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Mapesela in cattle ‘damages’ storm



KOLONYAMA – DEFENCE Minister Tefo Mapesela allegedly fined farmers about 50 head of cattle in three villages of Kolonyama for grazing in his wheat field during the Christmas holidays.
Flanked by heavily armed soldiers, Mapesela allegedly took no less than two cattle from each kraal of those he accused of letting loose their animals into his field.
In some kraals he took as much as four cattle.

The punishment for the farmers together with their herd boys was not ordered by any court of law or even the village chief as is the custom.
Villagers say Mapesela showed no mercy when he demanded that the farmers should pay him immediately with their cattle if they did not have huge amounts of money he wanted.
It is not clear, according to the villagers who talked to thepost, how much Mapesela wanted as compensation for his crop.

Villagers say three days before Christmas some herd boys set their cattle on a block of wheat fields managed by Mapesela after one of the villagers allegedly lied saying the minister had been arrested for smuggling wool outside the country.

The herd boys allegedly “mischievously cheered” and said their cattle were “going to have bread for this Christmas”.
“They said that because bread is made of wheat flour and to them, their cattle had Christmas present of bread,” one of the villagers said.
One of the villages’ chiefs confirmed this in an interview with a local radio station.

The affected villages are Kolonyama Ha-Manama, Ha-Molipa and Ha-Mohlokaqala.
Although the villagers say they do not condone what the herd boys did, however they criticised Mapesela for abusing the army and imposing the punishment unlawfully.
“You cannot correct a wrong with another wrong,” said one of the villagers.
Setho Mabitso of Ha-Molipa lost four cattle to Mapesela. Now left with 11, Mabitso said he was tending his sheep at a valley when he saw a white 4 by 4 approaching “herd boys who were grazing near the wheat field block”.

“Two men alighted from it and I saw that they were talking with the herd boys,” Mabitso said.
“All of a sudden I saw the boys running away and at the same time driving their cattle towards Ha-Molipa village,” he said.

“I heard a gun sound and I could hear the boys shouting ‘he ba e thuntse, he ba e thuntse’” (loosely translated, they have shot it).
Mabitso said he was not sure what had been shot, but later when the boys emerged from the valley he was told that it was a dog.
He later learnt that one of the men from the white 4 by 4 was a policeman while another was a fellow farmer from Ha-Manama.

“I sked that I see his identification card when they got to me and he quickly took it out but wouldn’t allow me to even look at it closely or even know his name,” Mabitso said.
The police man and the person who Mabitso described as a fellow farmer from Ha-Manama explained to him that Mapesela had instructed them to find people who grazed their cattle on his wheat fields.

Mabitso said they left.
The owner of the shot dog, who refused to give thepost her names, said on the following morning at around 6am she saw a van full of heavily armed soldiers arriving at her home.
She said they immediately surrounded her house while one of the men in plain clothes started poking his cattle and beating them.
“The man in plain clothes was Mapesela himself but I did not know him and we exchanged rough words as I asked him what he was doing.”

“I got angry at this man I didn’t know coming into my home and beating and poking my cows like I was not around to see it,” she angrily said.
“I asked him (Mapesela), what do you want from my house? Don’t come to my house and disrespect me this way. I hated the way they came to my house, now I looked like a top criminal on the run.”
“Ho ne ho tšosa, ho ne ho lehobe-be-be (it was frightening, very scary)” she said.
“I knew that a police officer had killed my dog but I didn’t know I would get a visit from soldiers the following morning,” she said.
She said she didn’t know Mapesela was a minister.

“Even as I tell this story I am afraid of what they might do to me because I was frightened, I still am.”
She said she cannot defend her herd boys but Mapesela should have approached the villagers in peace and not frightening them with guns and soldiers.
“We are parents, we know sometimes boys can be boys, and mistakes can happen.”

Mapesela allegedly said the people whose names were on a list he was carrying, those whose cattle fed on his wheat, should go to the chief’s place.
“We don’t even know how this list was drawn up but most of all the people that have cattle in this village were on the list,” the woman said.
At the chief’s place, according to the woman, Mapesela said he was going to charge everyone for the loss he experienced since April as their cattle kept feeding on his wheat.
“How do you punish anybody for things that happened in April today and yet you had never brought any complaint?”

“He even said this Christmas holidays will not be fun for people who would resist this way of payment. He said everyone who would resist would have soldiers to deal with them.”
Mabitso’s experience at the chief’s place is similar.
“We felt intimidated and under pressure to agree to something we know was unlawful just because we had soldiers on our necks,” Mabitso said.
He said he gave away four cattle leaving him with 11 cattle.

Mabitso said his only means of income is through selling his livestock.
Mabitso’s beast cost between M7 000 and M12 000.
He said Mapesela told them that those who wanted to sue should do so “but know that the case will be delayed and the cows will die of hunger in the chief’s kraal while they wait”.
“He said he had a lot of money and will take everything we own, from house, furniture to the urinating bucket.”
In Ha-Manama thepost met with ’Makabelo Nono, whose cow was taken.

“I was not among those that were visited in the early morning because I rushed to the chief’s place immediately when I heard that my cows were impounded,” Nono said.
“Seeing soldiers armed that way frightened me,” she said.
Nono had three cows and Mapesela demanded one cow.

“Luckily my son also had his cattle there, he decided to pay one cow for me and another for himself,” she said.
“The sad part about all of this is that this was not procedurally done.”
She said they did not even go to the scene of crime to satisfy themselves that their cattle had indeed grazed on the fields.

She also said there was no sufficient evidence that the cattle that grazed on Mapesela’s fields were theirs except a list of their names drawn up by someone they did not even know.
“What was done here was very wrong but what could we do because we have always heard of the things soldiers do to people in other parts of the country?” Nono said.
The villagers talked about someone who got a serious beating from the soldiers for resisting when he was called but thepost could not get hold of him.

Another villager who called himself Katleho of Ha-Manama, said he had never seen such an ugly sight of a minister coming to his personal field in the company of armed soldiers.
“This is sad, what have our minister come to be? Why are we treated like this? We don’t matter to the people we elected anymore. Such disputes need to be settled in peace and good spirit. This was war,” Katleho said.

Chieftainess ’Mamakhatha Manama said the truth of the matter is herd boys had always been warned of the wrongs of grazing on crops.
This is not new, she said.

“Even while our fields were ploughed by the government, the boys always had a way of grazing on those crops. It is a pity that this time around they found someone who could stand up for and demand payment for the loss they have experienced,” the Chieftainess said.

She said despite this, talks are very important and having a platform to negotiate payment is just as vital.
“Sometimes I cannot even afford to pay you what you demand but we have to reach a mutual agreement that will benefit both of us,” Manama said.
Manama said people in her village “were never forced to pay, they willingly did so”.

Manama said it is not pleasing for people to lose their cattle the way they did.
“It is hurting. This I know and their pain is well understood, but someone had to pay.”
Manama said Mapesela got 31 cattle from her village alone.
Efforts to contact Mapesela were not successful since Monday.

Rose Moremoholo

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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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