot of men and women from Quthing district flocked back to Lesotho.
Almost six months later, they are still holed up at home without any form of income.
To ease the plight of underprivileged girls, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has partnered with the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) to support girls like Thembekile.

Through funds from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), the UNFPA engaged the LRCS as an implementing partner to distribute dignity kits to vulnerable girls and women affected by drought and Covid-19.
Thembekile’s aunt who received the dignity kit on her behalf at Qomo-Qomong was ecstatic after receiving the package.

“We have nothing. Nothing,” the aunt said. “When we wake up, we don’t know where to go and what to do,” she said.
“My greatest challenge is that I don’t only look after Thembekile, whose parents have been working at Ceres in apple and onion farms, but I have my own children who have not done well in matric examinations and are idling at home.”

She added: “Now Covid-19 has made things worse.”
She wishes there could be dams around the village to harness water and lessen the effects of drought.
Besides the dignity kit, she was also grateful for the advice offered by an official from the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) during the hand-over of the kits.

“It is difficult for some of us to talk to our children about issues related to sex, child marriage and other children’s rights. So we are happy that the girls were advised on these issues today,” she said.
A policewoman from the CGPU, Constable Lirontšo Shale, highlighted to girls and women present at the occasion issues around human rights, Gender Based Violence (GBV), especially during the lockdown, the different types of GBV and how they affect females.

Constable Shale encouraged the girls to report gender-based violence and explained that early sexual debut leads to unwanted pregnancies, transmissible diseases and illegal abortions.
“Anyone below the age of 16 is not supposed to engage in sex. It is an offence to do so,” she said.
She also warned them against entering into child marriage.
“No matter the kind of problems you have, marriage is not the solution. The solution is getting an education,” she said.

According to the principal at Qomo-Qomong Primary School, some young girls often miss school when they are having their monthly periods to avoid embarrassment.
She was also happy the dignity kit contained, among others, two undergarments.

“Due to embarrassment, sometimes the girls are unable to participate in sports activities or they end up borrowing underwear from each other,” the principal said, adding: “This we know because when there is a conflict, these things come out and end up being known by many at the school, causing more embarrassment.”

A Red Cross volunteer, ’Marelebohile Ntsukunyane, who has been distributing the dignity kits in Quthing, said many young girls in the district live on their own as their parents are in Ceres in South Africa.
“There are therefore a lot of sexual assaults directed at these girls,” Ntsukunyane said.

Many of the girls have become destitute, she said.
“When we were at Sixondo, we had to share the contents of the dignity kits. We could not just leave some of the girls that were there without giving them anything considering how needy they looked.”
The dignity kits are being distributed in five districts of Quthing, Mokhotlong, Maseru, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek, covering about 500 adolescent girls and young women.

The programme was launched at the Royal Palace in Maseru, where 10 girls who were selected as representatives of a bigger group of 2 500 received the dignity kits.
They were handed over by the UNFPA Representative to Lesotho, Dr Marc Derveeuw to Princess Senate Mohato Seeiso who officially received them on behalf of the girls.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr Derveeuw reaffirmed that the UNFPA would continue focusing on the situation of women and girls in Lesotho.
He emphasised the need for menstrual health to be part of the development agenda, adding that the dignity kits contained items for women and girls to preserve their dignity, especially in times of crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic when such items do not get priority at household level.
Princess Senate called for all stakeholders to intensify the fight against gender-based violence.

“On behalf of my peers, young women and girls that bear the brunt of victimisation (and) gender-based violence, we wish to sincerely implore all concerned to continue fighting for us,” the Princess said.
“We need and deserve a safe country in which we can live in peace,” she said.

The UNFPA received Covid-19 funds in January to respond to social protection issues arising in communities that have been hard hit by the pandemic as well as the El Nino induced drought that was declared by the government in November last year.

The UNFPA is working with World Vision on prevention of child marriages and provision of psycho-social support to drought affected communities.
It is also working with the Gender Links on Protection and Gender Based Violence mainstreaming as well as engaging men and boys in the fight against GBV.

As part of the project, the Lesotho Red Cross Society is focusing on continuity of Essential Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights during emergencies.
For 2020, the UNFPA has planned to reach an estimated 48 million women, girls and young people, including 4 million pregnant women in 57 countries.

Violet Maraisane

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading