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‘He fought the good fight’

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MASERU – Before and after independence, politics in Lesotho has always been a treacherous, and often lethal, terrain. But Moeletsi Api is one man who weathered it all.
Api died on July 5. He was 88. A veteran of a political landscape that is invariably characterised by conflict, political party fragmentation, autocracy, military rule and a tinge of democracy, Api was buried in Maseru last Friday.

That he received a state funeral speaks to his rich history and connection to Lesotho’s rough and tumble world of politics.
Controversial and ready to call a spade a spade, the former deputy finance minister endured poor health in old age.
“He was old and so sick that each month a certain amount of money was set aside for his medical check-ups,” said his son, Likhomo.
After he retired from politics, Api worked at the Lesotho Catholic Bishops Conference (LCBC) in the Caritas Department.
But for some, the job at the LCBC meant he remained “within the family”.

Api was a founding member of the Basotho National Party (BNP) in the 1950s. The BNP was closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church and junior chiefs at its formation between 1957 and 1958.
The BNP was a breakaway of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), one of the pioneer parties of modern politics in pre-independence Lesotho.
Leabua Jonathan and Patrick ‘Mota, who were chiefs and Gabriel Manyeli, a Catholic Church teacher, engineered the breakaway.
When the BNP surprisingly broke the BCP’s hegemony and won the 1965 elections, Api was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance.
“Those who lived in those years will recall Lesotho with clean governance,” said family member, Mathibeli Marabe.

He had started off as a member of constituency for Thabana-Morena, which was then known as Mount Olivert. The constituency’s name was changed to Thabana-Morena in 1993 when Lesotho regained democracy after 23 years of dictatorship.
“When parliament was dissolved he was mandated to work in the constituency,” said Marabe.
This was after the 1970 State of Emergency when then prime minister, the late Chief Leabua Jonathan, refused to hand over power to the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) leader Ntsu Mokhehle after losing elections.

Api went on to work as a district administrator in Mohale’s Hoek before being transferred to Butha-Buthe.
Desperate to improve his education, Api moved to Cameroon to further his studies. He returned to become part of the rural development initiatives in Qacha’s Nek district.
Born in Ntširele, Ha Letapata in 1930, Api had been a keen student in his youth such that the move to Cameroon was not a surprise to those who knew him.
He started school at Nko-ea Khomo before going to Lobiane where he completed Standard Six with a first class.
“He was an excellent student and enrolled in philosophy studies and became a teacher for a short while,” Marabe said.
Farming was his other passion.

A commercial farmer, Api was reputed for supplying potatoes and cereal crops.
During his time as a district administrator, Api maintained an excellent network of farmers in the districts.
Due to the attributes that he portrayed in the Food and Agricultural Development, his family was approached and a project was started called Thabana-Morena Rural Development.
A friend from the youthful days, ’Malineo Motšepe attributed some of the developments such as health centres in Lithabaneng in Maseru City to the fact that Api lived in the constituency.
However, as age took its toll, his health deteriorated. Friends and former colleagues spoke highly of Api.
Paul ’Mabathoana, a former colleague in the BNP who has since crossed to the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP), said Api died at a very critical time when conflicts and political murders are ravaging Lesotho.

“Nowadays there is no peace in the country, despite the fact that there is a big billboard at the main border gate saying ‘enter in peace’,” said ’Mabathoana.
Motšepe, said she became close to Api in 1965 when they were BNP youths campaigning in Ha-Masupha, Berea, against their main rival then, the BCP.
One time they gathered at the Social Development Centre at St Michael’s (Roma) where they were groomed to be responsible youths.
“Since he studied philosophy, Api should have been a priest but he did not,” Motšepe said.

“However, he would not forget to take us to church before we left as a delegation in different countries including Nairobi,” she said.
She said Api was controversial, yet steadfast in his convictions.
“When he prayed no one would listen and not agree with his prayer.”

The leader of BNP, Thesele ’Maseribane, said people ought to walk in Api’s footsteps “because he is one of the people who ensured that Lesotho became independent”.
“His life is worthy of a celebration,” ’Maseribane said. “They ensured good governance but with a little budget. That is why it is our duty to ensure that the reform process commences,” Maseribane said.

The Principal Chief of Thaba-Bosiu, Chief Khoabane Theko noted that Api had a “deep understanding of politics”.
“In short he was a visionary,” Chief Khoabane said.

Tokase Mphutlane

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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.
Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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