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Likuena: same old song



MASERU – Lesotho’s elimination from contention to qualify for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nation (AFCON) has put a further spotlight on the state of football in the country.

The problems that have existed long before some of us were born continue to be exposed at the international level and they are halting the development of the national team.

Many have labelled Likuena a national embarrassment and a waste of money.

To be honest, they are probably right.

People don’t care how Lesotho played anymore; they want to know what the margin of defeat was.

We can call Likuena all kinds of names under the sun but the truth is they are the face of the Vodacom Premier League, the elite level of football in Lesotho. Likuena’s successes or failures mirror the local league and its state.

After two back-to-back defeats against Zambia in the 2023 AFCON qualifiers this past week, people rushed to social media to air their opinions and much of the blame was placed on the head of coach Veselin Jelusic.

Many upset Likuena fans said his approach on Sunday’s game against Zambia was cowardice and they blamed it as the reason for Lesotho’s 2-0 defeat at the Dobsonville Stadium.

After losing 3-1 in Zambia last Thursday, many felt Jelusic should have taken the game to the visitors in the return.

It is normal to look for a scapegoat and most of the time the blame always falls on the coach.

At some point, however, the players are going to have to bear the responsibility as well.

The clanger Likuena goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane pulled in the first leg is unacceptable and mistakes like that do not belong in top-flight football, let alone against professional, international players.

Moerane may get away with being cocky and overconfident in local football, but he let his team down and maybe it’s time another goalkeeper is given a chance to be Lesotho’s number one.

Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong in Soweto last Thursday.

Suddenly the players had forgotten the basics, even just passing the ball accurately to a teammate seemed like a big ask.

The players were so uncomfortable on the ball that they were quick to get rid of it at the first opportunity – if you didn’t know, you would have thought the ball was a bomb.

There was no communication from back to front and it seemed as if Likuena’s players had met on the day.

The players displayed no fighting spirit, especially in the return leg. It was almost a betrayal to the nation to just give up like that and hopefully some of those players have played their last game for the national team.

When Jelusic took over the team in February last year he emphasised the need to be realistic when doing an assessment of the quality of our players and ascertaining what their capabilities were.

90 percent of Likuena’s squad ply their trade in the Vodacom Premier League and only three are outside the country in the form of Motebang Sera, Katleho Makateng and Tshwarelo Bereng.

More players need to be exported to professional leagues outside Lesotho to gain experience.

Jelusic’s future with the national team, meanwhile, is unknown. The Serbian coach has entered the second year of his two-year deal and there has been no word on what comes next.

The Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) National Executive Committee (NEC) will decide on what to do.

What we do know is that LEFA’s NEC has spent the last decade firing and hiring coaches with no improvements, and if they do sack Jelusic after less than two years, they should be held accountable for their choices of coaches.

Again, we are singing the same old song that in order for football and, sport in general, to develop, there is a need for investment in infrastructure in order to advance and nurture talent.

In a poor country like ours where players train on cabbage surfaces, a coach can never totally shoulder the blame for the failures of national team.

The government turned its back on sports a long time ago and their lack of enthusiasm for sport is underpinned by the fact that Likuena play their home matches in South Africa and there is no shame whatsoever.

While many have been throwing names out who should replace Jelusic, if you ask me, I would not sack him.

If it were up to me, and this may be unpopular with the majority of people out there, I would give Jelusic a chance.

As disappointing as Likuena’s performance was, I do think there is a chance that, with time, he can build a good team. What we have seen in friendly matches and last year’s COSAFA Cup is that although Likuena failed to get out of their group, they had a system they were playing in.

The main issue is scoring goals but that is not Jelusic’s problem only, it’s a problem for the whole premier league.

Jelusic has brought new faces into the squad and more are needed while phasing out the old guard that has let the country down over and over again.

I still retain trust in Jelusic, I am not turning a blind eye on the disappointments. If LEFA were to sack him, I wouldn’t cry for him but I think it would be premature to do so.

When speaking with reporters at a press conference after Sunday’s defeat in Soweto, Jelusic said his technical team wants to promote as many young players as possible to the national side in order to gain experience.

“(We want) to promote younger players to give them a chance to play for the national team to promote themselves and eventually get chances to play in international teams because international experience is absolutely crucial for success in any competition,” Jelusic said.

“For example, Zambia has 15 overseas players, nine of them are in prominent European teams and we have one or two players that play in South Africa. So, this international experience is important for the success of the national team,” he said.

We are all waiting to see and hear what LEFA decides is the best course of action, but we need to stop running away from the root of the failure which is the lack of development in the country.

Tlalane Phahla

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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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