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Letsosa says found office in a mess



MASERU-Home Affairs Minister Motlalentoa Letsosa addressed Parliament yesterday where he spoke about the challenges he found when he assumed office.
We produce below the full, unedited speech below:

Immediately after I entered office, I found a report from the United States about the state of Lesotho with regards to human trafficking.
Among other important thing in that report, was that our country is not doing enough to fight human trafficking.
This lowered our country to Tier-3 among countries that fail to arrest those implicated in trafficking of persons. Actually, the Trier-3 status brings us to a “Junk Status” as a country. This status means that our long-time diplomatic friends are likely to turn their backs on us.

Immediately after getting this report and pondering on it, I instructed the Principal Secretary to arrange how the ministry would deal with this.
There were major steps that we took:
We worked on the amendment to the Trafficking in Persons Act.
We structured the ministry in such a way that it would be in a position to fight this and we had to transfer some of the workers from where they worked, with the aim to improve services.

Immediately after starting to fiercely work on the US report, and the shortcomings that we identified, we encountered a new problem.
I want to emphasise that soon after getting into office I had several meetings with senior officials of the ministry, from the Principal Secretary to the Heads of Departments. In our discussions there was no suggestion that the ministry was aware of anyone who was involved in the trafficking of people.

But when I restructured the ministry and started transfering a manager at the airport and the One-Stop Business Facilitation Centre (OBFC), to bring her to the headquarters, and transferring the one at the headquarters to the airport and the OBFC, the former sued the ministry saying she should not be transferred from the airport because she suspected that there was a man from Pakistan who was involved in the trafficking of people.
I instructed that I should be given a full report about that Pakistani man and his Lesotho citizenship. I found the following:

He is 35-years-old, according to his file, and it seems he arrived in Lesotho in 2015. The report says he married a Mosotho woman and has children with her.
There are no signs that he got a permit to live in Lesotho unlawfully. Among documents we found was a letter written to him by the then Home Affairs Minister. The letter was written on March 14, 2018, showing that he was staying in the country illegally in terms of his permit.

This was also discussed in the parliamentary portfolio committee responsible for the ministry. In the committee’s deliberations it was mentioned that there was a man who was suspected to be trafficking in people.
What is surprising is that these things appear to have happened three years ago and at the beginning of this year. The US report was issued last year and this year, showing that no action was taken about human trafficking, except this letter that was written at that time, which does not say anything about human trafficking but this man was staying illegally in the country.

The second thing that is surprising is that the ministry’s workers are hesitant to welcome the transfers and instead sue the ministry when it transfers them from the areas where we have started arresting several foreigners, three weeks after the airport was reopened.
There are reports that this Pakistani man’s permit was withdrawn because he was suspected to be involved in human trafficking. When a person is suspected of such a crime he is arrested and charged. As regards this one, there is no evidence that he was ever charged for the crime. Until today we have never seen any letter saying his permit had been withdrawn because he was suspected of human trafficking.

We are still in search of such a letter because we understand that when a permit is withdrawn without him being charged with anything he could be deported to his country.
Deportation documents are done at this very ministry. There are no such documents that deports this man back to his country. We have probed if at that time the ministry or anybody ever opened a case of human trafficking against this man at the police. We found nothing. There is no such case at the police.

We only wonder why if this case is widely known, no action was taken to arrest the man. Why are these suspicions coming up now when we transfer people where there is a suspicion that people are being trafficked? Is it because our predecessors were content with these things?
The ministry will not shrink back on this. We will continue investigating this man and others involved in human trafficking and we will put them before the courts.

There is nothing this country is gaining when things such as this are taken to the media when the rightful place to take them is the police. I am aware that some Members of this House comment in the media about these things without carrying out any research. The ministry will strengthen its fight against human trafficking until we win the battle.
One of the weaknesses we have identified is the kind of citizenship document we have and other kinds of permits. The ministry is tightening ways to have citizenship documents, and conditions for gaining Lesotho’s residence permit will be stringent. The purpose is to protect this country from its enemies.

When I arrived in this ministry I found the following shocking things:
Giving citizenship to foreigners without following proper procedures. Between April and June this year, the minister gave citizenship to over 30 foreigners. He did this without the knowledge of the ministry’s officers. This is unusual because the minister signs at the end. There are no clear reasons for this. This is wrong because those people think they have been properly given citizenship and some of them even paid, it is reported, on the understanding that they have been given citizenship. Most of these people are not big businessmen from whom the country can benefit anything.

Some have businesses that do not even have bank accounts while some of the businessmen’s accounts have a paltry M10 000. We have to understand that giving a foreigner citizenship is to give him a Mosotho’s rights. If we are not careful we will end up selling this country, which our ancestors died for, to foreigners.

Furthermore, between 2018 and 2020, there were citizen documents signed for by ministers of that time, without following proper procedures. Most of them have been signed for without any clear evidence of what they are doing in Lesotho. Some of them came to Lesotho to join relatives, and when you look closely there is no evidence of any relationships. But miraculously their applications passed.

On the residence permit, I have found that many applicants say they are business people but what is surprising is that they do not have bank accounts while some of the people’s accounts have only the opening balance.

I want to show that the ministry has started arresting foreigners who are suspicious as it is happening now at the Moshoeshoe I Internationa Airport after transferring some of the workers from there. We appeal to anybody to give the police information on acts of human trafficking, whether perpetrated by a Mosotho or a foreigner. We must be seen to be equal before the law.

Staff Reporter

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Lawyer in trouble



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’



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



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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