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Fighting disease one pill at a time



MASERU-WITH the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the country, Dr ’Maseabata Ramathebane wants the government to consider utilising pharmacies registered with the Lesotho Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Council (LMDPC) to ease pressure.

“More people would have been tested if we were to get Covid-19 rapid tests done in retail pharmacies, and we would have accurate statistics as a country,” Dr Ramathebane says.
“At the moment, people die before they receive their PCR Covid-19 results, and this does not help the situation, as funerals have become super-spreaders of Covid-19,” she says.
“It will really help to know how many people are infected with the disease, and also at a personal level so that one can take responsibility of self-isolation and also receive help on time.”

Dr Ramathebane says retail pharmacies can be used as pick-up points for chronic medicines to relieve congestion at health facilities such as clinics, adding that pharmacies can later send the bill to the government for payment.
“This will make work easier for clinics in towns. This is already happening here with medical practitioners. (The Ministry of Health) is allowing private surgeries to have ARVs for free, we could either get chronic medication for free to distribute, or we dispense and (the ministry) reimburses,” she says.

To beat Covid-19, she says, Basotho should follow World Health Organisation guidelines: stay at home, regularly wash hands and /or sanitise them, wear a mask, avoid funerals, and all other activities that expose them to many people so as to stay safe.
“Leadership at the household or village level must make sure that people comply with Covid-19 guidelines. If one person has Covid-19, the village must show support to the household by not visiting them. They should use the phone and social media to provide support.”

“If we want Covid-19 to be controlled it has to be controlled at the village level, with clear messages targeting men, who are difficult to convince that the disease is there and it kills. If Nacosec is going to be scientific and sophisticated this will not serve the purpose for which it was established.”
She wants the Ministry of Health to ramp up testing.
“I was expecting more tests to be done during the lockdown so that we can know the true statistics,” she says.

The ministry, she says, should ensure adequate provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and other professionals and to avail oxygen to all patients in need.
“I expect the police and the military to be given PPE and be treated as frontliners,” says Dr Ramathebane, who says she personally contributed in the fight against Covid-19 by sourcing funding to provide PPE to 800 village health workers in the Maseru district.

She says she also wrote two research proposals related to Covid-19, explaining the importance of vaccines on radio and advising people about Covid-19 and the steps to take if they suspect they might have it.
She says there is need to fund more research to strengthen the fight against the virus.

“There are many issues that put Basotho at risk of contracting coronavirus, and Basotho are being infected daily and we don’t know how many people have died of Covid-19, we don’t know how many people survived the infection. We need a well-researched Covid-19 country profile.”
She says the research that NUL has undertaken on potential Covid-19 medicines needs to be buttressed by legislation and clinical trials.

“The pharmacy profession will grow and we will see more research on indigenous medicinal plants, new formulations, and improved pharmacy practices, and consequently an improved healthcare system.
“We have medicines and we also have alternative medicines and they will have two separate registers in the coming law and both have to be tested. Their safety has to be ascertained before the medicine or alternative medicine can be given to members of the public.

“We must have the correct dose of the medicine and we get this during clinical trials,” says Dr Ramathebane, who counts being a founding member of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the NUL, and also a pioneer for the establishment of the Pharmacy Honours Degree programme at the National University of Lesotho as part of her achievements.
“We have health centres around the country. I want to see pharmacists manning pharmacies in those clinics in rural places because Basotho all over the country deserve good pharmaceutical care.”

She says even though there are few doctors in the country, “I believe nurses and pharmacists can combine their diverse and complementary skills to provide better patient care than what is happening now where a nurse is doing everything at the health centre with large patient populations.”
“This means that some errors go unnoticed,” says Dr Ramathebane, adding that “if Lesotho can get it right at the primary health care, we will have fewer hospitalisations of patients with chronic diseases”.

“This results in savings on the part of government. My plea is for the Lesotho government to use resources they have to improve lives and wellbeing of Basotho,” she says.
She also wants to see the finalisation of the Medicines and Medical Devises Bill.
This law already exists in many countries worldwide, she says.

“This will establish a Medicines Control Authority, which is the authority that will register all the medicines used in the country, vaccines, alternative medicines and cosmetics. This will ensure safe access to medicines.”
Growing up, Dr Ramathebane would see women in her village of Khoaba-Lea-Bua bathe and feed their children and then spend the day drinking alcohol.

She vowed that she wanted to take a different route, dreaming about becoming a successful woman.
“That’s what made me look to education as a solution… I didn’t want to end up like them. I wanted to have a purpose in my life,” says the 55-year-old.
The journey started at Tumo and then Sekoati primary schools before she moved to St Stephens High School.

Dr Ramathebane completed her diploma in Pharmacy Technology at National Health Training College (NHTC) in 1988.
She then proceeded to Robert Gordon University in Scotland for her Bachelor of Pharmacy degree.
She also studied for a Master of Pharmacy in Pharmacy Practice and a PhD in Pharmacy Practice at the North West University Potchefstroom in South Africa.

With her father having left the country following the 1970 state of emergency and her mother unemployed, it fell on Dr Ramathebane’s brothers to help raise her.
“My brothers who are much older than me were working since I was in primary school and they helped my mother to raise me and fulfilled all my educational needs,” she says.

She recalls life in the village back then when cars were such a novelty that it was rare to see one.
“We were taught to hide behind the bush, a rock or in the donga when we saw a car coming. There was a myth that a car had a lot of wind and it would drag you (ho thoe koloi e tla u nka ka moea).”
Life was good though, even in the midst of what seemed to be a backward community.

“My childhood was good, growing up in Sunday school I had many friends and they are still my friends today.”
She knew she wanted to work in a field that would allow her to help people, but it was not going to be as a doctor or nurse.
I just don’t like seeing a lot of blood, says Dr Ramathebane.
“I had a helping heart, a concerned heart, if there was a problem, I wanted to look for a solution. Pharmacy is an honourable profession. I am very content with my choice.”

“The best part is when you work at a hospital and you don’t have the correct dose for a child who needs medicine, then you do your calculations, take mortar and pestle and make the correct dose for the child. That is very gratifying,” says Dr Ramathebane, who wishes the government could improve the country’s primary health care system to manage chronic diseases.

’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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