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‘Human rights will be top of our agenda’

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Maseru –  AS the new government is set to take over tomorrow following the swearing-in of Thomas Thabane as Prime Minister, MPs of the ruling parties have pledged to bring major changes.
thepost’s reporter, Majara Molupe, spoke to the Basotho National Party (BNP)’s Machesetsa Mofomobe and the Alliance of Democrats (AD)’s MP, Thuso Litjobo, on the new government’s agenda. Below are excerpts of the interview:

Which issues do you want the incoming government to address urgently?
Mofomobe: There are a lot of issues that we are going to implement as the 10th Parliament. Accountability will be our primary assignment because parliament plays an oversight role on what the government is doing or intending to do.
We will have to enact laws which are important to the Basotho nation as whole, not harsh laws like the previous government has done.

Any example of laws you are talking about?
Mofomobe: The Human Rights Commission (should be established as required by the constitution) as a body that is meant to protect the rights and interests of the Basotho nation.  The composition of the Human Rights Commission should be reviewed because it is not like what is supposed to be like. Once we assume power as the new MPs, we will tirelessly try to ensure that the Human Rights Commission resembles its counterparts globally.

I am also going to work without respite to ensure that the Road Traffic Act of 1981 and the 1979 Public Order Act are reviewed.
I have lodged a case in court challenging the 1979 Public Order. It is unconstitutional and i am still going to continue with that case.
Litjobo: I would like to see the new government prioritising job creation to reduce the level of youth unemployment. There are many youths who are roaming the streets without jobs but with academic qualifications.
Those youths are from tertiary institutions. The new government has to create jobs for those youths and should create an enabling environment for the youth to start businesses so that they become self-employed.
Mofomobe: I find it unacceptable that MPs have access to M500 000 interest free loans while Basotho are left out there hallowing in abject poverty.

This provision should be ended because it does not benefit Basotho. This government must bring positive changes to Basotho.
Instead of growing the capital budget we are busy ballooning the recurrent budget through arrangements such as this one. We will have to ensure that a sizable part of the budget is for capital not for recurrent expenditure.
This will help a great deal of Basotho to have a meaningful share of the cake. This new government will have a mammoth task to accomplish.

We seriously need to allocate funds to important public institutions like the National University of Lesotho, which is currently facing serious problems that want serious intervention of the government.
Unfortunately, the government seems to be silent while Lesotho’s education at its highest echelons is grappling with complexities.

There are several issues that you complained about ahead of the election, such as the full implementation of SADC decisions, what can you say now that you are in government?
Mofomobe: As the new government, it will be within our mandate to ensure that the SADC recommendations are fully implemented. SADC formed a commission of enquiry led by a Botswana retired judge Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi to investigate circumstances leading to the death of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao.  Upon its completion, the commission made some recommendations that the government of Lesotho should implement. But some of the recommendations have not been implemented.  They are still gathering dust on government shelves. Failure to implement some of the SADC recommendation is likely to plunge this country into gloom. Lesotho’s development partners like the European Union are likely to pull out from backing Lesotho with financial assistance.
It is practically impossible for a country like Lesotho to survive without international financial back-up. It is only if we comply with the SADC recommendations that we could be backed up financially by the international bodies like the EU.
We can hardly survive without development partners. If we do not implement SADC recommendations, chances are also high that we are likely to lose the AGOA opportunities.

\It is through AGOA that Lesotho has managed to attract international investors to invest in the garment and fabric factories.
Most of them are from Asia especially China and Taiwan. Lesotho has created more than 40 000 jobs through AGOA.
Litjobo: SADC decisions must be implemented fully. Since the out-going government has failed to implement the SADC decisions and Phumaphi recommendations, we are going to ensure that they are implemented.
Lesotho is a founding member of SADC and Lesotho has good relations with the SADC member states. There is no way that we cannot implement its recommendations or decisions.

What promise do you have about fighting corruption?
Litjobo: The new government has to wage war against corruption in all its forms. We are going to fight against corruption at all levels of governance. We have witnessed when corruption, left unbridled, unseated the out-going government led by Pakalitha Mosisili, the leader of Democratic Congress. When we were still members of the DC we complained aloud saying the Mosisili-led government was corrupt.
We were citing the Bidvest fleet services deal as an example. The government had awarded the fleet tender to Bidvest illegally and as such, that is corruption. We decided to defect from DC because we did not want to be associated with corrupt deals.

How do you want the new government to deal with those who could have looted public funds?
Litjobo: The new government is going to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where (individuals) will have to appear before it and declare what they have illegally taken from the government.  No legal action will be taken against those who will voluntarily declare what they illegally took from the government.  And if they fail to do so, and the police and the DCEO find that they illegally took anything from the government to benefit themselves, they will have to face the wrath of the law.

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

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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