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MP backs Matekaneto the hilt

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AT a time when political loyalty is in extremely short supply with politicians being “bought” for a price, Mathiba Malothoane, 47, says he is backing his leader Sam Matekane to the hilt.
Where he falls, I too shall fall, Malothoane told thepost this week.
Malothoane, who is the MP for Tsolo constituency, says Matekane is not going anywhere. He says he, and other MPs, will crush the no-confidence motion filed against the premier last week.

“I am supporting him 100 percent,” he says.

Last week, the Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, filed a motion of no-confidence against Matekane in parliament.
The opposition has been in a buoyant mood since then amid claims that it now has the required numbers to oust Matekane from power.

A member of Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), Lejone Puseletso, who is the MP for Thaba-Moea constituency, has since filed a High Court case arguing that the motion was procedurally flawed.
The case is still to be heard in the courts.

Malothoane told thepost this week that all that has been happening in the last few weeks was a side-show to sidetrack Matekane from achieving his political goal of transforming Lesotho’s economic fortunes.

If Lesotho is to fight poverty, Matekane should be granted the mandate to run the country for the next five years until his term comes to an end. Only after the end of his term should he be judged, he says.
He argues that there has been a slight improvement in Lesotho’s road infrastructure just a year after Matekane was voted into power.

“Look how the road network has been rehabilitated and upgraded in Maseru,” he says.

“It does not only end here in Maseru. Even the road from Leribe to Butha-Buthe has been revamped.”

Malothoane says if Matekane is allowed to finish his term, he could do wonders for his country.
He says his leader is aware of the jobs carnage in the textile sector which is the second biggest sector after the civil service with over 35 000 workers.

Malothoane says Matekane is working hard to resolve the challenges in the textile sector which has seen thousands lose their jobs as factories struggle to stay afloat due to reduced orders from abroad.
He says Matekane was recently in the United States to secure markets for Lesotho’s textile products adding that Lesotho will begin to see positive results soon.

“His message to the people is that they should not despair,” Malothoane says.

“I live with these factory workers in Ha Tsolo and I have told them that things will soon be alright,” he says.

Malothoane says the people who voted for Matekane last year are still happy with him remaining in power, suggesting that the MPs who are pushing for his ouster in parliament are pursuing a narrow individualistic agenda.

“The people are still happy with Matekane’s style of governance,” he says.

Malothoane however admits that his party’s problems were caused by MPs who were impatient to get lucrative positions in government.

“Some MPs came to the party with big expectations and when that did not happen, they began to fight,” he says.

He says the RFP like any other family has problems that they are still working on.
He says MPs from the northern districts were arguing that they did not have a single member who was a minister or Principal Secretary though they had won a handful of constituencies for the party during last year’s elections.

“This has also been another cause of concern in the party,” he says.

Malothoane says what has triggered disgruntlement among party followers was the fact that some MPs were now in Cabinet and were still holding executive positions in the party.

“They believe there should be fairness when dealing with party issues,” he says.

“I hope this will be resolved soon,” he says.

Born in Leribe 47 years ago, Malothoane joined the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) when he completed high school in 1998.
He however resigned from the police in 2012 and joined the taxi industry and later diversified by renting out vehicles.

Malothoane’s political journey began in 2012 when he joined the then ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) which was led by Pakalitha Mosisili.

“I am from Leribe where the LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing comes from,” he says.

“I found it worthwhile to follow Metsing simply because he is from Leribe.”

“I joined Selibe Mochoboroane when he left the LCD to form the Movement for Economic Change (MEC),” he says.

“I contested the 2017 elections under the MEC and lost,” Malothoane recalls.

“I garnered just a few votes,” he says. “I got just 400 votes”.

He says he thought he lost because his party was still new and people did not trust it.
Last year, Malothoane joined the RFP immediately after Matekane formed the party.
He says he just realised that the people loved Matekane and “we just had to follow where the people were going in big numbers”.

“I got more than 2, 400 votes in the last year elections against the All Basotho Convention’s Rethabile Nkeane who bagged just 700 votes.

Malothoane says the biggest challenge facing his constituency is unemployment following a massive loss of jobs in the textile industry.

“This has fuelled crime in the area, especially cases of house-breaking,” he says.

Some of the problems in the area include lack of infrastructure like roads.

“We still have a problem with bad roads in this area. It seems like Tsolo is not in an urban area,” Malothoane says.

Majara Molupe

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A night of horror

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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

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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

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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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