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Nkaku Kabi: A bit of tyranny won’t hurt



MASERU – TO achieve the democracy and good governance that Lesotho yearns for, some dictatorship may be necessary, at least according to Health Minister Nkaku Kabi.
The 45-year-old son of a man who was a champion of human rights and an official of the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) of South Africa says he grew up hating politics.
Now he is one of those holding the levers of power, and his suggestion to break the impasse over stalled multi-sector reforms is not to widen democratic space.
Rather, Kabi would advise Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to railroad the reforms by suspending the Constitution – a move thatwould bean anathema to democracy.
And it is democracy that is standing in the way of Kabi’s wishes.

“If we were not in a democracy, surely my leader would suspend the constitution and go on with the reforms with or without the participation of the opposition,” he tells thepost from his office.
The multi sector reforms, came at the recommendation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016 as the sub-regional body battles to play midwife to a democratic and prosperous Lesotho following decades of political turmoil, coups and alleged human rights violations.
The reforms are envisaged to transform the country’s Constitution and usher changes in the legislature, the judiciary, security, public service and media in hopes of fostering a sustainable democratic culture.

Opposition demands such as guarantees on the security of exiled Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, have largely stalled the process.
Suspending the constitution, according to Kabi, would allow the Prime Minister to “do what is right and just for the common man rather than follow the wrong path that is promoted by populist policy-makers for their own personal benefits.”

“To implement some decisions requires a little bit of dictatorship,” he says, hastening though to admit that the political outlook in Lesotho and SADC as a whole would make such a move unpopular. Kabi views the opposition as a stumbling block whose demands should be swept aside if the reforms are to gain any traction.
“I want to see us developing as a nation. I don’t believe in the unfortunate actions of politicians sabotaging the good plans of the government just because they want to be the ones ruling,” he says.
“But because we respect democracy, my leader and our coalition partners will exercise patience until everybody is willing to come to the table so that we discuss the future of this nation together,” he says, conceding that his preferred option to suspend the constitution is too controversial to work.

The next best option, according to Kabi, is for the ruling party and the opposition to reason together.
“I think it’s high time we sit around the table as politicians from all political parties and other leaders representing other groups in the country, so that we discuss and agree on how we want to shape the future of this nation,” he says.

Kabi is familiar with opposition territory. Now that he is in government, he says he understands the frustration that the governing party has to endure due to opposition demands.
“We did it when we were in opposition. I now feel how painful it is because I am now in government,” Kabi says.
A former school teacher, Kabi was not a fanatic of politics at a young age. Much of this had to do with his father’s activism.

His father, Nathaniel Oliver Kabi was a mineworker turned labour activist for the National Union of Mineworkers and then turned into a politician.
In and out of prison for his activism, Kabi senior’s family would suffer because there would be no financial income in the family, especially as he was the only breadwinner.

“I grew up hating politics because of these bad experiences. I suffered a lot. Sometimes there would be no money to pay for my school fees,” Kabi says, reminiscing on his upbringing.
“Months would go by without knowing the whereabouts of my father and we would only get to know that he had been arrested by the Boers in South Africa after his release,” he says.
His father was also a stalwart of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), whose leadership was exiled during the Basotho National Party (BNP) dictatorship as then Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan suspended the constitution.

Kabi says he grew up witnessing the hostilities between his family and others who were members of the BNP. “Because of that I hated politics,” says the man who is now deep in the throes of politics. “I was shocked when I grew up and realised that I am actually a politician.”

His first real encounter with politics happened about a decade ago. As a teacher at Mohlalisi High School, Kabi questioned why teachers were not represented on the school board. He began pushing for representation and soon his peers elected him as their representative. After some time, he took on the grievances of students who were going hungry despite paying for food.
Following a students’ strike over food, Kabi took sides with the learners.

“I was with the students and the teachers were on the other side. I failed to understand why there was no food yet the students had paid for the food,” he says.
Kabi was arrested and put behind bars for leading the students’ strike as a teacher.
He subsequently lost his job and had to rely on his wife, who was a lecturer at the Lesotho College of Education (LCE).
Later he got another job, this time as a lecturer at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) where he met Malefetsane Nchaka – the current Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Nchaka was dissatisfied with the university’s labour practices and soon he was leading the university’s labour union as its president.
He was arrested again and locked behind the bars.
“It was at this time that I realised that I was treading on my father’s footsteps. I realised for the first time that I was now deep into labour politics.”
Unfortunately for him, his wife Anna Pokothoane died a week after his release from police detention.

“My involvement in politics and my arrest had affected her deeply. She was bedridden for a week and one day she did not wake up,” he says.
“That was the most painful moment of my life. She was the person I loved more than anybody in the world.”
Kabi never married after that, but “I am a father of five kids, three biological and two adopted, you can say I lost my wife in 2010 and had no children.”

Kabi says he loves his children so much that he will always strive to provide for them.
“I am not like these other men who make babies and then run away. It is my responsibility to take care of all my children and make sure that they grow together,” he says.
A year later, in 2012, Kabi was single, jobless and broke.

He sojourned to South Africa where he got a job as a tractor driver at a farm owned by an acquaintance. This was despite his qualifications of a university lecturer.
After the harvest, to his surprise the farmer called him and signed him a cheque for M463 000 saying it was a thank you token – accompanied with an exhortation to go back home to farm.
With this, Kabi bought two second hand tractors from the same farmer and returned to Lesotho to plough the fields.

Local farmers in Mazenod up to Qeme, where he comes from, used to hire his tractors “and many of them paid in kind”.
“At the time I was not aware that the barter system was working more in benefit of these farmers than for me. Some would pay with a sheep and I would agree,” he says.
He was unaware that by so doing he had softened the hearts of his people and they duly repaid him in the 2017 elections when he won the Qeme constituency under the All Basotho Convention (ABC). Thabane later appointed him health minister.

“As a minister of health, I want to see people having access to health services even in hard to reach areas of the country.”
“With commitment and determination, we can develop this country.”
“I wish to see ministers going to work driving their own cars. Ministers should fuel the cars from their pockets and they should recharge their phones from their own pockets,” he says., adding: “Only landline calls from ministers’ offices should be billed for us.”
Kabi argues that the money saved from such things and others will contribute towards the serious problem of unemployment facing the youth.

Caswell Tlali

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Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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