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Molefe: the reluctant politician

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MASERU – As a young man, Mpalipali Molefe used to herd cattle, play soccer and charm girls. Now he is charming his way into the hearts of the electorate and dribbling past political opponents. Growing up, politics was the last thing on Molefe’s mind. Going to school and herding cattle, his passion lay elsewhere and for a while he pursued interests in teaching, accounting and business. At one time he had also set his sights on becoming a priest. That was until 2006 when his friend Thomas Thabane formed the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

He says when Prime Minister Thabane visited his area to canvass for votes for his ABC, he bought into his idea and decided to join ABC as the MP for Maliepetsane constituency. He joined all the ABC and today the 67-year-old is Member of Parliament for Maliepetsane constituency. “The Prime Minister was my friend. I have at least known him for a couple of years,” Molefe says, adding it was Thabane’s political philosophy of changing people’s lives for the better that encouraged him to join the rough and tumble world of politics.

Molefe says he wanted to represent his people in parliament because he fully understands the concerns of his constituency. Born in a family of seven children, Molefe says he was fortunate to enroll at Sebelekoane Primary School in 1956 and proceeded to Holy Names Secondary School in Bela-Bela in Berea district at a time when many families could not afford to put their children through school. “I was herding cattle at the same time,” he says.
He did not last long at Holy Name after he was expelled.

“I was always after girls during those days. I used to be a charmer. I had a good body,” he says. He also made a name as a soccer player. After being booted from Holy Names, Molefe says he headed to Masentle High School in his home district in 1974 before enrolling with the then National Teachers Training College which is now called the Lesotho College of Education in 1975. Supported by father who was a teacher by profession, Molefe said he had an insatiable desire to become one of the most educated people not only in his village but in the country. He says he was attached to Mabathoana High School, where he produced good results in Commerce.

After graduation, he says he went to Nazareth High School, which was later renamed Morapeli High School where he became a head master. Always fearless to test unchartered waters, Molefe left teaching to work as an Assistant Accountant at the Lesotho Mohair. He later moved to Lets’eng Diamond Mine, where he worked as a senior technician. “That is where my love for diamonds was born,” Molefe says, who claims to be the first Member of Parliament to become a licensed diamond dealer. Alongside his work as the MP of Maliepetsane, Molefe is still working in the diamond sector.

Molefe says he also got involved in the Labour Construction Unit where he saw himself working as a contractor and then started Molefe Civil and Building Construction Company in 1986 which built schools and roads in some parts of the country. “I was one of the best contractors in the country at that time,” he recalls. He says some of his buildings include Sefika High School and LIFE High school in the district of Maseru. Tackling challenges facing his constituency such as crime are taking much of his time these days. Crime is on the rise in his constituency, he says.

He says famo killings are the most common crimes in his area. “Killing of people is the order of the day. As we speak, we are going to bury four men who were killed in famo related violence in South Africa,” he laments. Molefe says he believes high levels of crime can only be curbed if the two governments of Lesotho and South Africa join hands to fight the killings. He says this seems to be a bit insurmountable because Basotho kill each other even on South African soil. He says roads, good sanitation and electricity are some of the major challenges besetting his constituency. So far, he has succeeded in ensuring that people in his constituency get telecommunications network so that they could easily use phones to communicate.

He says some roads were built in the area to ease movement of cars and people. “We haven’t arrived where we want to go because of limited resources,” he says. Creating employment is another huge challenge, which he says can help bring down levels of crime. Government departments should help with resources for youths to engage in income generating projects, he says. Such projects could help keep youths from crossing the border into South Africa where they find themselves joining rival famo groups. Molefe says he has also made a positive step of ensuring that some homes are electrified.

The chairperson of the parliament portfolio committee on natural resources, Molefe believes that Lesotho can pull out of poverty if the country can use its untapped natural resources to create jobs for her people. “We have enough arable land that we could cultivate to produce food,” he says. The MP says Lesotho could also extensively engage in wool and mohair production to create jobs. According to him, it makes no sense that the country exports wool and mohair and imports its finished projects which are usually expensive. With just water and diamonds alone, Molefe is adamant that Lesotho’s economy could be placed in a trajectory for growth.

“It is difficult to understand why a country of just two million people is unable to contain its people and create sustainable jobs for them,” says the business-minded MP who insists that he will not run again after the 2022 elections “to give others a chance”. “Politics stops me from doing my businesses to the fullest. They consume a lot of my time,” he says. Commenting on the Southern African Development Community reforms, Molefe says he hopes the reforms will usher an era of peace and stability if wholeheartedly implemented.

Molefe believes it is time Lesotho develops a strong internal conflict management mechanisms instead of relying on outsiders to solve its problems. He wants the King to “be given enough power to mediate if there are any problems affecting the country”. “It would be a positive step so that Lesotho stops bothering international communities about its political instability,” he said. The country has to craft a roadmap to take it out of political chaos, although the country should tread carefully regarding reconciliation and a general amnesty for those arrested for rights violation, he says.

“It is the most complicated issue that the country has to treat with utmost care. If indeed the country adopts reconciliation to bury the hatchet, it should indeed be a serious reconciliation,” he says. This involves balancing the demands for justice and the fears of perpetrators. “I just cannot commit myself on this one,” Molefe says holding back his breath. He doesn’t rule out ambitions of becoming Prime Minister one day. For now, his focus is on getting youths to work again.

“I think I would be happy to see youth unemployment being curtailed. That is my strongest wish,” he says. Apart from raising his three children, Molefe has 37 dependents.

Majara Molupe

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City Council bosses up for fraud

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THREE senior Maseru City Council (MCC) bosses face charges of fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.

Town clerk Molete Selete and consultant Molefe Nthabane appeared in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

City engineer Matsoso Tikoe did not appear as he was said to be out of the country. He will be arraigned when he returns.

They are charged together with Kenneth Leong, the project manager of SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture, the company that lost the M379 million Mpilo Boulevard contract in January.

The joint venture made up of two Chinese companies, Shanxi Construction Investment Group (SCIG) and Shanxi Mechanization Construction Group (SMCG), and local partner Tim Plant Hire (TIM), has also been charged.

Selete and Nthabane were released on bail of M5 000 and surety of M200 000 each. Leong was granted bail of M10 000 and surety of M400 000 or property of the same value.

The charges are a culmination of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigation that has been going on for the past months or so.

The prosecution says Selete, Nthabane, Tikoe, and Leong acted in concert as they intentionally and unlawfully abused the functions of their offices by authorising an advance payment of M14 million to a joint-venture building the Mpilo Boulevard.

An advance payment guarantee is a commitment issued by a bank to pay a specified amount to one party of a contract on-demand as protection against the risk of the other party’s non-performance.

The prosecution says the payment was processed after the company had provided a dubious advance payment guarantee. It says the officials knew that the guarantee was fake and therefore unenforceable.

As revealed by thepost three weeks ago, SCIG and SMCG were responsible for providing the payment guarantee as lead partners in the joint venture.

The prosecution says the MCC was required by law to make advance payment after SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture submitted a guarantee as per the international standards on construction contracts.

It alleges that the MCC has now lost the M14 million paid to SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture because of the fake advanced guarantee.

thepost has seen minutes of meetings in which officials from the joint venture admitted to MCC officers that the advance payment guarantee was dubious.

SCIG-SMCG-TIM kept promising to provide a genuine guarantee but never did. Yet the MCC officials did not report the suspected fraud to the police or take any action against the company.

It was only in January this year that the MCC cancelled the contract on the basis that the company had failed to provide a genuine guarantee.

Despite receiving the advance payment SCIG and SMCG refused to pay TIM Joint Venture for the initial work.

SCIG and SMCG, the lead partners in the joint venture, are reportedly suing the MCC to restore the contract. Officials from TIM Plant Hire however say they are not aware of their partners’ lawsuit against the MCC.

Staff Reporter

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Scott fights for free lawyer

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DOUBLE-MURDER convict Lehlohonolo Scott is fighting the government to pay a lawyer to represent him in his appeal.
Scott, serving two life sentences for murdering Kamohelo Mohata and Moholobela Seetsa in 2012, says his efforts to get a state-sponsored lawyer have been repeatedly frustrated by the Registrar of the High Court, Advocate ’Mathato Sekoai.
He wants to appeal both conviction and sentence.
He has now filed an application in the High Court seeking an order to compel Advocate Sekoai to appoint a lawyer to represent him.
He tells the court that he is representing himself in that application because the Registrar has rejected his request to pay his legal fees or appoint a lawyer for him.
People who cannot fund their own legal costs can apply to the Registrar for what is called pro deo, legal representation paid for by the state.
Scott says Sekoai has told him to approach Legal Aid for assistance.
The Legal Aid office took a year to respond to him, verbally through correctional officers, saying it does not communicate directly with inmates.
The Legal Aid also said he doesn’t qualify to be their client.
“I was informed that one Mrs Papali, if I recall the name well, who is the Chief Legal Aid counsel, had said that Legal Aid does not communicate with inmates so she could not write back to me,” Scott says.
“Secondly, they represent people in minor cases. Thirdly, they represent indigent people of which she suggested I am not one of them.”
“Fourthly, there are no prospects of success in my case hence they won’t assist me.”
He says the Legal Aid’s fifth reason was that he has been in jail for a long time.
Scott is asking the High Court to set aside Sekoai’s decision and order her to facilitate pro deo services for him, saying her decision was “irregular, irrational, and unlawful”.
He argues that the Registrar’s role was to finance his case to finality, meaning up to the Court of Appeal.
The Registrar insists that the arrangement was to provide him a lawyer until his High Court trial ended.
Scott says his lawyer, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, who was paid by the state, had promised to file an appeal a day after his sentencing but he did not.
He argues that the Registrar did not hear him but arbitrarily decided to end pro deo.
Scott says he wrote to Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase in 2018 soon after his conviction and sentencing seeking assistance but he never received any response.
Later, he wrote to Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane in November 2020 and he received a response through Sekoai who rejected his request.
Scott tells the High Court that he managed to apply to the Court of Appeal on his own but the Registrar later told him, through correctional officers, that “the Court of Appeal does not permit ordinary people to approach it”.
He argues that “where justice or other public interest considerations demand, the courts have always departed from the rules without any problem”.
Staff Reporter

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Army ordered to pay up

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THE Ombudsman has asked parliament to intervene to force the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to compensate families of people killed by soldiers.
Advocate Tlotliso Polaki told parliament, in two damning reports on Monday, that the LDF is refusing to compensate the family of Lisebo Tang who was shot dead by soldiers near the former commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s home in 2014.

The LDF, she said, is also refusing to compensate the family of Molapo Molapo who was killed by a group of soldiers at his home in Peka, Ha-Leburu in 2022.

Advocate Polaki wrote the LDF in January last year saying it should pay Tang’s mother, Makhola Tang, M300 000 “as a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

The Tang family claim investigation started in February 2022 and the LDF responded that it “had undertaken the responsibility for funeral expenses and other related costs”.

Advocate Polaki investigated whether the LDF could be held accountable for Tang’s death and whether his family should be compensated while the criminal case is pending.

She found that the soldiers were “acting within the scope of their employment to protect the army commander and his family” when they killed Tang.

Soldiers killed Tang in Lithabaneng while she was in a parked car with her boyfriend at what the army termed “a compromising spot” near the commander’s residence.

The three soldiers peppered the vehicle with a volley of shots, killing Tang and wounding the boyfriend.

Advocate Polaki found that the army arranged to pay for the funeral costs and to continue buying groceries and school needs for Tang’s daughter.

The LDF, however, kept this for only four years but abruptly stopped.

When asked why it stopped, the army said “there is a criminal case pending in court”.

The army also said it felt that it would be admitting guilt if it compensated the Tang’s family.

The Ombudsman said “a civil claim for pecuniary compensation lodged is not dependent on the criminal proceedings running at the same time”.

“The LDF created a legitimate but unreasonable expectation and commitments between themselves and the complainant which had no duration attached thereto and which showed a willingness to cooperate and work harmoniously together,” Advocate Polaki found.

“The LDF was correct in withdrawing such benefit in the absence of a clear policy guideline or order to continue to offer such benefit or advantage,” she said.

“However, she should have been consulted first as the decision was prejudicial to her interest.”

She said the army’s undertaking “fell short of a critical element of duration and reasonability”.

Tang was a breadwinner working at Pick ’n Pay Supermarket as a cleaner earning M2 000 a month.

Her daughter, the Ombudsman said, is now in grade six and her school fees alone had escalated to M3 200 per year.

She said an appropriate redress should be premised on her family’s loss of income and future loss of support based on her salary and the prejudice suffered by her mother and daughter.

She said M300 000 is “a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

In Molapo’s case, Advocate Polaki told parliament that the LDF refused to implement her recommendations to compensate his two daughters.

The complainant is his father, Thabo Joel Molapo.

The Ombudsman told the army in August last year that it should pay the girls M423 805 “for the negligent death of their father”.

Advocate Polaki said despite that the criminal matter is before the court, “it is established that the Ombudsman can assert her jurisdiction and make determinations on the complaint”.

Molapo, 32, was brutally murdered by a soldier in Peka in December 2020.

Molapo had earlier fought with the soldier and disarmed him.

The soldier, the Ombudsman found, rushed to Mokota-koti army post to request backup to recover his rifle. When he returned with his colleagues, they found him hiding in his house. The soldier then shot Molapo.

The LDF, the Ombudsman said, conceded that the soldier killed Molapo while on duty and that he had been subjected to internal disciplinary processes.

“The LDF is bound by the consequences of the officer’s actions who was negligent and caused Molapo’s death,” she said.

She found that after Molapo was killed, army officers and the Minister of Defence visited his family and pledged to pay his children’s school fees. They also promised to hire one of his relatives who would “cater for the needs of the deceased’s children going forward”.

The LDF, she said, has now reneged on its promises saying its “recruitment policy and legal considerations did not allow for such decision to be implemented”.

Molapo’s father told the Ombudsman that the LDF said “the undertakings were not implementable and were made by the minister at the time just to console the family”.

All the payments in the two cases, the Ombudsman has asked parliament, should be made within three months.

Staff Reporter

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