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Murdered woman’s family wants justice

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DEVASTATED and desperate for justice, the family of a businesswoman from Malealea Matelile who was burnt to ashes after she was alleged to be involved in a ritual killing a fortnight ago say they suspect she was murdered by competitors.

“We believe that she was intentionally set on fire, this is because of jealousy from her competitors. We have been told by some people in the area that the plot to kill her was cooked by her competitors,” Thabang Mphomeli, her brother and the family spokesperson, told thepost.

The woman was burnt together with a local man by an angry mob that accused them of kidnapping a girl to use her for rituals to boost her business.
He said the family would continue to fight for justice so that the killers are brought to book.

“We are not going to back off as a family. We do not hide this,” the visibly irate Mphomeli said. He said they are giving the police a chance to accomplish their work.
Police have arrested 11 suspects who are due to appear in court this week in connection to the case.

Mphomeli refused to disclose the steps that the family intends to take, although revenge and vengeance were written all over his face.
With a shrieking tone, Mphomeli said they are a family of hard workers who know that success comes with commitment and hard work.

He said he is a businessman and so is his other brother. He said his grandfather was a successful farmer who lived large because of his flock of sheep and herd of cattle.

And their father diversified the family’s fortune to venture into other businesses.
He said they have emulated what their father had been doing to grow their fortune, yet their family is labelled and painted as inclined to black magic and the culture of mutilation.

“No one can provide any piece of evidence for all this,” Mphomeli said.
Accusations that his sister was involved in rituals are meant to tarnish the family’s image.

Survived by three girls, Matelile had been operating in the area for just over a week, said Mphomeli.
He said the deceased shut down her business four years ago because it was not generating profits.

“So she had bounced back with full force to run her supermarket. She had a second shop in Sekiring in the Matelile area. She was a hard worker,” Mphomeli said.
Mphomeli said the man who was burnt together with his sister was coerced to implicate her into a case of a missing child.
Mphomeli said when her sister was accosted by the angry community, she asked them to search all over the place but they failed to find anything suspicious.

“My sister even tried to help in the search for the girl,” he said.

He is demanding answers from the perpetrators on why they subjected her sister to mob justice instead of waiting for the relevant authorities to take action.
During the search, they asked about a fridge they allege was used to hide the missing child. The deceased had just fetched a fridge from one of her shops to be repaired in Mafeteng town.

At the time of the incident, the fridge was in Ha-Seeiso ready to be shipped to Mafeteng for repairs.
Police spokesperson, Inspector ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka, said the horrific incident happened after a 12-year-old girl from Malealea went missing on Friday night.
She said the deceased were the prime suspects.

“Their bodies were burnt to ashes,” she said, adding that one of the deceased is a 43-year-old running a successful supermarket in the area.

She was burnt along with a 44-year-old man who was suspected to have been a mastermind in the kidnapping and “killing” of the girl.
She said a 36-year-old woman who is an employee of Malealea Lodge reported her child missing.

Inspector Mofoka said the visibly irate woman informed them that she last saw her child on Friday around 6pm when she went out for some drinks with a relative.
Police said the woman left for drinks, leaving the missing child with another woman who was doing errands at her home.

Later, the cleaning woman joined them at a bar for drinks.
Inspector Mofoka said investigations showed that the two women returned home after midnight and continued drinking while sitting in the kitchen.
But later they wondered why the child had not woken up despite the noise they were making while drinking.

Police said the women knocked on the bedroom door but there was no response. Surprisingly, the door was tightly locked, forcing them to forcibly open the door.
Everything in the room was scattered all over the place and the child was nowhere to be seen.

Frustrated and shocked, they searched for the child without success.
In their search, the police said the women saw an empty beer can just outside the room.

They then remembered that the man who was buying them beer was drinking beer of the same label.
Without wasting more time, they hurried to the man’s place demanding the child from him.
Police said the man told them that he had struck a deal with a businesswoman to hand over the child in exchange for M30 000.

Inspector Mofoka said the man’s confession infuriated members of the community who then accosted the man together with the businesswoman to interrogate them.
Police said the man told them that the woman was going to use the body of the child to mix her muti to attract customers.
Inspector Mofoka said the deceased told them that the child’s body had been taken to Matelile, Ha-Seeiso, about five kilometres from Malealea where it was kept in a fridge.

Inspector Mofoka said the community set the two on fire even before the child could be located.
She said the woman was burnt while she was in her supermarket together with her stock.

“She was burnt beyond recognition. Her remains were collected with a spade because they were in ash form,” Inspector Mofoka said.
She said her vehicle was also burnt together with a two-roomed house attached to the supermarket.
Inspector Mofoka said her accomplice’s charred body was picked up by the police in front of the supermarket building.

“The people who were supposed to tell us the whereabouts of the child have been killed,” Inspector Mofoka said.
To date, the body of child has not been located.

“We are still in the dark because we do not have leads now,” the police said.

Majara Molupe

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors

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MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue

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LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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