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Garden miracles in Ha Tšilonyane



MASERU – WHENEVER the rains fell, ‘Malikeleli Malefo, 86, would beg her neighbours to provide cattle to plough her fields.

But every time she would struggle to get some help. Sometimes the help would come at the very end of the ploughing season.
“People who have money would start ploughing their fields first and later would tell me that there is no time,” she says.
Malefo, from Ha Tšilonyane in Makhoarane, on the outskirts of Maseru, says because of her age she would also have a tough time getting the right type of seeds which are more resilient to drought.

That has been her ordeal for years. Malefo is staying with her two grandchildren. The three survive on her M500 old-age monthly pension from the government.
Every three months, they also pick up a M360 grant under the Child Grants Programme, the government’s flagship social safety net programme.
Under the programme, Malefo and many other pensioners in Lesotho are cushioned from the biting economic crisis.

While her M500 monthly pension is supposedly meant to take her far in the month, the reality is that the high cost of living has eroded its buying power over the years.
With the cheapest 10kg bag of maize-meal costing about M80, it is no wonder that Malefo often battles to get to the next pay day.

Despite receiving a pension, Malefo tells thepost she, together with her grandchildren, sometimes went to bed on an empty stomach.
“We would survive on hands-out or be forced to eat unpalatable sinews,” she says.
Life was a hard slog.

That was until the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a social programme run by the Catholic Church, intervened three years ago.
To fight hunger and poverty in Lesotho, the CSR introduced the keyhole gardening concept in Malefo’s village of Ha Tšilonyane.
Thanks to the project, Malefo is now able to grow enough to feed her family, keeping hunger at bay.

A keyhole garden is a circular raised garden, about a metre off the ground, with a key-hole shaped indention on one side.
The keyhole garden is ideal for intensive growing of vegetables. The vegetables are placed closely together to maximise production.
The gardens are also easier to maintain.

Malefo is among scores of villagers who have benefitted from the project through the CRS’s programme of Sustainable Poverty Reduction through Income, Nutrition, and access to Government Services (SPRINGS).

‘Mamatsemela Matsemela, 59, who also gets a social grant from the government, says the keyhole garden project has changed her life for the better.
Matsemela, who is a widow, is taking care of four children.

She says she ventured into agriculture with almost zero knowledge about agricultural techniques and methods. The result was that her returns were poor.
But thanks to the keyhole garden project, Matsemela’s life has changed dramatically for the better.

She says she has been harvesting bumper yields from her garden ever since she ventured into the project in 2015.
Matsemela points at her flourishing vegetables in her keyhole garden in her backyard and says she is now among the leading vegetable growers in her area.
“Some farmers in the area come to my place and I guide them through as to how the keyhole garden concept can improve their lives,” she says.

Matsemela says small-scale farmers in Lesotho face various challenges including lack of capital leading to low or poor yields.
She says this is mainly because agriculture in Lesotho is rain-fed with few crops under irrigation.

The result is that Lesotho imports virtually all its agricultural produce from its biggest and only neighbour South Africa.
For instance, the Lesotho Potato Association (LPA) last October said the country spends more than M3 million a month on potato imports, mostly from South Africa.
To wean the country off its dependency on South Africa, the association pledged to boost the capacity of farmers by giving them enough seeds to grow enough potatoes.
Matsemela says because their vegetable garden is thriving, she does not have to divert her grant money meant for the children to buy food.
“This keyhole garden is more resilient to drought,” she says.

The chairperson of Makhoarane community council, Tsekiso Mpafi, says the keyhole garden project has lifted many villagers out of poverty.
It has also lowered the number of individuals who depended on food handouts from donors.
Mpafi says due to the persistent drought that Lesotho experienced over the last few years, keyhole gardening has provided a successful way out of poverty and hunger for many families.
“When this project was brought into our area, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief,” Mpafi says.

He says when the project was introduced three years ago most farmers in the area were reeling from a sharp drop in crop production due to prolonged drought brought about by climate change. Mpafi says the project was initially introduced in the villages of Matsieng, Mahloenyeng, Ha Tšilonyane and Ha Toloane. It has since been expanded to most villages in the area.

He says keyhole gardening has boosted food security in the villages.  “The project has changed our livelihoods,” he says.
Erica Dahl-Bredine, the CRS Country Representative, says SPRINGS is working in five community councils throughout the country.

She says this project was piloted in three community councils of Makhoarane, Likila, Menkhoaneng but has now also been rolled out to Tebe-tebe and Tenesolo community councils.
Erica says their goal is to help families ‘graduate’ out of poverty. She says they are happy because the results are promising.
Erica says the keyhole gardens are built in such a manner that they are easily maintained by people who are as old as Malefo.
“The keyhole gardening does not need a lot of manpower. Used water can also be used for watering the gardens.”

She says they also encourage villagers to preserve their vegetables in dried form when they harvest more so that they can be food secure during hard times.
“They can dry the vegetables or can them so that they can use them during difficult times,” she says.

Erica says their project works in the most vulnerable communities based on Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment reports produced by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA).
She says the CRS picks the most vulnerable communities as determined by the high percentage of social assistance beneficiaries or high rates of poverty in the areas.
Erica says the project seeks to achieve three objectives – increasing income, improve nutrition and improve access to government services.

She says their project helps vulnerable groups to graduate out of poverty while ensuring that social grants are only used to ensure that children are kept in school.
“Since there is free primary education and free health services in Lesotho, we hope the social grants will only be used to take care of the children,” she says.
Social Development Minister Molahlehi Letlotlo says the Child Grants Programme is one of the projects in which the government is doing well.
He says the government is planning to initiate developmental projects in rural areas to reduce dependency on donors.

Letlotlo however appealed to donors to pump in more resources to allow the projects to pick up on so they are able to run on their own in the future.

Majara Molupe

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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