Connect with us


On top of the world



MASERU-THE mission for newly launched non-governmental organisation (NGO), Sold Out, is not to change the world.
Rather, the mission, as sketched out by its founder and Managing Director, Itumeleng Ralebitso in an interview last week, is to help groom Basotho youths into confident and competent individuals ready to take on the world.

According to Ralebitso, the organisation seeks to help nurture the talents of local young women and men, inculcating in them a higher sense of self-esteem in readiness for the international stage where only the best make it.
But at only 26 years of age, you would think Ralebitso herself should be queuing up to receive the kind of assistance that Sold Out seeks to provide rather than be the one heading that effort to help.

However, that would be to underestimate the determination of a young woman driven to help others by her own bitter experiences growing up in Lesotho’s poverty-stricken countryside where life is generally tough for everyone and much worse for an orphan such as Ralebitso was.
“All I think about is how can I help the next person,” Ralebitso says, who, if her record so far is anything to go by, looks destined for a much bigger role in the humanitarian and NGO sector in Lesotho and beyond.

Ralebitso, who spoke to thepost this week about her life story, her thoughts and plans going into the future, said her desire both at Sold Out and the other organisations she works with is to put a smile on the faces of children unfortunate to walk the same thorny path she and her five siblings walked, growing up under the care of a single mother after her father abandoned them.
“My father left us when I was only six years old and life was really difficult with my mother working as a hawker trying to (feed) the six of us,” she says, as she narrates the hard and unhappy circumstances of her early life and to which her passion to help others can be traced.

Ralebitso was born in Semonkong, in rural Maseru and when her father deserted the family, they moved to Maseru city to stay with her maternal grandfather in Khubetsoana. They lived in the low-income houses section commonly known as Leh-Corp after the Lesotho Housing Corporation that built the homes.

From Leh-Corp she and her elder sisters would walk two hours every day to get to the Methodist Church-run primary school they attended.
“I remember that we used to walk from Khubetsoana to school daily, whether it was hot or cold, barefootbecause all we wanted to do was to go to school,” she says.
For sure, things were hard for Ralebitso’s family but maybe a little bearable until death struck in the family.

First it was her grandfather to pass away then her mother took ill which meant she couldn’t carry on with her job as an informal fruit seller.
“My mom was unemployed. She was selling fruits at the bus stop. After falling sick she had to stop working and couldn’t afford to pay our school fees anymore,” she says, her voice shaky with emotion and the blink of her eye faster as she fought to keep back the tears.

With their mother unable to pay fees Ralebitso and her siblings could have dropped out of school, but some well-wishers stepped in with the money and they were able to keep going to school.
However, Ralebitso’s eldest sister had to quit school so she could help put food on the table of what by now was virtually a child-headed family. The sister was only 15-years-old when she was forced to quit school.

When their mother’s illness got worse, they left the Methodist school and enrolled at Mejametalana Primary School that is nearer to where they stayed; a move that allowed them more time to tend to their sick mother.

“When she was critically ill, I knew I had to make sure that she bathed, ate and took her medication,” says Ralebitso.
Ralebitso’s mother would eventually pass on in June 2004 succumbing to an illness she had battled for a couple of years.
It was a tragedy that would open a new and, one might say dangerous chapter, in Ralebitso and her siblings’ tortured lives.
Then Ralebitso’s elder sister also a teenager had to drop out of school and moved out to make her own living. She was completely on her own, with no money to go to school or to feed her younger siblings. They survived on food handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers.

“It was quite a mess,” is how Ralebitso described that phase of her life when she says she and her siblings came closest to dropping out of school and leaving home to go join the multitudes of homeless children living on the streets of Maseru.
But the tide would in due course turn for Ralebitso and her siblings when about a year after the death of their mother they were taken in by SOS Children’s Village in Lithabaneng, Maseru.
Needless to say, conditions at the children’s village were far better than what Ralebitso and her siblings had ever experienced. They were able to attend school, with Ralebitso herself enrolling with Leribe English Medium High School in 2007.

Then two years later she was selected as one of the children from Lesotho to go and further their schooling in Ghana at an SOS-run Hermann Gmeiner International College where she did her LGCE and IB Diploma.

The school brings together all children drawn from the organisation’s villages across Africa. She spent eight years in Ghana, returning in 2017 upon which she volunteered with the Relationship Inspiring Social Enterprise (RISE), an organisation which helps young graduates in the build environment on live projects, working as organiser.
She would later be appointed programme coordinator of RISE focusing on teaching and imparting entrepreneurship skills to the youths that the group works with.
Ralebitso has since moved from RISE in December 2018 and joined DHL GoTeach in May this year, a joint initiative between SOS and DHL that helps young people from SOS to be more employable and to be able to start their own businesses.

She is employed as a coordinator with the initiative that besides Lesotho is also present in several other Sub-Saharan African countries.
Ralebitso is also a member of Future of Africa, a Ghanaian-based NGO that works to help street children escape their vulnerable situation.
She introduced the group in Lesotho and undertook some work with street children here but that has been temporarily stopped because of resource constraints.
Besides her work helping the disadvantaged and vulnerable, Ralebitso is also a talented singer who wrote a song for SOS titled, Thank You, that she was asked to perform at the group’s 75th anniversary in Ethiopia in June this year.

She was also asked to perform the song at an SOS event in Germany last year, while the organisation’s global team facilitated her trip to Austria to produce a video of the song.
Ralebitso got recognition worldwide for the song she wrote, which has now been officially adopted as the SOS global song.
Due to this song SOS World launched its first ever arts scholarship competition where Ralebitso was one of the judges.

It is an online competition initiated in Germany, started in June till October and winners will be announced in December. It is now going to be annual.
A confident and educated young woman, it certainly has been a long journey for Ralebitso. Born in poverty in Semonkong, you could at one time have safely bet your last penny that she was destined for life on the streets and much worse.
But the heavens clearly had other plans for her.

’Mamakhooa Rapolaki

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading