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Matekane pleads for unity



MASERU – THE Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane, last weekend made desperate pleas for unity after disgruntled election candidates launched fresh legal challenges against the party.

Matekane’s call for unity came two days after 16 members who were edged out from standing for the party in the October 7 general election filed an urgent application in the High Court.

The 16 want the High Court to rule that they were legitimately elected in the primary elections conducted by the party and must be allowed to stand as candidates during the election.

They argue that the party acted unlawfully by handpicking other people to be the official candidates despite that those people had lost to them in the primary elections.

Speaking at a rally in Maputsoe on Sunday, Matekane literally begged the party members not to resort to the courts to resolve disputes.

He said disgruntled members must sit down and talk instead of going to court.

“If we have issues amongst ourselves, let us sit down and fix them together,” Matekane said.

“The courts cannot find an amicable solution for us.”

Those who challenged Matekane in court last week are Dr Mahali Phamotse, Teboho Notši, Sello Hakane, Malothoane Mathiba, Mabote Malefane, Khotso Motseki, Teboho Malataliana,

‘Mammako Mohale Lerata, Chopho Lekholoane, Mphelela Khaoli, Motheo Ralitapole, Matabane Mosese, Monotsi Maliehe, ‘Makatleho Motsoasele, Mooki Sello and Tankisang Mosito.

The 16 RFP members who have been sued are Phumane Mojalefa, Malehanye Ralejoe, Talenta Masoatsa, Mofero Selupe, Lekese Matsoso, ‘Mantšali Yengane, Moleboheng Sefali, Kenny Atang Ntoane, Thabang Rapapa, Koena Marase, Thabiso Lekhotla, Mokete Jonas, Lebona Mphatsoe, Retšelisitsoe Theko, Motho-oa-sebaka Mosenki Letsie and Mamamello Holomo.

Matekane said his party is trying to resolve these disputes through dialogue.

“Do not allow the enemy to infiltrate you. I assure you that we are fixing it.”

Matekane reasoned that the RFP “only wants a Lesotho that will benefit every Mosotho equally”.

“Things will be okay, let us have patience.”

It is a message that has found no takers within the disgruntled camp. At the time of writing, the 16 were plodding on with the court case.

Dr Phamotse and her co-applicants argue that they were legitimately elected as candidates in their respective constituencies.

They argue that the party must therefore allow them to stand in the general election on the RFP ticket.

Their arguments are similar to those advanced in 1998 in a case where a Matsieng member of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), ’Mamonki Khalema-Redeby, challenged her party’s decision to replace her with another candidate, ’Mamahao Lehloenya.

Delivering judgment in the matter, Justice Semapo Peete said the application was “of great importance since it touches upon a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Lesotho Constitution”.

Justice Peete said the constitution clearly says “every citizen shall enjoy the right … to take part in the conduct of public affairs directly or through freely chosen representatives … to vote or to stand for election at periodic elections under this Constitution under a system of universal and equal suffrage and secret ballot”.

“To do otherwise would be to permit instances of violations of those very sacred fundamental rights which our constitution seeks to protect and guarantee,” Justice Peete said.

“This court therefore has power to determine the consistency or inconsistency of any act, provision or directive made by anybody public or private to ensure that the contents thereof accord with the principles of the Constitution,” he said.

“It is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by every citizen of Lesotho to engage in elections under a system of universal suffrage and also to choose freely their representatives in Parliament and other public bodies.”

The BCP leadership, as does the RFP now, argued that it was “entitled to select possible candidates” even though there was no such provision in its own constitution.

“Assuming for the purposes of argument that the BCP constitution has a specific article vesting in the NEC power so to select, it is my honest view that such a provision would not be held to be consistent with the fundamental provisions of section 20 of the Lesotho Constitution,” Justice Peete found.

“Whilst the courts of law should not and must not interfere in the governance of constituted societies like a political party, the courts of law have a sacred duty to see that the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizen are not abridged or compromised,” he said.

The judge said selection or election is not a “closed house” and out of bounds when the fundamental provisions of the Lesotho Constitution are imperilled, or when principles of fairness and natural justice are compromised.

“Supreme as it is, the Constitution of the party is however to be interpreted in a manner which is consistent with the provisions and principles of the Lesotho Constitution,” he said.

“Even if there was an inherent power “to save the party” this power cannot give the NEC power to assume the basic right to select a representative for a constituency,” he said, adding that “to endorse such a selection would be to make a sham of free elections in a democratic country”.

He was rebuffing the BCP leadership’s argument that it could reject a recommendation if it was satisfied that the person so recommended could not uphold principles, aims and objectives of the party, the same reasons the RFP has been advancing in its rallies.

“If an unacceptable candidate has been elected at the Constituency level, the NEC certainly has all right and indeed a duty – to order a re-election of an appropriate person but not to select such a candidate,” the judge concluded.

Nkheli Liphoto



A night of horror



THE police arrived in Ha-Rammeleke, a Mokhotlong village, in the middle of the night.
They stormed one house and found a couple sleeping.

They then dragged the man out and ordered him to follow their instructions if he didn’t want to be killed. Their order was that he should scream while announcing to his neighbours that his wife was gravely ill. The villagers who responded to the man’s plea for help didn’t know that they were walking into a trap.

The police rounded them up as they arrived at the man’s house.

Their night of horror has just begun.

Dozens of men and women were frog-marched to the edge of the village.

The police assaulted the men with sticks and whips. They kicked others.

In the crowd was Tebalo Lesita, a 48-year-old Rastafarian with dreadlocks.

He was called to the front and ordered to act like a Rastafarian.

First, they said he should sing Reggae while shaking his head so that his dreadlocks would wave from side to side. He did and they laughed.

“They also ordered me to mimic Lucky Dube.”

Lesita says he only shouted like he was singing because, due to fear, all Lucky Dube’s songs he knew had slipped out of his mind.

“I just mumbled some words as if I was singing. I have never experienced such torment before.”

“I only kept saying ‘Ye ye ye!’”, he says.

They laughed again.

Meanwhile, the police were hurling insults at him.

“I was told that I was smelling rubbish in the mouth.”

Lesita says the police then instructed him to act as if he was having sex.

And when he said he was tired of the act the police ordered him to act as if he was ejaculating.

He did and his tormentors roared with laughter.

The police, Lesita says, wanted him and other villagers to confess that they knew men who had shot and killed a man earlier in the village.

Lesita says after the ordeal that lasted nearly an hour the police ordered him to pray. He claims his body is full of bruises, especially on the buttocks.

“My body is aching all over.”

Lesita says he wants to sue the police but doesn’t know where to start.

“I understand that my human rights have been grossly violated but I do not know which legal steps to follow,” he says.

A week after the assault, he still hasn’t sought medical help.

Nor has he opened a case against the police.

“I find it impossible to open the case against them. I will have to go to the police station to open a case,” he says.

“How can I open the case against the police at the police station?”

As a sheep farmer, Lesita says he cannot afford the taxi fare to travel to Mapholaneng to report a case at Tlokoeng Police Station.

Lesita says he cut his dreadlocks a day after the incident “because they have put me into serious problems”.

“I rue the day that I started growing those dreadlocks,” he says.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, confirmed that there was a police operation in Mokhotlong but said he didn’t know how it unfolded.

Incidents of the police terrorising villagers under the guise of fighting or investigating crimes are common in Lesotho.

It is rare for police officers involved in such incidents to be arrested or prosecuted.

Majara Molupe

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Anger over Chinese businesses



FORMER Mining Minister, Lebohang Thotanyana, says Lesotho is shooting itself in the foot by allowing Chinese companies that win major construction tenders to import everything from China.

Thotanyana was speaking at the Basotho Business Empowerment Forum on Tuesday.

The forum was organised by the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Association.

Thotanyana told the forum that of all the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries, Lesotho is the one benefitting the least from hiring Chinese-owned companies for major infrastructure projects. 


Thotanyana said Chinese companies tend to “import everything save menial labour” in every government job they win.


“We only benefit minimally with the labour force,” Thotanyana said, adding that “more money goes back to the countries that have brought their own machinery”.


“This is exactly what is happening at the Polihali Dam which is under construction.” 


“There should be a value chain so that the economy grows.”


Tempers flared at the forum as local business owners accused the government of failing to protect them against Chinese businesses. 


The forum revealed the growing frustration among local business owners who feel the government is not doing enough to protect them against Chinese business muscling them out of sectors reserved for them. 


The local business owners criticised the government for failing to implement the Business Licensing and Registration Act 2019 that reserves certain businesses for indigenous Basotho. 


They told the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Thabo Moleko, together with a handful of MPs in attendance, that their patience had worn out.


“We want our business from the Chinese and Indians,” Thobei Motlere, the president of the MSME Association said.


“We are not afraid of these Chinese,” he added, adding that they could approach them head-on.


“We want to see the Act implemented now, not tomorrow or any other time. We want to push them out of the business peacefully. We want peace.”


Motlere said they have been pushed out of business by the Chinese yet there is a law to protect them “against unfair competition”.


“We have elected you as MPs but you are doing nothing to save us from the competition yet there is a law in place,” Motlere said.


The MPs tried to respond to some of the issues people but they were booed and heckled. 


“This is not the right place to answer. You should address this in parliament, not here,” said one woman in the crowd. 


Some MPs walked out of the forum in protest but were eventually coaxed to return to their chairs. 


’Maremi ’Mabathoana, a street vendor, said the Chinese sell almost every item.


“We buy from their shops so that we can sell small items. But the Chinese also sell small items,” ’Mabathoana said.


“When we sell a sweet for M1, they sell it for 50c,” she yelled.


“When we sell apples for M4, the Chinese sell them for M2. This is unfair.”


Moeketsi Motšoane, the Mafeteng MP who is the chairman of the parliament’s Natural Resources committee, said he is also facing similar challenges in his home district.


Trying to calm the irked traders, Motšoane said he could bet that some people were being used by the Chinese to kick Basotho out of business.


“There are such people amongst you who are being used by the Chinese to knock Basotho out of business,” Motšoane said.


He told the Ministry of Trade to move swiftly to implement the Act.


“If you do not implement the Act, we will drag you before the committee to account,” he said.


 Moleko, the principal secretary of Trade,  promised to implement the law. 

Majara Molupe

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Labour unions in nasty fight



TWO trade unions representing workers at Polihali Dam construction site have turned on each other.
Instead of fighting for better pay and conditions for members, the Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers (CMQ) and the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA) are locked in a nasty battle that could be linked to a fight over membership.

CMQ alleges that LEWA officials intimidated its members who wanted to vote for a proposed strike against companies working at Polihali Dam.

CMQ also accuses LEWA’s secretary general, Hlalefang Seoaholimo, of conflict of interest which it says renders him unable to effectively represent workers in their battles against employers in Polihali.

CMQ says Seoaholimo is working as a union leader and an employer at the same time. This, CMQ says, is because Seoaholimo’s company, Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd, has been subcontracted by some companies working at Polihali Dam.

The allegations of intimidation and conflict of interest are part of the letter that CMQ’s secretary general, Robert Mokhahlane, has written to the Registrar of Trade Unions.

In that letter, seen by thepost, Mokhahlane pleads with the Registrar of Trade Unions to deregister LEWA over the alleged intimidation and Seoaholimo’s conflict of interest.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that because of Seoaholimo’s shareholding in Domino Blasting, LEWA has “characteristics of a company, not a trade union”.

“At Polihali Dam construction, there (were) workers who were employed by Domino Blasting Services at various projects,” Mokhahlane alleges.

“They (Domino Blasting) have a long list of projects that have references and include some companies involved in the construction of Polihali Dam.”

Seoaholimo is one of Domino Blasting’s four directors and holds 300 of the 1000 shares in the company.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that Seoaholimo cannot claim to be independently fighting for workers’ rights when his company is working with the same companies accused of unfair labour practices in Polihali.

He also accuses Domino Blasting’s human resource officer, Mpho Kanono, of being conflicted because she is also an official of the United Textile Employees (UNITE).

“Both the two officials (Seoaholimo and Kanono) are workers’ representatives within the Wages Advisory Board whereby Hlalefang Seoaholimo is the spokesperson of the workers,” Mokhahlane says.

Mokhahlane also accuses Seoaholimo of “intimidating workers who will be balloting for a strike action by encouraging LEWA members to observe and identify workers” who would participate.

He claims that Seoaholimo mocked a CMQ official who was mobilising workers for the strike at the construction site.

The Labour Code, which the registrar has been asked to invoke, says a union or employers’ organisation may be cancelled by the Labour Court on the registrar’s application.

Seoaholimo has however vehemently refuted allegations that his company is working at Polihali Dam. He told thepost that CMQ is in a campaign to tarnish his name and that of LEWA because “they are aware that workers do not want to join their union”.

He admits that he is a shareholder in Domino Blasting but insists that “as we speak now Domino Blasting does not have a job anywhere in Lesotho”.

“CMQ has to provide evidence that a company called Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd is working and has any employees in Polihali,” Seoaholimo said.

“Domino Blasting does not even have an office anywhere in the country because it is not working anymore.”

“They should identify the people hired by Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd among workers in Polihali.”

He said the company has not operated in Lesotho since 2016 when it completed a project. Seoaholimo, however, says he is aware of a South African company with a similar name working in Polihali.

“I as a person have nothing to do with that company,” Seoaholimo said.

He said it is true that Mpho Kanono used to work for Domino Blasting back in 2016 when it still had contracts but she has since left because “the company stopped working”.

“Mpho Kanono is an official of UNITE and has nothing to do with Domino Blasting at present moment.”

Staff Reporter

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