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Scandal rocks Lesotho football



MASERU – WHAT started as a routine complaint over the registration of football players has triggered a full-blown investigation into the rot in Lesotho’s football and immigration. The main target of the investigation is Bantu FC, the team that has dominated the premier league in recent years.
It turns out that the success could have been driven by the use of South African players the team has registered as locals to circumvent international football transfer regulations.

To do that Bantu FC seems to have used some senior officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs to rig the national registration system so the players appear to be Basotho nationals.

Using that elaborate scheme Bantu FC was able to register nine foreign players instead of the five allowed by local football regulations.
Five were registered as foreigners while the other four got local documents. That meant Bantu had almost another complete team made up of foreign players, giving it an unfair advantage against other teams that had only five foreign players allowed by the regulations.
Some people privy to the operations of teams in the league say the rot could be much wider.

The players have Lesotho passports, birth certificates and Identity Documents (IDs).
Those documents are authentic but it is how they were acquired that is now the subject of an investigation by the police and the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA).

Documents from South Africa’s Home Affairs department show that the four have Birth Certificates and IDs that prove they are South Africans.
There is also a plethora of documents from the South African Football Association (SAFA) showing that they were registered with the South African teams as South Africans.

Although there is no concrete evidence as yet, it appears that the Premier League Management Committee which is chaired by John Leuta might be, by omission or commission, complicit in the scam. Leuta is also the chairperson of Bantu FC.

The committee seems to have facilitated the registration of the players despite that they did not have international transfers and were being registered as Basotho when they have South African documents.
The matter started unravelling in December last year when Lioli FC complained about the Bantu FC players to the local football court. Lioli’s complaint, filed on December 18, a day after the match, centred on Itumeleng Kenneth Falene, Pheko J ‘Molaoa, Thabo A Sedila and Matsipa I Phumoha.

The four have been key players for Bantu in the last two seasons.
All were registered with Hunters FC, a team that plays in the ABC Motsepe League.
Last Friday the court issued a robust and chilling judgement against Bantu FC, finding that the team had indeed cheated the football and immigration regulations to register the South Africans as locals.

The court said there was irrefutable evidence that the players were South Africans registered with South African teams and did not have international transfers to play for Bantu FC.  The court said LEFA’s national executive committee should investigate the matter so that “if there is any illegality riddling the obtaining of the national identity documents then the culprits must be brought to book”.

“If this kind of behaviour is not curbed at this early stage the Association will certainly face dire consequences,” the court said.
It warned that the scandal could bring LEFA and Lesotho’s football into disrepute.

By that the court seems to have been warning that if the practice is not curbed LEFA might attract the wrath of Fifa, the international football administration body that has a no-nonsense attitude towards cheating.

There is a real possibility that Lesotho might be suspended from participating in international football competitions. Bantu FC will be dogged three points which will be awarded to Lioli FC.

Yet it remains to be seen what will happen to the previous trophies it won using the same illegally registered players. It is not clear how its other victories against other teams this season will be treated.

If all other teams file similar complaints based on the judgement, the consequences for Bantu FC might be dire, if not catastrophic.
This is not the first time that Bantu had been accused of using illegal players. Likhopo FC also filed a complaint with the same court but its case crumbled because it did not have enough evidence. Matlama too tried to fight Bantu over the players but eventually abandoned the case.

The court found that Lioli has managed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt by providing irrefutable evidence. In the judgement the court merely mentions this evidence but does not avail it to the public. thepost now has all the evidence that was presented to the court.
The paper trail indicates that Bantu had created a well-oiled system to cheat both the football and immigration regulations. Presented with the local documentation of the players one would think that they are indeed Basotho.

They have passports, IDs and birth certificates. One has a baptismal certificate from the New Church of God in Mafeteng. But this seems to be all part of the chicanery some in the football fraternity suspect has been going on for several years.
All the players got their local IDs in 2017.

National Identity and Civil Registration (NICR) director, Tumelo Raboletse, could not be reached for a comment as his phone was not being answered.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Mofomobe Machesetsa, said the ministry was aware of the case and had asked the police to investigate. He said they made the request to the police two months ago but they have not received any report on progress made.
“I will check with the police tomorrow,” he said.

Leuta said Bantu will appeal the judgement. “The judgement is out we saw it and we accepted it as it is but we are going to appeal and lets just wait and see what the judgement after appeal will say, let’s wait. These are Basotho players we know them, they played here,” Leuta said.

Premier League Management Committee spokesperson, Lekholoa Mosito, the judgement has put the ball in LEFA’s court.
“The judgement actually says LEFA should follow through and investigate and take action, LEFA could either act on that or delegate it to us and we will act on it,” Mosito said.

“But if Bantu do appeal we will have to see what the judgement says when it comes back. And the other teams that were complaining, it is now up to them whether they take it forward.”

LEFA spokesperson Thabo Maretlane said: “We are aware of it and the executive committee is yet to meet and discuss the judgement, for now there is nothing more to say, I would be lying.”

Itumeleng Falene

Falene’s South Africa ID number is 9112115454088 and he was born on 11 December 1991.
He was registered under FC Hunters for the 2015/16 season as a South African and his card number was 442555. But according to the licence application from Lefa, Falene was registered locally under Van Rooyen United FC, a local team based in Mafeteng.

There is no international registration certificate to show that he moved from Hunters FC.
SAFA team sheets show that in the 2015/16 season Falene was playing for Hunters FC as a South African.
There is an abridged birth certificate that shows that he is South African.
But Falene also holds a Lesotho ID issued on 24 May 2017.

His local birth certificate says he was born in Likhoele but his registration certificate with LEFA states that he was born in Patisi.
Both Patisi and Likhoele are in Mafeteng district where Bantu is based.
He got his Lesotho passport on 1 June 2017 and his local ID number is 041235136423.

At one time, Falene was called for the Lesotho national team and played in some Cosafa games.
thepost has been informed that last year the player was detained by the South African immigration officers at the Maseru border after they discovered that he was not a Mosotho. It is not clear how he later managed to enter Lesotho. thepost could not independently verify the allegation.

Matsipa Phumoha

Phumoha’s South African ID number is 9302076246082 and documents indicate that he was born on 7 February 1993. Yet he has a Lesotho Baptismal certificate. Documents submitted to Lefa say he was born in Mafeteng.

Bantu registered him on 25 August 2017 as a local player. There are however other documents that prove that he was registered as a Hunters FC player in the 2015/16 season as a South African.

Like Falene, there is no indication that there was ever any international transfer certificate for him. His Lesotho passport is B0505001.
The SAFA system shows that he has been a Hunters FC player since 2012.
His registration with LEFA says he was born in Mafeteng.

Pheko ‘Molaoa

There is an abridged birth certificate and ID that show that ‘Molaoa is a South African. He too was playing for the FC Hunters in the 2016/17 as a South African.  This is clearly shown in FC Hunters’ team sheets submitted to SAFA. His Lesotho birth certificate, issued in July last year, shows that he was born at Van Rooyen Gate on 25 July 1994.

Both his parents are Basotho, according to the certificate.
‘Molaoa got his passport (RC532636) on December last year. Curiously the picture on his South African ID looks exactly the same as the one on his Lesotho ID.

How this is possible is not clear because both countries take their own photos when a person applies for an ID.

Thabo Selisa (Sedisa)

Selisa’s South African ID and Birth Certificate shows that his real surname is Sedisa. His middle name, Alfred, however does not appear on his Lesotho passport and birth certificate. Selisa’s South Africa ID number is 8708215473089.

In local documents he is known as Thabo Selisa. The passport he got in December 2017 shows his birth place as Qalabane and his ID number as 057227177727. His passport number is RC532616 but in his application for registration with LEFA he gives it as BA390002.
In the same application his birth place is given as Tsaenolo instead of Qalabane as stated on his passport and birth certificate. Selisa also played for FC Hunters in the 2015/16 season as shown by the team sheets. There is no international transfer for him.

Luciah Phahla

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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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