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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



City Council bosses up for fraud



THREE senior Maseru City Council (MCC) bosses face charges of fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.

Town clerk Molete Selete and consultant Molefe Nthabane appeared in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

City engineer Matsoso Tikoe did not appear as he was said to be out of the country. He will be arraigned when he returns.

They are charged together with Kenneth Leong, the project manager of SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture, the company that lost the M379 million Mpilo Boulevard contract in January.

The joint venture made up of two Chinese companies, Shanxi Construction Investment Group (SCIG) and Shanxi Mechanization Construction Group (SMCG), and local partner Tim Plant Hire (TIM), has also been charged.

Selete and Nthabane were released on bail of M5 000 and surety of M200 000 each. Leong was granted bail of M10 000 and surety of M400 000 or property of the same value.

The charges are a culmination of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigation that has been going on for the past months or so.

The prosecution says Selete, Nthabane, Tikoe, and Leong acted in concert as they intentionally and unlawfully abused the functions of their offices by authorising an advance payment of M14 million to a joint-venture building the Mpilo Boulevard.

An advance payment guarantee is a commitment issued by a bank to pay a specified amount to one party of a contract on-demand as protection against the risk of the other party’s non-performance.

The prosecution says the payment was processed after the company had provided a dubious advance payment guarantee. It says the officials knew that the guarantee was fake and therefore unenforceable.

As revealed by thepost three weeks ago, SCIG and SMCG were responsible for providing the payment guarantee as lead partners in the joint venture.

The prosecution says the MCC was required by law to make advance payment after SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture submitted a guarantee as per the international standards on construction contracts.

It alleges that the MCC has now lost the M14 million paid to SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture because of the fake advanced guarantee.

thepost has seen minutes of meetings in which officials from the joint venture admitted to MCC officers that the advance payment guarantee was dubious.

SCIG-SMCG-TIM kept promising to provide a genuine guarantee but never did. Yet the MCC officials did not report the suspected fraud to the police or take any action against the company.

It was only in January this year that the MCC cancelled the contract on the basis that the company had failed to provide a genuine guarantee.

Despite receiving the advance payment SCIG and SMCG refused to pay TIM Joint Venture for the initial work.

SCIG and SMCG, the lead partners in the joint venture, are reportedly suing the MCC to restore the contract. Officials from TIM Plant Hire however say they are not aware of their partners’ lawsuit against the MCC.

Staff Reporter

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Scott fights for free lawyer



DOUBLE-MURDER convict Lehlohonolo Scott is fighting the government to pay a lawyer to represent him in his appeal.
Scott, serving two life sentences for murdering Kamohelo Mohata and Moholobela Seetsa in 2012, says his efforts to get a state-sponsored lawyer have been repeatedly frustrated by the Registrar of the High Court, Advocate ’Mathato Sekoai.
He wants to appeal both conviction and sentence.
He has now filed an application in the High Court seeking an order to compel Advocate Sekoai to appoint a lawyer to represent him.
He tells the court that he is representing himself in that application because the Registrar has rejected his request to pay his legal fees or appoint a lawyer for him.
People who cannot fund their own legal costs can apply to the Registrar for what is called pro deo, legal representation paid for by the state.
Scott says Sekoai has told him to approach Legal Aid for assistance.
The Legal Aid office took a year to respond to him, verbally through correctional officers, saying it does not communicate directly with inmates.
The Legal Aid also said he doesn’t qualify to be their client.
“I was informed that one Mrs Papali, if I recall the name well, who is the Chief Legal Aid counsel, had said that Legal Aid does not communicate with inmates so she could not write back to me,” Scott says.
“Secondly, they represent people in minor cases. Thirdly, they represent indigent people of which she suggested I am not one of them.”
“Fourthly, there are no prospects of success in my case hence they won’t assist me.”
He says the Legal Aid’s fifth reason was that he has been in jail for a long time.
Scott is asking the High Court to set aside Sekoai’s decision and order her to facilitate pro deo services for him, saying her decision was “irregular, irrational, and unlawful”.
He argues that the Registrar’s role was to finance his case to finality, meaning up to the Court of Appeal.
The Registrar insists that the arrangement was to provide him a lawyer until his High Court trial ended.
Scott says his lawyer, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, who was paid by the state, had promised to file an appeal a day after his sentencing but he did not.
He argues that the Registrar did not hear him but arbitrarily decided to end pro deo.
Scott says he wrote to Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase in 2018 soon after his conviction and sentencing seeking assistance but he never received any response.
Later, he wrote to Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane in November 2020 and he received a response through Sekoai who rejected his request.
Scott tells the High Court that he managed to apply to the Court of Appeal on his own but the Registrar later told him, through correctional officers, that “the Court of Appeal does not permit ordinary people to approach it”.
He argues that “where justice or other public interest considerations demand, the courts have always departed from the rules without any problem”.
Staff Reporter

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Army ordered to pay up



THE Ombudsman has asked parliament to intervene to force the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to compensate families of people killed by soldiers.
Advocate Tlotliso Polaki told parliament, in two damning reports on Monday, that the LDF is refusing to compensate the family of Lisebo Tang who was shot dead by soldiers near the former commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s home in 2014.

The LDF, she said, is also refusing to compensate the family of Molapo Molapo who was killed by a group of soldiers at his home in Peka, Ha-Leburu in 2022.

Advocate Polaki wrote the LDF in January last year saying it should pay Tang’s mother, Makhola Tang, M300 000 “as a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

The Tang family claim investigation started in February 2022 and the LDF responded that it “had undertaken the responsibility for funeral expenses and other related costs”.

Advocate Polaki investigated whether the LDF could be held accountable for Tang’s death and whether his family should be compensated while the criminal case is pending.

She found that the soldiers were “acting within the scope of their employment to protect the army commander and his family” when they killed Tang.

Soldiers killed Tang in Lithabaneng while she was in a parked car with her boyfriend at what the army termed “a compromising spot” near the commander’s residence.

The three soldiers peppered the vehicle with a volley of shots, killing Tang and wounding the boyfriend.

Advocate Polaki found that the army arranged to pay for the funeral costs and to continue buying groceries and school needs for Tang’s daughter.

The LDF, however, kept this for only four years but abruptly stopped.

When asked why it stopped, the army said “there is a criminal case pending in court”.

The army also said it felt that it would be admitting guilt if it compensated the Tang’s family.

The Ombudsman said “a civil claim for pecuniary compensation lodged is not dependent on the criminal proceedings running at the same time”.

“The LDF created a legitimate but unreasonable expectation and commitments between themselves and the complainant which had no duration attached thereto and which showed a willingness to cooperate and work harmoniously together,” Advocate Polaki found.

“The LDF was correct in withdrawing such benefit in the absence of a clear policy guideline or order to continue to offer such benefit or advantage,” she said.

“However, she should have been consulted first as the decision was prejudicial to her interest.”

She said the army’s undertaking “fell short of a critical element of duration and reasonability”.

Tang was a breadwinner working at Pick ’n Pay Supermarket as a cleaner earning M2 000 a month.

Her daughter, the Ombudsman said, is now in grade six and her school fees alone had escalated to M3 200 per year.

She said an appropriate redress should be premised on her family’s loss of income and future loss of support based on her salary and the prejudice suffered by her mother and daughter.

She said M300 000 is “a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

In Molapo’s case, Advocate Polaki told parliament that the LDF refused to implement her recommendations to compensate his two daughters.

The complainant is his father, Thabo Joel Molapo.

The Ombudsman told the army in August last year that it should pay the girls M423 805 “for the negligent death of their father”.

Advocate Polaki said despite that the criminal matter is before the court, “it is established that the Ombudsman can assert her jurisdiction and make determinations on the complaint”.

Molapo, 32, was brutally murdered by a soldier in Peka in December 2020.

Molapo had earlier fought with the soldier and disarmed him.

The soldier, the Ombudsman found, rushed to Mokota-koti army post to request backup to recover his rifle. When he returned with his colleagues, they found him hiding in his house. The soldier then shot Molapo.

The LDF, the Ombudsman said, conceded that the soldier killed Molapo while on duty and that he had been subjected to internal disciplinary processes.

“The LDF is bound by the consequences of the officer’s actions who was negligent and caused Molapo’s death,” she said.

She found that after Molapo was killed, army officers and the Minister of Defence visited his family and pledged to pay his children’s school fees. They also promised to hire one of his relatives who would “cater for the needs of the deceased’s children going forward”.

The LDF, she said, has now reneged on its promises saying its “recruitment policy and legal considerations did not allow for such decision to be implemented”.

Molapo’s father told the Ombudsman that the LDF said “the undertakings were not implementable and were made by the minister at the time just to console the family”.

All the payments in the two cases, the Ombudsman has asked parliament, should be made within three months.

Staff Reporter

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