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Knives out for Motsephe

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MASERU-THE battalion of critics within the Basotho National Party (BNP) have sharpened their long knives against ‘Malineo Motsephe.
They want her out of the electoral race, pronto.

They argue that at 72, Motsephe is way past her sell-by date politically. Instead of seeking the highest office in the BNP, Motsephe should be safely ensconced in retirement, playing with her grandchildren.
Where has she been all these years? Why enter the race to lead the party when others her age are now seriously contemplating retirement?

These are persuasive arguments that Motsephe will have to bat off if she is to come out victorious after the June 11-13 BNP internal elections.
But Motsephe is not taking the criticism lying down.
She is fighting back.
My advanced age is no handicap, she says.
In fact, age comes with wisdom – which has been in short supply in the BNP in recent years, she counters.

The BNP has been in mortal decline precisely because we mortgaged the party to younger leaders who had no wisdom, she says.
“The party is where it is now because we gave it to young people without a proper succession plan,” she says.
‘With my wealth of experience I can help revive the party while working with younger people.’
At 72, Motsephe will be the oldest candidate among six party heavyweights vying to succeed Thesele ’Maseribane as party leader.

‘Maseribane’s term ends in June.
The other five are ‘Machere Seutloali, a 36-year-old woman, current deputy leader Machesetsa Mofomobe, Lesojane Leuta, Advocate ‘Mota Nkuatsana and Professor Lehlohonolo Mosotho.
The BNP, which was one of the leading lights in Lesotho just after independence in 1966, has been in mortal decline since it was ousted from power in a bloodless military coup in 1986.

When democracy was eventually restored in Lesotho, the BNP performed dismally in national elections, with the electorate viewing it as “damaged goods”.
The party won a single constituency in the 2015 elections. It had last won a seat in the 1993 elections.
Ever since 1993, the BNP has relied on the Proportional Representation (PR) electoral model to sneak in a few MPs into parliament where their influence has been heavily diluted.
To stay relevant, the BNP has since 2012 relied on coalition agreements with larger parties.

Motsephe says she wants to change the party’s electoral fortunes and bring the glory days back to the party. Given where the BNP is at the moment, that’s a steep mountain to climb.
“The old people have become disgruntled with how the young ones have been doing things in the party. We want to take the BNP to the good, old days by merging the young and old.”
Motsephe says her vision is to grow the party. She admits that the party has lost significant support over the years.

Most of their supporters have become disenchanted with politics.
“Some are sitting on the fence and no longer vote in elections because they are loyal to the BNP,” she says.
“The first thing is to rekindle the loyalty of BNP members,” she says. “I want to ensure that they are motivated to register to vote with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).”

Motsephe says she does not “like seeing the BNP being at the mercy of other political parties after elections”.
As a smaller political party, the BNP has very little bargaining power during coalition negotiations. The result is that the party has failed to push its own agenda during coalition governments.
“The BNP should not be dragged into coalition governments. It is a shame for a big party like the BNP that has done so much for the country that it cannot win a single constituency during elections.”

Motsephe says she wants to correct this anomaly.
To restore the BNP to glory, Motsephe says she wants to see the party going back to the basics – by setting up strong democratic structures.
With strong structures restored at ward, branch and constituency level, the BNP would be well-positioned to reclaim its glorious past, she says.
Apart from restoring party structures, Motsephe says she also wants the voice of women respected within the party.

“I want to make sure that the women’s voice is heard,” she says.
Motsephe says it is wrong that women have been marginalised and pushed to the periphery within the BNP.
“The current president is a man, his deputy is a man, the secretary general is a man, the chairperson is a man, with only one woman who is the treasurer of the party. We are going to change this so that the party is gender-sensitive.”

Motsephe argues that the BNP “has very strong democratic structures” which have now been corrupted.
“If elected I want to correct these anomalies and enhance the participation of all card-carrying members of the party,” she says.
She wants to see clear structures for the youth league, the women’s league and the national executive committee.
“Structures make a very democratic BNP but currently these structures are not following what the party constitution dictates.”

While she admits that she has a mountain to climb if she is to win the presidency come June 13, Motsephe remains confident that she will win.
“I am very confident,” she says. “My history in the development of Lesotho, in the church and while working for UN agencies has given me enough skills for mobilizing people into action.”
“I know I can lead and I am confident that with the support of the churches and youth organisations, I can garner their support.”
But what if you lose, we ask her?

“I will back the winner. My loyalty is to the BNP and will respect the voice of the voters.”
Like any political contestation, the fight for the presidency is likely to turn nastier. Brickbats are already being thrown at Motsephe.
Her fellow contestants have also had to bear withering criticism as the fight gets dirtier.
But for Motsephe especially, the criticism has been vicious. Her advanced age and her gender have become the source of the ill-feeling.

“They think I am becoming too ambitious and are saying they can’t be led by a woman,’ she says.
It is a message that Motsephe finds extremely offensive.
Having grown up under the tutelage of BNP leader, Chief Leabua Jonathan, such sexist attitudes run counter to the spirit and ethos of the great party, she says.

“But I am not surprised because they are African men steeped in the ways of the past. I want to prove them wrong and show them that women can also lead.”
She says currently “there is no law the bars women from seeking the highest political office”.
Motsephe is not bothered by the criticism, especially that as a woman she has no role to play in Lesotho’s national politics.
Instead, she thinks the criticism is misdirected “since she has better programmes than the men contestants”.

“This is the time the BNP should start thinking of electing a female candidate as party leader.”
Yet despite the explosive campaign and back-biting, Motsephe is still preaching a message of unity and oneness in the BNP.
“We are all members of one family and have the same purpose – reviving the BNP to be where it should be.”

Motsephe was born in Berea in 1948. They were eight children. Her mother was a domestic worker while her father worked in the mines in the ambulance department in South Africa.
While other girls were expected to do the dishes and other domestic chores, Motsephe would find herself resisting this. Instead, she would go and herd the cattle.
“Traditionally, as girls we were trained to be submissive and naturally I am not a submissive person. I was rebellious by nature even in those early years,” she says.

When she was around 20, Motsephe fell in love with the BNP which was then under Chief Leabua Jonathan.
“The BNP was strong in mobilising young people. It set up Young Farmers’ Clubs where they instilled love of agriculture in young people.”
While working closely with the BNP, she began to fight laws that diminished the role of women in society.

Women were seen as minors. For instance, they could not buy land or open a bank account unless they had permission from their husbands.
Through her interactions with civil society, she began to appreciate the mammoth task that faced women in dismantling obstacles that impeded the rights of women.
“We began to lobby the government to remove these obstacles that discriminated against women. We also fought for maternity leave.”

Staff Reporter

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Lawyer in trouble

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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’

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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

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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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