Connect with us


Taxi owners block Maseru border



’Makhotso Rakotsoane

MASERU – ANGRY Basotho taxi operators blockaded the Maseru Bridge border gate for six hours to protest the beating up a driver and passengers by South African taxi operators.
The taxi operators parked their taxis on the bridge thus blocking the road from 10am to 4pm so that vehicles from Lesotho and those from South Africa could not cross the river.
But what triggered the protest appeared to have been the decision by the South African police to impound a Lesotho taxi and their failure to prevent crime after Ladybrand taxi operators assaulted a Mosotho taxi driver and some passengers.

“It is infuriating that these South African police officers at the Maseru border gate just watched when our driver and passengers were being beaten up by those hooligans across the river,” Makama Monese, the spokesman for the Maseru Region Taxi Operators (MRTO), said.

“The duty of police worldwide is to prevent crime and when it has been committed their duty is to investigate it so that the perpetrators can be prosecuted in the courts of law.”
“We cannot tolerate the behaviour of the South African police and some of the drivers and taxi operators across this river,” Monese said.  When thepost arrived at the border gate several taxis were dropping off passengers on the bridge because there was no way to pass.

The MRTO’s complaint was that the South African police, instead of protecting them so that they could cross without any threat from owners of Ladybrand taxis, blocked the road saying they did not have a right to ferry passengers to South Africa. Monese said the South African police did this despite that all taxis and buses from Lesotho had forms designed and prepared by the South African government that allowed them to take passengers from Lesotho to any destination in South Africa.

He also complained bitterly that last year the two governments met in Matatiele, which borders Qacha’s Nek, where they agreed that taxis from both countries could take passengers to any point across the border. “We don’t understand why the police in that country insist that we are holding documents that are not allowed in their country but the very same documents were designed and prepared by their government,” Monese said.

He said on Sunday they successfully carried passengers to South Africa without any hindrance but to their shock on Monday morning they were prevented from entering South Africa with passengers. “Some of our taxis were seized by the police but now only one of them remains with the police,” he said.

“We have hope that we will pass this because SADC has expressly told Lesotho and South Africa that if they could not provide security for passengers and drivers they will do it themselves,” he said. Monese said South Africa is violating the SADC Protocol on free movement of people and goods between member states. “They are violating the SADC Protocol,” he said. “SADC will solve this problem.”

Another MRTO top official, Lebohang Moea, said it was sad that they were losing business just because one country did not want to observe law.
“The SADC Protocol is binding on all member states,” he said.
The Ministry of Transport Principal Secretary, Majakathata Thakhisi Mokoena, said “what the South African authorities are doing against us is outrageous”.

“I don’t understand them. I don’t know what they want,” Thakhisi Mokoena said.
“The law is clear on this and our agreements are binding on both parties,” he said.
Thakhisi Mokoena said the government was planning to seek redress from the courts in South Africa to release the impounded Lesotho taxi “against the law”.
The taxi operators only removed their vehicles after Thakhisi Mokoena spoke to Free State province top officials at the border gate.

This is not the first time that Basotho taxi operators have resorted to blocking the border gate after their South African counterparts beat and smashed their taxis. During Easter Monday in 2015, at least two Basotho-owned taxis were damaged when Free State taxi operators went on the rampage stoning vehicles.

Free State taxi operators strongly objected to Lesotho taxis ferrying passengers to South Africa instead of offloading them at the border where they could be picked to various destinations in South Africa. This happened barely five days after the then Transport Minister Tšoeu Mokeretla promised to deal with the cross-border taxi violence.

This is the fifth incident in which Lesotho’s taxis have been damaged and in all incidents nobody has been arrested or charged with malicious damage to property.
In two of the incidents two Basotho passengers were injured.

In 2013, taxi men from South Africa burnt two taxis from Lesotho and injured passengers at the Maseru border gate and at Fourisburg in 2012. In all the violent incidents both the Lesotho and South African governments did not seem prepared to tackle the problem while the Free State provincial government turned a blind eye to the problem.

South Africans argue that the SADC protocol that allows free movement of people and goods between member countries is unfair to them because “all countries that surround South Africa are given an opportunity to take passengers to anywhere in the country despite that South Africa itself has taxis to do the job”. They say Lesotho taxis should drop the passengers at the border and South African taxis will take them from there to their different destinations.

In 2014 Lesotho taxis were pelted with stones and passengers injured in Fourisburg, a South African town bordering Lesotho’s Butha-Buthe. In September 2013 taxi men from Lesotho blocked the border gate, saying they were trying to force South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and the then Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to solve their problems but in vain.

Both motorists and pedestrians were unable to cross to either country during the blockages.
Heavily armed police from both countries had to patrol the border to prevent the repeat of earlier incidents in which passengers were injured and taxis damaged when taxi men pelted them with stones.

It has been four years since transport ministers from both countries met to discuss the issue.
The then Lesotho’s Transport Minister, Lebesa Maloi, said negotiations between delegations from the governments of the two countries failed after taxi operators from Free State stormed out of the meeting complaining that their provincial department was not represented.

“We were startled when they stormed out of the meeting,” Maloi said, then.
Lesotho had invited South Africa’s national transport department from the capital, Pretoria.
The erstwhile chairman for RSA-Lesotho Cross-Border Route Corridor Committee, Molapo Mokoena, a South African citizen whose taxis also ferry passengers between Lesotho and South Africa, accused the Free State government of undermining the SACU and SADC protocols on free movement of peoples and goods. He said South African taxi operators, especially those in Ladybrand “always give us problems when we pass here”.

The Free State government took sides with South African taxi operators and revoked the SADC Protocol saying it was not binding on them.
Mokoena’s committee sued in the Free State High Court and obtained an order declaring “the decision made by or on behalf of the MEC for Police, Roads and Transport…unlawful, invalid and of no force and effect.”

The order also interdicted “the members of the Free State Traffic Officials from unlawfully preventing Taxi Operators or Drivers who holds (sic) a valid Cross Border Corridor [Permit] from crossing the border between RSA and Lesotho”.
The case was before Justice C Van Zyl on October 4, 2013.

Preventing Basotho from ferrying passengers to South Africa is in defiance of the court order.
Immediately after the transport ministers’ meeting of the two countries, Maloi issued a warning that Lesotho taxi operators should not ferry passengers to South Africa “because, as you see, it is still dangerous”. “Please exercise patience until this problem has been solved,” Maloi pleaded with them. The solution to the problem has not come even 44 months later.

Continue Reading


MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

Continue Reading


Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading


Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading