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The Forgotten Children – Part 6



MASERU – AMONG a group of sex workers, street kids and vagrants, Motsamai Mateee calls himself boss.
His parents died when he was still a young boy. His only inheritance was a caravan now parked outside a house owned by the government but now home to a small community of homeless people in Maseru.
Now 32, Mateee has become something of a foster-father to the homeless children and young women who are staying at the house belonging to the Office of the Prime Minister along Mpilo Boulevard. Many of the girls have turned to sex work to survive.

Having spent much time surviving off the streets of Maseru without parents, Mateee says he understands the situation that the homeless people have to endure.
“My parents died when I was too young, so young that I do not know my relatives except my older brother who tried bringing me up,” said Mateee.
He said he tried to stand on his feet by enrolling at a carpentry school after dropping out of school in Standard Three.
“I could not get a job after finishing the course in the early 2000s. I had not even reached adolescence so I started a life of wandering,” he said.
“Luckily, my father’s caravan was still there and it became my permanent and only home,” he said.

Nearby, children as young as 12 sniffed glue. Some, wearing tattered clothes, puffed rolls of marijuana. Others were knee-deep in garbage, foraging the heap for food and anything useful.
He said he “freely” welcomes them to use his caravan. Because of his age Mateee says he has become a father figure, a role he cherishes although others say he is also a predator.
“When they arrive here they tell me of the problems they encountered at their homes, you know how families always have problems. I give them comfort and company,” Mateee said.

He however disputed a claim by three young girls aged between 17 and 22 years who said they slept in his caravan.
The house does not have doors and its windows are broken.
“They stay in the house. They only use the caravan when they want to bathe or need any other help,” he said.
Mateee considers himself the chief of the small community of sex workers and “a few men who also share the house”.
“All of them come here saying they have nowhere to stay and we live with them peacefully.”

He denied that he engages in sex with the girls, refusing to admit that cases of rape are also happening at the house he claims to preside over.
“I have not heard of such incidents here. Well, I sleep in my caravan when all of them are in the house so I can’t confirm any rape cases here,” he said.
However, three women we talked to said they were raped at the house and alleged that Mateee knows the perpetrators.
One woman said she was taken by force by three men who blindfolded her and put her in a house in Qoaling where they took turns to rape her for days.

She said she reported the matter to the police after escaping but the case “was never” investigated.
She is one of the women who joined the streets when she was a child and had lived in the house until the rape incident.
Mateee remains adamant he is unaware of the incident.
“I don’t know any men who raped girls here,” Mateee insisted.
Mateee said he survived first by helping shoppers carry their goods before becoming a parking marshal along Kingsway Road near Mafafa market.
“This is how I make a living,” he said.

Asked what he plans to do if the government reclaims its property and the house is torn down, he said “I will tow my father’s caravan and park it somewhere else. It is these other people staying in the house who will suffer.”
The caravan was brought to the house when his parents were still alive. His father, he said, was a construction worker who took part in the building of several government offices including the Palace of Justice and the Court of Appeal.

He said his parents, together with several other workers’ families, were living in the house when his father brought the caravan there.
Mateee said his childhood has been so rough that he won’t consider marrying or having children until he finds what he calls a proper means of living.
“I can’t think of that now,” he said.
The government, which by law is responsible for taking care of the poor and the vulnerable, does not have adequate places to shelter homeless and vulnerable children.

There is government property in Maseru that belongs to the Ministry of Gender and Youth but it is meant for victims of gender-based violence only.
Although the security guard manning the property denied thepost access to the house earlier this year, we have since established that its occupants are battered women who have run away from abusive husbands.
“I can’t let you in the building without prior approval of the Ministry of Gender,” said the security guard.

The Director of Gender, ’Matau Futho-Letsatsi, denied the existence of the facility but thepost has learnt that this is for the security of the women. Authorities fear that abusers of the women sheltered there may pursue them if the location is made public.
“The location of this facility should remain a secret because we need to protect the women,” an official from the ministry said.
He requested anonymity because he is not allowed to speak on behalf of the ministry.
The facility is meant to provide safety for nursing mothers, women, and children under 12 years of age who are on the run because of domestic violence.

The house provides safety and counselling to survivors of abuse and violence, where they are also equipped with skills in handicrafts.
Recently a local newspaper reported that the facility was in dire need of financial assistance as women were sent home before their disputes were resolved because the shelter was unable to provide for their needs.
The ministry was accused of failing to provide financial support to the shelter, which had for long been supported by non-governmental organisations because of limited budgetary allocation.

For children between 12 and 18, there is nowhere to hide despite being victims of abuse. There is no shelter for juveniles who run away from home, except those who have been found guilty of a crime and are sent to the Juvenile Training Centre by the courts.
“That’s why many of us ended up on the streets. I am already an adult but my life is a mess. Maybe my life would have been different if the government cared enough to look after street children,” lamented Mateee.

Caswell Tlali & Khotsofalang Koloi

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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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