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When art imitates life



MASERU – YOUNG Silas Monyatsi’s family did not own a television. Some 40 years ago that was nothing out of the ordinary for a TV was a luxury of immense proportions. There were no toys either to keep him and his siblings entertained.

The family’s entertainer was his father Reverend Machobane Monyatsi who would tell stories of his experience as a soldier in the Second World War.
With other Basotho and African men from British colonies, Reverend Monyatsi had been dispatched to fight Hitler and his allies. Reverend Monyatsi would tell his children the tales of his time in the battlefields.

He told the stories of his journey by sea, his interaction with other soldiers, his sorrow of losing friends and the joys of winning battles. To young Silas those stories were thrilling and enthralling, not because they were told by his father but the way he told them.

“My father was our television,” Monyatsi says, adding: “From his Biblical sermons to ordinary tales he told us repeatedly.”
“When my father narrated what happened at the war, you would be very afraid when he talked about anything that would make a soldier afraid, you would be excited when he talked about any exciting thing,” Monyatsi says.

“He had the ability to make you feel what he was feeling; he would share his emotions with you and you would laugh and cry with him.”
“When he talked and demonstrated, you would be able to…feel what he was feeling. The old man was dramatic and he could easily influence you into action.”
Reverend Monyatsi, he says, would demonstrate how they took cover during skirmishes, making it so perfectly that his listeners — and of course watchers — would imagine themselves being part of the war.

That was in early to mid-1980s when Monyatsi was just a small boy in a then very rural Koalabata village, some 10 kilometres north-east of Maseru, where his father was a clergy for Matita Phakoa’s Kereke ea Moshoeshoe.

His mother ’Mantšitsa Monyatsi, supplemented his father’s meagre clergy salary by making beads. It was his father’s “performances” that triggered Monyatsi’s passion for theatre.
Soon Monyatsi would find himself walking to town to watch plays organised by Maloti Hyper Talent Production at Sefika Hall.
“I was one of the youngest in Maseru to attend,” he recalls.

That was where he used to watch and enjoy dramas and dances by Keketso Lawrence, a journalism trainer in Lesotho, and Qamako Mahao who is now involved in sports management.
The two were members of the popular Merabe Theatre. Monyatsi formally joined theatre at Moshoeshoe II High School where he played leading roles in several dramas, after which he went to Johannesburg where he enrolled with the Federated Union of Black Artists Academy.

From there he went to Trinity College of London to study, learning speech, voice, drama and text analysis.  But he remained largely unknown until he met Zakes Mda, an internationally acclaimed novelist and playwright.  He says it is Mda who made him the actor, producer and director he is now. Mda’s literary works, Monyatsi explains, gave him the “power to move forward”. Mda’s books also opened his eyes to the injustices that pervade our lives.

He says Mda’s book, We Shall Sing for the Fatherland, is the prediction of what is happening now in Lesotho and South Africa’s politics in which the rich rulers forget the plight of the poor masses.  “It is this book that made me see the importance of protest theatre.”
Mda had earlier picked Monyatsi to play in his Bana ke Lipalesa which became a hit in the 80s and early 90s.

At the time Monyatsi was a member of Marotholi Travelling Theatre which delivered messages of HIV and behavioural change.  It was in this group where he worked closely with Lesotho’s long-time performing artists like Afelile Sekhamane and Afrika Makakane, who is now MP for Thupa-Kubu.  Monyatsi’s fame came when he won a leading role to play Mohapi, the main actor in Tholoana tsa Sethepu (Fruitage of Polygamy) after competing with 600 actors.  Tholoana tsa Sethepu, a drama about Basotho princes who were half-brothers fighting over chieftainship, was broadcast by the SABC and it is still frequently listed in SABC’s Sesotho dramas.

It is in this drama where Monyatsi interacted with gurus like Roselyn Morapedi who played the role of Mohapi’s mother.
Unfortunately they had a car accident when they were from shooting a scene in Qwaqwa and Morapedi died while Monyatsi had a fractured leg.
“That was sad and I still can’t perform to the best of my abilities because of the injury. I used to dance.”

Monyatsi was also featured in television dramas like Phamokate and Sajene Kokobela where he was multitasked as an actor, language adviser and art director.
He was also featured in Justice for All, Generations and Soul City.

In The Forgotten Kingdom, Lesotho’s most advertised drama of the 21st century, Monyatsi plays the moneyed boyfriend of one of the main actors, Lineo.
He has also been instrumental in the development of Monn’a Motsamai and Thuso e Teng. Monyatsi has also produced the Kau la Poho, a series that dealt with the impact of HIV on society.

Monyatsi says Lesotho has the potential to become a hub of theatre and television drama production because of its landscape as well as rich history and culture.
He however bemoans the lack of political will and lack of artists’ readiness to develop their talents.
“They have talents but they seem not keen in developing them,” he says. “We need to have a centre for drama, film and other arts so that this country can be attractive to tourists,” he says, adding: “Otherwise why will anybody be interested in coming to Lesotho?”

Monyatsi argues that the government should do its utmost to ensure that tourists have somewhere to go to spend time with their families.
“No wonder people leave this country to spend holidays in other places. We do not give them what they want and they leave the country to spend money in other countries, watching live performances by other countries’ artists.”

Caswell Tlali

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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