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The dream to save Earth



MASERU – AS the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced, tree planting has been touted as a “natural climate solution” to capture and store planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions, while also conserving biodiversity and improving the quality of life for people.

Triggered by the alarming rate of youth unemployment, which currently stands at 32.8 percent, Mpho Lebesa, a 27-year-old from Ha-Abia has founded a youth-empowered environmental organisation called Plant One Tree (POT).

She founded the organisation after completing her studies at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

POT came as a plea or movement — Plant One Tree, Save One Planet!

“The mission is to rehabilitate and conserve the environment, restore the luscious greenery Lesotho once possessed by planting one tree at a go and saving our precious home, Earth, while producing food. Essentially we will be creating jobs for Basotho youth,” said Lebesa.

She said POT’s objectives are to plant forests, fruits and indigenous trees. Since it is youth-empowered, it operates in high schools and communities and has successfully planted over 400 trees to date in school orchards.

“I believe everyone, regardless of their status, has the responsibility to nurture the world we live in for future generations. I believe human beings have to live harmoniously in this democratic global community because all lives are precious,” said Lebesa.

She said POT came as a response to the high rate of depletion of the ozone layer and the general ecosystem.

“We discovered that common solution to the many socio-economic problems Lesotho is facing could be mitigated by planting a variety of trees.”

The Development Studies and Political Science and Administrative Studies graduate said she was a subscribed member of a vibrant Public Administration and Political Science Association (PAPSA) club during her studies at NUL.

Members of the club were involved in gathering information from formal literature and current affairs and held debates and discussions on sensational and burning topics on local and international politics of climate change. The club, she said, was highly regarded by the faculty.

“My passion for sustainable and human development grew strong as I had a deep understanding of natural resource management, human resource development, management of public funds, public policy processes as well as international political economy courses offered at NUL.

“Knowledge and observations of the status of Lesotho in terms of managing natural resources and the unhealthy environment made it significantly critical that I established an organisation,” she said.

Lebesa attended online courses during the Covid-19 lockdown.

She also studied subjects such as Achieving Sustainable Development from Trinity College Dublin, Making Climate Adaptation Happen from the University of Groningen, Human Rights-Based

Approach to Education from the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations and Capacity Building for Women-led Enterprises by United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

“We have reached so many milestones despite the challenges we have faced since the establishment of POT in 2016,” she said.

Among the challenges was the lack of funding, Covid-19 movement restrictions, teachers’ strikes and political instability.

She said the climate of Lesotho is characterised by the occurrence of extreme dry spells and wet spells.

“These climatic fluctuations have had a serious impact on the environment.

‘‘The impacts associated with dry spells include food shortages, famine, disease epidemics, invasion by exotic plants and destructive insects, dust bowls and the initiation of down cutting by rivers,” said Lebesa.

She said Lesotho is expected to experience a change in temperature and precipitation patterns, toward dryer and hotter conditions.

In addition, the intensity and frequency of extreme events such as floods and drought are expected to increase, especially in the western and northern lowlands.

“The impacts of climate change in Lesotho will vary from sector to sector.

“Water resources will be affected negatively by the reduction of precipitation and increase in temperature.

“This will result in an increase in evaporation loss and a decrease in runoff and groundwater recharge. “

Added Lebesa: “Rangeland conditions may deteriorate — and ultimately be destroyed — by changes in climate, leading to a change in the quality of livestock and livestock products.

“The present indigenous forests may change into semi-arid types while agricultural production will decline, resulting in food shortage.”

She said the ultimate solution to all of the afore-mentioned challenges has always been tree-planting.

Her organisation hopes to establish 100 000 POT clubs and farms with five various fruit orchards in both schools and communities by the year 2050.

These clubs will have seed libraries that will offer seeds, seedlings, and technical support.

“These farms will be commercialised and will sell processed fruit jams, juice, dried and many other tree products.”

However, she said potential challenges include financial constraints and lack of political will to support such youth oriented initiatives.

“We therefore invite every individual, organisation and development partner to partake in this journey of the Lesotho we want.

“We have successfully worked with local as well as international stakeholders.”

She said they hope to plant more than one million trees before 2050. She talked of a plan to plant trees in collaboration with the Tšepo Christian High School POT club to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

“This school has been in the headlines due to its students’ leaked sex tape, so as POT, we thought we could give them something positive to divert their focus and energy to tree planting,” said Lebesa.

“My siblings and I always believed that we were a team made of different individuals, gifts, talents, dreams, and interests and gracefully blended with love.

“We were raised to love, respect, protect and support one another and to love our home, country, continent and the whole world,” said Lebesa, adding that she grew up in a family of six children and “supportive” parents.

She said the value of education and humanity “were strongly instilled in me” from a young age.

“I learnt to look at myself as a contributor of change in all those lenses of life.

“We were taught to believe that there was something greater than us that lives in us, God.

“Therefore, I have always searched for opportunities to embrace and uphold those values in every organisation I have interacted with.”

As a founding director of POT, she said she made fruitful relations with other youth leaders she met when POT joined the regional mother-body of youth-led organisations called Southern African

Alliance on Youth Employment (SAAYE) in 2018. Later that year, she was selected to represent the youths in the preparation of the National Youth Conference on Reforms.

She then became a Youth Delegate in all multi-stakeholders forums and in-district consultations as an observer from civil society organisations in structural national reforms looking more into media, economic, security, judicial and constitutional, political and parliamentary arrangements thematic areas.

In her quest for self-development as a youth leader, she is a learner and a volunteer at the Development for Peace Education (DPE).

Lebesa has worked as a liaison between the 24 high schools, institutions of higher learning, the National Manpower Development Secretariat management (NMDS) and the Minister of Education in times of disputes.

The model also incorporates a programme called Food Sovereignty, which is a collaboration with POT to promote food and orchards production.

After her completion of Civic Leadership from the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), she said POT was “privileged” to be one of the Lesotho Delegates at the 4th YouthConnekt Africa Summit in Rwanda, 2019.

She said planting trees is cheap “at least compared to high tech sucking carbon technology whose efficiency isn’t proven yet”.

“It’s available and it’s something citizens can easily get involved in. By betting on planting trees while adapting the existing monoculture plantation, forests can become more inclusive and ecological.

“This will help enrich wildlife and biodiversity while reducing water pollution, soil degradation, and plagues,” said Lebesa.

She called on the youth “to change our environment, protect our biodiversity and nurture the beauty of our country.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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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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