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‘We’re on our own’



LAST Friday’s shooting and injuring of several youths who participated in a march to demand their rights to economic inclusion shows Lesotho has a big problem on its hands.

The protests clearly show that Lesotho could be sitting on a time-bomb. Young people have been disproportionately affected by the unemployment crisis. This trend has worsened earlier challenges and there is a concern that unless action is taken, the situation will be unsustainable, threatening social cohesion. Lesotho’s youth unemployment rate, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for 2019, was estimated at 33.68 percent.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2020 Assessment of the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 report revealed that unemployment is “high and persistent”. It is estimated at 32.8 percent. The UNDP assessment reveals that unemployment is even higher among youths aged between 15 and 24, at 43.2 percent. It also estimates that 39.7 percent of employed Basotho live on less than US$1.90 a day (38.8 percent women, 40.4 percent male and 46.6 percent for those aged 15–24).” Our reporter ’Mapule Motsopa interviewed Tšolo Kabane, the organiser of hashtagBachashutdown, that turned violent last Friday. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Why did #Bacha shutdown march despite not being issued a permit?
Our plan was to hand over our petition to parliament and we realised from the beginning that we were unable to get a march permit hence we decided to go there walking as individuals to tell the MPs our demands. We walked there. Since the grievances were from all youths, they decided to accompany us.

It was not a march per se, youths were walking to parliament each one going to tell their MPs what they wanted. We were not necessarily marching but walking to parliament as another way of voicing our concerns. We didn’t have to wait for permits but had to go there and hand over the petition. And if people resonate with the petition, they would walk with us there as they wanted to be part of the walk. To basically hide behind the legal technicalities is ludicrous. The focus is on what’s not important, that is poor handling of public issues – it just shows how incompetent or arrogant a leader is.

Who should shoulder the responsibility now that some have been arrested, shot and injured?

The youths decided to exercise their democratic right and the responsibility of unlawful and malicious arrest and police brutality should lie with the police. They should shoulder that responsibility as they are the ones that brutalised and sjamboked the people that decided to speak up against social ills that cripple them day in and out. It lies solely with the police and they should be held accountable as they handled the situation poorly.

We demand the dropping of all charges against them – their release on free bail is indicative of their innocence.

Why didn’t you go to court to force the police to issue the permit?
Our organisation, the Transform Lesotho Initiative (TLI) doesn’t have human resources such as lawyers to file cases in court. We found it easy to send our petition there.

Give clear reasons why youths want the government to declare the state of unemployment as a disaster in harmony with the DMA Act 1997.
This will allow the government to be intentional and decisive about bringing the monstrous disease to a controllable low. The government’s financial and procurement policies should look towards job creation or support youth businesses.

What is it that youths expect from the government and it is not doing?
We expect it to uplift and empower us economically and enable us to participate in leadership roles.

Is the government failing to provide employment? Have you studied why?
The government has failed as we don’t see it taking action in supporting youth businesses or other businesses for them to create employment. Any vacancy available, they use it for their political advantage, they hire politically. We have seen them do that at Home Affairs Ministry and at the police posts. They fought for the posts. They even fail to create jobs for ‘their’ people but give them those jobs that belong to the nation.

In your research what have TLI found?
We found that nepotism was the biggest issue. There is no way a government that promotes nepotism can create jobs in any way.

Have you tried to find out why the government is not paying attention to TLI’s concerns?
We tried to talk to them years back, marched, petitioned and they never really responded in a way that indicates that they are committed to address our demands.

How does the TLI want the government to handle Gender Based Violence (GBV)?
We want thetabling of the Bill against GBV as we currently don’t have a law that is focused on ending it.

What can TLI say in light of the fact that between every August and October each year students go on strike because they haven’t received their stipends?
It is noticeable that the country has been engaged in blind training and as a result, the majority of graduates are trapped (without any jobs) and the blame is on both the Education Ministry and the NMDS. This shows how ineffective and inefficient the NMDS is and the issue of strike has been going on for far too long that it is ‘normalised’. It seems like civil servants need to strike each year for them to do their job and unfortunately this affects students in so many ways.

What is the TLI’s proposal to the government to address this issue?
We demand that the government should reform the NMDS policies to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness.

Has Lesotho adopted targeted measures to support youth unemployment?
The youth apprentice programme was a good way to start to bring down unemployment but it got infiltrated by politicians and they use it for their political gains. It doesn’t benefit youths fairly. Some of the good things they adopted they politicised as usual and that is a problem.

Why does the government need to act on youth unemployment?
It is a struggle in this country and it kills our youths. Our young people are very angry.
What can young people do to find a job?
We could say youths should get into business, farming, in production business but the poor economy on its own makes it very difficult for us to do that. There should be tax incentives for starting businesses as well the credit support facilities. First of all, there has to be political will to create employment. They should wield their power and encourage the starting of businesses.

What are the consequences of unemployment?
There is an incredible and yet alarming rate of depression in our country. The serious cause could be the deprivation of our right to a livelihood. If we don’t have a job, we don’t have a livelihood and dignity.

Why is finding a job so difficult?
It is very difficult to find a job in this country. Privilege is given to those with certain political affiliations and especially in the private sector, it is difficult to get a job given the tough economic times we are in.

Were there any lessons that you learnt after the march?
The greatest lesson was that we are on our own as young people hence there is a dire need for us to do something. We need to continue with the TLI enlightenment project to show young people in our country that we are on our own as the government doesn’t care about us.

Why is the TLI so passionate to fight for the youths?
We are passionate because it is formed on the same basis of trying to empower young people and ensure that they become part of the solution in this country. We realised there is a problem in our country and we have to be prepared to be part of the solution.

Following the march, what can we expect from now on?
We expect the government to advise itself a bit differently although we don’t have confidence that it will be able to address our issues – we don’t see it happening. But if they do call us and want to talk, we will sit around the table and discuss the way forward. We however need less talk but more action.

This is the beginning of a revolution and it will make way for young people to have their dignity restored. By virtue of our petition not being received, our concerns cannot be heard and we will not rest until our petition is received, our concerns heard and our dignity restored. We will employ other means of peaceful protest until they hear us.

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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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