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PS in trouble over promotions



MASERU – JUSTICE Ministry Principal Secretary Lebohang Mochaba could be in trouble for defying Ombudsman’s restraining order on promotion of prison warders. Matšeliso Machai-Ndumo, the chief legal officer in the Ombudsman’s Office, told Mochaba during a heated hearing on Tuesday that she was going to report her to the police for defying the order.

Machai-Ndumo said she was going to lodge a criminal case against the principal secretary. “The principal secretary has said she defied the Ombudsman’s restraining order deliberately and we therefore have no other option but to report a criminal offence at the police,” Machai-Ndumo said.

The Ombudsman was investigating complaints by low-ranking prison warders over promotions which they said were based on political affiliation.
The controversial promotions were made on Tuesday last week. This was despite the fact that on May 3 the Ombudsman had ordered that they be stopped.

It is alleged that one of the promoted warders is Mochaba’s husband, Lebohang Semakale, who was elevated from sergeant to assistant superintendent. The junior warders’ gripe is that the promotions were not based on merit but political affiliation and friendship.
They say Semakale was the former boss ’Matefo Makhalemele’s bodyguard and later guarded the current commissioner Thabang Mothepu, with whom they say are close friends.

They also complained that Semakale was promoted because of his political association. Testifying before Ombudsman Advocate Leshele Thoahlane, Correctional Officer Neo Orpen, who joined the service in 2002, said he had evidence that Mothepu was actively involved in Alliance of Democrats (AD) party politics. Orpen said in 2015 Mothepu was actively canvassing in constituencies for the Democratic Congress (DC) and when the AD was formed he drove its leader Monyane Moleleki around.

Orpen said prison warders are not allowed to mingle with politicians because they are civil servants. He said Mothepu at that time was also closely befriended to Sergeant Thulo Ranchobe who thereafter was promoted to Chief Officer. He also said Mothepo’s other friend Thabiso Phosa who was Chief Officer was promoted to Superintendent, skipping the Assistant Superintendent rank.
Another officer who identified herself only as Kolobe, who joined the service in 2003, said in 2010 she was given an award of excellent service but is yet to be promoted.

Kolobe said every time she applied for any vacancies in top positions their appraisals are always marked ‘very good’ by the commissioner but they never got the jobs. Kolobe, Correctional Officer (the lowest rank), said she thought those who guarded high profile inmates were the ones easily promoted. “But to my surprise, I am always called to handle high profile cases but I have not been promoted,” Kolobe said.
“Sometimes I am called even when I am at home resting to come to work to handle inmates of high profile cases.”

“It is not long ago when I was off duty, I was called because one high profile inmate was said to have had a stroke,” she said.
Kolobe said she took the inmate to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital where the doctors told her that the stroke was feigned.
“These are some of the cases I am called to handle.”

“I wonder what wrong I have done against the commissioner that he would not consider me when he promotes the officers.”
Sergeant Ramotena told the Ombudsman that to show that the promotions are politically based, Mothepu was close friends with Chief Officer Mohale when they were still members of the DC together.

She said at that time Mohale was quickly moving up the ranks. “But ever since AD broke away from the DC, and Mohale remained in the DC, he is stagnant in that position”. Ramotena said one of the conditions for promotions is that an officer should not have committed any crime or been suspended for any transgression. She alleged that Mothepu was however promoted to Assistant Commissioner despite that he had unlawfully releasing a certain politician.

She said Mothepu was found guilty and was put on 12 months special probation but still he was promoted.
“According to our law at least two years should pass before a person could be promoted if he had been found guilty of breaking any of our laws,” Ramotena said.

Ramotena said a group of correctional officers was taken to Zimbabwe for a special training although no one in the group had applied for the training.
She said as is the custom a training institution issues certificates but these correctional officers did not get any.
“I believe that they had failed the course hence they were not issued with any certificates. But to my surprise the IT department was instructed to make the certificates for them.”

“It is on the basis of these certificates that these officers are promoted. They are attached to their documents as references.”
The IT officer, Sergeant Rethabile Jonathan told the Ombudsman that he was instructed to design and print the certificates for the officers.
Orpen told the Ombudsman about the promotion of Lance Sergeant Rantoetse Mofoka.

Orpen said Mofoka failed during the recruitment training in 2014 but he is working at the Central Institution.
Orpen said one of the prerequisites for promotion is that the officer should not be in the “habit of being absent without official leave”.
He said Mofoka is habitually off-duty but he was promoted.
“Even on the day of his promotion he was called at home, because he was not at work as usual, to be reminded that it was the day of his promotion and so he should come,” Orpen said.

In response to these accusations, Principal Secretary Mochaba said she overlooked the Ombudsman’s order and advised the minister to instruct the commissioner to promote the officers “because there were security issues”.
Mochaba said she could only tell the Ombudsman why she ignored his order in camera.
“There is media presence here and I am not comfortable speaking about these things,” Mochaba said.
“I was fully aware that I am committing a crime,” she said.

About the promotion of her husband, Mochaba said she had nothing to do with it.
“I was surprised like everybody although I was happy with his progress,” she said.
Moachai-Ndumo put it to her that she had a chance to stop the promotions but because her husband was one of those who were to be promoted she ignored the Ombudsman’s order.

Mochaba said she did not have the powers to promote anyone but only authority to advise the minister to stop or endorse the promotions.
She also said she only got a phone call from Mothepu that there was a restraining order debarring him from promoting the officers.
She said she did not consider that conversation because Mothepu did not write her.
“I couldn’t prove what he was saying,” she said.

Mochaba said she went to the minister to advise him about what she heard from Mothepu but also told him that she did not believe him.
Mochai-Ndumo asked her how she advised the minister.
She responded: “I told him to go on endorsing the promotions because the office of the Ombudsman had not copied him the restraining order.”

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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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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