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The new theatre of struggle

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MASERU – DEPUTY Speaker of Parliament, Paul Teboho Lehloenya, 59, is a man on a mission – to help parliament claim back its independence.
Lehloenya says the much touted SADC-driven reforms can help chart a new path leading to peace and stability for Lesotho.
But for that to happen, parliament must get back its bite by ensuring that MPs are “fully empowered to play their oversight role”.
“Many of the corrupt practices we have to grapple with happen because of a weak oversight function we should be doing as parliament,” he says.
He cited the appointment of key personnel for institutions such as the Independent Electoral Commission, the Auditor-General, the Commissioner of Police and the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force.

Lehloenya says Parliament must play an active role in the appointment of individuals to such key positions to ensure that such positions are not politicised. Such individuals must report directly to Parliament, he argues. “Parliament must claim back its independence; and that is going to happen,” he says.

“The calibre of our MPs need to be improved. They have to be trained thoroughly if they are to exercise this oversight function.”
Lehloenya, a charismatic and articulate MP in the last Parliament, shot to national prominence in February after he spearheaded a contentious no-confidence vote against former premier Pakalitha Mosisili.

The no-confidence vote came after a faction of the then ruling Democratic Congress (DC) party failed to seize control of the party in its bid to nudge Mosisili out of power. Lehloenya was the DC MP for Kolo constituency in Mafeteng.
Mosisili lost the no-confidence vote in Parliament but still refused to throw in the towel. Instead he called a snap general election on June 3 which he lost heavily to Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

Thabane then went on to cobble a new coalition government with the Alliance of Democrats (AD)’s leader Monyane Moleleki coming in as Deputy Prime Minister. “I was in the forefront in passing the motion of no-confidence,” Lehloenya says. “It was a necessary thing to do for the benefit of the country.”

He says under Mosisili’s watch, corruption levels had shot to astronomical levels to the extent that “no one in his right senses would have allowed it to continue”. Lehloenya says Mosisili, as party leader and Prime Minister, should have done something to stop the rot but he elected not to do so, to the detriment of the country.

“He should have fired them (corrupt elements within the government),” he says.
“We were adamant that the country could not be subjected to the kind of corruption that was going on. We did not see eye to eye with Ntate Mosisili on the matter.”

He says during the DC infighting a lot of options were thrown on the table for Mosisili to “negotiate an exit strategy of some sort” but he refused.
“He decided that the people should make the final judgment and they did.”
Lehloenya says Moleleki even suggested to the DC leadership a Government of National Unity (GNU) with the then opposition to foster peace and stability, a proposal he says was flatly rejected.

“Now that they have lost power, they see some merits with the proposal. If they had been returned to power they would not have looked at the proposal.” But since the majority of the AD members were in senior positions in the DC-led government, were they not aware of what was happening behind the scenes and were therefore complicit?

Lehloenya rejects the charge arguing that as backbencher MPs they did not sit in cabinet and were therefore not aware of the extent of the rot.
Yet in spite of what might be perceived as Mosisili’s sins of commission and omission, Lehloenya admits there are still pockets within the country where the former premier is still considered the “poster boy” of Lesotho’s politics.

Lehloenya attributes Mosisili’s popularity to social programmes that were introduced by his administration such as old age pensions and free primary school education, programmes that endeared him with the masses. It came as no surprise that voters in Lehloenya’s Kolo constituency ditched their former MP and instead chose the DC’s Putsoane Leeto in the June 3 election, a factor Lehloenya reluctantly admits.

He believes the fact that he publicly pushed for Mosisili’s ouster might have also played a part in his electoral downfall.
“I was in the forefront in pushing the no-confidence motion and many within the DC who liked Ntate Mosisili didn’t like it. They felt that had it not been me, Ntate Mosisili would still be the Prime Minister.”

But he has no regrets for the role he played in Mosisili’s downfall. He says the “death squads” that had a free reign under Mosisili had brought the nation under severe stress and “something had to be done” to stop the rot. Lehloenya was elected Deputy Speaker of Parliament after the June 3 election.

He says he is immensely proud to be of service to his country at a momentous time in the history of Lesotho.
“I feel privileged to serve at a time when we are overhauling the entire system of governance. That doesn’t come too often.”
Lehloenya says he is confident that the security sector reforms will help stabilise Lesotho politically.

“While the majority in the command of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) are professional soldiers, the problem is that they have not been accounting to anybody,” he says. He says the LDF Act that regulates the army “is silent on who is the commander-in-chief”, an issue he says must be clearly spelt out during the reform process to ensure the army comes under civilian control.

“In my opinion the commander-in-chief should be His Majesty King Letsie III. Once we have that organised, we sort out the mess within the army.”
He says he does not believe the army, which has been fingered as the major cause of political instability in Lesotho for decades, is beyond redemption.
“They have been trained well but the problem is that politicians meddle with the army and the army allows the politicians to meddle.”

Yet Lehloenya believes the military will be one of the easiest sectors to deal with during the reform process “because they work under orders”.
He however believes the biggest problem will come in trying to depoliticise the civil service “because it is highly politicised even to the level of cleaners”.
“They are working hard to destabilise any sitting government.” He says for too long Basotho “have not been talking to each other”, a situation that has bred a lot of animosity and tension. “There is a lot of intolerance; people do not speak to each other about common issues that affect society.”
“We do not read from the same page and this is the biggest problem for us as a people. We do not give ourselves time to distil the real issues at stake.”
He argues that the end result is that trade and investment climate has become toxic to the extent that foreign direct investment is stifled.

Under such an environment no businessmen would want to invest in a country where there is instability and his money is not safe.
Lehloenya believes the solution lies in going “back to make sure people respect one another and operate on the basis of acceptance of the rule of law”.
Lehloenya, who is a pilot and electronics engineer among other things, says he wants to see Lesotho back on track as it chases the goals and aspirations crafted in the Vision 2020, an ambitious policy document crafted at the turn of the century.

“The policy says by 2020 Lesotho shall be a prosperous country at peace with itself. But lo and behold, we are nowhere close to that goal, instead we seem to be moving in the opposite direction; the AIDS pandemic, the lawlessness, we are drifting away from that vision,” he says.
Lehloenya believes the SADC-led reforms will provide an opportunity to “put people back on the straight and narrow” in pursuit of those lofty goals.
He says after the reform process is done, he will be happy to “retire to my rural home in Mafeteng and do a little bit of farming”.

Abel Chapatarongo

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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.
Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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