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Matekane launches solar power station



THE Social Development Ministry’s failure to settle fees for needy children in secondary education has left many learning institutions in dire straits.
The government in 2012 pegged its fee grant assistance at M1 500 per child per year.

Renewable energy is expected to play an increased role in Lesotho’s energy mix, augmenting hydro-power generation and providing energy solutions in rural Lesotho, where 74 percent of the population live without access to modern forms of energy.

However, efforts to develop renewable energy sources have in the past been constrained by the absence of a policy framework promoting renewable energy.
Studies note that the country has good renewable energy resources, stating that the hydro-power potential of the country is estimated at 14 000 Megawatts.

The studies also indicate that Lesotho has reliable solar energy resources, with over 300 sunny days in a year with annual average insolation levels of 5.25 to 5.53 kWh/m2/year.

They also found that the country has good wind energy resources with measured annual average wind speeds of 3.7 to 4.7 m/s/year at 10 m heights.

“Renewable energy sources have the potential to play an increased role in the country increasing the energy access rate and displacing imported fuels,” read some of the studies mentioned in the policy introduction.

The Phase I of the Ramarothole station that Prime Minister Matekane launched will generate 30MW.

The policy will seek to add an additional renewable energy generation capacity of 200 MW by 2030 and achieving 75 percent household electrification by 2030, primarily through renewable energy.

Speaking at the launch, Matekane said the country has a major electricity demand crisis.

“This solar power is going to supplement domestic electricity we have,” Matekane said.

“Our desire as the government is to have adequate electricity generated, which will be enough for us as a country and be able to have an opportunity to sell to other countries,” he said.

“Our aim is to see all households connected with electricity within the country,” he said.

Matekane said electricity generated at Ha-Ramarothole is in compliance with international terms and commitments to generate electricity from non-polluting resources.

“We are continuing to study other projects which will help to generate electricity through other means that do not pollute the environment, such as water and wind,” he said.

“We are hopeful that this study will be helpful to traders involved in electrical processing.”

He said the successful completion of this facility re-affirms Lesotho’s commitment to address sustainable energy solutions, while also increasing efforts towards climate resilient low carbon pathways.

The project was initiated by the government in 2016.

The planned injection point is the Ha-Ramarothole substation in Mafeteng at the transition between the Lesotho Electricity Company’s 132kV and 33kV grid.

Benefits to the country includes clean and secure energy through a long-term power purchase agreement as well as community programmes to uplift the adjacent villages of Ha-Ramarothole, Ha-Raliemere and Ha-Lempetje.

OnePower’s Neo 1 plant will be Lesotho’s inaugural utility-scale solar power source, financed in partnership with Scatec Solar and Norfund.

The project came after the African Development Bank (AfDB)-managed Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) approved a US$695 500 (about M97.3 million) grant to Neo 1 SPV Pty Ltd to support the preparation of a bankable business case for the development of the winning project of the 2016 Lesotho 20 MW solar PV tender, foreseen to become the first utility-scale solar PV project in Lesotho.

The project is expected to contribute to a strategic phase-out of costly power imports from Mozambique and reduce reliance on imported coal-generated power from South Africa.

It will also contribute about 13 percent to Lesotho’s maximum system demand of around 150 MW.
By substituting 20 MW of costly imported power from Mozambique, it will decrease power retail prices in Lesotho.
It will also entail greenhouse gas emission substitution effects as a result of reducing imports of thermally generated power from South Africa.

The project is aligned with the AfDB’s 10-Year Strategy focusing on inclusive and green growth through the delivery of energy access, the Bank’s Energy Policy and the New Deal on Energy for Africa.

On the national level, the project is aligned with the Lesotho National Electrification Master Plan (NEMP), the Lesotho Electricity Authority Act No.12 of 2002 and its National Rural Electrification Program (NREP) as well as with the government’s Fifth Pillar of Poverty Reduction through Energy Access.
Matekane thanked China government and its people for supporting this project with funds.

“This is a sign of warm friendship between these two governments,” he said.

The Minister of Natural Resources, Mohlomi Moleko, said “this facility is very important because Lesotho does not have enough electricity as a country to sustain it”.

“Most of our electricity is bought from South Africa but with this project we will be able to produce our own electricity,” Moleko said.

“We need in Lesotho 200MW, now we have 72MW, being generated at ’Muela Hydro-Power Station and this plant generates 80MW electricity of which 30MW is the one we are launching today,” he said.

Moleko said the project will be handed over to the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) and “we will be able to reduce the rate of ESKOM electricity costs, which is very important”.

Apart from the electricity generated at the ’Muela Hydro-Power Station in Butha-Buthe, Lesotho buys electricity from ESKOM in South Africa and Mozambique.
Moleko said another thing that makes it important to launch the Ha-Ramarothole project is that turbines at ’Muela must be repaired in the coming season.

“Now that it needs to be repaired, it needs to be closed for six months, and one will understand that if it is closed for six months we will have a problem if facilities like this one are not completed,” he said.

“That is why we are trying to work hard to see that the second phase continues, which will produce 50MW,” he said.

“If we work on it soon it will end next year in December. It is very important. I pledge before my Prime Minister that this community here will have electricity and water.”
The ambassador of China to Lesotho, His Excellency Lei Kezhong, said the project will enhance electricity generation in Lesotho and avert a crisis.

Tholoana Lesenya

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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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