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The rot at the core



…..Veteran farmer wants extension services overhauled…..

MASERU-THE Ministry of Agriculture should start taking its job seriously and overhaul the agricultural extension services office to better capacitate rural subsistence and commercial dairy farmers, a veteran farmer has said.
Kuena Phafane, a veteran dairy farmer, said agricultural extension services have plummeted in the past 15 years.

“Many farmers are in distress because of the lip services,” said Phafane, who has been in dairy farming for the past four decades.
Phafane, who is also the chairman of the Maseru District Farmers Association, said the ministry, through the Department of Livestock Services, used to offer services that helped farmers sail through problems in the dairy sector.

The assistance included the provision of extension officers to guide farmers through all the production processes but that is now a thing of the past.
“You do not have to venture into the dairy industry with abysmal ignorance. One needs to be trained thoroughly,” Phafane said.
Phafane says the extension officers would go down to them at village level to demonstrate how things are done.

Keeping dairy animals is no walk in the park because it is an industry that requires expertise to succeed, he said.
“For a start, one needs to know the breed of animals that would be suitable in the environment of Lesotho. So that needs someone with expertise not just an ordinary man,” he said.

After choosing the right breed, one has to know how to care for the animals, from feeding skills, milking techniques, breeding tactics and vigilance.
“You have to be watchful for 24 hours. You cannot rear animals while staying far away from the farm,” said Phafane, who said he was inspired by an expert at the Department of Livestock Services, Selema-Tsela Montši.

Experts from the department would tour South African farms with Basotho farmers to show them the best breed to buy.
He noted that problems started when extension services were removed from the Department of Livestock Services to the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB), a state-run body set up to regulate the dairy industry.

Phafane said he is worried because the Livestock Department has been stripped of services.
“Only laboratory services are offered to test milk for diseases. The rest of the services are no longer offered,” he lamented.

Phafane is now using the experience he has garnered over the years to help upcoming farmers and keep dairy farming alive in Lesotho.
Born in Matsieng, about 40 kilometres south of Maseru, in on Feb, 1939, Phafane has a thriving farm in Ha-Mantšebo.

He says fell in love with dairy animals back in 1973. A decade later, he started using science to improve his business.
Phafane recalls that at one point Lesotho blocked the importation of milk because the country was doing well in terms of milk production.

“Only processed and pasteurised milk was allowed to pass through the borders into Lesotho from South Africa,” he said.
An Agricultural Technical Officer, Sylvia Rangoako, who oversees extension services in Leribe’s Tale ward, attributed the current rot to lack of resources.

Rangoako said in the past extension workers had cars to facilitate travel to villages to train farmers “but lately many of us are grounded”.
“You cannot go to distant villages because there is no transport. You concentrate on those that are near you,” Rangoako said.

She added: “In the past, if a department was not available, you could catch a taxi with your own personal money and claim a refund later. That provision has since been abolished,” she said.
Rangoako said another major challenge is that the younger generation of extension officers does not want to walk long distances to meet farmers.

“I am now old, and left with only three years before retirement. During my youth I would walk from village to village training farmers,” she said, adding that “these young ones who are hired these days are lazy”.
Another extension officer nearing retirement said “nowadays people are hired based on their political affiliation for jobs they do not really care about”.

“Some of these young ones are actually politicians masquerading as extension officers. It is obvious that their interest is not in farmer training but in their political parties,” the officer, who requested anonymity, said.
Agriculture Minister Tefo Mapesela said he is aware of the problems affecting the dairy industry and the broader agricultural sector in the country.

“The root cause of all these problems is the dipping levy, which has been mismanaged in the past,” Mapesela said.
“We are thinking of opening a trust fund where farmers will be able to access funds to boost their activities,” he said.

The livestock services department has deteriorated “because the coffers that would allow extension officers to take services to the farmers have dried up”, said the minister, also blaming farmers for misusing the funds in the past.

“It is not only the dairy farmers who have suffered,” Mapesela said.
Agricultural extension services, also known as agricultural advisory services, play a crucial role in boosting agricultural productivity, increasing food security, improving rural livelihoods, and promoting agriculture as an engine for pro-poor economic growth.

A study conducted by Tšepiso Rantšo and Moipone Makhobotloane from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) found that the supply of milk to the local dairy industry is not sustainable due to the small number of farmers participating in dairy farming.

“This has thwarted the capacity of the dairy industry to produce a variety of dairy products for the domestic market. As a result, the local market is flooded with milk products imported from South Africa,” reads part of the study, whose findings were published in June 2020.

However, the Lesotho Review of 2020 says Lesotho’s raw milk imports had dropped by almost 200 percent, thanks to a hefty increase in local production.
It says milk imported by the Lesotho Dairy Products (LDP) decreased from 1.3 million litres in 2017/18 to just 386 000 litres in the first 10 months of the 2018/19 financial year. At the same time, local dairy farmers’ earnings increased.

The LDP produces pasteurised fresh milk, sour milk and long-life milk for the local market under the Maluti Maid brand.
The Lesotho Review says imported dairy products consumed in Lesotho account for 80 percent of the country’s total dairy consumption.

“There is thus a need to diversify local production to include products like cheese and yoghurt, particularly in view of their longer shelf-life,” it said.
It said the LNDB, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, has trained farmers on taking care of dairy animals, including issues related to feeding and animal health.

“In addition, there is a drive to reopen a number of milk collection centres around the country,” the Lesotho Review said.
“This has seen the LNDB reopen the 1 500-litre Mafeteng Milk Collection Centre, bringing the number of operational milk collection centres to six nationwide.”

Majara Molupe

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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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