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Fatal misconceptions about Coronavirus

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THABA-TSEKA-MIXED messages on the coronavirus (Covid-19) are doing the rounds in rural areas as the disease spreads across Africa.
Some are aware of the deadly virus while others are in the dark. Many others wrongly think local people are immune to the virus.
“This is a disease for the whites and rich, it will not kill us at all,” says a taxi driver travelling from Thaba-Tseka to Maseru.
“We have been immune from many deadly diseases and we will not start now to succumb to this one,” he shouts while buying a packet of potato chips from a bus stop shop near Ha-Moholobela, over 100 kilometres north-east of Maseru.

“We eat food that not many other countries eat, our bodies are strong, our ancestors have protected us from the worst, we are not going to be killed from sneezes and coughs and mere touching,” he says with a sense of bravado.
He is not the only one who assumes that the lack of reported cases in Lesotho is evidence that locals are immune to the virus.
Social media messages, taxi conversations and random conversation on coronavirus by Basotho suggest there is little sensitisation going on by the Ministry of Health and if it has been there, the message has not been driven home.

In Ha-Tšiu, Mohlanapeng in the Thaba-Tseka District, Seitlheko Tšoaoa says he only knew of coronavirus when he arrived at a public gathering of herd-boys, parents and community leaders on Monday.
Tšoaoa heard about the virus for the first time when the Principal Chief of Matsieng, Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, started spreading messages on coronavirus.
Tšoaoa was in Sani Pass in Mokhotlong at a cattle post and had just returned home on Monday.
He said herd-boys are always the last people to receive information.

“We don’t get to hear anything about outbreaks or what the country is doing until it is too late, we are always not informed (on time),” Tšoaoa says.
However, community members in Ha-Tšiu appear to be aware of the virus.
Their clinic, Mohlanapeng Health Centre, is continuously teaching villagers about Covid-19 and how to lower chances of transmission or infection.
’Matšosane Lekhutla is one of the villagers who now knows what corona is and how dangerous the virus is if found in a community.

She says all they can do is abide by the precautionary measures prescribed by health experts.
“This virus is dangerous because it is quickly transmitted though touching a contaminated surface or being too close to a person who can infect you,” she says, displaying a deep understanding of the virus.

“It is unlike any disease that we have seen because even without knowing if anyone is infected they will pass the virus on to you,” Lekhutla says.
She says they have started washing their hands more regularly; they now do not meet in large numbers in a closed place and that if one shows any signs of a common cold and flu they should rush to the hospital and isolate themselves.
Raphotho Senauoane, another resident, says he has never been this scared in his life.

“I see this virus as the end of all of us,” Senauoane says.
“Basotho are going to die if they do not take precautionary measures seriously. The fact that one gets infected so easily is what scares me,” he says.
Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso told the villagers that the virus may look like flu and common cold but should not be taken lightly because it is deadly.
“It is not common flu. There are reported cases in the Free State and this means it is closer than we could ever think, if not in the country already,” Chief Seeiso says.

“It is worse because we already have high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and TB in the country, we are at greater risk of facing a fatal experience if we don’t keep ourselves safe,” he says.
Chief Seeiso warns that from his research he had learned that the virus adopts well in cold weather and with Lesotho in the early months leading to winter, June and July will be bad for the country if nothing is done to fight possible outbreak of the virus in the country.

“We need to listen to health care providers now more than ever,” the chief says in a raised voice.
“This virus does not discriminate. It is not for the rich or poor, not for the old or young,” he says.
“However, the old are at a greater risk of dying from the virus.”

“Wash your hands as many times as you can because sanitisers are hard to find and very expensive. Do not stand too close to people, cough and sneeze in your elbow. We all need to work together to not reach devastating numbers of transmission.”

Dr Rodrigue Mwanawabene, the District Health Manager, says they are working with different stakeholders to spread the message on Covid-19.
Dr Mwanawabene says although Thaba-Tseka does not have a legal border gate, people still find ways to illegally cross over into South Africa.
“These are the spots that we might miss out on screening people because screening happens at official border posts,” Dr Mwanawabene says.

He says because of the geographic mapping of the district and limited human resources it is hard to reach herd boys and the most remote communities to share the message with them.
“The only time to get hold of herd-boys is if we arrive where they are in the early hours of the morning or late afternoon because during the day they are out grazing their livestock,” Dr Mwanawabene says.

“These hours are very awkward to work around especially when human resources are not enough and there aren’t vehicles to assist,” he says.
Dr Mwanawabene says they have talked to Paray Hospital to sensitize religious leaders.
We have engaged the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Home Affairs who are trying to keep the district safe, he says.

“We need to screen everyone who comes from SA and investigate how they got home.”
Dr Mwanawabene says there is “a suspected case in Sehong-Hong but we have not been able to go there because we do not have fuel for our cars”.
Dr Marc Derveeuw, the UNFPA country director, says Lesotho needs to be ready to safeguard the lives of Basotho because it is not a matter of if it will come to Lesotho but when it does get here.

He says the government should be ready to minimise the chances of its spread and the infection rate.
“Lesotho is already under a burden of diseases and cannot take up corona as a light issue,” Dr Derveeuw says.
He advises the health department to be up on all fours to sensitize the people and see that necessary steps are taken to screen and keep the virus from spreading.

Rose Moremoholo

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6 more added to Manyokole’s corruption case

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MASERU – SIX more officials from the Land Administrative Authority (LAA) and the Maseru City Council (MCC) were this week joined to Lefu Manyokole’s corruption case.

Ntšebo Putsoa, Ntsoaki Matobo, Matlaleha Phahlane, Thakane Tau, Phakoane Pitikoe and Lebaka Matlatsa were formally charged and appeared before Magistrate ’Makopano Rantšo on Monday.

Court papers show that the accused contravened the Land Act between April 2016 and May 2018 at the LAA, they unlawfully and intentionally fraudulently processed the registration or issued a lease or any other document or instrument relating to land plot no. 13291-1110.

The state alleges that Manyokole, who is the former principal secretary in the Ministry of local government, made false representations to the LAA regarding plot number 13291-1110 to acquire illegal title to it.

The charge sheet says Manyokole, at or near the LAA offices in Maseru, registered or obtained a lease of the plot knowing that it did not belong to him.

Manyokole is accused of contravening provisions of section 83 of the Land Act of 2010 by making a false claim to gain the piece of land.

The court released Manyokole on M1 000 bail last week and ordered him to reappear before the same court last Monday.

Manyokole was granted bail under conditions that he should not interfere with the crown witnesses and that he should report to the police.

His co-accused were also granted bail of M1 000 each by the court.

The court papers showed that the said land was situated in Qoaling in Maseru district and Manyokole and his co-accused knew very well that they are not the official owners of that land.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Storm over fleet maintenance deal

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MASERU – Opposition parties are fuming after the government this week picked five companies to maintain its fleet without going through a tender process.

In a January 27, 2023 savingram, the Ministry of Finance said it had appointed Maseru Toyota, Maputsoe Toyota, Lesotho Nissan, Benny Enterprise, and Mdlokovana to maintain the government’s fleet.

The savingram, titled Interim Vehicle Maintenance Guidelines, says the vehicle maintenance contract signed between the Lesotho government and Fleet Services Lesotho (FSL) in 2020 “experienced serious challenges that involved the suspension of services in 2021 which were later resumed partially in 2022”.

“Since then the government made attempts to resolve some issues which were under its control without success,” it reads.

It also says the Ministry of Finance held a meeting with local vehicle service providers accredited by FSL.

“These are Maseru Toyota, Maputsoe Toyota, Lesotho Nissan, Benny Enterprise, and Mdlokovana,” it reads.

It says the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “the possibility of working directly with the government while processes of resolving issues between the government and the FSL shareholders are underway”.

This has however infuriated opposition parties that have accused the government of corruptly dishing out jobs without going through a tender process.

The Democratic Congress (DC)’s deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa, told thepost that the party will soon call a press conference to address the matter.

“We always knew that these rich people would start dishing out tenders to themselves,” Letsosa said.

He said they have been warning the nation about the same people even before the general elections “but they called us names saying we have been benefiting too, now look”.

“The time for the rich people to eat in the face of hungry Basotho has come,” he said.

“No one should cry, we warned them not to vote for these people and they did not listen.”

He complained that the companies mentioned on the savingram did not even tender for the job.

“We are surprised that no tendering processes were followed here.”

He added that when giving themselves the tenders the government suspended the initial company that had been awarded the tender.

“It is not fair at all. How can you be the government and do business with yourself?”

Letsosa said the DC is “against the individualism that is being practised by the parties in government by not advertising the tenders so that all interested parties can bid”.

The Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) leader, Teboho Mojapela, said “the RFP heavyweights (made) their riches through corruption”.

“We always warned the people that these rich men would steal tenders at every chance they get, now they are doing just that,” Mojapela said.

“As a rich man I never did business with the government,” he said.

“This country needs rich leaders on the forefront, but not corrupt ones.”

He said time will expose what Basotho have called upon themselves by voting for the current government.

“They are showing their true colours now.”

He added that this will be a lesson to Basotho to start looking at qualities of politicians when voting.

“They must vote for people who fear God and are faithful,” he said.

“The RFP people are corrupt and all of them will never change, they are going to continue enriching themselves.”

The Basotho Action Party (BAP) deputy leader, Lebohang Thotanyana, said the government is “committing a crime by not issuing tenders for the job”.

“Mdlokovana is an interested party, it is a big mistake to give him a tender unless it is now their policy to award themselves tenders,” Thotanyana said.

Clute Mdlokovana, the owner of the car maintenance chain of businesses named after his name, is the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP for Mohale’s Hoek constituency.

Thotanyana said Mdlokovana will not be able to keep service providers to the government accountable as an MP “because he too is a service provider to the government”.

He also said the previous governments always advertised tenders “but these people just sit down and award themselves tenders, they did not even tender”.

The Basotho National Party (BNP) secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane, also condemned the government’s move.

He recalled that during the BNP government, Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan once barred his ministers from being actively involved in running businesses.

“He told Chief Peete Peete to sell all his buses so that he could give a chance to other Basotho to do business,” Hanyane said.

“It is high time Basotho as a nation stood up to condemn the bad behavior of the RFP,” he said.

“It is not fair that the already rich people will be richer while other citizens suffer,” he said.

“Mdlokovana is a Member of Parliament, imagine how many millions he is going to make with this deal with the government.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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How MP’s wife was killed

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MASERU – A suspected love triangle has left an MP’s wife dead.

’Maretšepile Mabote, the wife of Malefane Mabote who is the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP for Tsikoane, was allegedly ambushed at her Tsikoane home by a hitman suspected to have been hired by her husband’s long-standing girlfriend.

The girlfriend, Bokang Mahlelehlele, is alleged to have been with the alleged hitman when he sprayed bullets on ’Maretšepile last Friday.

Deputy police spokesperson, Inspector ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka said Maretšepile’s teenage daughter responded to a knock on the door at around 10pm.

Inspector Mofoka said a man at the door asked the daughter to call his mother. She said as ’Maretšepile was approaching the door the man opened fire.

“Unfortunately when the deceased was at the passage to attend to her visitor, she was sprayed with a hail of bullets,” Inspector Mofoka said.

“She died on the spot.”

Inspector Mofoka said the suspect then fled in a 4+1 taxi that was waiting nearby. Alarm was raised and neighbours gave chase.

The neighbours were soon joined by the police. She said as the neighbours approached the car a man who the police suspect to be the hitman jumped out and disappeared into the darkness.

The police and the neighbours however caught up with the car.

Mahlelehlele, 32, whose affair with Mabote is said to be a public secret, was in the car. The driver was 27-year-old Matsoso Maekane. Mahlelehlele and Maekane were arrested and appeared in the Leribe magistrate’s court on Tuesday. They were remanded in custody.

The suspected hitman is still at large.

Inspector Mofoka said so far nothing links Mabote to the murder that has left the people of Tsikoane shocked. Mahlelehlele is a nursing lecturer at the National University of Lesotho while ’Maretšepile, 30, was a nurse at Motebang Hospital in Leribe.

Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced but Maretšepile’s grieving relatives are fuming.

thepost spoke to three relatives who all said they saw her death coming. They said they knew that Mabote and ’Maretšepile had several quarrels, some violent, about Mahlelehlele.

Mosa Ngatane, ’Maretšepile’s brother, said his sister lived a life of misery because of Mahlelehlele.

Ngatane said he is not surprised that Mahlelehlele is being implicated in the murder because she was openly having an affair with Mabote.

‘Makhomotso Ngatane, Ngatane’s wife and Maretšepile’s sister-in-law, said she knew Mahlelehlele as Mabote’s lover.

She also said she is not surprised Mahlelehlele has been arrested in connection with Maretšepile’s death.

thepost could not verify some of the allegations that ‘Makhomotso made about the way Mabote treated his wife.

She said Maretšepile once lived with her after a particularly nasty dispute with her husband.

Last night, Mabote said he was not in a position to speak about his wife’s death or the allegations that he was having an affair with Mahlelehlele.

“This is too much for me,” Mabote said, adding that he will only be able to talk to the media after his wife’s funeral.

“I will be ready for the interview after the funeral. I will even tell you the funeral date,” he said.

“We are still discussing the burial date as the family.”

In the aftermath of the incident some people have posted the picture of Mabote and Mahlelehlele on social media.

Staff Reporter

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