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Woman MP seeks change



MASERU – FOR years, Voeswa Tsheka, dedicated her time to growing her business. But failure by politicians to deliver on their promises pushed her to expand her horizons and join the rough and tumble of life in politics.

“I said enough is enough,” Tsheka, a novice politician and an MP for the Thuathe constituency under the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), says.

She says she told herself that she would navigate the tough terrain of politics that is mainly dominated by males to bring developmental changes to her Thuathe constituency.

“Over the years, my heart has been bleeding as I saw my people suffering due to the absence of basic needs,” she says.

The successful and soft-spoken business woman threw her weight behind Sam Matekane in his RFP newly formed party. In the October 7 general election, Tsheka, who is in her 20s, came out a winner.

“Still, I could not believe that I had won the elections,” recalled Tsheka, the only female MP among the 11 RFP legislators from Berea district.

“I am not the youngest in the August House,” she says, adding that there are some who are younger than her.

Tsheka says she is still a novice in politics and she is taking time to learn the ropes about motions and debates in Parliament from experienced MPs. While doing all these, she will be pushing for the needs of her people in Thuathe.

“I am not going to wait for government funds.

“I am already sourcing out funds for my constituency,” says the self-driven Tsheka, lamenting the lack of basic services such as proper roads, sanitation and water in one of the populous constituencies

Tsheka says she is concerned with the poor road network in her constituency despite the area being close to the capital, Maseru.

“Almost 80 percent of the people in the constituency do not have access to clean water, which is a basic right.

“So women are the ones feeling the brunt of the scarcity of water. Women are the ones risking their lives to go out at night searching for water.

“Their lives are susceptible to danger because they might end up being killed or raped.”

Tsheka says all 11 RFP MPs from Berea district have decided to use their M5 000 petrol allowances from Parliament to improve the livelihoods of people in the area. The rampant abuse of women is another issue close to her heart.

“Men should know that they should not lay their hands on their women at all. Women suffer more than men in their homes and therefore need support,” Tsheka says.

For her, elderly women who are eligible to get old age pension should get more than their male counterparts.

Lesotho introduced a pension scheme for the elderly in 2004. Under the scheme, every Mosotho over the age of 70 would get M400 after every three months, but that was changed to M800 monthly.

While the money might appear little, it has proven to be a huge cushion for the majority of the elderly who have no pensions to live off in their old age. An estimated 57% percent of Basotho live on less than one United States dollar a day, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“Women have gone through terrible and traumatic experiences. They are always occupied with a plethora of errands they have to do in their respective homes,” Tsheka says.

Tsheka’s victory has been welcomed by women in her area.

“Her victory has boosted the confidence of some young women in her constituency who are now also keen on contesting local government elections scheduled for next year.

“Young women have seen that politics is not only for men.

“I want to see women in my constituency taking part in decision-making platforms.

“From there, it would be easy to pass the message to the rest of the country.

“Women have to take part in politics and drive for the changes they want,” she said.

Asked about the strategies she used to win the hearts and minds of the Thuathe electorate, Tsheka says she “researched a lot” on techniques to win elections.

Never formally employed, Tsheka hopes to teach members of her constituency about entrepreneurial skills as part of efforts to beat rising unemployment.

“People can start small businesses and change their lives for the better,” says Tsheka, whose business of selling Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic generated “good” profits.

“My business was doing well and I was importing PPE materials from China.

“I was selling PPE materials for both Lesotho and South Africa,” Tsheka says.

She says she used some of the profits to help underprivileged families in her area with basic needs such as mealie-meal, cooking oil and paraffin.

She also extended a helping hand to children staying in the streets who were struggling to survive because there was no business.

“They had nothing to do because movement was restricted.

“They were starving. I met them half way with the basic needs and essentials,” Tsheka recalls.

Tsheka also runs a marketing business that is also doing well. Born in Upper Thamae, Tsheka moved to Thuathe on the Berea plateau to stay there.

“I was born in Upper Thamae and grew up there,” Tsheka says, adding that she was welcomed by the residents there.

“I was elected MP after just two years of staying in Thuathe,” she says.

Majara Molupe

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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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