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Tough as a nail



MASERU-Tough, resolute and unwavering on his principles even in the face of adversity. Advocate Fusi Sehapi says it is the hard times he endured as a child that prepared him for the tough road ahead.
Negative perceptions often follow his publicly stated views. But he stands firm on his beliefs.

Like weathering an avalanche of criticism by fellow lawyers when he challenged the criterion used to bestow individuals with the King’s Counsel title.
Or withstanding denigration when he challenged the blanket approach of Covid-19 immunisation irrespective of one’s religious beliefs.

The 35-year-old started working as a shepherd when he was only five years old and paid his own fees after enrolling himself in a school when he turned nine.
“I would be envious of other children when I saw them going to school while I remained behind looking after livestock,” Advocate Sehapi told thepost in an interview recently.
“When I became nine I had worked enough to pay my school fees,” he said.

His driving ambition was to fight injustice as a lawyer.

“It was at that age when I resolved to be a lawyer,” said Advocate Sehapi, who later studied law at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
The Mafeteng district-born lawyer said he was raised by a mother who was almost always away from home as she was working in Van Rooyen, South Africa, at a farm and in other places depending on the availability of a job.

“I had to work for other people as a shepherd so that I could pay my fees. At first, I wanted to be a shepherd in the village so that I could be able to eat,” he said.
The resolve to become a professional who could stand and fight for human rights started at that time, recalled Advocate Sehapi.

“I always believed that my rights as a child were being violated and nobody seemed to care.”

When he returned home to reunite with his mother, she began to support him with some necessities needed to further his education, although he continued paying his own fees.
“My performance was good and I always had a unique way of handling my studies,” he said. “I would always argue with my teachers on things I felt should not be done in a way they did but as a child I would let go when they insisted on what they were doing.”

Of his days at NUL, Advocate Sehapi says “My aim of studying law was not just to be a lawyer but to implement law where I find a need to do so.”
When he graduated from law school in 2014, Sehapi practised under Advocate Zwelakhe Mda KC’s law firm based in Mafeteng.

“He took me by the hand and showed me the way,” said Sehapi, adding that his academic performance at school had been affected by a loss of his hearing sense which lowered his confidence levels.

“But since I was already attached to Advocate Mda, he was never disappointed in my studies. In fact he motivated me even more. He told me that what matters is how I make myself a better lawyer,” said Advocate Sehapi.

What was important, he said Advocate Mda told him, was how he would differentiate himself from other lawyers.
“He told me that my uniqueness will always come out in my practice.”

Advocate Sehapi, who was little known before the advent of Covid-19, made headlines when he filed an application in the High Court challenging the Chief Justice’s prerogative to advise the King to bestow the title of King’s Counsel to deserving lawyers.

He also claimed that he qualified for the title.

He argued that he should not wait to complete 15 years of practice to be appointed as the King’s Counsel, saying the current arrangement is “contrary to England and Commonwealth jurisdictions practice on conferring the status of Queen’s Counsel, King’s Counsel or Senior Counsel”.

He lost the case, but says he is proud of the arguments he raised and hopes they ignited debate among lawyers locally and abroad.

Using several mediums, including social media, scores of lawyers criticised Advocate Sehapi, and accused him of overrating himself.

The other case that put Advocate Sehapi on the spotlight is when he led some civil society organisations that were seeking to block a government-imposed mandatory Covid-19 vaccination programme.

The applicants included the Christian Advocates and Ambassadors of Lesotho, Justice and Democratic Ambassadors Association and the Lesotho Public Service Staff Association.

The application sought an order to halt the implementation of the Public Health (Covid-19) Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures (Amendment) (No 4) Regulations of 2021.

He won the case, although the victory came after the government had already relaxed the mandatory vaccination for all people who visited public places, including shops and health centres.
The third case, which is pending in the High Court, is one in which he is challenging the Communications (Subscriber Identity Module Registration) Regulations of 2021, saying the regulations are illegal.

The aim of the regulations is to curtail criminal activities involving the use of mobile devices and SIM cards by anonymous users.
The process of registering SIM cards started in June last year and has to be completed within 12 months.

After June 24, 2023, all unregistered active SIM cards will be deactivated, Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) has warned.
Advocate Sehapi argues that the regulations violate ordinary people’s rights to privacy, also warning that they leave room for communication companies to misuse people’s personal information.
He says he does things differently from other lawyers.

“I recall Justice Molefi Makara telling me that I have a problem as I do not want to do things the normal way. He was so mad at me but fortunately he is now the one who is impressed with my work,” he said.

Advocate Sehapi says he believes “it’s not over until it’s over”.

He says he is at a point where he is seeking to develop a law that will mandate the government to respond to the social problems of the people.
The government, he says, should not be allowed to do things at will but should follow the law.
“I want to use law as a tool for social development,” he says.

He argues that under the current system, the law allows the government to fold its arms instead of acting when people are suffering from lack of services.
For example, he says he cannot sue the government for failing to bring health services closer to the people.
There is no law that forces the government to act, he says.

He cites a case in which an organisation representing street vendors, Khathang Tema Baitšokoli, lost a bid to stop the Maseru City Council from removing them from locations where they could easily sell their goods.

“They lost the case because the judgment indicated that the court cannot make a judgement that has a financial implication to the state,” says Advocate Sehapi.

Advocate Sehapi referred to this case when he was arguing on behalf of doctors who complained that the law does not protect them and yet they were working under unhealthy conditions.
“The court agreed with me, saying the law should be developed. At first the court did not agree with me but eventually Covid-19 came and that was when the court agreed with me,” he says.
He says a person should be able to claim the right to health because “violation of that right automatically impacts on the right to life”.

“You can’t separate the right to life from the right to good health because if a person is unhealthy gradually he is dying.”

Another of his cases is the right of the Ha-Tšosane community to claim good health by pushing for the removal of a hazardous rubbish dumpsite.
The case is pending in the High Court.

He says the doctors’ working environment case helped him develop the law, then followed by the Covid-19 case which he believed was “a spiritual case” to him.
“There was no case of this kind worldwide. I can’t take credit for it, rather I give credit to God,” he says.

’Malimpho Majoro

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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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