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Yearning for Lesotho’s golden past



MASERU – A crisis of expectations. This is what the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is battling to contain after a stormy 11 months in power. This is a government that was swept into power on the back of electoral promises to create jobs and fight endemic poverty. The coalition government is now facing a reality check, says Tšepo Monethi, who is the Deputy President of the Senate and deputy secretary general of the Basotho National Party (BNP).

“Expectations were very high,” says Monethi. “The people were expecting immediate changes. They voted for change and if the change is slow then it is natural that people get disappointed.” Monethi however believes the coalition government, to which his BNP is a junior partner, is committed to fighting poverty and corruption to ensure better lives for Basotho.

“We really mean business when we say we want to eradicate poverty and fight corruption,” he says.
Monethi says the key to fighting poverty lies in undertaking massive infrastructural projects around the country.
He wants to see big infrastructural projects which he says could unlock jobs for the unemployed.

“We want to build access roads around the country and ensure there is political stability in Lesotho,” he says.
That is a huge call for a government that is going through financial turbulence due to falling Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenues.
This is a country that has failed to feed itself for years and has relied on handouts from international relief agencies.
But Monethi says this decline can be reversed.

He appears to be banking on the “golden past” when his beloved BNP was still in charge in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Monethi remembers with fondness that golden era when Chief Leabua Jonathan was Prime Minister before he was sent packing through a bloodless military coup in January 1986.

“Our history as a government (back in the 1970s and early 1980s) speaks for itself,” he says. “Years before South Africa introduced the RDP houses, we were the first to introduce small-scale houses for low earners in Mohalalitoe.”
Monethi says South Africa implemented what Chief Leabua Jonathan did some 40 years earlier, a feat that shows the former BNP leader was a great visionary.

“The people are falling in love with the BNP again and they know we can still deliver if we are given a chance again,” he says.
He argues there is nothing wrong in trying to replicate successful programmes of the past such as housing projects.
“If we are given a chance (to rule) we can replicate that past. The needs of the poor remain the same. They want houses, roads, clean water, security, good health and good education.”

Monethi says over the last few weeks, there has been a surge in interest from Basotho to join the party, thanks to the power of incumbency.
He says being part of the coalition government “helps a lot” as they are able to push their own agenda towards the growth of the party.
Monethi says the BNP is a “tried and tested party” that remains relevant in the stormy waters of Lesotho politics.

Of the major parties that were there at independence in 1966, only the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) and the MFP are still operating but they are now a “mere shadow of their former selves”. He attributes the party’s staying power to its solid “pro-poor” policies.
He says the BNP government developed the agriculture sector by subsidizing the growing of crops and as a result the people fell in love with the party.
Monethi was elected deputy president of the Senate after last snap year’s elections which saw no single political party win an outright majority.

His BNP party, the All Basotho Convention, the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the Alliance of Democrats (AD) then cobbled a coalition government with Thabane as Prime Minister. He says charges that the Senate is a “toothless bulldog” are often peddled by people who have no appreciation of how a democratic society operates.

“If you are serious about having the rule of law and executing proper Bills in a democratic dispensation, then you need checks and balances and the Senate plays that role,” he says while defending the need for a Senate. He also argues that the majority of Senators are seen as individuals who are not pushing a clear political agenda.

Lesotho’s Senate consists of 22 Principal Chiefs and 11 others who are appointed by His Majesty on the advice of the Prime Minister.
“The Lower House is a house of politicians who are basically pushing the agenda of the government of the day while chiefs are non-partisan and represent the nation holistically,” he says. Monethi, who says he fell in love with politics through his interactions with his grandfather who was a staunch BNP cadre, blames politicians for Lesotho’s current political crises.

He says politicians are often in the habit of abusing the army for their own nefarious agendas.
“They want to use the army to instill fear in opponents,” he says. “That has been going on for years.”
The result has been decades of political strife in Lesotho, he argues.

To fix this problem, Monethi wants to see “serious reforms and transformation within the military establishment”.
“The army should be depoliticised,” he says. “The politicians must stay away from the barracks and we must bring back the Defence Commission to handle all issues of promotions within the army.”

The day-to-day running of the army must be left to the military, he says.
“We might have good laws but if we don’t have a positive attitude towards stability and peace we will never achieve that.”
He however believes there is a genuine commitment across the political divide “to commit ourselves to long-lasting peace and stability” for once.
He says even if one of the 30 political parties in Lesotho is wobbling due to internal strife, the reforms must be allowed to proceed.

Monethi says he would like to see His Majesty King Letsie III, who seems to be the glue that unifies Basotho, being “given more constitutional powers to mediate, lead and give direction on key national issues”.
At present King Letsie III is the titular head of government but retains very little authority on how Basotho are governed with the rest of the power concentrated in the hands of the executive.
He says the current Constitution strips the King of any genuine authority to meaningfully participate in the governance of the country, a situation he says must be changed.

Monethi says he is also hostile to any talk of a general amnesty for individuals who were accused of perpetrating human rights violations in the recent past. He wants to see justice for the wronged. “When you forgive you must know what that person did to you because if you don’t really interrogate the past, it will come back and haunt you.” He also wants a clear distinction between those who perpetrated criminal acts allegedly on behalf of the State and those who were involved in wrongdoing on the basis of a political cause.

“Those who committed criminal activities must be prosecuted and those who committed wrongs for political reasons must pour out their hearts and tell us what they did so that there is closure.” Monethi says he grew up “hearing a lot about politics”.
He would spend his school holidays in the village in Mapoteng, rearing cattle and going to the fields to plough and harvest.
“None of the people in the village would handle you with kid gloves. If it was time to wake up, you just had to wake up.”
He says it is only now that he appreciates the value of such tough training in his life.

Monethi’s breakthrough into national politics only came in 2003 when he was appointed the national secretary for youths in the BNP.
“I thought it was important to start having a bigger say in the decision-making processes of my political party. But going into the youth league was just a stepping stone to bigger things in the national politics.”

Monethi became the chairperson of the BNP Youth League in 2007 and became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2012 under the Proportional Representation (PR) system. In 2016, Monethi was appointed the BNP deputy secretary general.
He was elected deputy president of the Senate last year. He is married to ’Mahlalele Monethi and the two have two children.

Staff Reporter

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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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