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Matla: a man of many talents

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MASERU-TJONANE Matla founded and edited the now defunct but once popular Mohala oa Ntsu (Voice of Democrats) newspaper, and used its satirical pages to poke fun and criticise his own party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), when it was in power.

A fearless voice, Matla was buried in his home village of Malaoaneng, Ha-Seetsa, in Leribe district last Saturday after succumbing to Covid-19 on January 9 following a painfully short illness.
The entrepreneur, farmer, journalist, business consultant and management accountant was 43.

So popular was Matla that the family kept the public in the dark about the date and place of his funeral to keep away crowds in line with Covid-19 regulations.
Funerals are viewed as super spreader events of the virus and the government has limited gatherings at such events to 20 people only.

Otherwise, Matla’s funeral would have been a big event. From politicians to farmers and businessmen, Matla was a man of many admirers.
He founded Mohala oa Ntsu in 2007.
The newspaper, competing for readership with the party’s official mouthpiece, Mololi, kept the Pakalitha Mosisili-led LCD government on its toes.

Son of Khotso Matla, a long-serving Lesotho cooperative movement officer who later became an assistant minister responsible for cooperative societies, Matla was well known among LCD followers.
For years his influence in the party’s youth league was felt throughout its branches even though he held no official position.

He was a self-appointed organiser and was successful at it until he left in 2011 to focus on business.
When the newspaper closed shop due to lack of revenue in 2010 after being in circulation for only two years, Matla changed focus – from party politics to the economics of agriculture.

He started the Silo magazine, which is being edited by his wife ’Madoka from mid last year, as he ventured into the animal feed business.
The Silo is Lesotho’s only publication dedicated to agriculture reporting after Mohoma-Temeng, owned by the Ministry of Agriculture, folded.
Matla, who was also a wool farmer, gained more admirers for his leading role in the fight against the government’s controversial wool and mohair sale policy.

For the past four years Matla had been a self-appointed coordinator of wool and mohair farmers countrywide, helping form a strong lobby group to force the government to change the infamous policy.
The farmers put tremendous pressure on the government until parliament set up a fact-finding mission, which led to the repeal of the much-loathed 2018 Wool and Mohair Regulations.

The lobby group included former MP, Rantelali Shea, a fiery and inquisitive backbencher for the LCD and later the All Basotho Convention (ABC).
It also included heavyweights in the wool farming sector such as former MP Khotsang Moshoeshoe, renowned veterinary doctor Mohlalefi Moteane, several principal chiefs and the now Mining Minister Serialong Qoo.
Shea said he already misses Matla.

“The man was a hard worker and he would ensure that whatever he started would be completed. Surely, we will miss him in the wool and mohair association,” Shea said.
“I first knew him when he was running the Mohala oa Ntsu newspaper and I remember his zeal as a party youth.”

Matla was born on March 27, 1977 at the Maluti Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Mapoteng in Berea.
He was the firstborn son of Khotso Matla and the late ’Malimpho Matla.
He attended primary school at St James in Maseru between 1982 and 1988, before going to Sefika High School in 1989 where he graduated with a Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) in 1993.

He then joined the Lesotho Institute of Management Accountants (LIBS) from 1995 to 1996 and graduated with a Diploma in Management Accounting.
He furthered his studies at the Botswana Accountancy College from 1997 to 2000, graduating with a Diploma in Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

He helped found the Chartered Management Accountants of Lesotho (CIMA-SOL) and later the Economic Development Foundation (EDF).
Interested in journalism, he wrote for the Sowetan, a South African newspaper, and later Public Eye in Lesotho before shifting his focus to the LCD party.
He contributed to the writing of the Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa (LECSA)’s history book highlighting the Jubilee of 1833 to 2008.

He is survived by his wife of 15 years, ’Madoka Matla (nee ’Mina Makhetha) and their two sons, Doka and Matla.

Caswell Tlali

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Dead on arrival

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My sister delivered a stillborn baby when she was on her way to the clinic,” ’Matemoho Letšela, 23, barely holding back tears.

Letšela says her sister, whose name she withheld, suffered birth-pangs when she was alone at home in Khonofaneng village in Mokhotlong.

She was then rushed down the slopes of a mountain by some passers-by on foot, striding on the slopes of a rocky mountain, crossing deep gorges as she sought to get to the Molika-Liko Health Centre some eight kilometres away.

When she arrived at the clinic, the baby was declared dead on arrival.

Welcome to Mokhotlong, Lesotho’s mountainous region known worldwide for its big and clean diamonds where the people do not have basic services.

Letšela said her sister collapsed when she was on her way to the clinic and was only seen by some passers-by.

By the time passers-by saw her, it was already too late for her and her baby.

She was eight months pregnant. 

“She was still far from the clinic and away from the villages,” Letšela says.

“She had no one to help her until she lost her baby. She was helpless the whole day until it was too late for her to survive,” she says.

 “She had already lost a lot of blood and could not make it to the hospital.”

Letšela shared her sister’s story with thepost during a tour conducted by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to assess the impact of their assistance in Mokhotlong and Quthing districts a fortnight ago.

Letsela pleaded with the government to provide services in Mokhotlong’s hard-to-reach areas to avoid unnecessary deaths like her sister’s.

“My sister was eight months pregnant so the long walking distance might have been the cause of her early delivery and ultimate death,” she says.

She says there are still some villages in her area that are way far from where she stays, villages like Lichecheng where a patient must travel early in the morning, sleep on the way and reach the clinic the following day.

Cars cannot reach those remote areas, she says.

At Letšela’s area, they only have one bus that travels from home to town at 9am and will be back late at 8pm.

Even though they would love to always catch a ride whenever they are going to the clinic, sometimes they just do not have the money.

Letšela is three months pregnant now and says she cannot wait to reach 37 weeks so she can go and stay at the accommodation facilities provided by the clinic.

 “That is the advice from our midwives and I am willing to take that offer,” she says.

“I don’t want what happened to my sister to happen to me.”

When thepost met Letšela at the clinic last week, she had left her place at around 4am walking alone to the clinic and arrived after 10am.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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