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Fatal misconceptions about Coronavirus



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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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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