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I am not going anywhere: Molise



MASERU-AFTER spending 12 years in jail for murder and kidnapping Phakiso Molise thought he had paid his dues. So, in 2018 he applied to be a director of the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA). He got the job and for the next two years his appointment did not raise eyebrows. There were, of course, some grumblings about an ex-convict being a director but he says it was not something he could not handle.

But recent events have shone harsh light on the board and his appointment has become a hot subject again. After the LCA fined Vodacom and revoked its licence some are questioning Molise’s presence on its board. The Communications Act says the minister cannot appoint a convicted person on the LCA board.

The Companies Act says the same about the appointment of a company director. Molise however says he is going nowhere and anyone unhappy about his appointment should approach the courts. This week thepost spoke to him about his position and the controversy surrounding it. Below are excerpts from the interview.

The Communications Act says anyone who has been convicted cannot be appointed to the LCA board. Your appointment is thus in violation of that law.
To be honest, I don’t really interpret it that way. I have several reasons to explain why I think that is not what the law means. If the Act wanted to talk about previous criminal record or conviction then it would have said so clearly.

My thinking is that it was meant to protect the institution by stopping the appointing authority from appointing a person still under conviction. Being a board member is not even a permanent appointment. It’s one in which someone attends meetings from time to time. This means that if they were to appoint someone still under conviction then the LCA operations will be hampered.

But that is not what the Communications Act says. It is precise that the minister cannot appoint someone who has been convicted. You have been convicted but you are on the board.

People can interpret it the way they want but once there are several interpretations to a law it means there is ambiguity. But even if we look at it from that interpretation it means that law is against the constitution whose section 18 says there shall be no discrimination. This means the law fits squarely within the acts of discrimination and is therefore unconstitutional. We can also look at section 20 of the constitution which says everyone has a right to participate in government. My point is if the law was meant to prohibit people like me from sitting on the board then it is unconstitutional.

It’s not only the Communications Act which prohibits the appointment of convicts to the boards. The Companies Act says the same.
The constitution is very clear that any law that conflicts with it is null and void. So it will be funny if any person would choose a subordinate law over the constitution. Anyone aggrieved by my appointment can go to court. The advert did not have any limitations. Probably if this was the intention then they could have been some kind of guidance because the law, even the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regulation, stipulates the guidelines so that the person cannot be discriminated against.

Those laws are not discriminating against convicts. They are merely saying you cannot be a director of any company or the LCA if you have been convicted. You can still work anywhere but not as a director of LCA or a company. It’s a restriction not discrimination.

Even if we can say so, then it will remain unconstitutional because the discrimination is not confined to certain jobs. The ILO has some guidelines so that wherever the criminal record may be considered to potentially harm the operations of a company, then the person who has a record but wants to be hired is given a chance to explain what happened. In Lesotho, we don’t have the authority that categorises people as on the basis of a criminal record. It is the court of law that declares that a person has a criminal record. It’s not anyone who can say that. It’s a legal matter which only the courts of law should handle. I would think that the Attorney General can be approached to take the matter to court to decide if someone who has been convicted can be employed. There must be a procedure.

What procedure do you want to be followed when the law is clear that a convicted person cannot be on the LCA board?
Procedure has to be followed even if something looks clear. In this clear it’s something that has to be determined by the court. A person in the streets may not know what happened in the case. For example, what if the King has pardoned? The person on the streets will not know. It has to be a judicial decision.

The judicial decision is that you have been convicted. The law says you cannot be on the LCA board. What more clarity do you want?
The court will assess if my conviction bars me from being appointed. I have said I have appealed against even the so-called cases I faced. It’s 20 years now since I appealed. My case was complex. I was arrested in South Africa and brought back to Lesotho without following the extradition process. So the courts of law had no jurisdiction over me. I argued that point but that element of appeal has not been heard. I believe if heard it will quash all the convictions.

You appealed against the murder convictions and lost. Your conviction was confirmed by the highest court in the land.
Those judges were called to the State Council and had a braai before hearing the case. They even took time before passing judgement, claiming that they were owed by the government. That showed the judiciary was captured.

Are you saying you were not fairly prosecuted or that the Communications Act is wrong?
If the act means previous conviction then it’s wrong. Yes, I remain unfairly prosecuted. I haven’t been heard by the Court of Appeal on the point of jurisdiction of the court. My appearance was illegal and the day I am heard it will automatically reverse all decisions against me. It’s something I have been pushing ever since I came back to the country and continue doing so even today when you called me. The cases were just a ploy to get to me. I am just outlining some cases but there were so many attempts on my life.

These are things I don’t want to discuss. I want to stick to these issues that were in the public. I am approaching them as legitimate but people knew that this was persecution. I am saying I don’t understand the Communications Act to mean that I am prohibited to be on the board based on my conviction. Secondly, if they interpret it that way then it’s unconstitutional. Third, even the so-called cases were just trumped up charges to get to me. So there are just multiple injustices against me.

They frame charges, use corruption to convict and then chase me wherever I get to sit even on a board. This means there is someone who doesn’t want to see me live. There are people in the previous government and current one who have been allowed to work on state issues despite their conviction. It cannot be fair that only Molise is barred from earning a living.

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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