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Pensioner’s M1.3m vanishes



MASERU-FOR decades, Samuel Chobokoane, 67, toiled tirelessly as a migrant worker in South Africa’s gold mines until he was laid off after he sustained some serious injuries whilst at work.

He was subsequently diagnosed with a serious lung disease due to the mine dust that he inhaled whilst working underground.
Sick and infirm, Chobokoane came back home to Lesotho loaded with a massive M1.3 million pension in his bank account held at The Employment Bureau of Africa Limited (Teba).

The money was part of his terminal benefits and workman’s compensation for the injuries he suffered as well as for the lung disease that he contracted whilst working at the mine.
Teba is a recruitment agency for the South African mining industry founded in 1912.

It established what was called the Teba Savings Fund, also known as Teba Cash or Teba Bank, that processed the salaries of miners working at gold and platinum mines.
The savings fund is now called Ubank and is registered as such in South Africa. It continues offering financial services to former mine workers in Lesotho.

Trouble for Chobokoane began on May 14 last year he went to the Mafeteng Teba offices to withdraw M4 000 from his account.
A clerk who was serving him however told him that there was a mistake in his booklet.

Chobokoane says he had over M1.3 million in the account.
The clerk, Chobokoane says, disappeared with the booklet into one of the offices and when he came back, he told him the machine had printed a wrong figure in his bank book.

“He did not give me evidence but just said he was sorry,” Chobokoane said.
He says Teba never tried to rectify their mistake and he decided to take the matter to the south region manager, Lehlohonolo Tšilo.
He says he told Tšilo that his account had been tampered with.
Chobokoane says Tšilo took his account book saying he would use it to investigate what went wrong.

He says he also went back to Teba the following day and was told to put his grievances in writing.
He says he then asked for his book but they said they could not find it.
“I took the matter to the police who went back to Teba with me,” he says.
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is now investigating the claims of chicanery by the bank.

The committee chairman, Teboho Sekata, says they expect more former mine workers to come forward after raising similar complaints against Teba.
Chobokoane told the PAC that Tšilo took his bank book saying he was going to launch investigations but he never returned it.

The PAC heard how the bank book was never found despite the involvement of senior Teba officials and from the Ministry of Labour.
Instead Chobokoane was issued with a new booklet that did not have any money, he says.
Now, Chobokoane and his wife ’Mamahlape, say Teba is now refusing to give them any money in the absence of the booklet.

Chobokoane says he went back home without his booklet until he decided to go to the Ministry of Labour offices where he was not helped.
“I then came to Maseru to the minister’s office,” he says.
He says he never understood how the mistake was made.
Chobokoane says he also approached the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) complaining about Teba’s conduct.

He was however told that Teba did not fall under the financial institutions they regulated adding the Central Bank did not have any jurisdiction over it.
The Central Bank was not availble for comment.
Chobokoane says he also went to Teba’s national office in Maseru where he met the general manager, Pali Moeletsi.

He says Moeletsi also wanted him to leave some of his documents with him “but I refused, telling him that I no longer trusted them after what had happened”.
He says Moeletsi then told him that he would not be helped if he insisted on not leaving the documents.
“He said I should go where I thought I would be helped,” Chobokoane says.
Chobokoane then went to the Labour Principal Secretary, Emmanuel Lesoma, who called the Teba office to confirm if the matter was known.

He says Lesoma called a meeting in which a decision was reached that Moeletsi and his team would produce the booklet with all the necessary details.
The booklet, he says, was never brought to the principal secretary hence his appeal to parliament to intervene.

Lesoma told the PAC that he blamed Teba for the lost booklet.
Lesoma says Chobokoane had an account that allowed him to save or withdraw but to his surprise when he wanted to withdraw, he was told that the money in the account did not belong to Chobokoane.

Lesoma also says he was shocked that when Chobokoane pressed for his bank book he was issued with a new one with different financial information from the original one.
What shocks Lesoma most is that the original booklet is nowhere to be found.

Lesoma says he instructed the Teba management to give Chobokoane his original bank book with its detailed information.
He says he also asked for an email printout that was used as a channel of communication between Teba and Ubank in South Africa but it was also never provided.

“I found out that it is not true that the bank book was lost,” he says.
Lesoma says he tried to find out why the issue was worked out like that but there was no cooperation on the side of Teba.
The PAC was bombarded with another shocking revelation when Chobokoane’s wife, ’Mamahlape, told it that someone from the Ministry of Labour called her asking her to confirm that her husband was insane.

’Mamahlape says the labour official demanded to know how they were living.
“I was very much enraged by the question and dropped the phone call,” ’Mamahlape told the PAC.

Another insinuation from the labour official was that the couple had received money.
“It is not true that we received any money,” she says.
’Mamahlape says they even borrowed money to come to Maseru to attend the PAC sitting.

“They want us to die of stress,” she says, her voice shaking with emotion.
Chobokoane says he can no longer access any payments after the Teba officials took his booklet.
He used to receive monthly payments for his illness as part of his compensation.

Teba general manager, Pali Moeletsi, told the PAC that he has worked for Teba for the past 35 years and was appointed general manager in 2018.
Moeletsi says his duty is to protect the clients and to ensure that Teba operates according to the law.

He says he became aware of Chobokoane’s issue after he visited his office.
Moeletsi says Teba and its employees do not have power to keep anyone’s account book without clear agreements.
Moeletsi says they were told that details in Chobokoane’s book were wrong because Ubank was changing its systems.

Tšilo told the PAC that he knew Chobokoane because he had a quarrel with him in front of workers at the Mafeteng Teba branch.
He says the new bank system adds every cent the book debited and credited and then writes the total.
“I told him that the problem is common under the new system,” Tšilo says.
He says after explaining the matter he gave Chobokoane his account book and he left.

Tšilo says it was only after “a long time” that he heard that Chobokoane was claiming that he had left his booklet with him.
He denied any knowledge of the booklet.
“He even came to me with some police officers but I explained the matter,” he says.

He says Chobokoane is a very clear man and would not leave his account book with them.
He said he learnt that “the owner (deliberately) hid the book so that he could come and claim a lot of money”.

“He wanted to come and fight for a million maloti without an account book.”
He suggests that the booklet might have been lost when Chobokoane was returning home.

Nkheli Liphoto

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The beauty queen of Lesotho



MASERU – WHILE many children her age were still adapting to the early years of school after kindergarten, Reatile Molefe was already plotting her life goals. Barely 10-years-old, Molefe already knew exactly what she wanted to do in life.

“I was already geared towards being a model at that early age. I was already portraying fancy and modest moves linked to modelling,” said the beauty queen, now aged 22.

It didn’t take time for her mother to identify the potential and found a need to sharpen it further.

“My journey in beauty pageantry started at the age of eight in 2009. The reason my mom thought I should hop into pageantry was because I was active and smart. I also had role models from the industry by then. I mean, I had an ambition of every little girl’s dream of being a star or being dressed in cute ball gowns so I also had a strong desire to be like that,” she said.

“I started my cat walking lessons at Little Miss Lesotho Companies but didn’t win. Not winning gave me motivation to work more towards my craft, it pushed me into wanting more as I couldn’t settle for less,” she said.

Molefe now boasts of 14 tittles to her name. She has donned the beauty pageant crowns in all stages of her life.

“I was crowned Queen in my two previous schools. I was Miss New Millennium High School in 2012 and Miss Lesotho High School in 2017. The 14th title I scooped made me believe in myself even more as I got to gain experience competing with people from different countries,” said Molefe, who has also made a bold statement by competing at the international level.

Molefe attributes her prowess to her high levels of confidence.

“Pageants create a bonding experience where women lift each other up, but what gives me an upper hand is being comfortable, secure with myself and being me throughout,” said Molefe, adding that her favourite category during pageantry competitions is when models are asked to strut the ramp in evening wear.

“That’s when the audience and the judges get to see the creativity, the poise and eloquence of the queens,” said Molefe, who believes that the audience’s response can destroy or build a contestant’s confidence.

“The audience can play either of the two roles during a contest. They may make a positive impact on females taking part because they teach them how to be resilient thus prepare them for real world situations. On the other hand, the audience may also make a negative impact and lead to a whole host of mental issues among participants who may be worried about their image and appearance. This can lead to harmful side-effects,” stated Molefe.

Like other women in the modelling industry, Molefe has come across some challenges.

“An example is trying to get enough support from the general public on my first international contest,” she said.

Another was the cost of competing in beauty pageants as well as evolving body changes, she said.

“Being a beauty queen is not a walk in the park, especially when being judged by the community. And, yes, pageants do help women grow in confidence but without proper mental health support, they can also create insecurities. But through all the struggles, I am thankful to my family and friends. They are my biggest supporters. I may have gone through it all but their unbending support has kept me going,” she said.

Molefe says she considers being crowned second runner up in the Miss Culture International competition held in Johannesburg in 2021 as her most outstanding achievement. She was also crowned Miss Culture Lesotho in 2018.

“What was intriguing to me about this contest was the fact that I was the youngest among the contestants. It proved to be a learning experience for me and it deepened my knowledge about what the modelling world really entails.

“I never doubted myself but I thought I wouldn’t make it as I was the youngest. I got to compete with people of different races, which got me even more motivated. I learned a lot in participating in a multi-racial event,” she said.

Pageantry isn’t just about looks, according to Molefe.

“There is to more to it, like being able to embrace glamour. Beauty is subjective and it can be interpreted in different ways according to the perception of individual viewers. I consider being beautiful as an inside and out perception but the golden rule is to brim with confidence to make it in pageantry,” said Molefe, urging parents to enroll their children in pageantry schools at an early age “even as early as three-years-old”.

“This gives them ample time to develop because the young ones are able to easily learn from others to improve their skills and boost their self-confidence,” said Molefe, who dreams of a day when a beauty queen is considered a legendary woman in Lesotho.

One of her goals is to assist in educating the youth, especially young women, about menstrual health and other sexual and reproductive health issues.

Her target group is mainly girls that live in rural areas and small towns.

“Pageants promote goal setting, encourage us to value personal achievement and community involvement,” she said.

Calvin Motekase

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The stock-theft menace



MASERU – IF you recently enjoyed a nice beef stew at a restaurant in Lesotho there is a high possibility that the slaughtered cow might have been stolen from a farm in South Africa.

If you are in South Africa, it is equally possible that the cow was stolen from a cattle post in Mokhotlong or any other mountainous region of Lesotho.

That is because cross-border stock-theft is on the increase between the two countries. In fact, it has become a thorn in the flesh for farmers on both sides of the border.

Since 1990, 85 percent of livestock owners on the border villages of Lesotho have lost animals to thieves as compared with 49 percentage from non-border villages, according to a study published by Wilfrid Laurier University.

Earlier this month, this problem came into sharp focus when four Basotho men were picked up by the police in Thaba-Nchu in the Free State.

These men, aged between 24-51 years old, were travelling in a car bearing Lesotho number plates. They were transporting cattle that did not have documents.

The SAPS informed their counterparts in Lesotho who rushed to the place to repatriate the suspects.

Maseru Urban Commanding Officer Senior Superintendent Rantoane Motsoela said their investigations uncovered that the cattle crossed into South Africa at Ha Tsolo through the Mohokare River.

Then they were transported from the border into South Africa.

S/Supt Motsoela said they have found that the cattle already had tattoo marks from one farmer in Ficksburg.

But the suspects had no documents to prove that the animals belonged to them.

Both the cattle and the car are still in the hands of the SAPS while investigations are continuing.

S/Supt Motsoela said the suspects are assisting the police with investigations.

In another incident police recovered five cattle of a Mosotho man in Qwa-Qwa, still in the Free State Province.

These cattle were reported stolen in Tšehlanyane in Leribe at the beginning of this month.

Police under their sting operation “Zero Tolerance to Stock Theft” launched their investigations that led to the discovery of the cattle.

The Leribe District police commanding officer Senior Superintendent Samuel Thamae said they were able to recover the animals with the help of the community who tipped them off.

S/Supt Thamae said they stormed Qwa-Qwa with their counterparts in South Africa to identify the stolen animals.

After convincing the SAPS that the cattle belonged to the concerned farmer, they were released to him.

The Mokhotlong District Administrator (DA) Serame Linake says they have been battling cross border stock theft for years.

He says Basotho in Lesotho would go to South Africa to steal the animals that they sell back to South Africa in Vanderbijlparkl after getting fraudulent documents.

Linake says these animals, cattle and sheep, are sold at an auction in Vanderbijlpark.

He says the South Africans on the other hand sometimes also cross the border into Lesotho to steal the animals.

To fight this theft, they have formed good relations with the SAPS, chiefs and councillors.

Linake says when animals are stolen from South Africa into Lesotho, their counterparts simply inform them on this side so that they could waylay them.

“Stolen animals are strictly sold in Vanderbijlpark in South Africa,” he says.

He says in his district animals are not sold in the butcheries like is the case in Maseru and other lowlands districts.

Linake says they are now struggling to control theft that takes place between the northern district and Qwa-Qwa because the perpetrators are Basotho who have now migrated to South Africa.

He says these perpetrators have lived in Lesotho and know all the corridors that they could use to come and steal animals in Lesotho and go back to South Africa.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says stock-theft is a grave problem in the country.

He says they have formed a special team that is going to reinforce the team that is already dealing with stock-theft in the country.

When there is an alarm that some animals have been stolen, this new team is informed so that it can lend a helping hand.

S/Supt Mopeli says the theft happens within the country’s borders and between Lesotho and South Africa.

S/Supt Mopeli says they are managing to deal with the theft because they arrest the perpetrators and bring them before the courts of law.

He says the public should alert the police when they see animals being stolen so that they can be saved from the hands of thieves.

Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola says they have registered big successes in curbing cross-border theft especially after having a post in Mokota-Koti in Maputsoe.

He says they usually hold frequent patrols at the borders to fight this crime.

“We also hold frequent crossings with the South African army to share information regarding cross-border theft,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Lt Col Lekola says they sometimes use air patrols as another way to fight stock-theft.

He says they usually erect camps along the borders so that they can stop animals coming out of Lesotho or vice-versa.

“Last year we had a successful collaboration with South African soldiers where we patrolled the borders from Leribe to Mafeteng. The South African army was on their side and we were also on our side,” he says.

He says they were working together with the police and they reaped good results.

Lt Col Lekola says some herd boys report the theft of livestock long after first trying to track the animals themselves.

He says this gives the cattle rustlers a chance to hide.

He advised the farmers not to erect cattle posts near the borders because they are stolen easily.

“When the South Africans enter Lesotho borders to trace their stolen animals, they make the first encounter with the animals at the cattle posts and drive them away,” Lt Col Lekola says.

He appealled to farmers to work collaboratively with their herders to pay them their dues.

He says some farmers do not pay their herders and those herders usually bounce back to steal the animals in revenge.

“They enter the cattle posts easily because the dogs know them,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Because Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, stock-theft takes place easily between the two countries especially in the provinces of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

The porous borders make it easy for the movement of animals to take place between the two countries.

And the theft between these countries has been happening since time immemorial.

The cross-border menace continues to take place despite patrols that are organised by the security agencies from both countries.

A Transnational History of Stock Theft on the Lesotho–South Africa Border, Nineteenth Century to 1994 Journal states that stock theft has long been a problem along the Lesotho–South Africa border.

It says from Moshoeshoe I’s cattle-raiding in the nineteenth century through to the start of the democratic era in Lesotho (1993) and South Africa (1994), the idea that stock theft is both prevalent and an international problem has been generally accepted by all.

According to Farmer’s Weekly livestock theft has a much more detrimental effect on the economy than previously thought, and is becoming more violent.

It says organised livestock theft feeds into other more serious types of transnational organised crimes such as drug, weapons and human trafficking.

And ultimately this results in the creation of illicit financial flows.

Challenges to safety included no fencing along large stretches, and the lack of a suitable roads to enable South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to conduct border patrols effectively, Farmer’s Weekly says.

In a piece published in November on the International Security Studies (ISS) website, ISS Today, stock theft was on the rise in South Africa, with 29 672 cases recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the 2018/2019 financial year.

This represented an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year.

The ISS said the problem is exacerbated by porous and poorly secured borders, lack of capacity to monitor the border, and mountainous terrain that is difficult to police.

“Such challenges create opportunities and trafficking routes for criminal networks to smuggle livestock, drugs and, at times, firearms across the border.”

The ISS said the transnational livestock theft affects farmers revenue and adds to consumer costs.

It says thousands of animals are stolen and sold through the black market.

And this hurts the economy and goes even further to impact consumers, as these animals could have provided meat.

Majara Molupe

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Matekane to launch microchip project



MAPUTSOE – PRIME Minister Sam Matekane will this Sunday launch a new microchip project designed to combat the rampant stock-theft in Lesotho.

The launch will be held in Peka in Leribe.

Speaking at a rally for his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) in Maputsoe last weekend, Matekane said the government is weary of the rampant stock-theft that impoverished rural farmers in Lesotho for decades.

“When your livestock leaves your kraals your phones will alert you and your families,” Matekane said amid loud cheers.

He asked the people to go to Peka in great numbers to witness the launch and learn from the livestock microchipping experts how the project will work to combat stock-theft in the villages.

The project was first spearheaded by Thomas Thabane when he was the Home Affairs Minister in 2003.

That year, 120 rams were implanted with the microchip identification system in Masianokeng.

The rams belonged to a company called Mahloenyeng Trading Company (Pty) Ltd.

The then police boss, Jonas Malewa, had microchipped 64 horses at the Police Training College (PTC) a year earlier in a pilot project.

The Home Affairs Ministry had contracted a company called Primate Identity Technology ran by a Jewish man, Yehuda Danziger, to carry out the pilot project.

Danziger was also tasked with observing any side-effects the animals could have after the implantation of the microchip.

The government introduced the microchip implantation technology after realising that stock thieves would easily erase the branding and tattoo marks with red hot metal and acid.

The stock thieves also cut off stolen animals’ ears if they bore the owner’s identification marks.

Microchips are tiny electronic devices, about the size of a grain of rice, which could be stored in a capsule and implanted near the animal’s tail to make it easy to identify and trace lost or stolen animals.

The project however never picked up with successive government not showing any political will to carry it through.

Things are now set to change with Matekane launching the project this Sunday.

Tšepang Mapola & Alice Samuel

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