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Sky Country dissociates itself from Chen



MASERU – A South African meat supplier has rejected any connection with a Lesotho company that has been accused of selling rotten meat.
In a strongly worded rebuttal, Sky Country South Africa dissociated itself from a Chinese businessman, Chen Jin Song who claims to run a franchise for Sky Country.

Sky Country told thepost this week that it is ready to assist, support and cooperate in “any investigation and audit to protect the integrity of our products and name”. This comes after Song, the sole shareholder of Shake Universary International (Pty) Ltd, Trustworthy Enterprises (Pty) Ltd and CJS Import & Export (Pty) Ltd claimed that Sky Country was his franchisor.

Song runs a chain of meat wholesales in Maseru and Mafeteng which the government closed last week accusing him of selling rotten meat.
He was also arrested and temporarily locked up in police holding cells until his lawyers came to his rescue.
Trade Minister Tefo Mapesela raided his shops and found foodstuffs that had expiry dates that were as far back as December last year.
Song denies that the meat which he bought in bulks from Sky Country in South Africa was rotten.

Sky Country has been irked by claims by Song that it is the franchisor of the Lesotho companies. The media reported last week that Sky Country had been shut down in Lesotho. According to Sky Country director, Jaco Coetsee, these businesses are owned by Chen’s Shake Universary International which is a regular customer of Sky Country. “These stores commonly became known as Sky Country stores in Lesotho since the majority of products offered are Sky Country products,” Coetsee said.

“Sky Country merely supplies various clients in Lesotho and unfortunately has very limited control over how their products are managed and handled, once exported to Lesotho,” he said. The Sky Country Finance Manager J J Grobbelaar told thepost that Song and his company are not a franchise as he indicated in his affidavit. “Sky Country has no franchises and or franchise agreements at all with any other parties in South Africa and or in any land outside of South Africa, including Lesotho,” Grobbelaar said.

“We are very proud of our company and the products we manufacture and is (sic) committed to upholding our core value, namely quality,” he said.
Grobbelaar reiterated that Sky Country “will assist and give our full support and cooperation to any investigation and audit to protect the integrity of our products and our name”. Song deposed to an affidavit in court saying his companies are franchises of Sky Country South Africa in an ex parte application in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court.

An ex parte application is an urgent application that requires a decision without the need to hear all of the parties to the dispute.
Song has since obtained an interim court order restraining Trade Minister Tefo Mapesela and the Maseru City Council (MCC) from closing his shops pending finalisation of his case.

It is in this application that Song claimed that his companies “operate as meat wholesalers as a franchise of Sky Country Enterprise, a South African company”. Song, who is the sole director of Trustworthy Enterprises (Pty) Ltd that is accused of selling rotten meat, says there is no rotten meat in his fridges.

Song, who also claims to manage another company called Ke a Rona (Pty) Ltd, gives a number of reasons why the Ministry of Trade and the Maseru City Council (MCC) should not close his shops. Song’s explanations are contained in his affidavit.
In the affidavit, Song says there were no meat products that had expired adding that “when customers rummage through the goods to choose what they want to buy, some of the packaging gets destroyed and as a cost-saving measure I reseal the said packaging”.

“It is these that were said to be damages and were later confiscated,” Song says.
“They nonetheless constituted an insignificant component of the stock on the premises,” he says.

The affidavit comes after his Trustworthy 1, a wholesale opposite U-Save Supermarket near the main bus stop in Maseru, was raided last week.
Song says his Trustworthy 2 wholesale, situated at NRH Mall along Kingsway Road in Maseru, was also raided and while there he noticed that the MCC’s “long wheel base bakkie was full of literally rotten meat confiscated from U-Save Supermarket”.

Song argues that to date U-Save has never been closed, which clearly demonstrates discriminatory and selective treatment by the MCC and the Ministry of Trade. He says it is “not only indicative of the fact that my businesses were the ones targeted, but also contrary to the precepts of the constitution”.

He says while his Maseru businesses were being ransacked he received calls from Mafeteng saying his other two meat outlets under CJS Import & Export (Pty) Ltd had been closed down at the instruction of Mapesela. Song argues that Mapesela’s instructions to close down his businesses were wrongful and unlawful.

He says Mapesela does not have the requisite authority not only to inspect businesses, but to order their closure as well, as this authority vests with the Commissioner of Trade acting on the advice of the Board in terms of Section 20 of the Trading Enterprises Order No. 11 of 1993.
He also says Mapesela, even if he had the authority to shut down the businesses, had no right to do so because there was “no violation of the rules, no matter how minimal, had been found to exist”.

Song also says Mapesela should have followed the tenets of natural justice by giving him a chance to be heard before deciding to order the closure of his businesses, power he says the minister does not have. He pleaded with the court to order that his businesses should be reopened. Song said the goods were perishable and if they remained unattended there was a possibility that the supply of electricity would run out, resulting in damage to the stock.

“In fact, the electricity at the NRH business is critically low and may go off at any time,” he said.
He also queried that the keys to his shops were in the hands of the ministry’s officials “and the safety of the stock-in trade is not guaranteed”.
He argued that Mapesela should have padlocked the shops with his own keys and chains, “leaving the keys to the doors with me, so that none of the parties should, for safety reasons, have exclusive access to the premises”.

He also said he has employed 180 people “who stand to lose their jobs and salaries for as long as the said premises remain closed”.
He said Mapesela and his officials “resorted to self-help, something which courts of law in all civilised jurisdictions do not countenance”.
The MCC spokesman, ’Makatleho Mosala, said they have raided Chen’s businesses countless times.

“It is not a new thing. Every year for the past four years during our raids we found rotten items in that store,” Mosala said.
She said at one time they found tons of rotten meat at one of the stores’ warehouses in the Hoohlo industrial area.
Mosala told thepost that several big stores like U-save, Shoprite and Pick n Pay usually call them when they have compromised stock.

“They call us for assistance to dispose those items. They do not wait for us to raid their stores so they declare those items and we help with the disposal of such items,” Mosala said.  She said these stores usually take these items back to the manufacturers with the MCC stepping in to dispose items that cannot be taken back to the manufacturer.

She said Song’s stores have never asked the MCC to assist in disposing expired items but choose to sell them.
“They do not comply at all and unfortunately Basotho have also adopted that because you will find that in village stores some still have expired items on the shelves,” Mosala said.

“We plead with Basotho to stop buying from such stores because they are compromising their health.” U-Save told thepost that they have an arrangement with the MCC to collect their damaged goods on several days and when they have compromised items they take them back to the manufacturer.

This explains why the MCC van had unwholesome foodstuffs from U-Save as Song noticed.
U-Save said in some cases the manufacturer instructs them to seek assistance from the MCC when they report that some goods are not for public consumption.

Staff Reporter

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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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