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Restorer of minds



MASERU – IN Lesotho mental health can be a lonely journey. Family members hardly understand mental health issues, often blaming the afflicted, witchcraft or some bad omen.
The patients are either shunned or left to roam the streets while enduring their misery.
Mental health facilities are often understaffed because there are not enough qualified people. The few professionals that are there are overworked.

Though she retired as an occupational therapist, ’Masebili Lehema hardly has time to rest. A shortage of mental health professionals means she is regularly called back to work.
“The gap is already there. I haven’t rested yet as I still go to assist, especially on Wednesdays,” said Lehema, who used to work at Lesotho’s only mental hospital, Mohlomi.

“The hospital has no qualified therapist,” said the 60-year old, intimating that the position she left at the beginning of this winter is still vacant.
The situation is no better across the country. Her retirement has left the country with a mere five occupational therapists: three at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital, one at Motebang Hospital in Leribe and another in private practice in Maseru.
There is only one doctor registered as a psychiatrist in the country, working at the Maseru Private Hospital. Another who was based at Mohlomi has since left.

The dire shortage of skills means people like Lehema have little choice but to continue working even after their time is up.
She however says she will not extend a helping hand for a long time.
“I still feel I can render my services, but not for long. Very soon I will need to rest,” she said.
Lehema said serving at Mohlomi requires steel because you are often on your own.
“I started working as a lone therapist after those that I found at the hospital retired. It was not easy,” Lehema said.
She said two more therapists were deployed but one left for studies abroad and didn’t return while another was deployed in Leribe.
“I have been working alone since 2013. It was tough but my dedication kept me going.”

However, she said she trained some nurses who came after her in the department.
“But some were reluctant as they thought I was the only one fully qualified for the job,” she said, noting that lack of training was another huge challenge.
“Being qualified from school doesn’t mean people shouldn’t continue learning.”
She said they used to get training in South Africa but the arrangement ended way back in 2017. Another problem is that Mohlomi doesn’t have a department for children.
Therapy, she said, is vital for people with mental health problems to recover.

“In most of the cases, people with cognitive problems, are not functional.”
Lehema said she used to categorise her patients into groups – cognitive, emotional, motivation and interpersonal relationships.
“Therapy is a broad issue narrowed according to one’s need,” she says, adding: “Grouping them at times would help them learn from one another.”
Growing up with her late sibling who was “functioning slowly” influenced Lehema to opt for a profession in the health sector.
“My mother was my heroine; the way she took care of her was amazing and it inspired me,” she said.
“All the things I did, including in my profession, were motivated by my mother.”

“How she nurtured my sister helped a lot and she regained life and I even asked to take care of her after becoming a nurse. Unfortunately, she died after her recovery,” Lehema told thepost, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Taking care of her made me love therapy even more.”
Lehema aspired to be a doctor but her high school results couldn’t allow her to pursue the profession so she settled for nursing even though she had passed commercial subjects with flying colours.
“I am content with my choice because it makes me happy,” she said.
“Although it is challenging, I love it because it helps people generally – from parents, teachers to children.”
She joined Mohlomi in 1986 as a General Nurse Midwife without any mental health qualification.

Around 1992 she was part of a group that joined the National Health Training College (NHTC) to study Psychiatric Mental Health in Nursing.
“After specialising in mental health, I saw things differently and loved to work at the occupational therapy department.
She describes occupational therapy as helping patients to independently function daily regardless of how sick they may be.
“They should be encouraged to function, to work, not for things to be done for them.”
Lehema said she loved how her predecessors at the hospital’s mental health department worked and she decided to join them.
“It was a bit challenging until I was allowed to start teaching patients about mental health,” she said.

“It was an exciting department although I wasn’t qualified yet. They read, worked and played games,” said Lehema, noting that being artistic has helped her engage with patients.
She said some patients used to dodge sessions as they said she was tiring them.
“I thought they were lazy until I read more about their conditions and learnt that their way of functioning differed from the rest of us. I realised I had to further my studies.”
In 2000 she joined a five-year programme at the University of Free State, studying Occupational Therapy.
“I loved my job even more when I returned home. With all the skills I had obtained, I looked at patients’ functionality to be able to assist them accordingly.”

What fascinated her most was helping teenagers to find themselves after being subjected to peer pressure or resorting to drugs.
“Perception is vital at that stage,” she said, highlighting that people shouldn’t get into mental health work simply because of money or the need for a job.
“Mental health service doesn’t need people who just go there because there is a shortage of jobs. Some of us went there because we were passionate. Mohlomi needs passionate people with love, sympathy and understanding.”
She said deploying someone who does not have compassion and passion “does not help the patients at all”.
She said the culture of people going to the health centre expecting medication only “is a bit problematic”.

“Some people are reluctant to do something different as they usually expect healing from medicine only. But some illnesses do not require that…they need functionality and experiences to help them.”
She said there was a dire lack of many skills at Mohlomi hospital.
“The hospital is desperate for a therapist, forensic nursing and child psychiatrist because it has none,” she said, adding that it also does not have a psychiatrist.
She said the addition of psychologists was helpful “but five is still not enough”.
One of the five social workers recently retired.
The forensic nurse and a child psychiatrist retired last year.

Overcrowding caused by a lack of specialists and the absence of a psychiatrist is another problem at the hospital.
Lehema said district mental health units, called Mohlominyane, also need overhauling.
Lehema said she continued with her professional development even after completing her degree.
“I did it online and continued reading to stay up to date.”
She said a strategic plan also helped her “have direction”.
“I even went as far as empowering people in other districts but was hampered by financial constraints because resources were scarce.”
“I am proud that I covered the district of Maseru to help nurses. It was very exciting.”

She said she had her proud moments in advocacy mostly.
She said mental health would not be prevalent if the country adopted a robust advocacy campaign.
“If people understand it, I believe they would seek help sooner rather than later. Mental health is not taken as a priority and the situation is not motivating.”
“My advocacy was very strong and I managed to give patients activities. Taking them out of therapy, before being discharged I would conduct a seminar for them to support each other,” she said.
“I gave them motivational assignments and seeing it not being punitive, ended up healing them.”
“I used to empower them with life skills,” said Lehema.
Lehema is proud of the impact she had on the parents of children that she helped.

“They still call me just to appreciate my job and even encourage me to keep working. But I am tired now.”
Over the years there has been a shift in public perception about Mohlomi.
“In the past, the hospital was referred to as a ‘madhouse’ but the good thing is people are no longer afraid to check into the facility when they feel they are mentally ill.”
“The youth, young adults and recovered patients are helping raise awareness about depression and this, in a way, has helped a lot of people to understand. We don’t reject self-referrals although we wish they can first start at a general clinic.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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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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