MASERU – IT’S a thankless, frustrating job. What complicates his task as MP is that there are no resources that are availed by the government to get the job done.And so when a resident in his Khubetsoana constituency dies and the family has no money to buy a coffin, Likopo Mahase, is still expected to step in and help.
Even when their beloved one dies somewhere in South Africa, the community still expects him to “do something” to bring back their loved one home and give him a befitting send-off.
For Mahase, failure to be there in their time of mourning would be the ultimate act of committing political suicide.
And when the people in Khubetsoana are looking for jobs, they still approach him as their MP and expect that he will “do something” to give them a job in Lesotho’s already blotted civil service.
When there is an election he finds himself funding most of his own campaigns by printing T-shirts from his own pocket. He even provides transport for his supporters to attend political rallies.
“There are as many challenges of being an MP as you can imagine. The truth is this is not a church, you are not going to the chapel,” Mahase says.
“You need patience to deal with people and solve their problems. They don’t want to speak to your Personal Assistant at the constituency office, they want to talk to you directly.”
As an MP, Mahase says he has had to sacrifice personal interests to get his political career going.
“You have no time for personal business otherwise the politics will suffer. You just cannot serve two masters.”
Mahase says being an MP is an impossible job.
Yet he says he remains determined to serve his Khubetsoana constituency to fight rampant poverty and inequality.
Mahase, a soft-spoken yet staunch All Basotho Convention (ABC) cadre, was first elected MP for Khubetsoana in 2015.
He retained the constituency in last year’s general elections won by the ABC.
To fight poverty and inequality, Mahase wants to see a change in how the government approaches issues of development.
He believes the controversial wool and mohair regulations passed by the government earlier this year will address the rampant poverty in Lesotho.
Under the regulations, which were met with howls of protest from a section of farmers, it is now illegal for Basotho to sell their wool and mohair outside Lesotho.
Mahase says the farmers just could not see the bigger picture when they were complaining about the “draconian” regulations.
They will eventually come around, he says.
He says this resistance to new ideas is not new in Lesotho. He says when the late Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan wanted to introduce the Angora goats and Merrino sheep, the farmers fiercely resisted the move. “They wanted to keep their old Basotho sheep and goats,” he says.
It was only later when Basotho farmers realised the benefits that came with the new breed when they accepted the idea, he says.
Based on this historical analogy, Mahase insists it is only a matter of time before the farmers’ appreciate the government’s position to block wool and mohair exports to Port Elizabeth in South Africa. He says with the whole process being regulated and done in Lesotho, farmers will now be able to “know the quality of their wool and the country will grow economically”.
“There will be no transport costs to take the wool to Port Elizabeth. The benefits will translate to the farmers.”
Mahase says dragging Lesotho out of poverty will require that “we sit down as Basotho and ask, ‘what are we doing for people living in the mountains?’”
The MP rejected as untrue charges by some of his own ABC supporters that the party had sold out to the Chinese.
The allegation followed what appeared to be the growing frustration with the role of the Chinese in Lesotho’s economy.
There have been allegations that the Chinese were slowly pushing out locals from small businesses in the districts, a charge the government and the Chinese embassy in Maseru have rejected.
Others have even accused the government of parceling out pieces of land to the Chinese.
Mahase says it is not true that the Chinese were pushing a “new form of imperialism” in Lesotho instead he took a swipe at his own people who he accused of being “all talk and no action”.
“The problem with Basotho is that they want to talk but don’t want to produce. The fields are not being fully utilised. Not a single one is doing it in a very productive way,” he says.
“We are not producing enough and want to produce on a small-scale. Farming doesn’t have a Sunday or public holiday. How many farming projects, run by Basotho, have collapsed?”
He says as for the Chinese, their work ethic is outstanding.
Mahase says being the “big church that it is,” the ABC would obviously run into problems as it sought to accommodate the divergent voices and interests.
“Once the numbers began to grow, we knew it also meant more problems for the party,” he says.
“All these people have different ideas on how the party should be run. We need a good and strong National Executive Committee (NEC) to solve the day-to-day issues that arise within the party.”
Mahase says the party will need to “reinforce our structures in the NEC, the constituencies and branches”.
He however rejects charges that First Lady ’Maeasiah Thabane was at the centre of the crisis within the party as alleged by some party heavyweights.
“She is helping vulnerable people in the constituencies and she is within her rights to do so,” he says.
Mahase says the only problem is that there is too much hunger in Lesotho with people expecting goodies from the First Lady every time.
“People should not expect miracles from her. She is a First Lady and not a public servant. The government is not running a spaza shop.”
Mahase says he is painfully aware of Lesotho’s turbulent past and wants a shake-up of the security sector.
He blames politicians “who always drag the security sector into our politics”.
“We want the security sector to fight our battles,” he says. “We need to discipline ourselves as politicians for the betterment of the country.”
Mahase is however not too optimistic about the future of Lesotho in the short-term. The reforms will be a long drawn out process, he says.
Even then he thinks Lesotho’s security challenges will take a long time to be sorted out.
“To demolish a building you need just a day but to build will take you a year.”
He thinks the recruitment strategies employed by political parties that have seen security agents being recruited based on party affiliation will be very difficult to uproot.
“We use our powers to hire these young guys in the army, the police and NSS (National Security Service) who are affiliated to political parties. You don’t bite the hand that is giving you food.”
Mahase says until those accused of human rights violations are arraigned before the courts of law and charged, there will be no reconciliation in Lesotho.
“We need to speak and find why they were doing what they did. We need to know who sent them. South Africa tried the issue of reconciliation without justice and they are still crying since 1994. They need justice.”
Mahase was born on July 15, 1969 in Seforong in Quthing district. Like other young boys in Lesotho then, he would herd the family’s cattle and go to the fields.
“There was no other way of life; it was non-negotiable,” he says.
He also did not consider that kind of life a punishing routine; that is how all boys lived in the village in the early 1970s until he moved to Maseru in the early 1980s. He says that upbringing set him on a firm footing in life.
His family was fiercely pro-Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) led by Dr Ntsu Mokhehle who was involved in a mortal tussle for political dominance with the then Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan. Following the re-introduction of democracy in Lesotho in 1993, Mahase says he continued to vote for the BCP, impressed by its commitment to wage an armed struggle to re-assert democracy.
Disillusionment however quickly set in after he watched his beloved BCP tear itself apart through splits.
There was also a serious disconnect between what the party stood for in exile and what was happening on the ground when the BCP leaders came back home to Lesotho.
Fed up with the internal squabbles within the BCP, Mahase quit the party and joined the ABC at its formation in 2006.
He has served as an MP since 2015.
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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