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The forgotten wives of soldiers



ADVOCATE Pontšo Mochesane was having another episode of dizziness when she heard the worrying news.
Her husband, Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi, and father, Colonel Khutlang Mochesane, had been taken to a police station.

She had not been well for days, but she still drove to the police station.
Advocate Mochesane knew her husband and father were not the only soldiers in police custody because several officers had been rounded up in the previous days.

A few days earlier, Corporal Ramoholi’s bosses had instructed him to report for duty in civilian clothes and to bring the army’s firearms.
The police told her that her husband had come for interrogation but refused to tell her about her father.

When she asked for exact details about the interrogation, the police said it was none of her business.
Dejected, she drove back home.

When she returned to the station the next day her husband told her, during a brief meeting, that he would appear in court the next day.
She hurried back home to fetch his clothes.
Advocate Mochesane handed him the clothes on November 28, 2017, and that was the last time she saw him as a free man.

Since then, she has only seen him in prison garb at the Maseru Maximum Security prison where he is being held together with more than a dozen other soldiers accused of murder, attempted murder, treason and arson.
Corpl Ramoholi has been charged with the murder of former army Commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.

Her father is charged with  the attempted murder of Lesotho Times Editor Lloyd Mutungamiri.
By November this year, most of the soldiers would have spent six years in remand prison as their cases crawl through the justice system.

Judges, defence lawyers, governments and prosecutors have changed but their plight remains the same. The past six years have been a story of remands, postponements, applications and counter-applications.

The only certainty is that they are likely to remain in remand prison for another few years as more delays and postponements are expected.
Two months after her husband’s arrest, Advocate Mochesane discovered she was pregnant.

“I was not aware that I was pregnant at the time of his arrest,” she says.

“I was so dizzy that I did not know it was another sign of pregnancy.”

The thought of breaking the news to her husband behind bars left her in anguish.
She would have wanted to deliver the good news under more comfortable and friendlier circumstances.

But now with him in shackles at the country’s only maximum prison, Advocate Mochesane was not sure of his reaction. She knew there were two possible reactions.
The news could lift his spirits after the harrowing experience since his arrest or it could tip him into depression as he worries about his wife enduring the pregnancy and raising their child alone.

Advocate Mochesane says the news thrilled and worried her husband at the same time.
She did not experience any complications during the pregnancy but says the next few months were traumatic.

“Dealing with an emotional pregnancy alone is quite traumatic,” she says.
“I had to be extra careful. It was stressful”.

Adv Mochesane was constantly worried about the baby.
She recalls that she once asked her brother, who had moved in with her, to take her to the doctor after she thought she was ready to deliver.
The doctor told her it was not time yet and she soldiered on, leaning on her family and friends for emotional support.

Then came the agonising two-month wait to take her newborn to visit his father.
Adv Mochesane said that came with a rare moment of happiness for the couple.

The prison authorities granted her a special visit and her husband cuddled their son for several minutes.
But once out of the prison gates emotions overwhelmed her.

The struggle of raising her child alone while her husband and father wallowed in prison, facing an uncertain future, was too hard to bear.
She had episodes of depression between 2019 and 2023.

“I was suicidal,” she says.

Doctors advised her to stop using anti-depressants. She however still sees a psychologist. She struggles to explain to her now five-year-old son why his father is never home.

She cannot answer him because she too doesn’t have an answer. No one really knows when the trials will end. Even the prosecution cannot hazard a guess because some of the issues are beyond their control.

“If he was already sentenced it would be better because I would at least know when he would be back.”

“Every day is like a new day. It is just miserable.”

Her life is also at a standstill because she is afraid to make huge decisions without her husband.

“Life is uncertain now because we do not know what is going to happen at the end of the day.”

Apart from the fact that she had two close relatives in remand prison, Adv Mochesane’s struggle is not unique.
The families and wives of the more than a dozen soldiers arrested and charged with her husband and father are enduring the same pain.

’Mampho Nyakane whose husband, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, is among the soldiers in remand prison, describes the past six years as “rough and tough”.
Captain Nyakane is charged with treason and the murder of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko.

“It is really difficult,” ’Mampho says.

Although the army still pays the suspects, the families say much of their husbands’ salaries are gobbled by the ever-mounting legal fees.
Yet for many of the wives, money is the least of their problems.

They have to deal with the trauma of the continued imprisonment of their husbands, the uncertainty and their children growing up without their fathers.
They say they can endure the pain as adults, but their children cannot.
The wheels of justice have been painfully slow.

They have watched helplessly as the cases are routinely postponed and delayed.
Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa’s wife, who did not want to be named, says she and her family have lost faith in the justice system.
She has resigned to the reality that her husband will not be coming home any time soon.

The most painful part, she says, is “not knowing when all this suffering will come to an end”.
She says all she can do for now is to be strong enough to be both a mother and father to their nine-year-old son, who was three when Lance Corporal Motsieloa was arrested.

She cries every time she visits her husband who she says “is not in a good condition at all”.
At home, she has to handle a son who is always asking why his father is not coming home.

“It is depressing because we do not know the end,” she says.

’Mashakhane Fako, Sergeant Motsamai Fako’s wife, burst in tears when she talked about her husband. They have been married for 30 years and she doesn’t believe that her husband committed the alleged murders.

“The LDF is now silent yet the accused acted under the scope and limit of their employment,” Fako says as she wipes tears.

Majara Molupe



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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