Connect with us


Panic over Listeriosis outbreak



MASERU – SUPERMARKETS in Lesotho this week pulled cold meat products from shelves amid fears of a disease outbreak and public panic.
They were taking a cue from South African shops that withdrew the products last week following the discovery of Listeria bacteria in cold meats like polony, viennas and Russian sausages.

What is known so far is that the bacteria that causes Listeriosis has been traced to an Enterprise Production plant in Polokwane.
Another Enterprise factory in Germiston has also tested positive for the same bacteria but scientists are still trying to figure out the strain.
To date 180 Listeriosis-related deaths have been reported in South Africa where laboratory tests have confirmed 948 cases of the disease. Its mortality rate so far is 27 percent, meaning one in every three it infects is likely to die.

Although Listeriosis can affect everyone, the infection rate is higher among pregnant women, children, old people as well as those with compromised immune systems. In pregnant mothers it can lead to premature birth, stillbirth, miscarriage or children with permanent disabilities. It can affect the nervous system to cause meningitis, headache, stiff neck and loss of balance.

The symptoms can take as much as 30 days to manifest.
The bacteria continue to multiply in refrigerated foods. Food contaminated with listeria bacteria does not look or smell bad.
The first case of the disease that causes flu-like symptoms was discovered in June 2017 but South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has been battling to trace its source.

A breakthrough in recent days has triggered action among government officials and alarm among customers.
Worsening the anxiety is that cold meats are a significant part of the lunchboxes most parents pack for their children. Part of the apprehension comes from the fact that most people do not know which cold meats to avoid.

So far bacteria had not been linked to other brands like Eskort, Champion, Econo, Sky Country, Pick ‘n Pay’s No Name and Shoprite’s Rite Brand. But that has however not helped calm nerves.

’Mampolokeng Thobela, who said she depends on processed meats for daily lunch boxes of her three grandchildren, told thepost that “the safest measure I take is staying away from these meats”.

“I’m told that we the elderly and small children will get sick if we eat Russians and polonies. They told me their names but to me they are all the same,” Thobela said.

Hlalefang Molapo, a customer, said she had already bought them in bulk for her husband and her granddaughter who is in pre-school.
“I gave them to my dogs after I heard from the radio that they were dangerous,” Molapo said. “I don’t know which brands they were. I only know that they were Russians.”

Mohato Ntita, a vendor who sells processed meats, said his business had crumbled since the outbreak was announced.
“I have regular customers who come to me for the supply of viennas which I stock in bulk in South Africa,” Ntita said.
“I have received several phone calls from customers stopping the orders. To them it does not matter that I don’t buy the brands that are contaminated with this disease. As long as they are processed meats, to them they are hazardous.”
Health Minister Nkaku Kabi said following the outbreak the department of Disease Control sensitized the public about the symptoms of the disease and how best they could handle the processed meat products.

Kabi said they will deploy officers to collect the contaminated food from shops across the country.
He said since this will not happen immediately they have opted to warn people not to eat those foods through the media. The minister said they have not yet received death reports of people who have died of the disease in the country.

“We will roll out our campaign to our ports of entry at the border gates so that such foods do not enter the country,” Kabi said.
Big shops like Pick ’n Pay and Shoprite have already removed such products from their shelves.
Meanwhile, Pick’n Pay franchisee Lesotho, Samuel Mphana, said following an official announcement they removed all the products from their shelves.

Mphana said bags of those food stuffs were sealed and are now ready to be disposed.
“We are waiting for Maseru City Council (MCC) with its expertise to guide us on how we can dispose of these food stuffs,” Mphana said.
He said the law says it is only the MCC’s department of environmental health that can decide what to do with the food.
Mphana said they were yet to quantify their loss.

Mphana said people who have bought the food stuffs from their shop could bring receipts for refunds.
He however said the other brands not been associated with Listeriosis, including their No Name, remain on sale.
Shoprite, Lesotho’s biggest grocer, has also removed Enterprise’s products from the shelves.

Also several Basotho and Asian-owned shops that thepost visited had removed all Enterprise and Rainbow processed meats from their shelves.
Symptoms usually develop 3 to 70 days (commonly three weeks) after eating contaminated food. Death is extremely rare in healthy people, but more common in newborns, the very old or in people with weakened immune systems.

l Healthy adults and children sometimes become infected but the illness is usually mild and people recover with no treatment. Symptoms of listeriosis in healthy people can include fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea.
l Women who develop listeriosis during pregnancy will have a similar mild illness but the infection may affect the baby, leading to premature delivery, stillbirth or infection of the newborn.

l Listeriosis in the elderly and those with weakened immune systems can develop into a more serious illness involving the blood or nervous system. Symptoms in these people can include fever, headache, stiff neck, convulsions and/or loss of balance.

How is listeriosis diagnosed?
A blood test is the most common test to diagnose listeriosis. Testing is only recommended if you are sick with symptoms of listeria, regardless of if you have eaten food that may have been contaminated.

Is there treatment?

Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics. Prompt treatment of pregnant women with symptoms of listeriosis can prevent infection in the baby. Antibiotic treatment is not recommended if you do not have symptoms.

How to protect your family from listeriosis?
l Cook meat, fish, poultry and eggs thoroughly.
l Keep foods out of the “Danger Zone” (between 4°C and 60°C). Keep refrigerators at 4°C or colder, and refrigerate food promptly.
l Wash fruits and vegetables well before cooking or eating.

l Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods. Use separate utensils for raw and cooked foods.
l Wash all food preparation surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat and then sanitize with a mild bleach-water solution.
l Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food and after touching raw foods.
l Eat perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible after purchasing. Follow “Best Before” dates, especially on packaged foods with a long shelf life.
l Drink only pasteurized milk and foods made from pasteurized milk.

What else?

l Only eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats that have been reheated until steaming hot (74ºC).
l Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after touching hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats.

l Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie and Camembert; blue-veined cheeses; or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco and panela.
l Avoid refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads may be eaten.
l Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole.

Majara Molupe and ’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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