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Keep working hard and doing good

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… a woman’s story of grief, tribulations, forgiveness and triumph

LIMPHO Maema would have been a medical doctor if the cruel hand of fate had not intervened.

She had just started her BSc studies for getting into the medical programme at the University of Free State when her father, an activist turned politician, was fatally shot during the political riots that rocked Lesotho in 1998.

If his untimely death crushed her world then what followed almost buried her.

Unable to afford her tuition, Maema dropped out of university and came back home where her tribulations would continue for several years.

An uncle took everything her father owned, including insurance pay-out, a house and sites. The injustice of her uncle inheriting everything her father owned was clear but the law was not on her side.

Maema’s three-year court battle to pry the inheritance from her father’s brother ended in defeat because the law said a girl child could not inherit her father’s estate. She was the only child.

“It was yet another blow for me,” Maema says.

Although the law was clear that her uncle was supposed to use part of the estate to maintain the lifestyle she had enjoyed while her father was alive, Maema found herself abandoned and destitute. The uncle could not pay her tuition or give her a decent life as the heir to an estate to which she was a dependant.

“I was raised by my father. I was dear to him and him to me. His passing changed everything. It was a key turning point in my life.”

Desperate, Maema went to live with her mother and maternal grandmother in Leribe.

“Those were dark days but they shaped me,” she says.

This was an only child whose father was a man of means had given everything but was now living in dire circumstances.

Yet Maema had the will and courage to accept her new situation. Maema’s saving grace was that her father had also exposed her to both sides of the world: a time of fat cows and a time of lean cows.

During holidays her father would let her visit her mother who she says came from “a very humble background”. That exposure helped Maema with the adjustment to the new situation when she moved in with her mother in Leribe.

“It was tough but I could adjust to the new reality, with no shame,” she adds. I was loved and supported in countless ways to deal with the trauma and to regain control of my life.

She would spend about a year there before returning to Maseru to work at a photo lab. Maema says those three dark years helped her grow spiritually and “find myself”. The process restored and reinvigorated me at exponential levels, it was liberating. She gave up the fight, forgave her uncle and moved on.

“It was a moment of reckoning when I realised that this battle and resentment was consuming me. I just had to let it go and focus on myself.”

Once she started healing Maema realised that while she had lost her father’s estate, she had inherited his lessons and values.

“He taught me to stand on my own and respect the people around me.”

Because her father was good to other people, Maema got support from friends, total strangers and other relatives who wanted her to succeed.

“I had lost material things but I had inherited his humility and humanity.”

The legal battles inspired her to study law at the National University of Lesotho.

It would also define her career path that saw her volunteer and work at women’s rights organisations.

She wanted to understand the problems women face, not only in Lesotho but in Africa as well.

“Women and girls are treated as third-class citizens and I wanted to change that at the policy level. I have never looked back since then and I have remained committed.”

A governance specialist, she worked for several non-governmental organisations.

Her interaction with the Sekhametsi Investment Consortium started when she was engaged to provide corporate secretarial services. She says before that she had just admired the company from a distance.

“I had always wanted to be associated with Sekhametsi because it is a beacon. It has changed the perception about Basotho starting businesses and working together.”

“Here was a group of Basotho who had collaborated to build something amazing and they were still going strong together. That was an inspiring story.”

This explains why Maema could not pass on an opportunity to buy Sekhametsi shares three years ago.

When Sekhametsi started she was earning M880 at the photo lab and could not afford to buy some shares.

What she knew was to save her money in a bank. With hindsight, experience and exposure Maema says although saving is a noble idea people must strive to grow their money instead of just parking it in a bank.

The trick, she warns, is to find the right investment and the credible people to work with.

Sekhametsi fits the bill in all aspects.

Maema is now a director at the company, a position she treasures for several reasons.

The first is that as a corporate secretary she had come to understand  Sekhametsi’s vision, values and the work ethic of the board in managing the affairs of the company on behalf of the shareholders.

“I like working with astute and professional people. I like excellence and Sekhametsi has it.”

She recalls her grandmother telling her that work is like prayer in that “you must do it well for God to reward you”.

Second, this was her opportunity to contribute to the company with her experience in corporate governance. Third, this was an opportunity to learn about business as an aspiring entrepreneur.

“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship because I get valuable experience while serving a company I love, among people with integrity.”

The fourth reason is that he wanted to be a part of a company helping to transform lives through investment and social intervention. Here she talks about Sekhametsi’s investment in telecommunications, property, financial services and manufacturing. This is in addition to the several corporate social investments Sekhametsi has made in communities.

“The company is touching lives through employment, targeted investments and social interventions.”

Maema says her time on the board and forays into business has taught her that nothing you learn goes to waste.

Before going to university, Maema enrolled for a Diploma in Business Management and Marketing. This was something she stumbled upon but it has come in handy.

“Everything happens for a reason. Everything eventually works together for good.”

Maema’s children did not see their grandfather who died before they were born but she is determined to impart the valuable lessons she learned from him.

“He used to tell me that no one owes you anything in this life. Whatever opportunities come to you are just privileges but you have to understand that you are your own greatest asset. You should never look up to people to do things for you.”

“People need to understand that a life of quick fixes, overnight success and instant gratification doesn’t last. Power and money pass but the values last forever. You must put in the work, that is what we must teach our children if we want to build a better generation.”

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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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