Connect with us


The battle for Mahobong



MASERU – SOME 120km north-east of Maseru lies Mahobong, a rural constituency in which villagers still scrounge for a living through subsistence farming.
Apart from a few “development” projects, there appears to be nothing much to write home about Mahobong.
A state-of-the-art tarred road that snakes down from Hlotse town, about 18km away, appears to be the only sign of modernity.
For some villagers, the horse remains the only trusted means of transport to take them deeper into the mountainous valleys.
Most villagers here still eke a living from tilling the soil.

Some have no access to electricity or clean water.
Promises by politicians that they would provide clean water and electricity have remained unfulfilled for decades.
The result, for most people, has been utter disillusionment with Lesotho’s politics.

It was this constituency that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane “invaded” last weekend in an attempt to sell his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.
Thabane had to do so as Mahobong has remained fiercely loyal to Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party for the past two decades.
It was not a surprise that even as the ABC swept all constituencies in Leribe district in the last elections, the people of Mahobong remained a “stubborn lot” by voting for Thabane’s nemesis – Metsing.

Metsing crushed the ABC’s Fonane Sello to win the seat despite that Thabane had campaigned heavily against Metsing in the run-up to the election.
Metsing won 4 663 votes against Sello’s 3 354.
This is an “anomaly” that Thabane is now trying to fix, by selling his vision to the people of Mahobong in a rehearsal for the next elections in 2022.

Metsing has been an absent MP for Mahobong for the past year after he fled Lesotho into exile in South Africa claiming his life was in danger.
But thanks to SADC mediation, Metsing could finally return home on Sunday after the regional bloc guaranteed his personal safety.
There could be several reasons why Mahobong has been fiercely loyal to Metsing.

For a start, Metsing hails from the constituency and is therefore seen as a “son of the soil”.
The government’s social programmes, such as old age pensions and free primary school education, were introduced when his LCD was in power in the late 1990s until 2012 when the party split.
It is those programmes that made Metsing and his party the “darling of the masses” in rural constituencies.

Although the LCD is now a shadow of its former self after it lost power, there is still some residual thinking among villagers that it was the party that did so much for marginalised Basotho.
That perhaps explains why Metsing, in spite of the relentless propaganda against him, retains a significant electoral base within Mahobong.
And it would appear Thabane is alive to this residual support that Metsing still commands in his home constituency.

It was precisely for these reasons that the premier took the battle to Metsing’s constituency last weekend.
Thabane’s message was simple, yet persuasive – it is time to dump the LCD and Metsing and the government will in return provide key social services to the people of Mahobong.
It was a charming message that found lots of takers within Mahobong.

Thabane made it clear that he was not happy that his ABC lost to Metsing in last year’s elections.
“I am not happy with that and to you all Mahobong residents, make sure that this constituency is taken by the ABC next time,” Thabane said.
Thabane told the party faithful that he wants to fulfill his electoral pledge to start paying old age pensions when they reach 65. Currently the pension is only eligible to those over 70 years.
“I am working hard to fulfill the promises I made to Basotho,” he said. “I never promise Basotho development projects and then fail to deliver.”

Thabane said Leribe district needs water, electricity and roads. This was a message that was clearly couched for the people of Mahobong.
“I will work hard to bring change in service delivery because that is exactly what Basotho deserve, I will also make sure that jobs are created,” he added.
The unemployment rate in Lesotho currently stands at around 45 percent, according to government statistics.

Thabane was swept into power on the back of promises that he would provide jobs to thousands of unemployed graduates, a feat that is proving difficult in 15 months he has been in power.
Thabane promised to create 3 000 jobs at the new Ha-Belo textile factories in Butha-Buthe.
“After the full construction is done 14 500 Basotho will get jobs,” he said.

He also pledged to improve the health delivery services in Hlotse saying “Motebang Hospital will be the second referral hospital soon” after Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital in Maseru.
Thabane said the government will soon begin work on the 16km Mapholaneng to Polihali road next month.
He ordered the Minister of Water, Samonyane Ntsekele and Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro to work hand-in-hand to solve the water crisis in Leribe district.

Thabane also threatened to unleash the army and police to patrol Lesotho’s borders with South Africa to stop stock theft.
It was a message that was met with raucous ululations from some women at the rally.

Nthole Seema, a resident of Mahobong, said he was quite pleased with the government because it is keeping its electoral promises.
“By addressing the issue of elderly people’s pensions, it is clear that the government is trying to fulfil its promises,” Seema said.
Seema also said he is just a few years away from the age of 65 and is looking forward to receiving a government pension.
“Most people of my age are unemployed therefore the age reduction will help us a lot,” he said.

He said the Prime Minister had also delivered on a key promise to some villages in Mahobong by connecting houses to the national electricity grid.
“We are still expecting other developments like water and roads in some villages but we are satisfied so far,” he said.
Seema said his only concern was what appeared to be the marginalisation of ABC youths when it comes to jobs.
“We are not happy because it is only the Alliance of Democrats youths who are getting jobs,” Seema said.

He said while the ABC was working together with other political parties in the coalition “that does not mean they should be put first, we should be equal”.
Seema admitted that de-campaigning Metsing was a big challenge “because he comes from this constituency”.
“We are trying everything in our power to win the constituency. Had they not collaborated with the DC (Democratic Congress), Mahobong would have been won by the ABC,” he said.
’Masontaha Kao, another resident, bemoaned the constituency’s poor state but said she was comforted by Thabane’s promises.

Kao also said it was gratifying that electricity is now being installed in Ha-Seetsa, one of the villages in Mahobong.
“The only thing left now is roads and water,” Kao said.
She said “the issue of old age pensions is very important to us because there are no jobs”.

She also said they travel long distances to get drinking water because there are a few taps in the constituency.
“We have always voted like other citizens.”
It’s time that we too are noticed, she said.

Agriculture Minister, ABC’s Mahala Molapo, from the neighbouring Thaba-Phatšoa constituency, said he was not happy with the pace of change in the whole of Leribe district.

“We have to join hands together as Leribe MPs to solve the challenges facing our district because we are aware that our government inherited low funds from the past government,” he said.
Molapo also said Leribe is the breadbasket of Lesotho and more should be done to boost agriculture in the district.

Nkheli Liphoto

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading