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Sheriff enters political arena



ROMA – SHERIFF Mothopeng, born a female and named Lineo in Maphotong, Roma. Mothopeng will now become one of Africa’s first transgender individuals to enter political office if she wins elections scheduled for October.

Mothopeng, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) candidate in the Thaba-Putsoa constituency, now considers herself a man after undergoing a medical procedure to change her gender.

There are a set of reasons why the 41-year-old Mothopeng decided to join the country’s often treacherous political landscape.

Mothopeng says the biggest reason for joining the political fray is the desire to change people’s lives for the better.

“I have worked a lot with international organisations on issues of accountability and I realised that Lesotho was lacking in this aspect,” Mothopeng said.

“So when the RFP was formed, I realised it was an opportunity to take part in the development of Lesotho,” he said. “I would like to see things change in this country.”

Mothopeng sees Lesotho as a country that is blessed with resources that “are channelled to the wrong people”.

Mothopeng says it is time to give power to “people who know what marginalisation is, the people who have always been excluded and left behind”.

“I have lived and studied the lifestyle of the constituency of Thaba-Putsoa and learned that their livelihood is based on agriculture and animal husbandry. However, they do not have access to markets,” said Mothopeng.

Mothopeng decried that Mohale Dam in the constituency “is just a project lying there… it does not benefit communities that live around it”.

“The roads there do not extend or lead to surrounding villages. It is sad that children still have to cross rivers to go to school even when it is flooding,” said Mothopeng.

Mothopeng sees Thaba-Putsoa as “one of the less fortunate constituencies in the country, which I’m more than willing to do everything in my power to transform”.

“We are sick and tired of people who only pitch up in the political arena when it’s their pension time and make hefty pension packages for their families.”

Mothopeng believes in a democratic leadership model where everybody gets involved and informs government policies and decisions.

“Whatever decision the leadership makes at the constituency level should be informed by the interests of the people and the people have to get an opportunity to contribute to such decisions,” said Mothopeng, who comes from a family of four, him being the eldest.

Mothopeng attended Thaba-Chitja Primary School and later St Mary’s High, a girls’ school, and Holy Names High school.

He did his tertiary education at the National University of Lesotho where he obtained a degree in Environmental History and Cultural Studies.

“I am an archaeologist by profession but I did some training around human rights protection such as public policy and governance training with the University of Pretoria,” he said.

He also trained in marginalisation, exclusion and inclusion of key populations and marginalised communities with Africa University.

Mothopeng has worked for a number of NGOs inside and outside the country, garnering a lot of experience in administrative issues in the process.

He is currently working as a senior administrator and researcher at Accountability International and is also a consultant on human rights issues, specifically reproductive health rights.

He also does freelance work online, where he addresses issues about identity and also campaigns for the rights of people who come from marginalised communities.

He has two documentaries which are available online titled ‘The Man in Me’ and ‘I am Mothopeng’.

“I identify as a transgender person,” said Mothopeng.

The synopsis of his two documentaries are centred on raising awareness on the importance of accepting people for who they are and also to bridge the gap between privileged and disadvantaged people.

As part of his advocacy around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual LGBTQIA people, he did a documentary with his grandmother, focussing on him and his identity.

The documentary is also about how his grandmother felt about his new sexual identity and how the community reacted towards her raising a trans-identifying child.

The second documentary is about his engagement with communities and it shows him in conversation with religious leaders. He showed the documentary to school children and villagers to gauge their thoughts on issues related to discrimination and marginalisation, and how they perceived him.

“I am Mothopeng” has won some international awards in countries such as Canada and Germany.

He says he is against all forms of marginalisation.

“According to my own observations, people are marginalised because of their religion, their disability, albinism, LGBTQIA communities, people with crossed eyes and those who are left-handed or coloured,” he said.

Mothopeng notes that Basotho are generally a harmonious people, including on issues regarding sexual orientation since time immemorial.

“Basotho have always respected each other since pre-colonial times and even before the inception of Christianity,” he said, describing marginalisation as a “barbaric act”.

Saddening for him is the fact that some of the people at the forefront of marginalisation come from the so-called sophisticated backgrounds.

“We had a queen who got married to a person identifying as a female, like the case of Queen Mojaki in South Africa during pre-colonial times,” he said.

“Our basis for marginalisation is therefore around the misinterpretation of religious context, where people use the Bible to discriminate against others,” he said.

“I sometimes wonder how Jesus would have reacted towards people who are marginalised if he was still around.”

Societal pressure forces some people to pretend to adapt to escape stigma targeted at marginalised people.

“There are plenty of these people everywhere, even in leadership positions in the country, like men who have sex with other men. They hold big offices and some are leaders of different religious denominations,” he said.

According to Mothopeng, stigmatisation causes some people to remain in their shells instead of sharing their stories.

“These are the things we don’t talk about. That’s why this country will always top numbers when it comes to HIV/AIDS because we don’t want to talk about challenges that come with our own sexual preferences or practices where people don’t use condoms or lubricants even if we make them accessible.”

Mothopeng urged government and NGOs officials to engage in dialogue to address marginalisation.

“There are donors out there who fund our government to work on equality among citizens and remove marginalisation and protect concerned people but such money is never used for those purposes,” he said.

Calvin Motekase

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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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