MASERU – As men quaked in their boots, it took the courage of a woman to shout in disapproval when the King was sent into exile in 1990.
The military junta led by then strongman, Major General Metsing Lekhanya, sent the King into exile and no man dared to challenge the move except King Moshoeshoe II’s own family.
Now 69, Mamello Morrison was only 31 at the time. She found herself in the forefront of a fight to reinstate the King.
Morrison was working as a journalist, a profession that required her to maintain political neutrality. But she waded into politics to fight for the return of her King.
“This is when I tumbled into politics as this was a social issue that was such a sacrilege,” Morrison says.
“I was so appalled because my mother who was a BCP member was equally appalled,” she says.
At the time, many viewed the BCP (Basutoland Congress Party) as anti-monarchy.
Morrison says at first she was silent and afraid to raise her voice just like most people in the country at a time the military regime was known for collaborating with apartheid South Africa.
It was not until she went to Johannesburg to bury a relative when the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, her mother-in-law’s younger brother, conjured up her political consciousness.
She says Tutu asked her: “Mamello, how do soldiers abuse the King like this outside the country and the men are quiet? Where are the women?”
“I had no answer to give,” Morrison recalls.
Tutu’s challenge touched her and on her return home, Morrison was more than determined to fight against the sacrilege of sending the king into exile.
Morrison then met with the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) leader Moeketse Malebo, the Principal Chief of Thaba-Bosiu Khoabane Theko and other people who had formed a committee for the return of the King.
“I was a journalist freelancing for the SABC and BBC. We had a struggle and in the course of our struggles when we had articles local
newspapers would not publish,” she says.
Morrison says they were afraid that “soldiers would beat us. One of us actually experienced a beating from the current prime minister,” who was then the government secretary.
“There was need to publish these articles but it was clear that it would be locally,” she says.
She recalls that SABC journalists Khothule Mphatšoe and Sophie Mokwena were key people who had interests in Lesotho.
“I started a newspaper called Mphatlalatsane, which distributed the news until 1992 when the king returned,” she says.
“People used to think this was a newspaper owned by Marematlou but it was not.”
The king came back but the military junta was reluctant to reinstate him.
Even after Lesotho gained independence in 1994 after the BCP won elections the government still did not want to reinstate King Moshoeshoe II.
“I was still not a member of any political party,” she says.
“Politicians however know how to take advantage of situations and in the course of the struggle Morena Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana, the then leader of the BNP, saw an opportunity to be part of the return and reinstatement of the King,” she says.
“We went to BCP and advised that they should put back the king on the throne. That’s when we had a palace coup.”
It was in 1994 when King Letsie III, who was holding forte at the palace toppled the BCP government, and Morrison was appointed a minister.
This government, led by the current Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo, was put under immense pressure from the international community and the government was reinstated after 21 days.
Soon King Moshoeshoe II was reinstated.
Morrison says after this, she found herself entangled in politics again when in 1998 opposition parties challenged the election results alleging rigging by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
She maintains that she was still not a member of any political party at the time.
She joined the recount of elections of 1998 under the mediation of SADC and she and others realised that there were anomalies in the results
and the report given by a South African judge Justice Puis Langa.
“I personally viewed it unfair that so many people were not represented in parliament only because their parties lost elections,” she says.
The First Past the Post (FPTP) election model was the problem because it excluded a lot of people who had voted.
“There was a body chosen to prepare for the next elections, (Interim Political Authority) looking at the electoral model, the structure of the
IEC, look at leveling the playing field,” she says.
“That is how we came up with the Mixed Member Proportional model.”
Morrison says she is more concerned about the country’s socio-economic issues than party politics.
“If there are no issues to address I sit and watch.”
“My journey into politics was not a deliberate, calculated journey. But I ran the course of fighting for national, social issues.”
Morrison says she never dreamt being fully engaged in party politics.
She was appointed to the Interim Political Authority under the banner of the now defunct Lesotho Education Party, despite not being a member of the party.
Later, she joined the BNP and stood for elections under its flag in the then Pulane constituency.
Now Morrison is a member of the LCD.
Morrison says she is not a politician, she is “a person more interested in social justice and this is why I tumbled into politics”.
“Even today I am concerned more about the issues of social justice than party politics,” she says, adding: “Even now I tell LCD members that once they want to insult or dethrone the king, they will know my true colours.”
Morrison urges women in parliament to make their presence felt.
“There are many women in parliament, but they are dwarfed into silence. I don’t know why they don’t speak out,” she says.
“Issues of women in politics start right at the constituency level.”
“When there is an election, women would nominate a man they know over a woman they know. Their knowledge on national issues is not even considered,” she says.
Morisson says male leaders ought to be questioned on why they leave women in the periphery.
She argues that even party clothes, winter capes, smart dresses are bought mainly by women but they are shunned when it comes to executive positions.
“They make tea for men,” she says.
Democratic Congress (DC)’s ’Mamphono Khaketla was a treasurer “for a long time and it was a rarity”.
“So women have become too good as voters and not to lead in higher positions.”
Women are good in burial and other similar village-based societies and “they run very smoothly”.
“Why then would men ever doubt the power of women to lead? Why are we good in all these things when we are bad in political executive positions?”
She says some people say women who are appointed in higher positions look down on people but “just because people have seen one or two women doing this does not mean this is the general DNA of women”.
“They are an exception and not the rule. When you appoint a woman in leadership, you humble them”
“We have seen men in the last 50 years, and I don’t know if we can say they did well,” she says.
She says men deliberately push women away from top positions.
She recalls a Motswana lady who once said when men want to keep you away from politics, they call you moloi (witch).
“In Lesotho, they call you letekatse (prostitute). I have been associated with all manner of men I have worked with. I have been called whose and whose concubine,” she says.
“Because we don’t want to be labelled a prostitute we shy away from politics”.
Morisson looks up to Khauhelo Debra Ralitapole, the retired leader of the Basutoland African Congress, “a very principled politician whose mind is clear”.
“She deserved to be in politics”.
She also mentions ’Makali Masiloane of the BCP who has since passed on.
She also says ’Masechele Khaketla, the late mother of ’Mamphono Khaketla, was her role model although she was not active in party politics.
In South Africa her models are Helen Suzman and Patricia De Lille. About De Lille, she says: “When she fights she fights, she fights to the bitter end.”
Currently she believes ’Machere Seutloali, a BNP youth league executive member, is one particular woman with great potential.
“But you can see that men claws are out for her. I don’t know her too much but I wish they allow her to blossom in the BNP,” she says.
All Basotho Convention’s ’Mamandla ’Musa is again one person admired by Morrison.
“I don’t follow people because I sympathise with them, but because they have something in them”.
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.
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.
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.
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