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The brutal life on the streets



MASERU – Young, desperate and sometimes mean, boys and girls as young as 10 join adults to roam the streets of Maseru’s central business district.
For them, this is home. To survive, they beg for food or offer to carry groceries for shoppers in exchange for “a little change”. Some can be seen scrounging dumpsites and foraging dustbins in search of other people’s leftovers and filth.

Wearing tattered, dirty clothes, they lean against walls basking in the sun to beat the biting cold.
At night they sleep behind the plastic-made shelters which are used by the street vendors.
It is a wretched life. But without any tangible help coming their way, many are beginning to accept it as their fate.

“I have been living here since 2006,” Relebohile Mohloki, 26, told thepost this week. “It has been ages. I have seen many people come to this place with promises but they have not assisted us. Some even took photos of us,” said Mohloki, declaring that he is the oldest street kid in the area. “They all found me here,” he said, pointing to younger street kids nearby.

Many people, keen to shop or go about their business in “peace” find them a nuisance, unaware of the scars carried by these children. Mohloki said he did not choose to be a street kid. “My father was abusive and my mother could not protect me because she was always sick,” he said.

“One day I told myself ‘enough is enough’ and I decided to leave for good,” he said. His mother was not around when he left, he said. “It is rough on the streets,” said Mohloki, adding that he does odd jobs carrying goods for people to survive. Next to him were cigarette stumps and empty containers of drugs which they rely on to forget their misery.

“What I need now is a job so that I can earn a proper living and leave the streets. I can even become a small-time businessman, I used to sell ice guavas before I became a street kid,” he said. Another who hopes to get “a proper job” is 24 years old Thabo. He was left in the care of an uncle and aunt when his parents died when he was still young.

“They were rough on me,” he said. “I would go to bed without food for days.”
He said his aunt would hide the keys to the home to prevent him from accessing food.
“I realised that I he had no choice but to vacate my uncle’s home to stay on the streets,” he said, adding that he was desperate to start his own home.
“Look, I do not have any educational qualifications that can get me an office job. All I need is money to start my own business,” he said, although for now he has to deal with the harsh reality of life on the streets.

“Winter is drawing to an end now and we have been without blankets,” he lamented.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development, ’Mantšenki Mphalane, said one of the ministry’s responsibilities is to look after every child, including those who are vulnerable, irrespective of where they stay.
She said the ministry is aware of the plight of children and other people living on the streets. She said the ministry has been working hard to take them off the streets and reunite them with their families.
“This work is the most challenging,” she said.

Mphalane said socio-economic challenges forced these children to leave their homes to fend for themselves on the streets.
Mphalane said Gender Based Violence (GBV) has contributed significantly to the increase in people living on the streets. Orphans are at most risk, said Mphalane.
“We usually talk to these children to get reasons that pushed them to the streets,” said Mphalane.
To get them to open up, one needs to gain their trust, she said.
“They have a defence mechanism and they can at times lie. They can also become wild.”

She said the ministry is working closely with an Australian centre called, Sepheo (Purpose), based at Motimposo just on the outskirts of Maseru to lift the children “from this deplorable life”.
Sepheo, on its website, says approximately 60 percent of youths moved off the streets said they had been pushed from home by social factors such as no one at home paying attention to them or providing adequate care.
Sepheo says this is because either the caregiver is frequently not at home (working late or in a different district) or is present but not engaged in parenting the child.

The centre said poor relationships between children and their caregivers where there is no real attachment between the child and their caregiver are a major concern.
While this does happen with biological mothers and or fathers, the centre said poor relationships are most often found when a child is being cared for by extended families who already feel burdened by other responsibilities.
In instances where there is family chaos, Sepheo says the child’s home environment becomes unstable.

Some caregivers drink heavily, refusing to share food, constantly fight each other or speak abusively to and about the child.
Frequently a child’s biological parents are not together and the parent’s new partner does not want a child from a previous relationship, rejects the child, excludes the child from family activities or forces them to leave, according to Sepheo.

While cases do exist, only a small number of children went to the streets because they are expected to contribute financially to the family (10 percent) or because no family member took responsibility for them after the death of their parent(s) (15 percent).
Sepheo says 15 percent of children or youths went into the streets of their own volition without a compelling reason.
Children are not generally on the street because no family members exist.
Lesotho’s family or community structures are incredibly strong, and finding a child with no relatives willing to stay with them is extremely rare.

For nearly every child on the street, Sepheo has found at least one relative prepared to live with them.
Mphalane said these children are taken to the centre where they are introduced to schools.
Here, she said, the children who are still young are enrolled in classes.
“There are classrooms there and examinations are written,” Mphalane said.
She said those who are above 18 or above are introduced to vocational schools to equip them with life skills.

The centre also has sporting codes so that children feel at home and are saved from the harsh life on the streets.
However, jobs are proving difficult to come by for those who have passed through the centre.
Mphalane said the ministry is putting together a strategy to ensure that jobs are available for the youths.
Sepheo gets an annual government subsidy but its directors also raise funds from well-wishers.

The centre has social workers whose job is primarily to look after the children.
Mphalane pointed to some children, especially those whose homes are just closer to the city, who have returned to their homes as a sign of success.
“We cannot force them to go back to their homes because they can be wild,” she said.

She said there are more children on the streets during the day, a sign of progress in the ministry’s endeavour to remove vulnerable children from the streets.
She said her ministry plans to recruit two social workers to deal with issues related to street kids.
*Not his real name

Majara Molupe

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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

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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

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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

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