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Healthcare system buckles



MASERU-MARIA Boshofo’s one year old daughter/son came down with diarrhoea one night last month. In the morning, she could not get transport to rush her and her baby to Tsatsane Clinic due to lockdown travel restrictions.
Fearing the worst, she set for the three-hour journey to the clinic on foot, carrying her sick baby on the back – only to find the health facility closed.
“I was devastated,” the 26-year-old told thepost.

“I had not slept at night because my baby was very sick. I had no other option because I feared that my baby would die,” she says.
A security guard told her that the clinic usually closed around 12 noon during the Covid-19 lockdown, especially when there were no patients queuing for services.

“I looked at my baby and cried,” says Boshofo, adding that an elderly woman in the village ended up being her “Knight in Shining Armour”.
The elderly woman, a friend of Boshofo’s parents, had fallen sick to diarrhoea a month earlier but had recovered so she “donated” her remaining drugs to Boshofo’s daughter.
“My little one would have died had it not been because of my parents’ friend,” she says.

Boshofo’s story is familiar across the country, as lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic severely limit people’s access to health centres.
Apart from scarce transport services, navigating roadblocks manned to stop people from making “unnecessary” movements is hell on earth. Many are dismayed to find health centres also closed or offering only partial services due to the pandemic.

’Matoka Mokuena from Tosing, says she travels about two hours on foot from her home to Tsatsane Clinic.
The time increases to six hours when it rains and the Dalewe River overflows.
“I have to use the bridge and that’s a longer route,” she says.
The other clinic close to her home is St Matthew’s, but she still has to walk the same distance, although she does not have to cross a river when going to St Matthew’s clinic.

“You arrive at a clinic, sickly and having walked a long distance, only to be told they have closed for the day. It is disheartening. I was very hurt,” Mokuena says.
“I had left my village at 6am and had to go through the bridge because Dalewe river was overflowing.”
The rains have also destroyed the road linking her village to the clinic that “even a car takes a lifetime” to reach the clinic using that road.
“We need a clinic closer to us,” she says.

In other districts there are stories of how people in need of health care have failed to access clinics because the police beat up and blocked taxi drivers from providing services due to lockdown rules.
Police later resolved the issue and allowed taxi operators without permits to ferry passengers who were in need of essential services such as healthcare.
The Network of Early Childhood Development of Lesotho (Necdol) says it is working with disgruntled patients and relevant authorities to try and find a lasting solution.

Necdol Communications, Advocacy and Research officer, Tšepiso Makhetha, says their aim is to ensure that people have easy access to primary health care facilities in rural areas.
The 2021 Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC Lesotho) Report says access to health services in Lesotho remains limited, especially in rural areas, due to the long distances people have to travel.
“Covid-19 has overstretched health systems and disrupted health service continuity,” notes the report.

“With the second highest HIV prevalence globally and in the absence of community HIV services due to Covid-19, Lesotho is facing heightened risks of HIV and unplanned pregnancies,” the report says.
It warns that “adolescents and young people could be more vulnerable to new HIV infections, gender-based violence, unwanted pregnancies and child marriage”, adding that this calls for increased mental health and psychosocial support.

The country’s health and HIV response should focus on enhancing the continuity of essential health services, including sexual and reproductive health services during the pandemic, the report states.
The focus, according to the report, is meant to support the provision of community-based integrated essential health services and prioritise people living with or at risk of HIV, adolescent girls and young women, orphans and returning migrant populations.

“Given the high HIV prevalence in Lesotho, UNICEF will support the immediate humanitarian needs of pregnant women and children at risk of or living with HIV.”
HAC Lesotho is one of the UNICEF humanitarian projects for which US$6.7 million (about M97.1 million) has been secured.

Through the project, at least 12 600 children aged between six and 59 months were vaccinated against measles in Lesotho during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The project has also helped 262 000 children and women to access primary health care in UNICEF-supported facilities
A report published by the Partnership for Global Health in December last year notes that Lesotho’s health care system was overburdened and lacked the requisite infrastructure to cope with the demands of Covid-19.

The country “traditionally relies on South Africa to provide complementary secondary and tertiary health care”, according to the report.
“The health care system suffers from an acute shortage of human resources, with only six nurses, one physician and a pharmacist per 10 000 people,” the report notes.

“The low-quality health care system increases the vulnerability of people living in Lesotho – including health care workers – to Covid-19,” it adds.
In the meantime, villagers such as Boshofo and Mokuena may have to endure the risks associated with lack of access to primary healthcare for some time.

Staff Reporter

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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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