MASERU – FROM litigation to meetings with council officials and MPs, the stink refuses to go for residents of Ha-Tšosane. Thousands of people who are living in the area have for years paid the price of haphazard planning of human settlements by the Maseru City Council. A dumpsite that has become a health hazard showcases the troubles of the residents.
Residents’ representatives have for the past decade been to the Ministry of Local Government, the Maseru City Council (MCC) and the parliamentary Public Accounts
Committee (PAC) seeking intervention without success. Last year they took the MCC to court. The case is yet to be heard.
The residents approached the court after the MCC threatened them with eviction, claiming that they built their houses around the dumpsite without the municipality’s authorisation.
Residents at Ha-Tšosane say instead of moving them, the council should close the “filthy landfill”.
Some have been angered by comments made by the council spokesperson, ’Makatleho Mosala, who previously told thepost that the residents were illegal occupants who should be removed without compensation.
The infamous dumpsite is very close to residential houses and poses a health risk.
“The houses were built after the city made that area a dumpsite,” Mosala said. “That dumpsite existed a very long time ago. Actually that was a quarry pit and then later was turned into a dumpsite,” she said. “Even if you go there you will find that some of the houses are still new and others are just very close to it.”
Mosala had said “most of those people, some of them were not given the green light by the Maseru City Council to build in that area because there was already a dumpsite there. Those illegal site occupants will be removed without any compensation.”
She said the council had already told the residents to leave, although negotiations are still ongoing.
But the residents are having none of it. Together with their chief, they have dared the council to execute its threat and “see what happens”.
Chief Michael Ramosalla told thepost this week that he was shocked to learn that some of the residents will be removed from the village. He claimed that people settled in the area long before the council established the dumpsite.
He said the quarry referred to by Mosala was first situated about five kilometres from the current location and this was before Maseru’s population boomed.
“There were already people living here. So it’s obvious that the quarry came to the people, people didn’t go to the quarry. The quarry came to the village,” fumed Chief Ramosalla.
He said the villagers were told that it was a temporary arrangement when the quarry was turned into a dumpsite. The dumpsite was established in 1983, decades after people began settling there, he said.
“This village has always existed,” Chief Ramosalla said.
Many residents said they will resist any attempts to evict them. Some attribute the problem to failure by authorities to plan the town.
In an effort to resolve the planning mess, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is now offering a new course in the faculty of Geography and Environmental Sciences called Legal Aspects of Planning.
The course, introduced by former MCC Town Clerk, Advocate ’Mantai Seeko, aims to equip students with the main principles of planning.
“When you come to Lesotho, it is almost as if there are no planners,” Advocate Seeko said.
She was speaking at an indaba on urban planning held by the Lesotho Town and Regional Planning Institute (LTRPI) in Maseru last week.
“The majority of the planning that takes place in the country is done by the Maseru City Council. Unfortunately, there are planners practising this profession who have not obtained the correct educational qualifications,” she said, adding that “it is important to professionalise this institute so that it can be the voice to tell the MCC and other ministries that they are not qualified planners”.
Lesotho is faced with a major land-use crisis due to lack of plan-led developments, in particular towns and urban areas.
The town is characterised by informal developments, with many people living in unplanned and informal settlements.
Planning is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design of land at different spatial scale, city scale down to districts and neighbourhoods with focus on where development should occur and where it should not.
Many participants at the planning indaba last week said the planning law in Lesotho has become useless and this is evidenced by the rapid growth of informal settlements on agricultural land as well as traffic congestion at major intersections in the capital city
“Planning is not recognised both legally in terms of legislation and as a profession,” one participant said.
Some voiced their desire and willingness to professionalise planning and help raise the standard of planning practice in Lesotho.
“Professionalising planning would be a positive step forward and aid in Lesotho’s proper spatial development and all matters of the built environment,” Teboho Lebusa, president of the Lesotho Town and Regional Planning Institute, said.
The institute is aiming to push for the reform of the planning law in Lesotho, particularly the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) of 1980.
The envisioned reform would include making it mandatory for all practising planners to be legally registered with the institute so that only qualified and competent professionals practice town planning.
“We can agree that indeed the current state of affairs, evidenced by the crippled, haphazard and chaotic nature in the development and use of land in our country leaves much to be desired,” Lebusa said.
The institute aspires to ensure efficient and productive use of land in Lesotho, and to grow and professionalise the institute as a leading entity in matters of planning in the country.
It plans to do so by establishing and maintaining fruitful relationships with all stakeholders in planning issues, including government agencies, parastatals, NGOs, individuals and other professional organisations both domestically and internationally.
Last year, then Trade Minister Dr Thabiso Molapo, talked about the Lesotho Urban Agenda which he said aims to elevate the standing of urbanisation within the Lesotho
Strategic Development Plan and foster a sustainable and competitive urban development system that will contribute to Lesotho’s economic, social and environmentally sustainable development.
Dr Molapo was presenting the Lesotho’s urban agenda at the 18th Private Consultative Meeting between stakeholders. Dr Molapo said the 21st century will be the century of cities, saying by 2050, at least 70 percent of the world population will live in cities even though Lesotho will not meet that rate.
Dr Resetselemang Leduka, a renowned National University of Lesotho (NUL) academic who wrote several papers on urbanisation issues, observed shocking factors on why Lesotho towns are not properly planned.
In a paper titled Land Governance in Lesotho, published in 2019, Leduka and other researchers noted that despite the Land Act of 2010 and the institutional framework of land administration that it created, “the governance and management of land remains chaotic at best ‘’.
They found that numerous agencies and government ministries and departments in one way or the other are claiming some stake in land matters.
The 2000 Land Policy Review Commission noted that the management of land was the responsibility of no less than nine different government agencies, each making decisions independently.
The agencies were the Land Use Planning, which was, until recently, located in the Ministry of Agriculture, the Directorate of Lands, Surveys and Physical Planning (the lands and surveys part of the former LSPP that now partially constitutes the Land Administration Authority (LAA).
Other agencies were the Deeds Registry, which was moved from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights), the Ministries of Public Works and Transport, Trade and
Industry, Natural Resources, Tourism, Sports and Culture, Environment, Gender and Youth Affairs, Education and Finance, Maseru Municipal Council (MMC) and the Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation.
The Ministry of Local Government also routinely acts alone outside of the LAA and local authorities, and urban and community councils, as well as customary chiefs, according to government findings in 2015.
At the helm of land governance in Lesotho is the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship, which is responsible for policy formulation and coordination of all other institutions involved in land governance.
Land agencies that fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Local Government are the Department of Lands Survey and Physical Planning – the Physical Planning section of this department is responsible for urban land use planning and control in Planning Areas.
The Land Use Planning section is responsible for coordinating planning in rural (community) council areas.
The Land Administration Authority (LAA) is a parastatal land agency that is responsible for national cadastre, mapping, land administration, and the registration of land titles and deeds.
The Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation (LHLDC), a parastatal agency, is mandated with undertaking land development (site-and services) and housing for all income groups, either for sale or rental and to assist the private sector entities to develop land and housing.
There are also Principal Chiefs who are customary authorities whose main mandate in land matters is to control and issue grazing permits for mountain rangelands in accordance with the Animal Husbandry Act 1969 (Act No. 22 of 1969).
Mountain rangelands do not fall under the jurisdiction of any local government structures.
Local councils are mandated with undertaking physical and land use planning and site allocation functions in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
Municipal and urban councils are responsible for physical planning, site allocation, and control of building permits.
The Dr Leduka-led study found that real estate companies do not have specialised legislative provisions, although they are serving high income populations in gated estates with high tech security installations and for the middle income with basic sub-divisions and surveyed plots.
The study also found that field owners and customary chiefs are “an extra-legal activity and takes over the legal responsibility of municipal/urban councils”.
It was also observed in the Trade Ministry’s 2015 report that “land-related management is uncoordinated, siloed and the site of struggle among government agencies”.
“At national level, for instance, control of land use/physical planning is entangled in struggles between agencies in the Ministry of Local Government and Land
Administration Authority,” noted the Leduka-led research.
“At local levels, similar struggles exist between local councils and customary chiefs,” stated the research paper.
The Town and Country Planning Act of 1980 is the principal legislation that regulates land use planning in urban areas.
It gives the planning authority the legal mandate to prepare development plans for areas that are designated as planning areas and establishes a Town and Country
Planning Board for the purpose of examining development plans and making recommendations to the Local Government Minister for approval.
The Act says a development plan should indicate “…the manner in which it is proposed that the area in question shall be used and developed, and the stages by which the development shall be carried out”.
In terms of the law, the development plan becomes a legally binding document to which all land development within the planning area must conform.
The Leduka-led study found that development plans did not comply fully with the requirements of the legal framework.
For example, the study found, none of the plans had undergone the 5-yearly review process that is prescribed by the law.
With the probable exception of the Maseru Development Plan, none of the plans went through the formal legal approval process in accordance with the law, according to the study.
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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