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Rebel MPs fight back

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SUSPENDED Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs say they will not toe the party line but will be guided by their own conscience when voting in parliament.
Dr Mahali Phamotse, Thuso Makhalanyane and Rethabile Letlailana were all slapped with six-year suspensions from the RFP as tensions within the ruling boiled over.

The three are however not taking the suspension lying down.

Dr Phamotse told thepost yesterday that she will be guided by her conscience when voting in parliament.

“I will not enter into territory to support laws that are not for Basotho,” Phamotse said.

“I will not compromise for laws that infringe on the rights of Basotho. I can compromise on the other things.”

“I can lobby other MPs in parliament and they can also lobby me but not regarding laws that are against Basotho,” she added.

“As regards voting for the laws that will work against the wishes of Basotho I will stand my ground. I will not compromise even if it means voting against my party.”

She said the decision by the RFP national executive committee to suspend her was a violation of their own party’s constitution and their democratic right to free speech and association.

Dr Phamotse said the suspension from the RFP “is a dictatorship at its best because it is not in line with democratic principles”.

“It is neither in the RFP constitution nor in this country’s constitution,” she argued.

She said if the High Court upholds her suspension, she will appeal to a higher court.

But if the appeal court still maintains the status quo, she would “opt to stay at the cross bench to fight for the people of my constituency and the Basotho nation at large”.

“I cannot sit outside politics for six years,” she said, adding: “I will advance my principles in politics.”

She said the verdict from the court will determine what route she will take.

“I’m not intending to cross to any political party,” Dr Phamotse said.

Makhalanyane, who has also dragged the RFP to court, said they will not lose the case.

“Even a child would win it if given a chance. Our suspension is unlawful,” Makhalanyane said.

“I will continue to be guided by my conscience to vote in parliament as we did last week,” he said.

“We were voted by Basotho to vote for things that will benefit them as opposed to voting for everything that the party dictates.”

The Lithoteng MP Rethabile Letlailana told thepost yesterday that he had also instructed his lawyers to challenge his suspension in the High Court.

Phamotse and Makhalanyane have asked the High Court to declare the decision by the RFP executive committee to suspend them null and void.

In her founding affidavit, Phamotse said when she received a letter inviting her to go to the disciplinary hearing she immediately wrote back seeking further details of the charges to enable her to prepare her defence.

She said the party ignored her request.

She also said she had been told that if she would arrive late at the hearing, it would proceed in her absence.

She had also been advised that she could be represented or accompanied by a fellow member of the party, and she took along one Moliehi Ralikoche from her Matlakeng constituency.

Ralikoche, she said, was kicked out of the hearing despite her objection, she told the court.

She also said when she wanted further details the chairman of the hearing rejected her request.

Phamotse said she stormed out of the room in objection.

She told the court that Makhalanyane told her that he underwent the same treatment.

After that she received an email telling her that she had been suspended for six years during which she should not wear the RFP regalia, represent the RFP anywhere, talk to the RFP MPs, talk to her constituency of Matlakeng or visit any constituency.

She told the court that the RFP has violated its own constitution and the country’s constitution.

She referred to clauses in the RFP constitution that say a member of the party who is aggrieved about the conduct of another should lodge the complaint with the village, branch, or constituency disciplinary committee.

The national executive committee, she said, is an appellate body but in her case it became the court of first instance.

She also said no member complained about her conduct at her village, branch or constituency.

This, she said, was the case with Makhalanyane.

She also said blocking her from talking to her constituency and other MPs amounted to dictating to her on who she should talk to, which is a violation of the national constitution.

She said her constitutional right to freedom of speech, sharing ideas and information, and association has been violated.

Meanwhile, two Abia RFP branches have filed a motion of no confidence against Makhalanyane.

The two branches, Phakalasane and Holy Innocent, wrote to the party’s secretary general last week demanding Makhalanyane’s ouster.

The two branches said they are not part of the people who are clamouring for an elective conference.

They labelled Makhalanyane a rebel.

The Phakalasane branch secretary, Thabo Kotelo, wrote that they do not have confidence in their constituency committee.

“We do not associate with the behaviour displayed by our Member of Parliament,” he said in the letter.

“We are aware that the constituency committee and the Member of Parliament make crucial decisions without involving the branches,” he said.

“We are not happy with the behaviour of our Member of Parliament who has now turned into a rebel.”

They said the constituency committee should be dissolved and its members disciplined.

The Holy Innocent deputy secretary, Kelumetse Moerane, expressed similar sentiments in his letter.

“We are not part of the people who took the party to the courts of law demanding a conference,” Moerane said.

The party’s spokesman Mokhethi Shelile could not be reached for comment last night.

Staff Reporters

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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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

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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

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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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