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The cost of illegal abortions



MOHALE’S HOEK – ABOUT 60 percent of unintended pregnancies in Lesotho end in abortion, a recent report has revealed.

The 2022 State of the World Population Report indicates that despite efforts by the government and development partners to promote Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Early and Unintended Pregnancies (EUP) continue to rise.

It showed that 35.7 percent of adolescents aged between 10 and 15 years were admitted to health centres for obstetric and gynaecological attention due to abortion in 2019.

An estimated 8.17 percent of teenage girls between the ages of 15 to 19 years were admitted in 2021, while another 10.6 percent of young women aged 20 to 24 were attended to by health professionals for terminating unintended pregnancies.

In Lesotho, backyard abortion is rampant despite the dangers it poses to the health of women, including infections, damage of the cervix, severe blood loss and a risk of materials being left in the womb. Such women might be forced to live with medical complications that include infertility, while some have even lost their lives.

The report detailing the alarmingly high abortion statistics revealed that Mohale’s Hoek is the district with the highest number of backyard termination of pregnancies and it is also the highest in pills distributed by illegal providers.

Sebolelo said she aborted three months ago and her grandmother didn’t even notice because she used a pill her boyfriend bought for M300. Having lost both her father and mother, she said she was afraid to become a mother on her own as her then boyfriend told her to abort the pregnancy.

“He gave me an ultimatum that if I decide to keep the baby then I would raise it by myself. As hurt as I was, I still disagreed,” she said.

The boyfriend later asked her to visit for a sleepover at his place so that they could discuss the issue.

“I didn’t even hesitate as I was hoping he had changed his mind about terminating the pregnancy,” she said, adding that her boyfriend bought her “a lot” of food items, including yogurt.

“I was so happy and convinced that we are good until I ate that yogurt.”

She said in the middle of the night, she started to have abdominal cramps but she initially ignored them.

“The pain worsened and I kept tossing and turning for two hours until lying on the bed didn’t cut it all. As surprised as I was, my boyfriend just looked at me while I was writhing in pain,” she said, adding that he then boiled some water and used a towel to soothe the pain.

While at it, she said he gave her some painkillers saying they would help her sleep.

“Indeed it helped but it wasn’t long before the pain returned stronger at around 3am until I felt like peeing only to find out that was it…the end of my pregnancy as I bled excessively.”

“As surprised as I was, my then boyfriend said he needed to tell me something but calling for help seemed to be the last thing on his mind even after I suggested it. He refused and said it was not a big deal, I will be fine by morning.”

He later declared to her in the morning that “it worked” before disclosing that he had spiked the yogurt with an abortion inducing pill.

“I was shattered but there was nothing I could do as my waist hurt to the core so I couldn’t just get up and leave and thankfully that was the end of the relationship,” she said.

She said she wouldn’t advise her peers, even her worst enemy, to abort as the pain is unbearable. “Rather, it is better to abstain from sex until one is ready to deal with the consequences that come with having unprotected sex,” she said.

thepost recently visited one of the “agents” in Mohale’s Hoek, ‘Masello Sello* at her stall where she sells snacks. Thinking that our reporter was a client, the first thing she said was “Don’t say we’re going to kill the baby. If you dreamt about it, you should swallow it, I don’t kill people…I love God so much and when I die I don’t want to struggle because the corpses will be standing in front of me and the church people will be singing and that will be a problem. I love church.”

She added “whenever one comes to me in secrecy, I tell them not to talk about killing people because I am not a killer.” After the reporter explained her supposed problem, the agent advised her on using a pill that cost M600 rather than a concoction.

“If it was below three months, my mixture would destroy that fetus ‘lehloele’ now I can only help with the pill,” she said. “You will be fine in a few days.”

She also claimed to sell a period pain concoction for just M300. She said the pill is cut into four pieces. Two are put under the tongue and the other two inserted into the vagina by the user, who should also drink lots of warm water.

“I know it will help you but aborting is a painful process. It’s not just a quick process and you don’t have to be alone as sometimes you will be weak and need help with warm water,” she said, adding that further usage guidance is disclosed after payment of the fee.

She claimed she has been helping people abort for years and that none of her clients had experienced problems.

Sello said her supplier of pills and concoctions is based in Mohale’s Hoek, not very far from her work place. But after calling the supplier, she was informed that stocks had run out until the next day.

“This is a chain. We work together so now that my supplier is out of stock, he will call another one, don’t worry. Pills are in demand but we will get them more in no time.”

Mpharane Health Centre Nursing Officer, Mookho Kotelo, said in their catchment, early and unintended pregnancies were common among adolescents.

“With time, some of them come back with complications such as heavy bleeding, they would be very weak and we then refer them to Ntšekhe hospital for further monitoring,” she said, adding that some even ask for assistance to end the pregnancy as they wouldn’t be ready to raise a child.

“We tell them that we don’t offer such help as it is impossible especially when one doesn’t have any medical condition but for patients with complications we stabilise them as we have equipment and further communicate with a doctor telephonically to recommend anything on top of what we have already offered and referral should the need arise.”

However, she said they don’t often show up at the clinic when they have complications.

“In a month, we get at least two patients even though those that said were not ready are more than that,” said Kotelo, adding “we are humanely compassionate but it is impossible for us to help them terminate. We refer them to support groups that exist in the communities. Some NGOs help them to finally get out of the crisis by giving them tips on how to succeed in life and also their parents or caregivers are counselled. “

She said they also refer some of them to the social welfare department for help to look after the baby, while those who suffered abuse are referred to the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU).

She said they also get high numbers of abortion cases. She said the clinic offers counselling services to victims. Kotelo said parents still take child marriage for granted and due to poverty, often encourage pregnant children to drop out of school and get married.

She said “very few” continue with their studies. Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) spokesman, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the police sometimes deal with cases of birth concealment. He said reasons given by those caught include poverty and extra-marital affairs.

Mopeli said although abortion is illegal, “people still do it”, while those caught selling pills or concoctions say they see an opportunity for business as demand is high.

“We do trap them and arrest them,” he said, citing an incident where a Butha-Buthe seller was traced and arrested after advertising on Facebook last month.

“Whenever we see someone in that kind of business we do all we can to arrest them.”

‘Mapule Motsopa


Mahao, PS in big fight



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



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



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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