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The people’s loyal servant



MASERU – FROM an early age, ’Matiisetso Matsie served people at the chief’s place in her Taung constituency without any remuneration.

“The chief would always assign me to sign some documents and letters for the people in my village of Linareng, Taung. I just did it voluntarily and wholeheartedly,” reminisced Matsie.

Little did she know that the service was paving a way for a life of future public service.

Years down the line, Matsie was elected as a community councillor in the Taung constituency on a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party ticket.

That was way back in 2005 when local government elections were first introduced in the country.

“I won uncontested,” she recalled, adding that she wanted to break barriers that women could not lead.

But it was her interaction with Gender Links Lesotho that opened her eyes to the evils of Gender Based Violence (GBV).

“Gender Links trained me about women’s rights. I shared the knowledge I got from the training with other women in my area to enlighten them about the scourge,” she said.

Narrating her journey into politics, Matsie says it was a cumbersome one filled with serious difficulties.

As a youth, she was a loyal supporter of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) under the leadership of the late Dr Ntsu Mokhehle.

This means she grew up in “Congress Movement” politics. At that time, only the BCP and the Basotho National Party (BNP) were the major political parties.

“My parents were staunch supporters of the congress movement so I followed them,” Matsie said.

With teary eyes and her voice drowning out during the interview, Matsie recalled how her father used to flee their home to hide in South Africa because of persecution by his political opponents.

“His BNP rivals were the ones targeting him. They wanted to see him dead. But he always escaped death from his blood-thirsty opponents,” recalled Matsie.

Matsie says she used to hide with her father in remote areas in the country and sometimes they would skip the country’s borders.

“This frustrated my efforts to further my studies because I was always on the run. I skipped classes and joined my father on the run. I could not separate with my father as I always wanted to be in his company,” she recalled.

She recalls attending political rallies with her father where they would dance to the BCP’s songs with no shame or fear of judgment as a young girl.

“I could dance triumphantly like a warrior in a war. At the time, I was dancing to BCP songs with the likes of Mootsi Lehata. Lehata was still young at the time. We were both BCP youths,” Matsie says.

As a public representative now, Matsie is dedicated to serving her community. But she had to be persuaded to contest elections.

Because of her massive contribution to developmental projects in her constituency, Matsie was approached by various political parties to join them.

But she declined the offers, until 2020 when the Democratic Congress (DC) approached her and she accepted the offer.

“I was approached by the bigwigs in the DC,” Matsie said, putting on her new party regalia red colour.

However, she cannot tell why she joined the DC. One thing she is sure about is her mission to advance the cause of women.

“Women are the ones who go to the polls in large numbers, yet they do not vote for other women. It is difficult to understand why they elect men, instead of fellow women into power.”

She says this is the issue that women have to take into consideration so that laws and policies that are made in parliament can suit them.

Matsie said most women in Lesotho are not aware of the laws that affect them and as a result they miss out.

“Some women do not even know that some laws have been amended and they can get loans from the banks unassisted by men,” said Matsie, who was elected MP for Taung in the 7 October general elections on the ticket of the DC.

Previously, the constituency was won by the All Basotho Convention (ABC).

She said the victory will help her intensify her fight against GBV, adding that she wants to dismantle a cultural norm in Lesotho that views men as better leaders than women.

To achieve this, Matsie said she is not going to be confined to her Electoral Division (ED) of Linareng.

“I am going to push for women and girl rights across the whole constituency,” Matsie said.

The energetic MP has also contributed a lot in empowering women to be financially stable by helping them establish piggery projects in the area.

“They need to generate income that could at least ease their financial stress. Women should strive to be financially independent and be able to fight for their rights,” said Matsie.

Taung is one of the poorest constituencies in the country. The road network is bad and water supply is very limited. Only a few homes have been electrified in the constituency.

Matsie said there have been cases of people being swept away by raging rivers because there are no bridges in the area.

High unemployment and poverty in the area also have to be addressed, she said.

“What makes me popular in the area is that I understand everybody and I give them time to tell their story,” she said.

Of the memories from her youth that still remains in her mind is how the late Dr Ntsu Mokhehle used to visit her home in Linareng to discuss politics with her father.

“Whenever Dr Mokhehle came to Taung for political issues, he was received by my father. My father and Dr Mokhehle had strong political ties,” said Matsie.

Matsie said she is “deeply in love” with agriculture. She produces various crops for consumption, and also donates to the needy in her area, including those living with disability.

To bring people together, she organises sports events in the area where all sections of the community would come together to celebrate.

She also loves horse racing, a sport that is associated with males.

Because of the importance she attaches to education, Matsie helps some needy children in her area to further their studies.

“Some of the children I helped have made it to university,” said the mother of six, adding that she views education as a key to success and poverty alleviation.

Majara Molupe

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Mahao, PS in big fight



PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors



MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue



LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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