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The plight of women journalists



MASERU – On Tuesday as the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day, it was the same old bigotry and misery for female journalists in Lesotho.
Who are we kidding? There is no media freedom in this country.

Just on Sunday, a Matchday newspaper reporter, Reitumetse Mabaleha, was insulted, threatened and nearly assaulted by a football player for simply doing her job while covering a Nedbank 8 tie between Qacha’s Nek LMPS and Limkokwing University at Bambatha Tšita Sport Arena.

According to Mabaleha, the attack happened after a Qacha LMPS player was shown a red card which sparked a violent commotion between the sides’ technical teams and officials.
As Mabaleha was taking pictures of the scene, she was approached by a bench player who hurled vulgar insults at her and threatened to beat her up.

This thug would have reached her if it were not for officials and other people present who quickly stepped in to stop the red-eyed hoodlum who was clenching his fists in rage.
Mabaleha recounted her traumatic experience in a telephonic interview with thepost on Tuesday. As Mabaleha spoke on the phone, it was clear she was still shaken by the ordeal.

“I was taking pictures when I was approached (nearly attacked) by a player from the (Qacha’s Nek LMPS) bench, and he was insulting me (and shouting) ‘don’t take pictures of me.’ He was stopped before he could reach me,” Mabaleha said.

“Another gentleman who was behind the bench also tried attacking me and said they are not scared because the local media is hungry. He also was stopped. (A-Division Management Committee) president Ntate (Tšeliso) Ramatla was there, he got involved and tried to stop it,” she added.

The safety of women in sports is not guaranteed and the scourge is not just in the media, it is a broader social issue. The message women get from men at sports arenas is that they are not welcome. Sexism and harassment are intolerable and the country’s gender-based violence (GBV) statistics are through the roof.

Women are the main victims. Last month, during the draw of the Nedbank 8, the A-Division Management Committee (ADMACO) unveiled their new anti-GBV campaign. They announced they were going to use footballers to transmit their message.

At the time, we highlighted the hypocrisy of using football players, some of whom are well-known abusers, to push such an important topic and it did not take long for the players to spit their responsibility right back at ADMACO.

ADMACO, through its spokesperson Mothusi Letsie, has since called and apologised to Mabaleha. The first division body said they are still studying the incident and will decide what disciplinary measures to take. However, ADMACO said that does not stop Mabaleha from taking action against the player. Qacha’s Nek LMPS only called Mabaleha last night to apologise.

She is undecided on what to do, not because she does not know what to do, but because she is scared.
The player that attacked Mabaleha is likely a police officer. Although that has not yet been confirmed, if it is the case, then it could threaten her safety even at home.

It probably threatens mine, too.
It is shocking that every day women are fighting for their right to be equal with men. Mabaleha was not the only one taking photos on Sunday, she had male colleagues doing the same thing.

The Qacha’s Nek LMPS player picked on her based on the fact that she is a woman and that is what abusers do. They pick their victims based on their perceived weakness.

After the commotion settled down, the Qacha’s Nek LMPS versus Limkokwing University tie continued to an end, but it was too much for Mabaleha. She reckons if the looks she received could kill, she would not be alive. She left in the middle of the game feeling unsafe and went all the way to Maputsoe to cover the Vodacom Premier League game between Bantu and Lioli.

The scary part is that this is not an isolated incident, it is just one of many ordeals female reporters are subjected to everyday. It is tiring.

Women are fighting for their right to be safe at football grounds. Over the last seven years that I have been covering sports, I have endured all forms of abuse. Although none has been physical, I have been on the receiving end of discrimination and sexual intimidation from players and coaches because I am a woman. Having a different opinion from a man is enough for them to make your life a nightmare. We are constantly uncomfortable.

The silence from men about this shame is sickening. For example, only Tebalo Lebajoa of Radio Lesotho has posted publicly about Sunday’s incident. He has since deleted his Facebook post and the comments from men that were annoyed that a player was receiving a dressing down in public made me want to puke.

They were upset the incident has become a “public spectacle”, one even suggested the matter should be dealt with in private and the player must be counselled and protected. What about Mabaleha, the victim?

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a player would be comfortable threatening a woman reporter. Football in this country harbours and protects criminals. They assault referees whenever they do not agree with their decisions.

Mabaleha said she felt belittled and would like to see some sort of punishment handed to the player.
I want to be clear, not all men in sports are disgusting pigs.

There are many players, coaches, officials, executives and fans who do not deserve to be painted with the same brush as these bad apples, but the bad give the good a bad rep, if the good ones do not speak up more.

On a daily basis I interact with different people in sports from football to athletics. I can fill this whole page writing about the professionalism and respect I receive whether I am calling the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) or clubs.
Women are not asking to be mollycoddled, we are just asking for fair and equal treatment. Please kick thugs out of the game.

Tlalane Phahla

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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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