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‘I can’t be fired like a garden-boy’

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MASERU-IT had to take a strong team from the police’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) to physically remove Thabo Thakalekoala after he refused to hand over his keys to his government office.

Thakalekoala, who was asenior private secretary to former premier Thomas Thabane, refused to vacate his office after he had been instructed to do so by the Cabinet’s principal secretary Lefu Manyokole.
Thakalekoala’s contract was linked to the tenure of the office of the Prime Minister and when Thabane’s term was terminated two weeks ago, his contract automatically lapsed as well.

Thakalekoala had insisted that Manyokole had no powers to terminate his contract because he was senior to him, forcing Manyokole to call the police.
“The position of senior private secretary to the Prime Minister is senior to that one of PS,” Thakalekoala said, adding: “Manyokole has no power to fire me.”

“Who is he to dismiss me? I refuse to go!”
Thakalekoala argued that Thabane’s departure did not mean that his job had been terminated too because the new Prime Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, was merely finishing Thabane’s term.
He argued that the government had not changed – only the Prime Ministers had changed.

Thakalekoala told thepost that Manyokole called him while he was at the Covid-19’s National Emergency Command Centre (NECC) where he was working, saying he should go to his office.
He said when he arrived, Manyokole told him that he should hand over the office keys to him as his new bosses no longer wanted to work with him.
He said he then told Manyokole that he would not be fired like a garden boy but Manyokole told him to go to the courts if he did not want to leave.
He said Manyokole was arrogant.

Thakalekoala said he then told Manyokole to let him use the government vehicle to transport his belongings to another house.
Thakalekoala said he was supposed to hand over the vehicle on Monday but to his shock on the same day “Manyokole set the police on me saying I would not hand the vehicle to them”.
He said after long dialogue and embarrassment in full view of the public they went to the Government Secretary’s office where they talked in private.

He said after the talks with the Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, he decided to hand over the keys “because Mphaka approaches matters with experience and maturity”.
“Manyokole does not have the right to expel me because my letter of appointment was written by the Government Secretary not him,” he said.
He said Manyokole is just a principal secretary who reports to the Government Secretary just like him.

“Manyokole expelled me like a garden boy,” he said.
He said there is no letter of termination of his contract.
Thakalekoala said he worked hard for the ABC to the extent that he had to go into exile “but people who were still in the country now hurt us”.
He said Thabane’s staff expected to work until 2022.
Manyokole said it is surprising that Thakalekoala “now does not understand yet in 2015 the same thing happened” when Thabane lost power.

“All staff linked to the Prime Minister’s incumbency left with him when he left the office,” Manyokole said.
Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo this week offered legal opinion to the government that seemed to back Thakalekoala’s ouster.
Advocate Phoofolo’s legal opinion relied on clause 1(1) of the contract between the government and Prime Minister’s personal staff.

“…the engagement of the person shall be linked to the tenure of the office of The Right Honourable the Prime Minister…” the agreement reads in part.
It says the agreement is effective from the date the Prime Minister assumes full duties and responsibilities of his position.
Advocate Phoofolo said the clause means that “the duration of the employee’s contract depends upon the time the incumbent Prime Minister remains in office”.

“Upon leaving office by the Prime Minister the employment contract also ceases to exist,” Advocate Phoofolo said.
“It is automatically terminated by the happening of such an event as the Prime Minister’s departure from office of the Prime Minister,” he said.
He said it would be incorrect to interpret the terms of the staff’s contracts to mean they are linked to the life of the government.

Lesotho’s Prime Minister is entitled personal staff that include two private secretaries, a personal aide, chauffeur, house maids, a spokesman and others.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Dead on arrival

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My sister delivered a stillborn baby when she was on her way to the clinic,” ’Matemoho Letšela, 23, barely holding back tears.

Letšela says her sister, whose name she withheld, suffered birth-pangs when she was alone at home in Khonofaneng village in Mokhotlong.

She was then rushed down the slopes of a mountain by some passers-by on foot, striding on the slopes of a rocky mountain, crossing deep gorges as she sought to get to the Molika-Liko Health Centre some eight kilometres away.

When she arrived at the clinic, the baby was declared dead on arrival.

Welcome to Mokhotlong, Lesotho’s mountainous region known worldwide for its big and clean diamonds where the people do not have basic services.

Letšela said her sister collapsed when she was on her way to the clinic and was only seen by some passers-by.

By the time passers-by saw her, it was already too late for her and her baby.

She was eight months pregnant. 

“She was still far from the clinic and away from the villages,” Letšela says.

“She had no one to help her until she lost her baby. She was helpless the whole day until it was too late for her to survive,” she says.

 “She had already lost a lot of blood and could not make it to the hospital.”

Letšela shared her sister’s story with thepost during a tour conducted by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to assess the impact of their assistance in Mokhotlong and Quthing districts a fortnight ago.

Letsela pleaded with the government to provide services in Mokhotlong’s hard-to-reach areas to avoid unnecessary deaths like her sister’s.

“My sister was eight months pregnant so the long walking distance might have been the cause of her early delivery and ultimate death,” she says.

She says there are still some villages in her area that are way far from where she stays, villages like Lichecheng where a patient must travel early in the morning, sleep on the way and reach the clinic the following day.

Cars cannot reach those remote areas, she says.

At Letšela’s area, they only have one bus that travels from home to town at 9am and will be back late at 8pm.

Even though they would love to always catch a ride whenever they are going to the clinic, sometimes they just do not have the money.

Letšela is three months pregnant now and says she cannot wait to reach 37 weeks so she can go and stay at the accommodation facilities provided by the clinic.

 “That is the advice from our midwives and I am willing to take that offer,” she says.

“I don’t want what happened to my sister to happen to me.”

When thepost met Letšela at the clinic last week, she had left her place at around 4am walking alone to the clinic and arrived after 10am.

Relebohile Tšepe

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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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