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M45 million blown on army’s dry rations



THE National Command Centre tender panel blew a staggering M45 million on dry rations for the army and police during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The figure is three times higher than what the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) believed had been spent on the dry rations.
Two weeks ago, the PAC had been told the figure was around M16 million.

“We went back to check all the documentation and found out that a lot of money was squandered,” the PAC chairperson, ’Machabana Lemphane-Letsie, said.

The PAC heard that the tender panel believed that the food were expensive because it had been fortified.
However, Lemphane-Letsie quickly discovered that only two panellists were the ones making decisions.

Lemphane-Letsie found that the duo allegedly conspired with an official who was responsible for sourcing the companies they preferred to buy from.
She said they discovered a lot of irregularities in the tendering of food rations.

Lemphane-Letsie said deep rot was uncovered in the tendering of Morvite instant porridge (phuzamandla) with one company selling a packet of the porridge at M28 while another at M31 per 500g.

The other supplier was selling it at M55 while another was selling it for M90.
The porridge normally sells at M10 in local supermarkets.
Surprisingly, the company that sold the product at M90 won the tender, the PAC found.

“Whose responsibility was it to ask why one phuzamandla was M90?” Lemphane-Letsie asked.

Another shocking revelation was that one packet of peanuts was sold for M50. A packet of peanuts normally costs M7 in local shops.
She said the companies that supplied peanuts costing M27 each are owned by a father and son.
Mpeoa Supermarket was charging M28 while Mokhoele was charging M4 and Mafa M47 each.

“Why did you pick the highest prices as the principal secretaries?” Lemphane-Letsie said.

She said Beef Double Joy business that belongs to ’Matšoanelo Nkoefoshe was charging M26 per packet while Khomo Holdings charged M27 each.
Two other companies, Sea Suppliers, charged M28 while the father and son charged M17.

“We are surprised that Khomo Holdings and Sea Suppliers belong to the same address and people with the same Poulo surnames,” she said.
“We also realise that the M45 million tenders were given to seven companies alone.”

Lemphane-Letsie said they also found out that the procurement was done by only two tender panel members.

“It also looks like you had only one person who was responsible for sourcing the suppliers. My thinking is that he only handpicked the suppliers he had an interest in,” she said.
Lemphane-Letsie said they also unearthed that the person by the surname of Selai who was responsible for sourcing the suppliers had recently died.
She said two officials, Ramashamole and Moerane, took over and took the matter to the tender panel.

“But you as a panel allowed this procurement to pass as fishy as it was,” Lemphane-Letsie said.

“The entire panel allowed a small packet of peanuts to be bought for M50 each,” she said.

“What was your responsibility when you saw this dubious procurement of food rations?”

The former Cabinet principal secretary who was a tender panel chairperson, ’Malikonelo Hlasoa, told the committee that she was only employed in the office until October 1, 2020.
Hlasoa said she could only answer to the issues that happened during the six months that she was deployed there.

She also told the committee that she needed some documentation from the cabinet office to corroborate her response.
But she was told that the documentation was seized by the DCEO.
Hlasoa denied that the procurement approval was done by only two members of the panel.
Before any meeting, they had to meet and establish a quorum.

“I chaired meetings for six months and I do not recall seeing something like this,” Hlasoa said.

However, Lemphane-Letsie told her that they have evidence that the procurement was done by her.
Hlasoa denied that procurement was overseen by only two panellists.
Lemphane-Letsie then put it to her that during her chairmanship, one supplier sold a packet of small peanuts for M50.

She said on the day of supply, the supplier wrote a letter asking to raise the price since they had made a miscalculation and Hlasoa allowed it.
Hlasoa said she did not remember the incident and would need to go back to check documents to remind herself what happened.
Panellist Seth Putsoane said he used to chair the meetings in the absence of the chairman.
Lemphane-Letsie asked how they approved the M50 small packet of peanuts.

“When I was chairing the meeting the panel secretariat used to tell us that it was fortified,” Putsoane said.

He said they asked during their meetings why the dry ration was extremely expensive.

“I was asked if I had ever eaten the army biscuits as they are not normal like the ones sold at the supermarkets,” he said.

He told the committee that the secretariat at the time told them that they were buying what the army wanted.

“We were told that they came from a special company in South Africa,” Putsoane said.

Lemphane-Letsie said one company was selling one packet for M47.22 cents, the other for M7.88 cents.
Even here you decided to pick the expensive one, she asked.

She argued that it is not true that the rations were bought in South Africa since the borders were closed.

“That beef and fish was still the one you could buy at a local supermarket,” Lemphane-Letsie said.

Putsoane told the committee that he had since realised that the suppliers were not from South Africa.

“The way we were told was that the supplies are not found anywhere in Lesotho,” he said.He said the tender panel had no interest in the procurement process.
“We were told that the peanuts and everything had been fortified for the army,” Putsoane said.
“We admit that the tender panel made mistakes.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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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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