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‘We need to jerk up wasco’



MASERU – Access to clean water is one of the biggest problems in Lesotho. Although the problem is magnified in the rural and remote areas, those in urban areas are also struggling. In 2019, Leo Hellen, the United Nations Human Rights expert, aptly described the impact of the water problem on Basotho. “In Lesotho, water, sanitation and hygiene lie at the centre of poverty cycle in which two out of three Basotho live in poverty,” Hellen said. “The lack of those services both drives vulnerability particularly for those who are already at risk; rural women, orphans etc.

Water and Sanitation are a bottleneck that holds them back from improving their lives, making choices on their way of living and expanding their freedom.” It is within the government’s ability to ensure that every Mosotho has access to water. The question is why this is not happening. Our reporter, ’Mapule Motsopa, this week spoke to Water Minister Nkaku Kabi to understand why the government is struggling to provide water to the people.

What problems have you identified since you were appointed the Minister of Water Affairs?
I found loans that were not paid. These loans were for grants that were given to the ministry for projects. I learnt that the country was already paying those loans but the services were never rendered. A lot of money was allocated for service delivery but projects were shelved. Before my appointment 65 percent of Basotho, mostly in the rural areas, had some form of access to water but most of the water sources had dried up because of droughts.

Taps don’t have water in the villages, not because they have been vandalised but because sources have dried up. We had to start afresh. This led us to emphasize the importance of preserving rangelands and pastures which are the main water sources. We held consultations with herd boys, councillors and chiefs and we are in the process of meeting with Principal Chiefs on how to address this issue.

We have got M700 million from the GIZ (Deutsch Gesellschaft fϋr Internationale Zusammenarbeit) to fence off water sources and educate the public about the importance of wetlands. We are working with the European Union (EU) on a project with an almost similar agenda.

How much do you think is needed to deal with the water crisis?
I will not be able to estimate with figures but rather time. Conditions were that between now and 2030, every Mosotho would have water but the Prime Minister instructed the ministry that it should take only four years, until 2026. We will do all the projections and calculations to cover the whole country by 2026. So, I will ask civil servants to do the study. We still have to do feasibility studies, designs amongst other things. Climate change is not in our control even though we can put certain measures to ensure environmental protection.

I believe teaching people will help them understand the importance of preserving rangelands, which is something that has not been happening for years and many water sources have been destroyed especially in the mountainous regions. Rangelands ought to be protected as they will help our country in the long run.

What do you think is the best way to address water scarcity in villages across the country?

We can’t reach all areas at once as we wish. We can’t build dams the way we want because of international laws that give other countries with which we share rivers equal rights to tap water from the river. We still have to talk with them first when we build a dam. Our experience with Metolong and Katse Dams taught us that we need to prioritise people downstream.

How much is Lesotho getting in royalties for selling water to South Africa?

We get M97 million monthly.

Does it make sense to export water when thousands of Basotho don’t have water?

I think it does because as a landlocked country, underdeveloped, we have massive water connections of over 200 000 brought by royalties from selling water. If we didn’t have them, with our shaky economy, we wouldn’t survive. Water has covered the challenges of inflow capital and it helps communities that are in need. It helps us conserve to avoid Katse drying up. It would be embarrassing as a country blessed with water not to conserve our resources.

Wasco seems to be failing to deliver water to the majority. What do you think is the problem?

It’s very sad and I am disappointed with Wasco. People are deployed and are believed to have the capacity as they are experts. The expectation is that since they are paid salaries, they have to do their job efficiently and expertly. It is sad that it takes over six months to fix a burst pipe, it translates into failure to do their job, one cannot fail to manage their own system. Wasco is underperforming. Bribes are also paid for connections.

What a shame! It can’t even afford to buy meters and those available are rationed.
They are being paid for nothing. And if it can be managed by someone who knows how to run it properly, it can make a lot of money. It is unfair that people who don’t want to work are in office. But in Lesotho, it’s business as usual when there is no service delivery. It is a bad culture.

The solution, in most cases, lies in boreholes and pipes from main water sources and in some places but it takes years if not decades for villagers to get this from the government. Why?

Sometimes our contractors leave their work half done and we try to sue them but since they are connected in courts, cases take forever. Sometimes we are forced to pay for the same service twice because people are desperate for water. Sometimes maintenance machines are stolen. There is a possibility that contractors are behind this but I might be wrong though. That’s how heartless people can be.

How much has the government lost because of such shoddy jobs?
I may not be precise with figures but it’s a huge loss. It is almost close to a quarter of the ministry’s budget.

What do you think are the reasons behind poor service delivery?

Civil servants sometimes underperform because we are so much more interested in our own pockets and how we will share the money. We are neither determined nor dedicated. We are also too lenient. People are supposed to go home if they fail to do their jobs but they don’t because they don’t care. Often blame is shifted to politicians because they didn’t apply for the positions but we forget there are people hired to do the job.

How do you explain the fact that some people affected by water projects have not been compensated?

From 2005 and before, people have not been compensated by the LHDA. The employees there are Basotho but they don’t feel pity or sympathy for their own people. Some people died but their children still have not been compensated for their land. There is money from South Africa but people are concerned about their own pockets. Maybe laws are overprotective of these officials.

What have been your achievements to date?

We connected people from Ha-Senekale, Ha-’Matholoana, Thaba-Bosiu, which is something that was expected since the completion of the Metolong Dam a long time ago. This is one of the big breakthroughs. Councillors will be the ones running water connections when decentralization happens. Wasco is not happy about that decision but the question is, why do you get angry yet you failed to connect people since 2018? When you fail to fix burst pipes within Maseru, what more of those outside in the districts? It’s surprisingly weird, funny at the same time. Even if this decentralisation fails we would still have learned crucial lessons.

’Mapule Motsopa

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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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