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The dignity of tilling the land



No sooner had Sam Matekane been sworn-in as Prime Minister last October did disgruntled hawks within the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party begin plotting to oust him and his government.
Their reason, according to Isaac Malebaleba Joseph, the MP for Thaba-Bosiu constituency, was because Matekane had overlooked them for ministerial positions in the new government.
Joseph is adamant that what was driving the hawks was nothing but a naked, unadulterated ambition to secure plum positions under the new administration that position them to have a strike at the best opportunities.

Cabinet positions would also ensure the ministers would be closer to the seat of power and thereby enable them to have access to state resources.
Joseph says all they were seeking was a “front seat” in the quest to gain access to resources.

This, Joseph says, accounts for why the RFP has been experiencing political turbulence in the last few months.
They want to overthrow this government, Joseph says.

“The MPs fell out with the government as soon as the Cabinet ministers were announced,” he says.

Joseph says the problem for the RFP is that it is working with individuals whose agenda is at cross-purposes with that of the leadership.

While the leadership’s key mandate is to engineer a radical economic transformation in Lesotho, these individuals are determined to line up their own pockets even if that means sacrificing the national interests, Joseph says.

Joseph, however, refused to name and shame such individuals.

He however blames the individuals who joined the RFP from other political parties for fanning factionalism and pushing a narrow, self-serving agenda.
These individuals have scores to settle, he says.

Despite the challenges, Joseph argues the RFP government will survive the turbulence in the cockpit.

“People just want to have power and do not care about the rest of the country,” Joseph says.

They have no real interests to improve the welfare of the masses, he says.

The rebels have been fighting the party’s National Executive Committee demanding that Matekane should call a national elective conference to elect new office bearers.
Matekane has however rebuffed such a call saying the interim NEC will run for the next five years to allow the party to focus on governance and economic transformation.

The matter is now in the courts of law.

Away from the party conflicts, Joseph says he wants to see Lesotho throwing everything into agriculture to ensure that the nation is food self-sufficient.
Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, imports the bulk of its food from its only neighbour.

That is unsustainable, Joseph says.

“Money has to circulate in this country and we should spend less on importing (goods and services),” he says.

Despite the current challenges, Joseph says Lesotho will one day be food self-sufficient so that it stops relying on South Africa.

He says their goal as the government is to fight hunger. To achieve that goal, Joseph says the new government has already put in place mechanisms to go into crop production at the constituency level.

He believes that if people can keep hunger at bay, they can win any battles that may come their way.
“The rate of crimes could also drop,” Joseph says.

Joseph says he never liked politics in the past since he was 100 percent focused on running his businesses.

He says it was through his business connections in Thaba-Bosiu that the people there asked him to represent them following the formation of the RFP last year.
His company had won a tender to supply sand for the building of a pipe that was distributing water to Maseru.

“I had a good relationship with the people in Thaba-Bosiu,” Joseph says.

He also engaged foreign investors who wanted to set up a cannabis project which has since employed over 50 people.

He says he is also helping feed hungry children at a primary school in Thaba-Bosiu.

And so every Friday, he supplies meals for these children.
“I supply food for about 75 children here,” he says.

It was on the basis of what he was already doing for the community that the people of Thaba-Bosiu asked him to stand in the elections under the banner of the RFP party last year.

Having worked closely with the people for some time, Joseph found it difficult to say no to their request.

He says the main reason why he agreed to throw his weight behind the RFP was Matekane himself.

“I know Matekane is a man of his own words. I knew that he would deliver,” Joseph says, adding that he knew that Matekane was a hard worker and a businessman who had excelled in all his ventures.

It would therefore be easy for him to bring the same business acumen to national politics, he says.

Joseph says Matekane specifically asked him to drive food production in Lesotho. He says he is working closely with Agriculture Minister Thabo Mofosi in that endevour.
“I have forked out M3 million from my own pocket to do this massive crop production in this constituency,” Joseph says.

Joseph is currently engaged in a share-cropping scheme with some local farmers where he takes 80 percent of the produce with the local farmers, who would have provided the land, taking the balance.

It is a lucrative venture that has immensely helped local farmers, he says.

He says he does the whole process from tilling the land to harvesting of the crops.

“The farmer only comes to take his share,” he says.

“The people are happy with the arrangement.”

When Joseph first introduced the scheme, he says there was a lot of criticism particularly from opposition parties about how the arrangement would work.
The opposition parties were telling the people that they would be cheated as they would only receive two bags of maize.

He says his critics have been proved wrong with most locals walking away with a minimum of 10 bags per individual farmer under the share cropping scheme.
Joseph says he has even offered to grind the maize for the locals for free since most of them cannot afford to pay at his mills.

He has planted a total of 116 fields in Thaba-Bosiu as part of the government’s drive to fight hunger and poverty.

The share cropping scheme has proven to be a win-win situation for him and the local farmers.

Joseph says there has been discussions within the RFP on how they could replicate this success story countrywide.

He argues that it is unacceptable to have the shocking levels of poverty that we see in Lesotho given the vast resources we have in the country and the favourable climate.

Joseph says Lesotho also possesses vast diamond resources which have remained untapped. If properly managed, such mineral resources should enable the government to haul the people from the jaws of poverty.

He also wants to see Lesotho getting the best out of its water resources.

He says Lesotho’s water should be exported to the SADC market and even abroad so that the country gets foreign currency.
“We will get to where we want to take this country to,” Joseph says.

Joseph was born in Tlokoeng in Mokhotlong district 64 years ago. He says his family ran a small grocery shop and kept a large head of cattle.

Majara Molupe

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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