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The battle for Iveco

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MASERU – POWER struggles in the judiciary could have contributed to the collapse of the Traffic Mobile Court.
So bitter were the divisions that the magistrates’ court launched the mobile court, nicknamed Iveco, without Acting Chief Justice Maseforo Mahase’s approval.

The magistrates’ court allegedly ignored Justice Mahase’s order to stop the mobile court until they have practice rules regulating its operations.
In fact, Justice Mahase was never briefed when the vehicle was sourced and she appears to have washed her hands off the mobile court.

The magistrates’ court also plodded ahead despite her reservations.
The government last week abruptly shut down the court after taxi operators embarked on a strike.
The government said it wants to hear why the taxi operators were so vehemently opposed to the court.

Several government ministers were locked in marathon meetings with taxi operators’ associations.
thepost can however reveal that the mobile court has been the subject of turf wars within the judiciary.
There is also a tiff between the judiciary and the executive over how the court should operate.

The struggles within the judiciary appeared to have started a few weeks before the court was launched.
Justice Mahase did not attend the handover of the vehicle to the judiciary which happened together with the court’s launch.
Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai, the High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar, was also conspicuously absent at the launch despite being the judiciary’s chief accounting officer.

Justice Mahase initially agreed to attend the ceremony but pulled out at the last minute when she was told it would also include the launch of the mobile court.
The invitation had come from Advocate ‘Matankiso Nthunya, the Chief Magistrate for the Central Region, who appears to have been the brains behind the project.

Advocate Nthunya requested the vehicle through the Road Safety Association, a group including law enforcement agents, government departments and the magistrates’ court.
At the ceremony the Minister of Finance was supposed to hand over the vehicle to the Minister of Transport who would in turn give it to the Minister of Justice.

The Minister of Justice would pass it on to Justice Mahase as the head of the judiciary.
The launch of the court was supposed to be a joint effort of the judiciary and the executive.
A few days before the ceremony Justice Mahase, through Advocate Sekoai, suggested that the launch be postponed until there was clarity on how the court would operate.

Chief Magistrate Nthunya and some government officials however insisted on going ahead because it was too late to postpone.
The ceremony proceeded as planned without Justice Mahase and Advocate Sekoai.

And a few days later the mobile court was on the road prosecuting drivers who bristled at being ordered to pay spot fines.
Delivering the judgements were magistrates whose courts are under the management of both Justice Mahase and Advocate Sekoai.
It wasn’t long before there was public outrage, with taxi operators leading the fight against the court they saw as an existential threat to their businesses.

Some taxi operators asked Advocate Sekoai if the High Court approved the court.
Others threatened to sue the High Court for allegedly unleashing an illegal court on the roads. On July 20 Justice Mahase met the three chief magistrates and Advocate Sekoai to discuss the court’s operations and the public’s complaints.

Manyathela Kolobe (Chief Magistrate South) and Makampong Mokhoro (Chief Magistrate North) accompanied Chief Magistrate Nthunya to the meeting.
What exactly happened in that meeting is a matter of dispute among some of the participants.

Advocate Sekoai says Justice Mahase told the magistrates that “the court was a noble initiative but she wanted clarity on its operations”.
“She wanted to know what was going on and under what law the court was operating,” Advocate Sekoai says.
“She also asked about the court’s jurisdiction and who had commissioned it.”

She says the Acting Chief Justice ordered the magistrates to draft some practice rules for the court while she sought the Attorney General’s legal opinion.
“The agreement was that the court would stop operating until those legal issues were clarified. This was based on the understanding that while the courts are there to deliver justice, they must also follow the law,” Sekoai says.

“The main issue was that this was now a roving court in which issues of jurisdiction arise.”
“We had to clarify how summons are issued if someone disputes the charges. Who issues the summons and how,” she says.
She adds that the magistrates agreed to come up with the rules and report back to Justice Mahase.

The mobile court however did not stop and the magistrates never submitted the practice rules as ordered. Instead the mobile court started operating nationally, netting hundreds of drivers and collecting tens of thousands in fines.
But Chief Magistrate Nthunya says this is not how she recalls the discussion in the meeting.

She says she told Justice Mahase that she approved the mobile court and it was operating under the rules of the Magistrates’ Courts.
“I said it’s operating under the rules of the subordinate courts and therefore did not need any practice rules,” Chief Magistrate Nthunya.
She says the only query during the meeting was whether a junior magistrate can be assigned to the mobile court when it moves to different districts.

“This was a reasonable query because first class magistrates are confined to their jurisdictions and cannot be moving around with the mobile court,” she says, adding that this was “sorted out by assigning magistrates from the area where the mobile court would be operating”.
Chief Magistrate Nthunya says she doesn’t understand the uproar over the mobile court because “it’s not something new”.

“In the Road Safety operations during holidays we always had this kind of mobile court. The only difference is that we were holding the court in a gazebo and now we are using a vehicle. Nothing has changed apart from that the court is not in a vehicle.”
She says on Monday this week she was called to a meeting with some Cabinet ministers to explain the court’s operations.

“I explained that there was nothing controversial about the court. I also explained its motive and benefits to the courts.”
Chief Magistrate Nthunya says she believes that the “so-called dispute over the court is manufactured and a result of what I suspect to be personality issues”.

Manyathela Kolobe, Chief Magistrate South, says after the meeting the magistrates discussed the Acting Chief Justice’s instructions but “we decided the Mobile Traffic Court did not need any new rules”.
Chief Magistrate Kolobe says they never went back to the acting chief justice after the meeting.
He says his only reservation about the court was that court clerks were issuing fines on receipts belonging to another entity.

“I am not convinced it is correct for a court clerk to issue a receipt with the Road Fund’s details. Ideally, court officials issue receipts from the court not any other organisation,” he said.
“But I must say that was not a major issue that could make me hostile to the mobile court. In any case, the money still goes to the Road Fund which is the rightful recipient.”

‘Makampong Mokhoro, Chief Magistrate North, says in principle she was not opposed to the mobile court which wanted it to operate within the confines of the law.
“I just wanted it to operate like a typical court. As far as I am concerned it didn’t look like a typical court,” Chief Magistrate Mokhoro says.
“If it is a court then it should have the police, magistrate and magistrate from a district in which it is stationed at that time. The jurisdiction issues have to be clear”.

She said her other concern was that the mobile court did not seem to be independent because it appeared to be under the direct control of the Road Fund.
“That did not seem right to me because magistrates are supposed to be independent. If the vehicle belongs to the judiciary then it is the judiciary that should control it.”

“My other concern was that they should consolidate all the laws so that people are clear about which sections they are alleged to have violated and the fines. That doesn’t seem to be there at the moment.”
She added: “If this is a court then it should operate like one. I don’t think we need new rules but just that it should adhere to those that govern other courts”.

Advocate Sekoai however insists that the acting chief justice had nothing to do with the mobile court.
“She had nothing to do with it from the start. She was not informed about its operations. The point is that it was not our court,” she says.
“It’s embarrassing to tell people that you don’t know about something that is within your authority but that is precisely what happened. We knew nothing about the mobile court.”

“There were no rules for that court. The acting chief justice ordered that there be rules but that doesn’t appear to have happened. She didn’t approve that court. The vehicle was not handed to us”.

Chief Magistrate Nthunya says the mobile court belonged to the Magistrates’ Court right from the start.
“I am actually disappointed that the court has been suspended,” she says.

Staff Reporter

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors

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MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue

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LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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