MASERU – HE is outspoken.
He is witty and he speaks with professorial authority.
When Lesotho was going through political turbulence between 2014 and 2015, Professor Mafa Sejanamane, 66, was among the few academics who sought to challenge the government on key issues.
Through his blog, Lesotho Analyses, and with breathtaking candour, Sejanamane provided hard-hitting analyses on what he saw as the crisis gripping the country.
Although you would not always agree with everything he wrote, there is no denying that Sejanamane played a pivotal role in providing an alternative narrative to the heavily massaged messages from Qhobosheaneng Government Complex.
At numerous occasions, Sejanamane would speak out against what he says were the “excesses” of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), directly putting himself on a collision course with the government.
To him the army, under Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, had gone rogue.
Something drastic had to be done to tame it.
In long, well-researched pieces, Sejanamane would often lash out at Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his then deputy, Mothetjoa Metsing, and the army for subverting the democratic will of the people.
He would often do so in such a forceful manner as to offend Mosisili’s legion of supporters.
It was no surprise that Sejanamane would often find himself at the receiving end of withering criticism from the Mosisili-led government.
Yet he took all the criticism on the chin.
His critics, however, say Sejanamane is a deeply polarising figure in Lesotho’s politics who has allowed his close affinity to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party to cloud his judgment.
They argue that as a card-carrying member of the ABC, Sejanamane is no neutral observer; he is an interested player in Lesotho’s politics and therefore should not hide behind the cloak of academia when expressing his clearly partisan views.
These are serious allegations that could chip at his credibility as a respected political scientist.
However, Sejanamane insists that charges of bias are pure nonsense.
Sejanamane admits though that he is a card-carrying member of the ABC since the party’s formation in 2006.
“My conscience is very clear. I have never allowed my party affiliation to cloud my ability to analyse things as an intellectual,” he says.
He argues that his training as an intellectual allows him to “analyse dispassionately” issues without risking being partisan.
Sejanamane has over the past two decades been among the leading lights on the intellectual platform in Lesotho.
He has written extensively on the political crisis in Lesotho. He is one of the leading proponents for political reforms in Lesotho.
He argues that the absence of strong and credible institutions has been at the centre of Lesotho’s political crises since 1970.
“Our current institutions are either weak or non-existent and the result is that instability is the dominant factor,” he says.
To fix Lesotho, Sejanamane says we need “a strong Parliament that can play its oversight role and courts appointees that are appointed on merit”.
He says “our judiciary is a shadow of what it should be”.
“When you have a Human Rights Commission which is credible and a public service that is professional, if all these are strengthened, then all of our problems will be solved.” Sejanamane says the current SADC-driven reforms are the only way to extricate Lesotho from its current mess.
“We need strong governance institutions to ensure that the government is accountable and that politicians do not do as they wish,” he says.
He believes Lesotho can “only be fixed through the reforms process”.
“The reforms must be anchored on SADC so that none of these politicians can wriggle out of this process.”
Sejanamane however believes there is a clique of politicians who remain determined to wreck the reform process.
“We have politicians who are talking reforms to stop the reforms.”
While Sejanamane believes the only route for Lesotho is the reforms process, he believes the Thomas Thabane-led government bungled when it tried to railroad the Reforms Bill 2017 in Parliament. He sees the proposed Bill as an obnoxious piece of legislation that was “extremely undemocratic”.
“The Bill places all the power on the Minister and the Prime Minister. That Bill has to be withdrawn if we are to seriously talk about reforms and if we are to ensure Lesotho becomes the Lesotho we all want.”
Sejanamane’s major gripe with the Bill was the absence of consultation with the citizens on the kind of reforms they want.
“It violated the principle agreement by political parties who spelled out what should be done. The whole thing should start with an all stakeholders’ conference.”
Following years of political turbulence, Sejanamane believes Lesotho now desperately needs healing and reconciliation.
He says the SADC reforms must be able to produce such a “healing mechanism”.
Having seen how Lesotho’s politicians have over the years sought to capture key institutions such as the army to serve their own agendas, Sejanamane says it is critical that “we create institutions that are not subservient to the government”.
“You need a judiciary that is independent and not politicised, we need a Parliament that is independent of the executive to provide oversight. We need a public service that is not politicised. Following years of instability, directly linked to the army, it is no surprise that Sejanamane holds very strong views against the military, which he sees as the biggest instigator of the political crises in Lesotho.
“We must determine whether we need the military in the first place,” he says.
The first issue, he argues, is to interrogate “our threat perceptions lest you rear a monster that will devour you because it has nothing to do”.
Given Lesotho’s unique geographical position where it is entirely surrounded by South Africa, Sejanamane believes the only military threat can only come from Pretoria.
Can Lesotho withstand a military onslaught from its giant neighbor or we are better off re-directing resources to the police to deal with internal security challenges?
Sejanamane says he has not yet crafted a position on the continued need for an army for Lesotho.
He however says if the general consensus is that we still need an army “then we have to reform it to ensure it becomes professional and completely accountable to civilians”.
Sejanamane also believes the appointments within the LDF should “not be done by a single person”.
“There must be a process. We can’t have a single person appointing army bosses without any process. That is a disaster.”
Sejanamane says the key to stability for Lesotho is to ensure that “the military is not personalised”.
“Senior appointments within the army should not be based on political party affiliation but the best interests of Lesotho.”
Critics say while Lesotho got its independence from the British in 1966, it has nothing to show for it.
The country has remained largely under-developed with poverty, joblessness and hunger being the order of the day.
A quarter of Lesotho’s 1.8 million people still require food handouts from international donors or else they starve.
Critics argue the country has remained in a rut over the last 50 years despite being independent.
Sejanamane says we are reaping the whirlwind after spending all those years “fighting each other”.
“If we had not focused on fighting each other we could have made real progress. All the other countries in southern Africa have now bypassed us,” he says.
As a direct result of the infighting the political leadership which is charged with pushing for our development have tended to shift “resources on feeding the military to retain power”.
Sejanamane also blames Lesotho’s civil service structure where we have Principal Secretaries who are political appointees and are not professionals in their own right.
When the government falls, we replace the Principal Secretaries, losing critical institutional memory, he says.
“We have created these problems ourselves,” he says.
He says over the years, those in government have sought to block rivals across party lines from participating in the development of their country and we have paid heavily for practicing the politics of exclusion.
The result, he argues, is that talented Basotho have been squeezed out of key national developmental projects.
“You don’t run a government by excluding your enemies,” he says.
“The politics of exclusion has been devastating and that’s what has brought us where we are.”
Sejanamane admits his generation has let the young ones down.
Tragically, he says he does not believe “that some of us have learnt where we went wrong” and would likely repeat the same mistakes.
Lesotho’s opposition parties have been at the forefront in pushing for an amnesty for soldiers who were arrested last year for allegedly perpetrating gross human rights violations. They argue an amnesty will foster national reconciliation and social cohesion for Basotho.
Sejanamane says that is nonsense.
He says such a blanket amnesty would likely promote impunity and trigger a fresh cycle of violence and instability.
“An amnesty will promote a sense of impunity and breed revenge,” he says.
He believes all those who have been charged for various crimes must face the full wrath of the law for their sins.
“They have to pay for their crimes. We must not look at the interests of the perpetrators while ignoring the victims.”
Sejanamane is surprisingly gracious in assessing former premier Pakalitha Mosisili’s 17-year rule in Lesotho.
He says Mosisili “tried his best” under the circumstances “although he was still within the framework of exclusion”.
Sejanamane speaks glowingly of Mosisili’s major initiatives to roll back poverty and fight for social justice.
Mosisili’s pro-poor policies such as Old Age Pensions and Free Primary School Education made him the darling of the masses.
“It was not a disastrous era,” he says. “But from 2015 he destroyed his legacy and was an unmitigated disaster.”
Sejanamane believes “everything positive (Mosisili) might have done was wiped off by the 2015 fiasco that he got himself into”.
Sejanamane says Mosisili lost control of the army.
“He surrendered to the military. He was no longer in control,” he says. He cites the June 2015 killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao by the army and the murder of civilians by rogue elements within the LDF as some of the actions that show Mosisili was no longer in charge.
Sejanamane says there is a deep sense of disillusionment with the state of democracy on the African continent at present with the major gains recorded in the early 1990s having been systematically reversed. “There are very few positives I can point at,” he says. “The situation is quite depressing, apart from Botswana. Virtually all of West Africa is problematic, southern Africa and East Africa are also in a mess,” he says.
He lashed out at Africa’s strongmen for overturning the two-term presidential limits that became the in-thing in the 1990s.
“The optimism we had in the early 1990s has been rolled back.”
As an educationist, Sejanamane is critical of what he calls the “massification” of education in Lesotho.
He argues that when the government adopted the free primary education model, it failed to put in place adequate infrastructure to deal with the rising numbers of students who would enroll in high schools and tertiary institutions.
“Free primary education was seen as an end in itself and the attrition rate was horrendous,” he says.
“You bring in these masses where there is no infrastructural investment. When the kids get to university you are then expected to teach crowds without the necessary infrastructure,” he says.
The sad result is that there is no individual attention and there is no investment in technology and you have a demoralised workforce “who are not keen to do things they are supposed to do”. The “massification” of education has affected the quality of education at the university, he argues.
While other countries such as Rwanda are pushing technology in education, Lesotho is still stuck in “promoting a system that promotes rote learning”.
“That is not going to help us in any way.” Professor Sejanamane was born in December 1951 at Malibamatso Ha Theko in Leribe.
Although he had initially enrolled at the then University of Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho to study law, he later fell in love with politics and majored in Law and Political Science. He later enrolled for a Masters in International Relations at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in 1975.
He got his PhD from Dalahousie University in Canada in 1987. His area of study was Lesotho’s security policy.
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.
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.
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.
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