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I remain unmoved: Phamotse

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MASERU – GENDER Minister and Alliance of Democrats’ secretary general Dr Mahali Phamotse was the target of a violent demonstration by party supporters two weeks ago. The small mob burnt office property as it picketed at the party’s offices. They accused her of sidelining them in the allocation of tenders and employment opportunities.
The party quickly moved to douse the fires, with leader Monyane Moleleki calling for calm and pleading with party members to shun violence as a means to resolve their problems.
A few days later the party’s national executive committee held an urgent meeting to discuss the embarrassing skirmishes. This week thepost spoke to Phamotse about the demonstration and what it means for the party and her position as secretary general.

We started by asking her what she thinks could have triggered the demonstration.

I don’t really think it is personal but my analysis is that the AD is a new party that is doing things differently from the establishment from which most of its members came. It seems some people still have a different concept of what a party should be. That view is based on their previous parties.
Our leader has a new vision of a party that has outgrown the norms and practises of other parties. There has always been the idea that once a political party comes into power, it should discriminate against members of other parties.

This then leads those in power to discriminate against members of other parties when it comes to economic opportunities and jobs. We have politics in which some think they are superior to others in terms of economic participation. When in power you want to control everything.
You think you are entitled to opportunities and avenues at the expense of the people at the bottom and those who are not in your party. Our leader is going against that way of thinking and way of doing things. He is preaching togetherness and oneness for all Basotho.

Having been close to him I can tell you that he doesn’t just say those things but lives them as well. He lives by those values but he needs people who operationalise and implement them. That is what I am doing as the secretary general. I am trying to make people understand that we are a party that should live by the values of peace, unity and togetherness.

But clearly there are some who don’t share that vision or don’t like the way you are implementing it.
Do you think people have understood that the politics of hate should be a thing of the past?

Not necessarily, but you have to look at the size of the crowd that was at that demonstration. I don’t suppose that those people were more than 30. That, to me, says that the majority of the AD members understand the message from the leader clearly.
Those people had called that meeting on Facebook but the numbers did not amount to much. If people were buying into their agenda they would have come out in numbers. Our leader is succeeding in getting the message to the members.

The people are following their leader. What happened at that small demonstration does not reflect the feelings of the majority of AD members. It is just a few individuals who are unhappy with the new direction the party is taking. They think I am administrating the party in a way they are not used to.

What does that demonstration, small as it was, reflect about the party?

It sends a message that as politicians we are failing our people because of what we have been selling them. We have been saying come to me and you will be better than the others. When we say “others” we are referring to Basotho. Politicians want to own people. So they don’t say come to me so that I can be a leader of all the people, including those who don’t support me.
They say I will take care of you as members of my own party. That is wrong. We don’t talk about general development but about people who elect us. I don’t understand how that happens because jobs and roads are for all. What if your people do not have qualifications?

We promise to expel people working and we forget that some of the people we are promising jobs are not qualified. This leads to huge problems in the economy because we end up placing people in areas they should not be. The result is a poor road or a leaking building.
We lower the standards to achieve the promise to create jobs and opportunities. The truth is that we are creating huge problems for ourselves and the country because we are misplacing people. That results in poor structures, bad infrastructure and a struggling economy.

When you place a wrong person it costs time and money. The trouble will be with you for years and generations to come. It’s eating us inside and will continue to do so until we put in place policies that promote togetherness and unity.
Ntate Moleleki has seen it all. I think he is one of the longest serving people in parliament. He has been in cabinet the longest. So when he says we have to change course we should listen because he knows what he is talking about.

You might have noticed that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is preaching the same message of unity and peace. They know the dangers of divisive politics because they have seen how it has spoiled our judiciary, economy and the nation.

Why were the protesters targeting you as the secretary general? Surely you are just part of the leadership that has collective responsibility.

It is a vulnerable position because it is the pillar of the party. Anything wrong with the party is blamed on the SG. As the SG you are at the centre of everything. They don’t look at your success but focus on that which they think you are doing wrong.
People will always complain but they have to look for ways to deal with issues in a reasonable and unifying fashion. The centre pole is the one that holds the tent. If that pole shakes, the tent crumbles.

How has the party leadership handled the problem?

The leaders took it very well. He (Moleleki) stood very strongly against their actions. He was not so much concerned about the petty issues they raised but the way they went about trying to resolve them.
He also spoke strongly about how some people behave when called to account for their actions. He said people should be reprimanded. He said if people have a problem then they should come to him as the leader because the buck stops with him.

There have been allegations that those protesters were merely pawns in the power struggle or factional fight in the party? Who do you think is their master?

When people convene there is always the convener. It cannot be a coincidence that people meet and start demonstrating. People don’t just meet and start burning office property. At all times there is the originator of the idea.
The issue is who, but I don’t want to get into that because the leader has spoken. I see it as anger against the system I am using. Those people don’t have tangible reasons for fighting.
They are fighting my system and not me as a person. My personality is not the issue here. It’s my strategy they don’t understand and don’t want to comprehend. I am merely implementing the vision of the leader and the party.

Maybe they hoped that our leader would change with the wind soon after the election but that has not happened. His message has remained that of peace and unity. He has continued to say that the days of discriminating against perceived political opponents are over.

Is Moleleki’s message getting to the AD supporters?

When he started saying these things, people were fuming. It has been tough for people to comprehend that message because it goes against what people have been used to. He has been saying lets forgive each other and move on. He said lets have amnesty. But people thought that he was now going soft on criminals.
That is not the case because amnesty does not mean lack of accountability for one’s actions. Something seems to have changed over the past few months because some leaders are now carrying the same message. They have mocked him but they are now seeing his vision.

People take time to adjust to good things. People want to adjust to bad things.

Do you sometimes regret leaving the academia?
Not at all. I want to be challenged. In lecturing, you work to achieve the same things. Here you solve problems. You meet different problems every day and you tackle them differently all the time. It feels good to be looking at new problems and getting solutions.

I like that kind of life. It gives me pleasure. I don’t wish to be a leader or deputy, I wish to be here. I want to do things here. I am happy all the plans are going well. People are joining the party and rallies are happening.

Staff Reporter

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City Council bosses up for fraud

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THREE senior Maseru City Council (MCC) bosses face charges of fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.

Town clerk Molete Selete and consultant Molefe Nthabane appeared in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

City engineer Matsoso Tikoe did not appear as he was said to be out of the country. He will be arraigned when he returns.

They are charged together with Kenneth Leong, the project manager of SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture, the company that lost the M379 million Mpilo Boulevard contract in January.

The joint venture made up of two Chinese companies, Shanxi Construction Investment Group (SCIG) and Shanxi Mechanization Construction Group (SMCG), and local partner Tim Plant Hire (TIM), has also been charged.

Selete and Nthabane were released on bail of M5 000 and surety of M200 000 each. Leong was granted bail of M10 000 and surety of M400 000 or property of the same value.

The charges are a culmination of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigation that has been going on for the past months or so.

The prosecution says Selete, Nthabane, Tikoe, and Leong acted in concert as they intentionally and unlawfully abused the functions of their offices by authorising an advance payment of M14 million to a joint-venture building the Mpilo Boulevard.

An advance payment guarantee is a commitment issued by a bank to pay a specified amount to one party of a contract on-demand as protection against the risk of the other party’s non-performance.

The prosecution says the payment was processed after the company had provided a dubious advance payment guarantee. It says the officials knew that the guarantee was fake and therefore unenforceable.

As revealed by thepost three weeks ago, SCIG and SMCG were responsible for providing the payment guarantee as lead partners in the joint venture.

The prosecution says the MCC was required by law to make advance payment after SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture submitted a guarantee as per the international standards on construction contracts.

It alleges that the MCC has now lost the M14 million paid to SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture because of the fake advanced guarantee.

thepost has seen minutes of meetings in which officials from the joint venture admitted to MCC officers that the advance payment guarantee was dubious.

SCIG-SMCG-TIM kept promising to provide a genuine guarantee but never did. Yet the MCC officials did not report the suspected fraud to the police or take any action against the company.

It was only in January this year that the MCC cancelled the contract on the basis that the company had failed to provide a genuine guarantee.

Despite receiving the advance payment SCIG and SMCG refused to pay TIM Joint Venture for the initial work.

SCIG and SMCG, the lead partners in the joint venture, are reportedly suing the MCC to restore the contract. Officials from TIM Plant Hire however say they are not aware of their partners’ lawsuit against the MCC.

Staff Reporter

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Scott fights for free lawyer

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DOUBLE-MURDER convict Lehlohonolo Scott is fighting the government to pay a lawyer to represent him in his appeal.
Scott, serving two life sentences for murdering Kamohelo Mohata and Moholobela Seetsa in 2012, says his efforts to get a state-sponsored lawyer have been repeatedly frustrated by the Registrar of the High Court, Advocate ’Mathato Sekoai.
He wants to appeal both conviction and sentence.
He has now filed an application in the High Court seeking an order to compel Advocate Sekoai to appoint a lawyer to represent him.
He tells the court that he is representing himself in that application because the Registrar has rejected his request to pay his legal fees or appoint a lawyer for him.
People who cannot fund their own legal costs can apply to the Registrar for what is called pro deo, legal representation paid for by the state.
Scott says Sekoai has told him to approach Legal Aid for assistance.
The Legal Aid office took a year to respond to him, verbally through correctional officers, saying it does not communicate directly with inmates.
The Legal Aid also said he doesn’t qualify to be their client.
“I was informed that one Mrs Papali, if I recall the name well, who is the Chief Legal Aid counsel, had said that Legal Aid does not communicate with inmates so she could not write back to me,” Scott says.
“Secondly, they represent people in minor cases. Thirdly, they represent indigent people of which she suggested I am not one of them.”
“Fourthly, there are no prospects of success in my case hence they won’t assist me.”
He says the Legal Aid’s fifth reason was that he has been in jail for a long time.
Scott is asking the High Court to set aside Sekoai’s decision and order her to facilitate pro deo services for him, saying her decision was “irregular, irrational, and unlawful”.
He argues that the Registrar’s role was to finance his case to finality, meaning up to the Court of Appeal.
The Registrar insists that the arrangement was to provide him a lawyer until his High Court trial ended.
Scott says his lawyer, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, who was paid by the state, had promised to file an appeal a day after his sentencing but he did not.
He argues that the Registrar did not hear him but arbitrarily decided to end pro deo.
Scott says he wrote to Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase in 2018 soon after his conviction and sentencing seeking assistance but he never received any response.
Later, he wrote to Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane in November 2020 and he received a response through Sekoai who rejected his request.
Scott tells the High Court that he managed to apply to the Court of Appeal on his own but the Registrar later told him, through correctional officers, that “the Court of Appeal does not permit ordinary people to approach it”.
He argues that “where justice or other public interest considerations demand, the courts have always departed from the rules without any problem”.
Staff Reporter

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Army ordered to pay up

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THE Ombudsman has asked parliament to intervene to force the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to compensate families of people killed by soldiers.
Advocate Tlotliso Polaki told parliament, in two damning reports on Monday, that the LDF is refusing to compensate the family of Lisebo Tang who was shot dead by soldiers near the former commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s home in 2014.

The LDF, she said, is also refusing to compensate the family of Molapo Molapo who was killed by a group of soldiers at his home in Peka, Ha-Leburu in 2022.

Advocate Polaki wrote the LDF in January last year saying it should pay Tang’s mother, Makhola Tang, M300 000 “as a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

The Tang family claim investigation started in February 2022 and the LDF responded that it “had undertaken the responsibility for funeral expenses and other related costs”.

Advocate Polaki investigated whether the LDF could be held accountable for Tang’s death and whether his family should be compensated while the criminal case is pending.

She found that the soldiers were “acting within the scope of their employment to protect the army commander and his family” when they killed Tang.

Soldiers killed Tang in Lithabaneng while she was in a parked car with her boyfriend at what the army termed “a compromising spot” near the commander’s residence.

The three soldiers peppered the vehicle with a volley of shots, killing Tang and wounding the boyfriend.

Advocate Polaki found that the army arranged to pay for the funeral costs and to continue buying groceries and school needs for Tang’s daughter.

The LDF, however, kept this for only four years but abruptly stopped.

When asked why it stopped, the army said “there is a criminal case pending in court”.

The army also said it felt that it would be admitting guilt if it compensated the Tang’s family.

The Ombudsman said “a civil claim for pecuniary compensation lodged is not dependent on the criminal proceedings running at the same time”.

“The LDF created a legitimate but unreasonable expectation and commitments between themselves and the complainant which had no duration attached thereto and which showed a willingness to cooperate and work harmoniously together,” Advocate Polaki found.

“The LDF was correct in withdrawing such benefit in the absence of a clear policy guideline or order to continue to offer such benefit or advantage,” she said.

“However, she should have been consulted first as the decision was prejudicial to her interest.”

She said the army’s undertaking “fell short of a critical element of duration and reasonability”.

Tang was a breadwinner working at Pick ’n Pay Supermarket as a cleaner earning M2 000 a month.

Her daughter, the Ombudsman said, is now in grade six and her school fees alone had escalated to M3 200 per year.

She said an appropriate redress should be premised on her family’s loss of income and future loss of support based on her salary and the prejudice suffered by her mother and daughter.

She said M300 000 is “a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

In Molapo’s case, Advocate Polaki told parliament that the LDF refused to implement her recommendations to compensate his two daughters.

The complainant is his father, Thabo Joel Molapo.

The Ombudsman told the army in August last year that it should pay the girls M423 805 “for the negligent death of their father”.

Advocate Polaki said despite that the criminal matter is before the court, “it is established that the Ombudsman can assert her jurisdiction and make determinations on the complaint”.

Molapo, 32, was brutally murdered by a soldier in Peka in December 2020.

Molapo had earlier fought with the soldier and disarmed him.

The soldier, the Ombudsman found, rushed to Mokota-koti army post to request backup to recover his rifle. When he returned with his colleagues, they found him hiding in his house. The soldier then shot Molapo.

The LDF, the Ombudsman said, conceded that the soldier killed Molapo while on duty and that he had been subjected to internal disciplinary processes.

“The LDF is bound by the consequences of the officer’s actions who was negligent and caused Molapo’s death,” she said.

She found that after Molapo was killed, army officers and the Minister of Defence visited his family and pledged to pay his children’s school fees. They also promised to hire one of his relatives who would “cater for the needs of the deceased’s children going forward”.

The LDF, she said, has now reneged on its promises saying its “recruitment policy and legal considerations did not allow for such decision to be implemented”.

Molapo’s father told the Ombudsman that the LDF said “the undertakings were not implementable and were made by the minister at the time just to console the family”.

All the payments in the two cases, the Ombudsman has asked parliament, should be made within three months.

Staff Reporter

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