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The army’s comforter



MASERU – Captain Molefi Mosiuoa would not hesitate to shoot, and kill if necessary, to protect Lesotho’s sovereignty.
In carrying out his duties Mosiuoa sees no theological contradiction to his role as a “man of God” – a supposed man of peace – and his other role as a committed, disciplined soldier.

The two responsibilities are not mutually exclusive, he argues.
Captain Mosiuoa is the chaplain for the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
God has always fought wars and blessed wars for his people, Mosiuoa says.
“He is a God of war,” he says. “For the nation of Israel, God would always lead his nation into wars and they would come out victorious.”
David, a man whom God loved, was also a man of war, he says.
When the Jews returned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after the 70-year exile in Babylon, Captain Mosiuoa says they faced a hostile response from the nations nearby.

Nehemiah had to arm his people, with a sword on one hand, while the other arm did the building work, he says.
After citing story after story of the “Big Book”, Captain Mosiuoa thinks he is on extremely firm footing over his role as “a man of God” and “a man of war”.
He makes no apologies for playing this dual role.
“I see no contradiction with being a deeply religious man and being in the army; we invite God in everything that we do in the army. I have a role to protect the nation.”

But while Captain Mosiuoa is eager to fulfill his twin assignments, he remains fully cognisant that the “army is not a church”.
“You can rebuke them in the morning but in the afternoon they continue to do exactly the same thing you spoke about,” he says, bursting into laughter.
He says his task is not to “convert every soldier to the Lord” but to provide socio-psycho support to army personnel when they are going through personal crises.

“It is every preacher’s expectation to see everyone becoming a Christian but the difference is that when you are in the army, things will not always go your way,” he says. “The army is not a church. People will live their own lives.”

“As a chaplain I deal with a number of issues every day,” he says.
“Others come for counselling, they want me to help resolve their family problems. Others want me to deal with their work-related issues and I take them through the counselling process.”
This is not an easy task. At times he finds himself immersing himself in people’s problems and the emotional burden can be overwhelming.

“Sometimes I find myself trying to take people’s problems and try to sort them out. But I honestly enjoy the work. That is what I was trained to do.”
Captain Mosiuoa says the work can be deeply satisfying especially when people put into practice what he would have told them and they successfully resolve their marital issues.
When that happens, “you feel like a conqueror and that you have saved someone’s life”.

Apart from marital issues or work related issues, Captain Mosiuoa says he is sometimes called upon to officiate at funerals of army personnel.
Death by its very nature can be a deeply traumatic experience. He says they are trained to deal with bereavement so that he can provide the necessary support to bereaved families.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a new set of unique challenges to his job as a chaplain.
Funerals are big occasions for Basotho. We mourn our dead in special ways. A day before the burial, we collect the body from the morgue for a funeral wake at the home of the deceased.

It is often a big occasion for the clerics who normally deliver powerful eulogies in remembrance of the dead. The speeches from friends and family – which are often repetitive – can last from morning till late afternoon, with sorrowful church hymns often breaking the monotony.
All this was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

People were forced to “rush” through the funeral programmes. They were forced to pick up the body from the morgue the morning of the burial and sometimes take it straight to the cemetery.
There was no fanfare. No big gatherings. And no “after tears”, occasions where we would throw parties to “celebrate” the life of the deceased.
Captain Mosiuoa says the Covid-19 pandemic was highly disruptive on our culture and traditions as Basotho.

“Sometimes we feel that when we don’t do some of these cultural practices we would not have mourned our loved ones properly,” he says. “When we feel our loved ones were not sent away properly, we even believe they might not even rest well.”

“Our services became very short during the Covid pandemic,” he says. “We felt that we were just being rushed through.”
It is a for us to take the bodies from the morgue a day before burial and spend the whole night with the deceased; that celebration is like a farewell to us, he says.
“If such practices are not done, there are people who feel we did not pay enough homage to the deceased and as a result it might even take longer for such people to heal,” he says.
The new Covid-19 restrictions made me feel that there was not enough time for me to comfort the bereaved families, he says.

“Sometimes I was just asked to make a prayer, there was no devotion, and we would leave the place without providing the necessary dignity we needed to give to the deceased.”
He remembers with sadness the state of panic as Covid-19 swept across the country leaving death and grief in its wake.
At one time he had to bury at least six colleagues during one weekend.
“It was really bad,” he says.
But as a chaplain what message does he provide to grieving families?

“I assure them that the deceased has been taken to heaven since he was faithfully serving as a soldier and that he had made an oath to die for the nation. Everything has its own time, a time to be born and a time to die.”
“Nothing that we do would stop anyone’s time.”
Captain Mosiuoa’s message has huge doses of the doctrine of predestination – that God has already set in motion how each individual’s life will pan out.
So try as you might, you can never change the course God has set for you. Even the date and manner of how you are going to die has been set already by God.

It is a teaching that takes away the role of individual responsibility and the right to self-determination.
But Captain Mosiuoa says at the end of the funerals, he would have done his part to console the bereaved.
Yet even as he consoles others, he too remains a simple man of flesh with emotions.

“It’s not that we don’t feel pain. We do. But our training in the army conditions us to deal with grief.”
Captain Mosiuoa says while Lesotho claims to be a Christian country, the reality on the ground clearly shows that “we are not”.
“We need God’s intervention; if we can have a country that is led by God, we wouldn’t be having some of the things that we have in this country, like the spate of killings that we see here.”

He says Lesotho’s contingent that is currently in Mozambique will need a lot of support when they return home. War is always a traumatic experience and these soldiers who are away on SADC duty will need our support, he says.

“We are already prepared so that as soon as they come back home, they go through a counselling session. Their families will also need support.”
Captain Mosiuoa was born on July 3, 1980 to a father who was a migrant mine worker in South Africa and a mother who was a housewife.
His was not a life of penury when compared to the rest of the community in Mapoteng as his father provided for their material needs in every manner possible.

Where other rural families struggled materially, the Mosiuoas had the basics covered, thanks to their father.
Captain Mosiuoa remembers his father as a jolly, good fellow who was deeply in love with traditional Sesotho music, the mokorotlo music. Mokorotlo, from the word grumbling, is a Basotho war song or a prayer, sung interchangeably between sorrowful times and during moments of triumph.

While growing up the young Mosiuoa would often see members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) immaculately dressed in their uniform in his rural village of Mapoteng. For him, it was a true measure of a man’s masculinity to aspire to be a soldier.
“I always had the desire to be a soldier,” he says. “I played taekwondo and was one of the best players in Lesotho. I was quite young and fit and loved the army.”

So in 2002, Captain Mosiuoa joined the army and went through a gruelling nine-training programme. He later studied theology at the African Christian College in eSwatini in 2010. In 2015, he went to India for an officers’ training course. He was appointed Second Lieutenant in December 2016 and has been serving as chaplain since 2016.

Abel Chapatarongo

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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

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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

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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

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