MASERU – THERE is a tinkle in Mahashe Chaka’s eyes as he talks about his days as a herd boy to his father’s cattle.
He talks about the time he spent in the veld as though it was yesterday. It’s not nostalgia that takes him back to those days but a realisation that in a way he is still a shepherd of sorts.
The skills he learned as a herd boy remain vital even as he now wears suits, travels the world and manage tens of highly qualified people.
The veld is the corporate world whose intricacies he has to manoeuvre with deftness. There are the subordinates whose different cultures, behaviour, strengths and weaknesses he has to manage.
There are also politicians and other superiors he has to learn to get along with for the sake of achieving his goals as the leader of the Land Administration Authority (LAA).
Chaka says such skills are not learned from management school but are imbued in you as you grow. As you climb up the corporate ladder like he has you begin to appreciate that you will never stop learning no matter how highly qualified you are.
Each task and position brings with it lessons that make you realise that life is just but a journey of learning.
Chaka’s tutelage started at home where there was his Anglican Dean father Reverend Edwin Masitha Chaka and a teacher mother ’Mateboho Jeanet Chaka. Because of his father’s work, theirs was a nomadic working class family of modest means.
The father was a disciplinarian who expected everyone to live by the rules. A jolly good fellow, as Chaka describes him, Rev Chaka wielded the stick that moulded his children and prepared them for an unpredictable world.
Chaka says he cannot describe himself as having been an overly naughty boy. He likes to portray himself as a boy who behaved like other boys of his time and age. That means there were chores forgotten and curfews missed.
But there was no way he could have deviated so much to become a perennial delinquent because he was dealing with two strong-willed parents who held the reins tightly.
There was mischief but within tolerable bounds. At school he could not let his grades slip or allow himself to be carried away in mischief because his mother was a teacher, more often than not at the same school with him.
At home he did not have too much time to indulge in tomfoolery because his father had placed a restrict regime of chores he had to accomplish after school. His responsibility was the cattle. Feed, water, milk, and there was no problem. Forget those and the old man would come after you.
In the several villages he lived were eyes that watched his every step, ready to snitch on him to his father if he got up to some monkey shines. He was the child of a well-known Anglican Dean and he had to be at his best behaviour or his father would know.
In all this he learned crucial lessons of life.
From the family he learned that a person should live by the rules, stick to his word and accept responsibility for his actions. From the village he understood that the world expects you to behave in a certain way.
Then there was the veld where he had to deal with cattle and fellow boys, some of whom would go out of their way to have some dark fun at his expense. He would get into fights and miss some cattle.
“You have to be tough because those boys in the veld would beat you. You only eat in the morning and evening. There is no lunch. You have to be tough.” That resilience has come in handy in management and life.
He says he quickly learned that there are slackers who hold back the team and some who are just out to derail progress.
“You have to be decisive in dealing with such players. They have to understand that no one can hold a team to ransom.”
“There is always a way to get things done. People here know that I am a disciplinarian and a perfectionist. You cannot come here to idle around and eat fat cakes.”
But perhaps the most valuable management lesson, in his estimation, came from dealing with the cattle. A masterful herd boy, he says, does not follow his animals to greener pastures or watering hole.
“Rather, he leads from the front. Only when he gets the animals to follow him does he lead them to the best pastures.”
The problem, as he discovered as a young boy in the veld, is that it is not easy to get the cattle to follow you.
“You have to be patient and it take months to learn that skill.”
The first step, Chaka explains, is to build a relationship with the herd.
“You have to know each cow by its name. You have to understand its habit. But more importantly they have to know and trust you as the herd boy before they allow you to lead them.”
Now as he leads a team at the LAA some 30-odd years later Chaka takes his role as Director General and Chief Executive in much the same way he did as a herd boy.
He is leading from the front to help the team deliver impeccable services to a public that has grown weary of being treated with contempt when they enter public offices.
Slowly, his team is showing people that it’s possible to get a land lease within a week instead of the years they have been accustomed to.
They are showing that it is possible to register a property in days and get a correct ground rent invoice on time. The team has proven that it was incompetence and lack of systems that made it almost impossible to get your land records when they were kept by the land department the LAA replaced in 2011.
Chaka attributes these massive changes to building a cohesive team that understands its mandate. And of course part of the credit should go to him even though he sounds reluctant to blow his own trumpet.
Like a skilled herd boy, Chaka is leading the LAA from the front.
“You have to know each team player’s name, their family and what they can do,” he says.
“They also have to know you, where you are coming from, where you are going and what you expect of them. Only then can they follow you.”
The Anglican Church, which he naturally had to attend religiously because his father was a leader, also imparted another lesson on him: the importance of planning and consistency.
“There are no surprises in the Anglican church. You know exactly what you are going to do and on which days.”
“You know when the Bishop will be there and from which section the preacher will read. It’s all about preparation.”
It is that training that informs Chaka’s loathing for impromptu meetings that have no clear agenda. In his meetings Chaka has tried to eliminate “any other business” from the agenda. “You cannot throw in an issue that you have just thought about now. We have to know where you are coming from, apply our minds to what you have said and come up with an informed response.”
The church and his parents taught him to resist the temptation to hastily pass judgment on other people.
That has helped him tiptoe through the political minefield that comes with heading an organisation that is an implementation authority of the government.
As Director General and Chief Executive, Chaka has watched ministers and governments come and go. His strategy in his interactions with political leaders has however not changed.
“Respect other people and remember that each individual is unique. Give each person their audience,” he says of his strategy.
“If you understand the needs of a person you understand your capacity to meet those needs. Don’t paint people with the same brush. Understand what they want. Some people have needs that don’t come from you.”
Chaka’s father might have loosened his reins on his six children as they grew older and he went into retirement but his influence endured. Even when he was no longer directly responsible for his children he always insisted on them keeping their end of a bargain.
In the late 1990s Chaka was to learn that once you have made a promise to the old man there was no way to back down. After a brief stint at the Centre of Accounting Studies, Chaka had moved to the United Kingdom to study accounting at the South Bank University under a government scholarship.
But politics intervened before he could finish the Honours degree. A change in government in 1994 came with a change in policy towards scholarships. They were told to come back home.
Dejected, Chaka returned home. His father who had tried to make sure he completed his studies in accounting in the UK had quickly moved to pay for his professional examinations which he was supposed to take in Botswana. Yet by that time Chaka was having a change of heart.
“Had we talked earlier I don’t think he would have paid because my heart was now in management.”
Chaka later implored his mother to plead on his behalf to his father.
“I asked her to tell him to slow down on the pressure and I would eventually finish the accounting degree when I am ready.”
His father agreed to his proposal but made him promise that he would finish his studies. Reprieved, Chaka found a job as a financial officer at Vodacom Lesotho (VCL).
Years passed as he enjoyed his independence and money.
But his father never forgot that his son had promised to finish his accounting studies.
“The old man kept reminding me of my promise and that kept it at the back of my mind.”
Shakeman Mugari & Lemohang Rakotsoane
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.
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.
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.
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