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The rise of Seboche Hospital



MASERU – FROM the neat yard and friendly staff, one cannot tell right away that not so long ago a hailstorm blew away Seboche Hospital.
A closer look however reveals that the big building at the centre of the compound is empty and its roof is not in good shape.
This is the result of a tragedy that hit the hospital five months ago.
But this week marked a new beginning towards refurbishing the hospital back to its full capacity.

Vodacom Lesotho, through Vodacom Lesotho Foundation, availed M1.3 million for the replacement of the damaged asbestos roofing.
The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) offered its technical skills to cover the cost associated with getting a contractor to do the work.
If all goes well, the hospital might start admitting patients in April.
The people of Seboche and its surrounding villages will no longer have to go far for admissions.

Sister Vitalina Doti, a senior official at the hospital, narrated how the main building’s roof was damaged on September 30 last year.
No one could have predicted that by the next day Seboche Hospital would no longer be admitting patients except pregnant women.
“It was only around 4pm that the weather dramatically changed in Butha-Buthe,” Doti said.
The hailstorm hit the Seboche area wrecking the already old asbestos-roofed Seboche Hospital, established in 1962 by the Roman Catholic Church.

“Windows broke. The roof leaked and the admission wards and administrative offices were flooded,” she said.
“Washing basins, dustbins and blankets were our arsenals in trying to stop water from flooding the wards.”
The fight, she explained, lasted way beyond midnight.
“Patients were quickly moved to corners where the water seemed to have minimal impact,” she said.

“Luckily no patients were badly affected that night.”
“That night we did not have a power cut but in the morning we had one, throwing us in a panic as we had Covid-19 patients who were on oxygen machines,” she said.
“We called out to the Ministry of Health in the district and ultimately the Maseru headquarters. With their assistance, we were able to move those patients to nearby facilities.”
While struggling to keep water out of the wards the offices were also flooding, damaging computers, files, and documents containing critical information.
Out of options, the hospital stopped admitting patients.

The 76 beds serving a population of 14 000 people were empty.
“Though messages were issued to notify the people we serve, they still came here hoping for assistance. As a result, our ambulances were on the road day and night transporting patients to nearby hospitals.”
The enormous task ahead was fixing the roof and getting the hospital functional again.
“We did not have the money. Therefore, we knocked on many doors and luckily Vodacom Foundation heard our pleas. We are grateful that today, almost five months later the roof will be repaired. When it is done we can go back to serving patients,” Doti said.

Sister Clementina Molefe, another hospital official, said during the night of the damage they concurred with the Sesotho words that this was sefako sa linehelloa se linaka, se ruthutang (A destructive hailstorm invoked as a curse).
Sister Molefe said their prayers for help have been answered through Vodacom Lesotho Foundation and the LDF.
Climate change is real, she said.

“The heavy rainfalls, the hail storms, are all evidence of how drastic weather has changed.”
She added that the bridge connecting Seboche to other villages has also collapsed due to heavy rainfalls, creating a crisis for patients in those villages.
“The cost of living has skyrocketed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no money for food let alone money for transport to health facilities,” she said.

“It is my plea that something gets done to fix that bridge so that the people from Butha-Buthe do not have to go all the way round to Ha-Marakabei to get to Seboche.”
Another challenge facing the hospital is the state of the roads.
As a result of poor roads, the hospital’s ambulances are always in need of mechanical services.

Not long ago a pregnant woman died after an ambulance broke down on the way to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
“We are losing too many lives due to the state of this road. We have knocked on doors. We continue to plead with those in power to fix this road,” she said.
“We do not only serve the people of Seboche but patients from all over the country.”
However, this road is another roadblock in trying to provide quality service.
It intensifies patients’ pains and results in complications, Molefe said.
Tšepo Ntaopane, the Executive Head of Legal at Vodacom Lesotho, said the foundation was established with the mandate to extend a helping hand to Basotho.

The case of Seboche Hospital, he said, gave them sleepless nights as more heavy rainfalls were projected.
“When the disaster hit, our budget was already allocated to many other projects,” Ntaopane said.
“However, due to the dire need to get the hospital up and running again, we had to push back some projects,” he said.
“When we found the money we realised that it could only go as far as covering materials and not labour costs. That is when we called the army asking for assistance to provide their skills for the project.”

Ntaopane urged other companies who enjoy the support of Basotho to spend their money locally investing in projects that change Basotho’s lives.
The LDF commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, said when they heard of the calamity that befell the hospital, they did not know how to assist due to resource constraints.
“It is disheartening that when our people have been hit by a tragedy that we could only express shock without doing anything because we had no resources,” Lt Gen Letsoela said.
He said the army has to assist in the event of disasters.

Lt Gen Letsoela pledged that going forward he will grant the hospital access to helicopters to transport critical patients, especially those fatally injured in accidents and pregnant women.
“The group of experts will come here to work on mending the roof and because asbestos is a sensitive material, they took some time coming up with strategies and plans to ensure that everyone involved will be safe,” he said.

He added that locals are welcome to help in the refurbishment.
John Matlosa, the chairman of the Vodacom Lesotho Foundation, said they are helping Basotho in health, education, and entrepreneurship.
“We exist because of your continued support. It is because of that support that we are also able to give back,” Matlosa said.

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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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