MASERU-Advocate ’Mota Nkuatsana recalls what he sees as a pivotal moment in his life in the late 1970s when he was expelled from Eagles Peak High School in Qacha’s Nek.
The young Nkuatsana felt he had been treated unjustly by a fellow student and took matters into his own hands, literally.
Even at that early age, he had a clear understanding of what he perceived to be fair and just. And so when he felt an injustice had been committed against him, he fought the offending student and beat him to a pulp.
Nkuatsana was summarily expelled from school.
That glaring injustice by the school authorities was to remain etched in his mind for years to come.
He however recalls that event, over four decades ago, with an unbridled sense of pride.
And so even in those formative years, Nkuatsana would constantly find himself fighting against any family or societal rule that he thought was unjust.
On numerous times, that got him into trouble.
“It’s who I am. I cannot stand people who treat others unjustly. That’s why I got so mad at the boy that I failed to control myself and fought him,” he says.
Wherever he has worked, whether in private companies or government ministries, Nkuatsana says he has always stood with the oppressed and the downtrodden, sometimes at great personal cost.
Sometimes he would find himself on a collision course with his own bosses when they treated junior staff in a way that he thought was unfair.
Five decades later, it is that unswerving commitment to the pursuit of justice that still drives him on.
“A community that does not treat people with justice is completely anathema to me, that’s who I am.”
Fast forward five decades after that Eagle’s Peak High School incident, Nkuatsana now finds himself confronted by new challenges in what has been a shifting political environment.
But his basic political guiding principle has remained the same – an unflinching commitment to justice.
Nkuatsana is among a bunch of six candidates who are vying to take over the presidency of the Basotho National Party (BNP) from Thesele ’Maseribane when his term ends in June.
A seasoned lawyer, he says he is painfully aware of the task ahead of him. He says he wants to dismantle party apparatus that has aided, for decades, the culture of sycophancy in the BNP.
He says he will need to stage a “revolution” within the party if he is to do so.
Nkuatsana says to fix the BNP will require nothing short of a “revolution” no matter how long it takes and how painful it might be.
He says he wants to dismantle the “cult of personality” and the blatant sycophancy that has been promoted in the party in recent years. He says that too has also fostered “a culture of impunity within the BNP.”
“We have no respect for the rule of law. Our legal frameworks don’t matter anymore. Everything went with what the boss wants and not what the law says.”
If elected, Nkuatsana says this will all change.
He wants to implement an agenda “which will attract human resources that understand how to resuscitate an economy that has long been in the slumps”.
That will require that the BNP “redraws our programme for the production of knowledge”.
He wants to see a fundamental shift in Lesotho’s education system.
Nkuatsana says despite the BNP being the party that “brought” independence to Lesotho in 1966 and had progressive policies, it is clear that the party is now a mere shadow of its former glorious self.
“With time, it became clear that we were no longer the same; we became a different party, a party that no longer conforms to its own norms.”
The result was that the BNP lost its friends both at home and abroad.
“We are now a party which has no prospects of being government again.”
The BNP is largely seen as “damaged goods” electorally. It won a single constituency in the 2015 election. The last time it had won a constituency was in 1998.
But Nkuatsana says this sad narrative of the party’s electoral fortunes can still be changed, with the right people at the helm of the party.
He says he believes he has assembled a competent team that can drive that change if he wins elections in June.
“We will embark on resuscitating our party, making it relevant again. We want to make it a real player on the Lesotho political landscape.”
Nkuatsana speaks of the “need for a revolution” within the BNP to change the ways things are being done within the party.
“It may take long, it may be painful, but we are ready to serve.”
It is telling that Nkuatsana, repeatedly, speaks of “resuscitating” the BNP. That is significant.
Here is a political party that dominated the Lesotho political landscape from independence in 1966 until the mid-1980’s, but is now on life support and in need of a resuscitation.
Nkuatsana says he believes he is the man to breathe life into the dying party.
He attributes the party’s sorry state to decades of maladministration and mis-governance.
The BNP has been paying the bill for such gross acts of mis-governance through successive thumping at the polls since 1993.
“We need to draw ourselves a roadmap to resuscitate the party,” he says.
He says chief among the BNP’s weaknesses is a shocking failure to abide by its own constitution.
“We want to make it a party that respects the rule of law. We have forgotten how to live by the Constitution.”
Every time he has found himself confronted by injustice in society, it would have been easier to take the course of least resistance.
But not Nkuatsana.
He has taken, head on, anyone he thought was stamping on justice. He fought injustice at school and at the workplace, and throughout his life.
Now he says he wants to tackle injustice within the BNP itself and at the national level.
Although he is a successful lawyer, Nkuatsana says “my real calling is about serving my people, fostering justice where there is none”.
“My calling is about reshaping Lesotho so it is no longer a “least developed country”. One can’t dedicate his life to fighting poverty successfully while playing golf with the millionaires.”
Nkuatsana says his personal interests as a lawyer can take a back-seat as long as the people’s agenda of rolling back poverty is achieved.
“I want to dedicate my life to changing my country for my children and grandchildren for good so that they can never be citizens of a Least Developed Country again.”
But what if he loses at the party’s elective conference in June?
“Even if I lose, it’s aluta continua,” Nkuatsana says. “Our vision and mission do not end with just losing an election. This is an ongoing process which will not end with us.”
He says if “you lose, you go back to the drawing board and if you win you would have to start governing in accordance with the principles of democracy and good governance”.
Thankfully, Nkuatsana says there are people who genuinely think the BNP’s fortunes can be turned around.
“If we quit, we would have betrayed them. And so we are prepared and ready to keep trying until we succeed.”
He believes the party has a golden opportunity to “correct” historical wrongs that have been committed by party cadres in selecting competent leaders.
Over the last 30 years, Nkuatsana says the party has dismally failed to put in office a visionary leader.
“We have been our own worst enemy,” he says. “For close to 30 years we have been choosing a man who could not steer the ship to where it should have been.”
This time, if not careful, the BNP will likely make the same mistake, he says ominously.
Nkuatsana trained as a lawyer in the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) between 1982 and 1991. He graduated with a degree in Law having majored in Public International Law and Law of International Organisations.
Again, it was his pursuit of justice that drove his academic ambitions.
He says he has always fancied speaking on behalf of the underdog and on that occasion he was looking for opportunities to speak for his country in international fora.
As a young boy, Nkuatsana had always been fascinated by the geo-political circumstances of his country, Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by its bigger and much more prosperous neighbour South Africa.
And from the little gleanings he picked from his reading, he came to understand the great injustice done by the Afrikaners in South Africa when they encroached on Basotho’s ancestral land in the Free State.
“By picking law, I wanted to fix the wrong that had been done to my country which saw it lose a piece of land to South Africa. That shaped the decision of the profession that I took.”
Even now, Nkuatsana remains determined to “get back that piece of land”.
That historical wrong bothered Nkuatsana then as it still does today.
Nkuatsana says he grew up at a time when the country was very impoverished. While being raised by his paternal grandmother in Thaba-Tseka, he never knew how a car looked like.
His first time to see a vehicle was when he started living with his parents, who were both teachers.
His father later became an MP, adding he benefitted immensely from his mentorship.
That probably illustrates how remote some places in Thaba-Tseka were at that time.
That background, surrounded by teachers, meant little Nkuatsana was heavily exposed to books and more books. And so he immersed himself in reading.
“I used to read a lot,” he says.
As he continued to read, he found himself slowly getting hooked on African politics. He was to be introduced to legendary leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and our very own Moshoeshoe I.
“As I continued to read, I got challenged by own status quo. I was impressed by what the father of our nation went through and despite all the tribulations, he managed to steer the country through all that.”
The injustices that were currently taking place in apartheid South Africa during those stormy 1970s and 80’s also had a major impact on his political consciousness, thanks to fiercely independent newspapers such as the Rand Daily Mail.
The Mail was a fierce critic of the apartheid government. It was seen as a leading voice for the oppressed in South Africa.
Nkuatsana says he read from cover-to-cover one such voluminous issue of the newspaper detailing the cruelties of the apartheid government.
He was incensed.
“After reading about what was going on in South Africa, you felt that you too had to contribute to undo the wrongs of the system,” he says.
When he moved to the Soviet Union in 1982, he met students who had fled South Africa. They too helped shape his political thinking at that time.
“I came to understand the pain of wanting to do justice in a system where there is no justice,” he says.
At that point, having been exposed to the brutalities of the apartheid regime, most students chose to throw their weight behind the struggle.
“As for me, I said there was no way I could live in a system where citizens are treated unjustly.”
That mission remains unfulfilled.
By throwing his hat in the ring, it would appear that Nkuatsana remains committed to righting historical wrongs and fighting for the downtrodden.
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.
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.
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.
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