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Trouble in paradise

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MASERU – FOR years the communities around villagers around Kolo Mine in Mafeteng have viewed the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), an ecumenical lobby group, as an ombudsman of sorts. They had embraced the TRC as a mediator in their scuffles with Kolo Diamond Mine.
The TRC took up that role with vim, lobbying the community to defend their rights against the mine and demand better compensation for their fields and grazing lands.
And in the beginning it looked like the TRC’s work was paying dividends.

Armed with the ‘education’ from the TRC, the villagers piled pressure on the mine.
Relations soured and the mine bore the brunt of negative press.
That however changed last week when the community turned against the TRC.

After years of lobbying the community to demand more from the mine, the TRC now finds itself accused of pushing its own agenda.
The community now says the TRC has been brewing trouble between them and the mine in Mafeteng.
The tiff comes as Kolo Mine is preparing to go into full commercial production.

The mine is now in the care and maintenance phase during which it will be mobilising resources to fund full-scale production as well as relocate and compensate communities affected by its operations. It will also buy a new plant and enhance the water and electricity supply. Roads will also be constructed.
An Environmental Impact Assessment is being conducted to understand how the mine’s operations will affect the environment and the community.
Historically, this is the time when the TRC wants to be heavily involved in the negotiations between the mine and the community. The TRC believes that it plays a crucial role in educating poor communities to defend their rights against big corporates, especially those in the extractive industry.

But as became apparent at a public gathering last Wednesday, the TRC seems to have rubbed the Kolo community the wrong way.
The mine was using the gathering to inform the community about the progress it has made thus far and the next phase of the mining operations.
Yet it soon turned into a platform for the community to vent its displeasure at the TRC, which was represented at the meeting.
Mamahlape Hlapane, chairperson of the community committee, told the gathering that they were tired of the TRC’s interference.
Hlapane accused the organisation of “sowing confusion”.

She told thepost this week that her committee wants nothing to do with TRC officials who she said have been “trying to instigate the community against the mine”.
“We are wiser as a community now. We know that they are not fighting for us but their own interests,” Hlapane said.
She said their main problem is that the TRC wants to influence the selection of the committee chairperson.

“They want the community to directly elect a chairperson of the committee against the regulations which clearly state that the chairperson, the secretary and the treasurer are elected from a committee elected by the community. They have been feeding the community wrong information.”
“What I have noticed is that the TRC thinks we are an ignorant lot. They don’t know that we know the laws and regulations. We know what is happening.”
Hlapane accused the lobby group of trying to turn the community against their chief.

“They have been trying to cause confusion for us. That is why we are saying we are no longer interested in their help.”
“The community is clear that it is capable of dealing directly with the mine without the help of the TRC. But, for some reason, the TRC thinks it can force its way into our affairs and influence how we should interact with the mine. That is what we are resisting.”

“That is the same thing I told the gathering last week. TRC officials were present so they know where we stand regarding their interference.
Rorisang Mahlo, a mines ministry public relations officer, said the Kolo community’s stance “shows that some communities around mines want to control their dialogue with companies operating in their areas.”

“What’s happening in Kolo should awaken other communities that are still under the influence of such organisations that come in the name of human rights but are bent on causing trouble that affects business and lives of the people in communities around them,” Mahlo said.
“It is high time that such organisations stop what they are doing. But if they want to continue they should know that communities will eventually see their ulterior motives.”
“Experience has shown that the best interaction between the mines and the community is a direct one that does not involve intermediaries.”

Hlalele Hlalele, TRC’s social justice and socioeconomic rights officer, said he did not want to respond directly to Hlapane “because our role is to listen to communities”.
Hlalele said he suspects the bone of contention could be how some consultations were handled.
He said there was a disagreement on how some graves at the mine should be relocated.

“The families involved thought that the reburial should be discussed with the families while the committee felt that it should handle the matter as the representative of the community,” Hlalele said. “There might have been some misunderstanding there but our role as TRC is to help communities so we have to listen to everyone.”
Last week Storm Mountain Diamond (SMD), owners of Kao Mine, also accused the TRC of causing trouble.

SMD chairperson Mitford Mundell told a press conference that the TRC is “provoking conflict, pitting stakeholders against each other”.
He said the organisation is “jeopardising social cohesion and important stakeholder relationships”.
Mundell was responding the TRC’s allegations that the mine was violating human rights and deny the communities fair compensation.
Mundell said the TRC was not interested in dialogue but chaos which they instigate by misleading the community with false information.

Staff Reporter

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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