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Law Society boss under fire

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MASERU – THE Law Society of Lesotho president, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, has been hauled to the coals for his stinging statement against judges at Justice Thamsanqa Nomncongo’s memorial service.
Advocate Maqakachane is feeling the heat from two sides.
On one hand, Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, who is annoyed by the statement, wants him to explain what he meant when said some judges should be employed in the taxi industry instead of the bench.

On the other hand, some members of council of the Law Society are accusing him of driving a wedge between the society and judges.
In an unprecedented bare-knuckle attack, Advocate Maqakachane said the situation in the judiciary is “toxic and not conducive to principled, morally upright and hardworking judges”.
He said the bench has been “stratified along political lines and other interests” and some judges have formed their little fiefdoms and each is responsible to a chief-agitator amongst their group”.

Advocate Maqakachane also said there is mismanagement, maladministration, lack of or misuse of resources, selective allocation of cases and unequal distribution of judicial work.
Those words did not go down well with Chief Justice Sakoane who apart from demanding an explanation also hinted that he might bring criminal charges against Advocate Maqakachane if he doesn’t respond.
Although such sentiments are not new and have been echoed by lawyers as well as some senior judiciary officers in other forums, they have riled some law society council members.
The members accuse Advocate Maqakachane of writing the statement without consulting them.

They also say Justice Nomcongo’s memorial service was not an appropriate platform for such remarks.
The members also complain about Advocate Maqakachane’s letter responding to the chief justice’s instructions to explain his statement at the memorial.
Curiously, Advocate Lineo Tuke, who read the statement on Advocate Maqakachane’s behalf as his vice president, is one of the council members leading the charge against him.

Advocate Tuke is one of the four council members who have penned a letter to Advocate Maqakachane, accusing him of spoiling the society’s relations with the Chief Justice.
The others are Advocate Isaacs, Advocate Pheko and Advocate Makara.
“The events of last week have soured relations to a point where it has become near impossible to have fruitful dialogue with the judiciary,” the letter said.
They said Advocate Maqakachane’s statement was “unnecessary and scandalous”.

They ordered him to write a letter of apology to the Chief Justice failing which they will suspend him from his office because they “will consider you as a rogue president”.
“You did not act accordingly as you did not even invite us to comment on the statement during its drafting but rather just sent us a final statement and ordered Advocate Tuke to go and talk on your behalf,” the Law Society said, distancing itself from his statement.
“The statement is not on the Law Society letterhead and you marked that it is authored by you and you made sure to print your name,” the letter said.

“This effort you took with full knowledge that you will not be able to address personally due to your health. It did not befall to you that in your absence Adv. Tuke in his capacity as deputy will handle the address nor did it occur to you that the available members of the council would prepare the statement which represents the minds of the collectives.”
“It seems to us that you take ownership of statements or actions when there is a possible reward in a form of validation by the general membership but immediately when there is a possibility of punishment, you cloak yourself with the office of the Council and place us in the direct firing line,” the letter said.

“This is a very unfortunate mode of operation and we cannot accept it.”
“We will not discuss the fact that you decided to utter your frustration during the time of mourning for both the colleagues and family members of the deceased.”
“We will not ask you if you genuinely believe that it was the best platform to put forth blatant punches to the integrity of members of the bench at an event organised to remember and celebrate the life of Justice Thamsanqa Nomncongo,” they said.

Advocate Maqakachane responded that the memorial service “was a most appropriate time or moment to memorialize the life and experience of Justice Thami, how the toxic environment in the High Court contributed to accelerating his demise”.
He said the statement was meant to “make a plea for change in the interest of those still living and continuing to do their work in the judiciary”.
He said if members would have chosen to do so through other means, “that did not disqualify the relevancy of the memorial service moment and the authority I had to make the statement on those issues”.
He said the council has no right to order him to do what they wanted in their letter but rather should call the meeting of council where they can resolve not to ratify the decisions he made.

“My conscience sticks to these values and principles as a needle to the pole. I will never sell my soul to the temporary conveniences of the time, I have taken an oath to serve the Law Society, uphold the institutional rule thereof, and it is this society to which I am responsible,” he said in a letter.
“I find myself going forward, having to work on a daily or weekly basis with Council membership which clearly do not share the same values, vision and aspirations that make what the Law Society to be,” he said.

Advocate Maqakachane said that when important constitutional issues are being raised with the administration of justice, and acting as he did, he did not fathom that on that account, he would be dubbed as a “rogue President”.
“It is baffling that you are already intending to report to the Registrar that the President has been directed to apologise, as you do, even before the general members could be informed accordingly on this issue,” he said.
He said he is getting ready to resign as law society president.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors

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MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue

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LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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