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A touch of diplomacy



MASERU – THERE is a certain guardedness when Ralechate ’Mokose, 68, a former diplomat, speaks. Every word he speaks appears to be carefully picked so as not to unnecessarily offend both friend and foe. Having served as an ambassador in the 1990s until 2001, it would appear diplomatic etiquette is now a part of ’Mokose genetic make-up.

Even when he is put in a corner, ’Mokose would rather not comment than speak his mind. For instance, he declines to comment whether he harbours any ambitions to one day be the Prime Minister of Lesotho. Yet there is one subject that appears to galvanise him, a subject he deals with at length with refreshing candour: the break-up of his beloved Democratic Congress (DC) party late last year.

As the powerful DC secretary general, ’Mokose was privy to the behind-the-scenes drama as the once formidable party edged towards an inevitable split. The split would eventually see Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who had dominated Lesotho’s politics for over 15 years, toppled from power last June. ’Mokose, who was in the thick of the action as the party was being slowly nudged out of power, provides an authoritative voice on the dramatic fallout within the DC, particularly with regards to the succession issue.

’Mokose says sometime in 2011, Mosisili called him and Monyane Moleleki to his residence in Roma where he told them he had enough and that he wanted to bow out as premier. It was a dramatic announcement that must have caught him by surprise. And so ’Mokose says his expectation was that after the 2012 general election, Mosisili would “graciously relinquish power to his deputy and announce that I have had my time, let’s discuss the succession issue”.

“We had been made to believe that he (Mosisili) would give up power to a man who had given so much to the political life of his leader,” he says.
When the DC did not win the 2012 general election, Mosisili quietly slipped into the background and appointed Moleleki leader of the House, which he thought was “a good omen”. He says after the DC reclaimed power after the 2015 snap election, they expected Mosisili to begin a gradual process of handing over power to his deputy.

He says they were shocked and surprised “when this did not happen”. Instead of handing over power, the DC began a vicious and well calculated political process of de-campaigning Moleleki accusing the deputy leader of “plotting to unseat Mosisili”.
“There was a group of youths who had been given a mission to tarnish the name of the deputy leader (Moleleki) under the guise that he was out to dethrone the leader.”

“I was aware the party was heading for a split and tried to intervene,” he says. “Mosisili was very silent and I was sure he had something to do with this.” ’Mokose believes Mosisili really wanted to bow out but “there are people who arm-twisted him to change his position”.
’Mokose was among a group of senior DC executive committee members who lost a High Court bid to oust Mosisili as party leader late last year.
They were later slapped with six-year suspensions from the DC, a decision that saw Moleleki, ’Mokose and others walk out of the party to form the Alliance of Democrats (AD) in November last year.

With the gloves literally off, ’Mokose and his colleagues approached the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, the Basotho National Party (BNP)’s Thesele Maseribane and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL)’s Keketso Rantšo to plot Mosisili’s ouster.
They agreed they would pass a no-confidence vote against Mosisili and allow Moleleki to serve as Prime Minister for the first 18 months with Thabane serving the remainder of the term till 2018 when Lesotho was due for a new election.

When Mosisili lost the no-confidence motion, he advised King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call a fresh election, an exercise ’Mokose says was a “sheer waste of public funds”. The DC’s strategy, ’Mokose says, was calculated to fix the AD and ensure the party did not win any seats due to the limited time they had to campaign.

“But our number one priority was to dethrone Mosisili from the premiership and that we accomplished,” he says. “We also wanted to have a sizable number of seats to make us kingmakers and that too we achieved.” “We are in a very strong position.” As secretary general of the DC, does ’Mokose believe they did enough to save the party from its imminent split?

He says he and his colleagues went out of their way to forestall a split. “We did not part ways with the DC without effort. We loved the DC. We felt the party had a future only if we were able to discuss our differences amicably,” he says. “Several times I went to discuss the issues with (Mosisili) and told him you and Moleleki are the two people who can save us. Why don’t you meet and announce our unity? He did not buy the story.”
’Mokose says while he still has deep respect for Mosisili as his “leader and friend,” he realises the former premier’s biggest weakness is that he is not decisive enough to intervene when there are problems within the party.

“He is not quick enough to intervene.” Having transplanted the DC’s national executive committee into the AD, critics argue the new party could become a carbon copy of the DC, a charge ’Mokose rejects. “Far from it,” he says. ’Mokose says the AD’s mandate stems from a realisation that Basotho have been polarised for too long and need to heal.

He says they take a cue from Moshoeshoe I who moulded “a formidable nation from different tribes, including even the cannibals who had devoured his grandfather”. This is what drives the coalition government, he says. The politics of the past 50 years have sharply divided the people and there is now need to unify Basotho across political party colours, he says.

“Such politics have polarised our people at every level of society, in government, in the military and the civil service. This has impeded development.”
Yet despite playing a pivotal role in the collapse of the former government, ’Mokose appears content to sit in the background away from the glamour and glare of the public. Does he have any hard feelings that he was “snubbed” for a plum job in government?
True to form, ’Mokose is also diplomatic about this.

He says having served Lesotho in various capacities in government over the last 13 years, it is now time to give the younger generation a chance.
He says his farming business is keeping him busy. The coalition deal also meant there were only six cabinet positions available for the AD and it was therefore impossible for everyone to expect a ministerial position.

“Under those circumstances there comes a time when one removes the self and let other younger fellows take over.” The constant bouts of political intolerance have come at a great cost for Lesotho, ’Mokose says. Instead of channelling all our energy on development issues, “we have been fighting over the cake”. And when you fight rather than sit down to think, you negate the development agenda, he argues.

’Mokose says the first step towards placing Lesotho into that elite league of progressive countries is to ensure there is peace and political stability.
“As AD we want to create that peace and work together as Basotho. If there is peace, then we are able to plan and develop.”
He says he believes Lesotho remains a “virgin land” that has not been fully explored to unearth the vast mineral resources that it has apart from diamonds.

He says he finds it odd that Lesotho would be entirely surrounded by a mineral-rich country such as South Africa with itself having none.
“We have plenty of water which is generating over M800 million in royalties per annum. While the focus for Metolong Dam was to provide potable water to people, more can be done to empower communities through irrigation projects.”
“There are already talks to increase electricity production and boost clean energy.”

While ’Mokose is making the right noises on the investment and economic front, it is Lesotho’s stinking politics that has proved its Achilles heel.
With the dust from the June 3 election yet to settle, there are already howls of protest from the opposition which is accusing the Thabane-led government of purging people who are viewed as loyal to the former government.

The recent shake-up within the police, the intelligence and principal secretaries’ offices has given credence to this view.
’Mokose says this unfortunately is part of the polarisation that must be addressed under the SADC-proposed reforms.
He believes the best route would be to appoint permanent secretaries who are apolitical.

He also expects Lesotho to fully implement the SADC recommendations if it is to uphold democracy and promote the rule of law.
“Do we have any option except to follow the wishes and demands of the international community which wants to see the SADC recommendations acted upon?”

A former educationist, ’Mokose believes Lesotho’s education system needs a shake-up to move it away from its “colonial nature”.
“It was an education that was meant to create civil servants, the priests and the small-time employees to work for the whites. It emphasised mental arithmetic so that we could calculate (the change) in grocery shops.

“We have to move towards subjects that make you independent and not look for employment. We must focus on the youths and help them come up with viable projects that can create employment.”

Abel Chapatarongo


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31 rescued from human traffickers



MASERU – THE government says it has rescued 31 Basotho who had fallen into the hands of human traffickers, a significant development for a country desperate to boost its global rankings in combating human trafficking.
Due to its proximity to continental economic giant, South Africa, coupled with desperation of its citizens to seek better fortunes abroad amid economic problems, Lesotho has for years been in the throes of human trafficking.

But the country seems to be making steady progress, even though much still has to be dome to eradicate the practice which has seen many Basotho being trafficked for sex in the neighbouring country.
Minister of Home Affairs Motlalentoa Letsosa appeared on television this week announcing the rescue of the 31 Basotho.

He said as a sign that the country is moving in the right direction, Lesotho has moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in global human trafficking rankings, according to the United States’ Department of State.
When it was a Tier 3 country, Lesotho’s government was considered as one of those that “do not fully comply with the minimum standards”.
Now placed in Tier 2, Lesotho’s government is considered as “making significant efforts” to comply with global standards.

Letsosa said Lesotho has achieved the latest rescue, as well as the progress in its ranking, thanks to the diligent work of civil servants at the border gate.
He said the public servants are able to identify people who are being trafficked through signs that such people exhibit.
These include unusual movements and signs that they are being threatened.

Letsosa said the government has realised that there are some pimps in Lesotho who dupe Basotho girls into crossing into South Africa for sexual exploitation.
“They give these girls a small amount of money,” he said, adding that this is now a growing business.
Letsosa said Parliament also reinforced the anti-trafficking in-person law that is under the Home Affairs Ministry.
This amendment, he said, gave magistrates powers to deal with trafficking cases.

It also allows the magistrates courts to hear such cases since Lesotho only has one High Court, he said.
This law provides for a mandatory custodial sentence for those convicted of human trafficking.
Letsosa said although public servants are contributing to the fight, the government still needed to weed out some rogue ones who are helping facilitate the trade.

Police investigations into such characters are already underway, the minister said.
To eradicate human trafficking, the government has formed an inter-agency taskforce that brings together the police, the intelligence and non-governmental organizations.
Letsosa said that, the United States, a major partner, is supportive of the Home Affairs efforts.

Lesotho is one of several African countries that are part of the US Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) that seeks to give local businesses greater access to US markets. That relationship is safe as the country makes strides in combating human trafficking, said Letsosa.
Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Tumelo Raboletsi, said the Americans urged Basotho officials to maintain the vigilance and tighten investigations to ensure rogue public servants are chucked out.

Raboletsi said the Americans also told Lesotho to work with non-governmental organisations to combat the scourge of human trafficking.
He also rubbished claims that Mathibeli Mokhothu was involved in the trafficking as there is no case against him at the courts.

Nkheli Liphoto

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The story of the Queen



MASERU – THE greatest asset Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso has is not her title or social status but the tender compassion she shows to the vulnerable ones.
Even as a young Christian child, Queen ’Masenate would extend mercy to the poor and vulnerable in society.
That was way before she had even met King Letsie III.

When the opportunity presented itself, she would spread her palms and support the weak.
Her Christian-trained conscience guided her as a young girl to open her heart and her ears of tender compassion so that she heard the cries of those who needed help.

When she was a student at Machabeng International College in the mid-1990s she was already engaged in community service with the Angela School for the Disabled and the Centre for the Blind.
It seems community service is her calling as she is now continuing with the good deeds as the Queen, a trait she displayed when she was barely in her teens.

She is involved in a variety of charitable projects, including being the patron of the Lesotho Red Cross Society, the SOS Children’s Village, and the Machabeng International College where she studied before becoming Queen.

In addition to her work with the charity for People with Disabilities, Queen ‘Masenate is generally interested in working with projects seeking to improve the voices of disabled people in Lesotho.
After the passing on of Queen Mother ’Mamohato Bereng Seeiso, her mother-in-law, in 2003 she took over as the patron of Hlokomela Bana Foundation (Take Care of Children), an association dedicated to looking after mainly orphaned and abandoned children.

The Queen has challenged members of the Hlokomela Bana Foundation to apply more concerted efforts towards transforming the lives of vulnerable and orphaned children.
She said this during an event held in Maseru where she indicated that by so doing, they will be attracting more companies and people of goodwill to donate to the foundation, thus making it easier for them to fulfill their mandate of helping the needy.

At the event, proceeds collected during her birthday celebration on June 29 were presented to the foundation.
Companies such as Avani Hotel-Lesotho and the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) gave away cheques for M10 000 each, while Botho University gave away cheque for M3 500.
The Queen added that there are numerous organisations in the country giving back to the needy communities, expressing her heartfelt gratitude that the foundation was selected as a beneficiary.

Speaking on behalf of Hlokomela Bana Foundation, ’Mabataung Mokhathali, said the purpose of the foundation is to support Her Majesty’s efforts in helping needy children.

Mokhathali said that it does not belong to a certain group of people but belongs to all who aspire to achieve goals and objectives of Her Majesty in growing children.
She called upon more Basotho women to join them.

According to her, Hlokomela Bana does not work with only certain types of children in the country, but all those who are vulnerable and orphaned.
The Queen has a strong interest in enabling the work undertaken with HIV/AIDS patients and has been involved in several awareness programmes in Lesotho.

Since becoming Queen, she has become the patron of several charities and has worked to promote the work of projects related to HIV/AIDS.
Queen ’Masenate has also undertaken visits to a variety of AIDS projects around the country, including orphanages.
Queen ‘Masenate, 45, is the queen consort of Lesotho as the wife of King Letsie III.

She was the first commoner in modern history to marry into the Royal Family of Lesotho.
Queen ‘Masenate was born Anna Karabo Motšoeneng in Mapoteng in the Berea District, the eldest daughter of five children of Thekiso Motšoeneng and his wife ‘Makarabo.

She was christened Anna when she was baptized as a Catholic.
In 1990 Queen ‘Masenate enrolled at Machabeng International College in Maseru and studied there until 1996, completing an International General Certificate for Secondary Education and an International Baccalaureate Diploma.

In 1997 she attended the National University of Lesotho (NUL) where she studied for a Bachelor of Science degree.
Her studies were interrupted by her relationship with King Letsie III.
In October 1999, two years into her studies at the National University of Lesotho, she became engaged to King Letsie III.
They were married on February 18, 2000 in Maseru.
King Letsie III was at the time the only unmarried king in Africa.

The ceremony was conducted in the Setsoto Stadium by the late Archbishop Bernard Mohlalisi, with 40 000 people who included dignitaries such as the late Nelson Mandela, Festus Mogae, Bakili Muluzi and Prince Charles of the British Royal Family being present.

Queen ‘Masenate credited the Royal Family for making her welcome, in particular the influence of Queen ‘Mamohato, the Queen Mother.
Queen ‘Masenate and her mother-in-law grew closer together and the Queen found it difficult when the Queen Mother died in 2003, but praised her husband for supporting her at the time.

In an interview with one local newspaper in 2014, she said: “I like the fact that he listens when I advise him on various issues that are personal. For instance, I want him to be well-dressed for various functions. And, as the woman of the house, I also recommend a lot of things, food, music, movies and more educative television channels for all of us.”

The Queen said His Majesty is a very reserved, respectful, patient, wise and humble person and he is all that in a very sweet way.
These are the qualities he has sustained over the years, she said.
Queen ‘Masenate and King Letsie have three children – Princess Senate who was born on 7 October 2001, Princess ‘Maseeiso born on 20 November 2004 and Prince Lerotholi born on 18 April 2007.

Staff Reporter

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A lifetime of struggle



MASERU – ON the eve of the 2015 general elections, Lesojane Leuta was suspended from the Basotho National Party (BNP) where he was serving as the secretary general.

To say he was hurt would be an understatement; he saw the suspension as a huge personal blow. A year later, Leuta was eventually expelled on the eve of the party’s annual general conference.

Leuta says a small clique which had coalesced around party leader, Thesele ’Maseribane, connived to boot him out.
This was after he expressed serious concerns over the manner in which party funds were being handled.
But instead of dealing with the questions he was raising, the “hawks” aligned to ’Maseribane ganged up on him and booted him out.
He was devastated.

Leuta says that small cabal has now successfully seized control of the party and is running it like its own fief.
He says the group that pushed him out in 2015 had also attempted to nudge him out of the presidential election race on spurious grounds that he had defected and formed his own party.
The internal party elections are set for June 11-13.

A defiant Leuta told thepost this week that the allegations that he had formed his own party were as nonsensical as they were incomprehensible.
He says he will not allow these dirty shenanigans to sidetrack him.
What happened to Leuta is nothing new in the BNP. So far, four candidates have all confirmed that the election race has been messy and that it has been marked by bitter acrimony.
There has been a lot of mudslinging too.

Leuta says what Basotho have seen over the last two months is politics of the gutter, as rivals exchanged barbs over radio stations.
All this, Leuta says, is foreign and runs counter to the spirit and ethos of the party.

He speaks of himself as a “disciplined cadre” of the BNP, a party which he says he joined in 1965 as a 13-year-old boy when some of his current political adversaries were yet to be born.
The insults run counter to my Christian upbringing and ethos as a Mosotho, he says. In fact, he says listening to some of the insults has been a jarring experience for him.

What he would have preferred to see is a “rational debate” on issues that would allow BNP supporters to pick the best candidate for the party’s top job.
Unfortunately, he says the “noise” coming from the campaign trail will not allow party supporters to make that intelligent choice. Instead, whoever controls the “mob” and makes the most noise will come up trumps, a situation Leuta says would be tragic for the BNP.
He insists that the insults have inflicted serious damage on the BNP brand.

While he remains confident over his electoral chances, it is clear that the bitter election race is taking its toll on Leuta, a soft-spoken man who picks his words carefully as if not to offend anyone.
It would be no surprise that in the dirty, cut-throat politics of the BNP, Leuta might look hopelessly out of place.
“I want rational debate of issues not just hurling of abuse at other people,” he says.
“That’s not how I was raised in the party.”

While Leuta does not openly refer to Machesetsa Mofomobe, one of the leading contestants in the race to succeed ’Maseribane, it is telling that he refers to him merely as “that young man”.
“The young man is very ill-disciplined,” he says.
It is clear during the interview that he views the current deputy leader with absolute contempt.

He says hawks within the party tried all tricks to ensure he did not stand in the elections.
“Now they are trying all sorts of tricks to make sure I do not win the elections.”

He says after he was expelled, he went to court seeking protection.
“I asked the court to please protect me from people who wanted to push me out of a party I joined when they were not even born.”
That matter was later settled out of court and his membership was eventually restored.
But even after those tumultuous events in 2015, the hawks in the party have still not given up – they still want to throw banana skins on his path to the presidency.

Despite trying to throw mud at him, Leuta says his political rivals “still can’t find anything against me” that can stick.
“I excelled in the office of secretary general and increased the numbers (of voters for the party) from 23 000 in 2012 to 31 000 in 2015. After they fired me, they went down to 23 000 again.”
Leuta says there has been rampant corruption and maladministration in the BNP for years.

The result has been massive disillusionment with the BNP and its leadership with the party faithful staying away altogether from national politics.
He says he wants to restore dignity in the party.
“There is an outcry that the party is not being managed properly so the first thing will be to bring back the confidence of members of the party,” he says.
He alleged that some of the people now at the helm of the party have been beneficiaries of the grand looting and corruption in the BNP.

“The first task would be to rebuild the party into what it should be,” he says.
Leuta’s trump card appears to be his long association with the BNP.
“I have been in the BNP long enough to appreciate some of the things not appreciated by some of the contenders.”
He says in 1984 the late party leader, Chief Leabua Jonathan, cautioned against the same tendencies that he sees today.
“I am telling them that if they don’t change their behavior, they will never taste power again.”

The BNP was ousted from power in a bloodless coup in January 1986. With access to state resources blocked, the party has struggled to make an impact on the electoral map. It last won a constituency in 2015. The last time it had won a constituency was in 1993.
Since 2012, the BNP has relied on the benevolence of its coalition partners to stay in government.

With its voice in government muffled, the party is now a shadow of its former self. Critics say the BNP is way past its sell-by date and it will take herculean efforts if the party is to seize power again.
Leuta however insists that with the right people at the helm, the damage can be reversed and the BNP can be a powerful force once again.

The first task though would be to oust people who have ruined the party during the elections next month.
Leuta says there are people in the party “who don’t care about its welfare” such as its growth and how it is perceived by outsiders.
These people are damaging the party’s brand by resorting to insults.

“Who would vote for such a party when it is led by such individuals?”
He says he wants to instill discipline in the BNP.
Leuta admits that the odds are heavily tilted against him and that the electoral playing field is not level.
His main bone of contention is that one of the leading contenders for the presidency, Mofomobe, has remained active as deputy leader of the party even when he has announced his intention to run in the elections.

That gives him an unfair advantage over the rest of us, Leuta says.
“There are clear signs that the electoral contest might not be fair. The deputy leader, who is also a contender, seems to be running the show,” he says.
“Most of the members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) appear to be loyal to him and are doing his bidding. I am not sure if they will bend the other way.”

Leuta alleges that Mofomobe was using young “party thugs” to intimidate political opponents.
“The electoral playing field is not level and one can only hope that the delegates at the conference will behave rationally.”
Yet even when the field is skewed, Leuta remains confident that come June 13, he will be the new BNP leader.
“If common sense prevails and there is no chicanery, I am confident that I will win.”

That is a big “if”.
Leuta is banking on the long years he has spent in the BNP trenches, fighting silent battles to win the hearts and souls of Basotho.
“Those who know me, know that I can deliver,” he says.
He points to his time as the BNP secretary general where he says he helped set up an efficient and corruption-free office in the party.

As a former banker, all he wants to see is accountability in the BNP. He wants to rekindle the values of honesty and servant-leadership in the party.
“I have been fighting corruption all my life,” he says.
Leuta spent 12 years at the Central Bank of Lesotho working in the currency management division and a further 18 years in bank supervision and exchange control.

“I learnt a lot of things there that can be useful to the party.”
He grew up at a time when the BNP was the darling of the masses. The party was locked in mortal combat with the Basotho Congress Party led by Ntsu Mokhehle.

He says the BNP was staunchly anti-Communist and hated the BCP which it saw as an agent of the Communist regime in China.
Even at that young age, he was conditioned to hate “the Communist evil”.
“We were told that the Communists were going to forcefully marry all the nuns and that the churches were going to be converted into dance halls,” he says.

He says they were told by the French-Canadian Catholic priests that the BCP would force the nuns to marry and produce soldiers who would fight to entrench Communism around the world.
The anti-God doctrine of the Communist China went against everything that he had been taught as a young Catholic boy.
And from that moment on, Leuta saw it as his “divine duty” to oppose the BCP and all that it stood for.

“Mao’s cultural revolution did a lot to crystalise our anti-Communist philosophy.”
The young Leuta, who grew up surrounded by white priests and nuns in Matsieng, about 40km south of the capital Maseru, would religiously attend church services every Sunday.
“There were no excuses,” he says.

And while most of his age-mates were going to initiation schools, his grandmother summoned him one day and “told him to go to school”.
“They were going to the mountains and after the mountains, they would go to work in the mines in South Africa.”
He rejects the narrative that the BNP was a ruthless party that committed atrocities arguing that both sides were equally to blame for what happened after the 1970 disputed elections.

“The BNP was not alone in this brutality. I know of horrendous things that were done by the BCP against BNP members. It was not one-sided traffic.”
Leuta says he is grateful for the values of honesty and hard work that he picked as a young Catholic boy in Matsieng, values he thinks can now be of service to the BNP as he tries to clean up the party’s soiled past.
He believes the BNP can still win a properly run election provided the party elects the right candidate to lead it.
He believes he can offer such leadership.

Staff Reporter

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