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New law to govern initiation practices



QUTHING – PEOPLE of Tele, most of them of Xhosa origin, have proposed inclusivity of different tribal groups found in Quthing such as Amaxhosa and Baphuthi in the Initiation School Bill. This came out during public consultations held by the parliamentary Natural Resources Portfolio Committee to scrutinise the proposed Initiation School Bill this week.

The public consultations are being carried out in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) and World Vision Lesotho before the finalisation of the proposed law. The Chairman of the Initiation Committee, Mopheme Mokoena, commended the initiative.

“This shows that the government cares about us and wants our cultural practices to be done lawfully,” Mokoena said.

He told thepost that the input from Basotho who participated in the consultations would be considered for inclusion in the Bill, although some issues have been left out.

“The period that the initiates spend at the initiation school and how the school owners feed the initiates were not included in the proposed law,” he said.

“The (Xhosas) want to maintain the practice of families feeding their children from the first day until the end, unlike Basotho practices where food is delivered occasionally to be cooked at the mountain,” he said.

Natural Resources Portfolio Committee Member and MP for Teele constituency, Mothepu Mahapa, said the consultations were part of measures to involve Basotho in the law-making process.

“We want the input for everyone before the Bill can be enacted into law so that people can take ownership. Their opinions matter. This process will help in making laws that don’t leave anyone behind,” Mahapa said.

He said the initiative was piloted in Quthing, before being taken to Mohale’s Hoek, Berea, Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong.

“Some districts are excluded because we are targeting districts with different ethnic groups,” he said.

He said so far, the mission is still on track although initiated people do not want to have such discussions at home with people who are not initiated.

“It made them uncomfortable before hearing our objectives. They felt like we wanted to talk about the sacred secrets of initiation to the uninitiated,” said Mahapa, one of the few MPs who have undergone the initiation process.

He said after informing them that the initiation school and the law that will govern it will affect everyone “directly or indirectly”, those who were initially hesitant began to open up and grabbed the opportunity to testify in support of or opposition to the Bill.

“Once we complete this, concerns will be noted and submitted as a report to Parliament so as to make amendments to the Bill if need be.”

The proposed Bill on initiation prescribes 18 years as the minimum age for the initiation for both males and females.

“This is to ensure that children do not drop out of formal schools and go for initiation like what has happened in the past,” he said.

“Children should stay in schools and access quality education as stated in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4,” Mahapa, a former deputy education minister, said.

The Bill will ensure that a person gets initiated at an age when they are able to give consent to be initiated with a full understanding of the consequences of their decision.
It further provides for the protection of a child’s welfare and rights that might be violated by certain cultural practices.

The six-day public consultation is funded by World Vision Lesotho. It started on Monday and will end on Saturday. The Bill has been drafted and presented by the Ministry of Tourism.

The SADC-PF Lesotho Sexual and Reproductive Health Services and Rights (SRHS) Officer, ’Mammehela Matamane, said the SRHR, HIV and AIDS Governance Project’s mandate is to strengthen the capacity of participating SADC national Parliaments to advocate for Sexual and Reproductive Health Services and Rights.

This is done in part through improved legislation, increased budget allocation, strengthened oversight and visible representation.

She said having public hearings on the proposed Initiation School Bill came after they realised that “it is very critical for Parliament to consider the public comments on the proposed Bill so that it is responsive to the peoples’ needs.”

“At this stage of the project, it is very much important to support the public hearings on proposed Bills that address cultural practices that seem to have a negative impact on SRHR issues.”

She said the public hearings become “very critical” in terms of ensuring that public opinion is taken into account before the Bill is finalised or even becomes a law.

“Without doubt, the deliberations by MPs who interface with the public will add value to the Bill and may lead to legal amendments that reflect issues that have not yet been incorporated,” said Matamane.

She said the expectation is that the project will, in the long term, achieve universal access to integrated SRHR, HIV and AIDS, and related rights, including bringing forward social change, improved health and respect for human rights that are enjoyed by all in the SADC region.

World Vision Lesotho Child Protection Manager, ’Maseisa Ntlama, said the organisation has been working with the initiation committee and the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture (MTEC) to sensitise stakeholders about the development of the Bill.

“After Parliamentarians saw the need to make amendments, we supported them financially to carry out public consultations,” said Ntlama.

She said World Vision supported the enactment of the Bill after realising during the implementation of ending the child marriage campaign that initiation is one of the drivers of child marriage and high rates of school drop outs.

“Children drop out of formal school for initiation and upon their return, they think they have been groomed to be men so they want to exercise their manhood by getting married.”

She said issues tackled by the Bill include ensuring that no one under the age of 18 is initiated. It also ensures that the management of the placement of mephato (secluded initiation huts) are nowhere near schools. She said the Bill has covered many issues that the organisation campaigned for although some concerns still remain.

“As World Vision we are not against culture but as much as we love our culture and want to embrace it, it shouldn’t be at the expense of children. It loses its meaning once it perpetuates some harmful cultural practices that hinder children from reaching their full potential,” said Ntlama.

’Mapule Motsopa


Mahao, PS in big fight



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



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



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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