MASERU – ONE had to cut short a flourishing media career. Another “deserted” her teacher training course. Both say when the calling to be a sangoma (a traditional healer) comes, one can only ignore it at their own peril. Everything stops, and attending rituals to be initiated as a sangoma takes sole priority.
For years Motheba Makara-Mpota sensed that her calling was to be a sangoma. She refused to heed the call and instead became a media practitioner. The consequences were dire and she was forced to follow the path she believes was channeled for her, she said.
“Nothing was going right,” she told thepost. “I became financially bankrupt. My life became a complete mess.”
The former media practitioner, who is also a National University of Lesotho (NUL) graduate, said amid the problems she was facing, “God and my ancestors told me through visions how I could overcome them.”
She said Deliwe Khambule, a former economic officer in the Ministry of Gender, spotted the calling in her years ago.
“But I did not heed it,” said Makara-Mpota.
Relaxed and immaculately dressed in a plain yellow dress at her LNFOD offices in Naleli Ha-Tšosane, Makara-Mpota said she experienced visions directing her to where she could get assistance.
So in August last year she started the process to become a sangoma and prophetess.
“It was a tough exercise that connected a person to God and the ancestors,” she said.
In that process, she said, a person is moulded into someone able to deal with patients and also how to pray.
Most importantly, she added, a person is taught about respect, humility and love.
Upon completion of the enduring exercise, one comes out as a completely new person, she said.
“I had to do as God and my ancestors wanted,” she said. “I am now healed.”
“After heeding the call, my life is moving in the right direction. There is progress in my life. That’s why I say I am healed,” said Makara-Mpota.
The mother of three said she is getting more respect from the people around her, including her schoolmates.
She says she attended the training with her uncle’s son.
“It did not come as a shock to my family because there have been sangomas before in the family,” said Makara-Mpota.
There have been sangomas among her in-laws too, said Makara-Mpota, who is now more commonly referred to as Nkhono ’Mamabaso (The Grandmother who makes fire), which she said is her calling name.
With her head wrapped in a yellow head-scarf and beads around her waist, Makara-Mpota said people are flooding her home in Tšenola seeking help.
“People are coming to my home to get healed,” said Makara-Mpota, adding that she uses the Bible, water and candles to treat her patients.
She said she prays together with her patients “so that God and the ancestors will show the way on how to assist those people.”
Makara-Mpota said she now has little time for other activities that she views as “less important”.
“I am concentrating on serious issues, saving lives of people. It is time for sacrifice for me. I used to socialise a lot, going for parties and other entertainment events but I am a new person now.”
She said the calling has manifested itself “in many ways”.
She says she used to sing hymns at the top of her voice while the drum turned up the emotions.
She described these as the symbols that signified her calling years ago.
Makara-Mpota cites her current job as a community facilitator at LNFOD, a position she got after “graduation” as a sangoma, as an example of how answering to the call has changed her life.
“This is just a sign that my life has changed. The future is now bright as long as I follow the guidelines. One of the important guidelines is that I should not misuse the herbs. I should use my talent to save and not destroy the lives of people.”
After obtaining Bachelor of Arts (BA) Humanities in English Language and Literature from NUL in 1999, Makara-Mpota joined PC FM radio station as one of the station’s founding staff members.
From there, she went to teach at St Rodrigues High School on the outskirts of Maseru district.
In 2000, she joined the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology as a journalist for the government-owned newspaper, Lentsoe la Basotho/ Lesotho Today.
Then she moved to Radio Lesotho to become editor of a popular morning current affairs programme called Seboping. She also worked at Lesotho Television on the Seotlong Programme.
Still pursuing her journalism career, Makara-Mpota left the Ministry of Communications to edit the now defunct privately-owned The Monitor newspaper.
After some time, she left the paper to join the Informative newspaper as editor before again leaving the job.
In between the jobs, she joined a part-time class for an Honours degree in Media Studies but she did not complete the programme.
She also attended several short courses on the media to hone her skills.
Makara-Mpota said she was born into the Roman Catholic Church, where congregants are told that their visions are just psychological.
Another sangoma, Retšelisitsoe Motloi, 37, whose spiritual name is Nkhono ’Maleseli (Grandmother of Light) says she suffered in silence from the early ages in her life.
But she did not know that she had a calling that she had to heed.
Nkhono ’Maleseli who is a teacher by profession at Hlotse High School, holds a BComm Accounting Degree from the NUL.
Narrating her spiritual journey, Nkhono ’Maleseli said “some bizarre things” were happening in her life as she grew up.
“An ordinary person could not understand it. Issues of the calling are difficult to understand for someone who is not part of it,” said Nkhono ’Maleseli, who also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Education also from the NUL.
She said she used to experience dreams in which at times she would see herself crossing rivers.
These unusual dreams used to happen to Nkhono ’Maleseli’s house until she went to high school.
The soft-spoken teacher recalled a day when a stranger whom she sat next to in a taxi in 2010 surprised her by asking her when she would heed the call.
She said she had a rosary around her wrist and the stranger told her that the rosary would not shield her from heeding the calling.
’Maleseli said the spirit intensified in 2016 but she still ignored it.
She says she would dream of being a sangoma and going to the rivers, but she was still in denial.
“That affected me physically. My feet became swollen and my whole body was aching,” she recalled.
Nkhono ’Maleseli says she also had a consistent feeling of fear.
“I had no peace at all in my life,” she said, adding that she felt like crying most of the time.
She later visited a sangoma, who told her to pray for an hour daily. She did as advised.
’Maleseli said she then began seeing the woman who was going to help her go through the rituals to become a fully-fledged sangoma in her dreams.
The woman was in Makopo, in Butha-Buthe.
She says she went to Butha-Buthe to tell the woman about her dreams
“It was difficult to accept the calling. I had to walk mountains to accept the calling. At the beginning of 2019, I was locked in a fierce tussle to accept the calling,” she said.
The Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) national treasurer said in August 2019, she wasted no time and accepted the calling.
“To leave my family to heed to the calling was one of the toughest decisions I had to make,” said ’Maleseli, who had to perform the lefehlo (an apprenticeship of sangomas) rituals which are manifested in a plethora of terms and conditions.
“We were not allowed to sing,” she said, adding she likes singing and “that felt like some form of punishment for me”.
She says they were also not allowed to eat certain foods.
She said she did not have a family support system.
“People around me turned away from me.”
She says it was only one of her friends in Hlotse where she is staying who volunteered to look after her children when she left for the rituals.
’Maleseli recalled that she was summoned to the Teachers Service Department (TSD) on accusations of deserting her work when she went for the rituals.
She also credits two teachers from Mohale’s Hoek and Butha-Buthe who are also sangomas for lending their support during the difficult time.
“I am now healed and I am now getting support from the people around me,” she said. “My appeal is for people to support those who experience the calling I received. They should be given support and not be looked down upon.”
In a research paper titled “The medical ethnobotany of Lesotho”, Moteetee and BE Van Wyk noted that the concept of a sangoma is foreign to Basotho culture.
It was introduced by the Thembus who originated from what was then known as the Cape Colony, perhaps currently the Eastern Cape Province, the paper says.
“The language in which sangomas practice their craft points to the foreign origins of this tradition. Furthermore, sangomas are mostly women, whereas in Lesotho, healers were traditionally male,” noted the researchers.
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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