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Drought sends villagers into panic



                      …….‘We will all perish – our livestock and us – if this continues’…….

ROTHE-AMID scorching temperatures, a cow lay dead in plain sight in Ha-Molungoa village. No one bothers to skin the animal and it is left to rot or become a feast for dogs and vultures – never mind that this is happening in a meat loving community.

For now, there are bigger concerns than meat. Livestock is dying in huge numbers and villagers whose lives depend on the animals are gravely worried.
“It is like the cows are just waiting for death,” Jonkomane Jokomane, a local villager, tells thepost.
Lesotho is in the throes of a debilitating drought largely blamed on climate change. Although the country has faced droughts before, this year’s is worse, according to experts. Villagers and their animals are the hardest hit.

Relying on their livestock for draught power, transport, food, and as a medium of exchange, many people here can only watch helplessly as their animals succumb to the drought.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Networks (FEWSN) says abnormal dryness in Lesotho is affecting the availability of pastures and water, as well as livestock body conditions.
It says should the drought persist, the livestock body condition will likely remain poor and result in below-average prices on the market.
As a result, household income from the sale of livestock will likely be lower than normal, it says.
In Ha-Molungoa village in Rothe, the dire situation is leaving villagers in panic.

At least 20 cows died from starvation and lack of water in November alone in the village. So skinny are animals in the area that people do not bother to skin them for meat when they die.
According to the chief of Rothe, Tota Toloane, there seems to be no respite in sight.

On entering the village, the dried up carcass of a cow in parched land greets thepost news crew.
“This cow died at the beginning of November. There are many more,” says Jokomane, the villager.
It is not the only carcass in the area. About 200 meters away is a spine structure of yet another animal that one can only assume is a cow too.
There are more cows fighting for their lives in the mountain cliffs, according to Chief Toloane.
Many more have already died and there are many skeletons on the mountain slope, evidence that there was once a herd of cows grazing there. The pastures have now turned arid while water sources have dried up.

Katleho Fooko herds his family’s 28 cows daily and he attests to the grave situation caused by the worst drought in living memory.
Two of his cows have died from the drought.

“It was a bitter pill to swallow to watch the cows die in such pain,” he says.
“I left them to be eaten by dogs, termites, worms and ravens,” he adds, shaking his head.
One died while grazing on the little green grass left on part of the land. The other died in the cattle pen at home.
To save the remaining animals, Fooko and his father realised they needed an animal expert. “A vet came and gave each of our cows an injection. I don’t know the name of the injection but I do know that I was told it will help in this excessive drought,” he says.

Villagers have also resorted to buying grass and lucerne to supplement livestock feeding but the high costs means they cannot do this as often as they would like.
Jokomane says he needs M120 for lucerne and M30 for Simile per month, an amount he can hardly afford.
“It is too much for me,” he says, adding, “But what other choice do I have?”

The elderly Jokomane says he has lived and herded livestock in Ha-Molungoa all his life and he has never seen such extreme heat.
He says the situation is better for him as he still has merino sheep and angora goats to rely on when he sells mohair and wool.
“Imagine those that don’t have other sources of revenue?” Jokomane says.

Another villager, Mehauhelo Tsimane, has only been working as a herd boy in Rothe for a month but he has already seen three cows die.
His dog had just joined him from a feast on one of the cows that had died on Lerato River’s dry river bed when thepost caught up with him.
“We only know (that another cow has died) when dogs come back with mouths covered in blood or with a foul smell… they would have been feasting on a dead animal,” Tsimane says.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office in Lesotho, in collaboration with humanitarian partners, issued a report covering May to October highlighting that below normal rains were recorded in many parts of the country from April to September. This impacted negatively on the winter crop and rangelands.
The report showed that rangelands deteriorated earlier (August) than normal, negatively affecting livestock conditions.
Humans are affected too, according to experts.

According to the report, approximately 350 000 rural people are in dire need of emergency food assistance.
The report classifies the four districts of Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek as in urgent need of food assistance.
It is expected that the situation could deteriorate further and more than 430 000 rural people would be severely food insecure, and all of the country’s districts will require emergency food assistance soon.

A UN agency, the World Food Programme (WFP) says the situation has been worsened by successive years of crop failure, low incomes and high food prices, with about 41 percent of rural families spending over half their income on food.

The WFP said over 30 percent of Lesotho’s population across all 10 districts will face high levels of acute food insecurity until March 2020.
More than 70 percent of the population in rural Lesotho is engaged in subsistence farming.
Productivity has been deteriorating since the early 1990s because of unpredictable weather conditions, including persistent and recurring droughts.
Meanwhile, the drought is likely to persist for much longer.

According to the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS), the country was expected to receive normal rains with the possibility of below normal rains between October and December this year.
Most parts of the country are currently not receiving any rains.
The LMS said normal rainfall conditions are expected with the possibility of above normal rains between November this year and March next year, although episodes of dry conditions are expected in-between.

The department further indicated that the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is currently on its neutral phase with most models predicting a slight possibility of a weak El Nino during the period December 2019 to February 2020.

The neutral ENSO can have a mixture of both El Nino (Dry conditions) and La Nina (enhanced rainfall).
Lesotho is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with droughts already affecting harvest yields and causing significant loss of livestock, according to experts.
The climate is predicted to become warmer and dryer, making droughts and floods more frequent and intense.

With less snow on the mountains and an increase in run-off rates, soil erosion will worsen and deplete the soil of nutrients, according to the WFP.
The UN agency says while some climate adaptation measures are being taken, the country lacks the resources for extensive mitigation.
For villagers such as Jokomane, this can only spell disaster.

“We will all perish – our livestock and us – if this continues. God help us,” he tells thepost, surveying the dry landscape around him.

Rose Moremoholo

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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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