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Mixing business with politics



MASERU – WITH Lesotho inevitably hobbling towards a new general election, that would be a second in less than two years, Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana is a concerned man.

For Thotanyana, holding fresh elections without first carrying out the necessary reforms to “fix” what is ailing the country would almost be an exercise in futility.
Such an election might result in a change of government while leaving the fundamental issues that have haunted Lesotho for decades firmly intact.

“Even if the country calls elections right now, that will not help this country unless we pursue a reform agenda and reform all key institutions first,” he says.
Thotanyana says “we need to build the necessary checks and balances to make sure our democracy can benefit the people on the ground”.
“Nothing will cure our problems unless these reforms are done.”

In fact, Thotanyana says the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili which came into power after the 2015 election was built on a key electoral pledge –to undertake comprehensive constitutional and political reforms.

The reforms, he says, were not initiated by SADC but are a home-grown process as extrapolated in the governing parties’ electoral manifestoes.
He says politicians in the coalition government drafted a seven-point reform plan to ‘fix’ the Constitution, the Parliament, the judiciary, the security sector, the public service and the media.
“Our biggest intervention as politicians should be the reforms themselves,” he says. “The second point is that we must find ways of healing.”

That appears to be a tacit admission that the country has gone through periods of trauma. Yet, the issue of national healing appears to lie at the epicentre of Thotanyana’s vision for Lesotho.
Since independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho has gone through what has proven to be a very traumatic 50 years characterised by toxic politics and armed conflict.
For Thotanyana, who at 42 is part of a new generation of Lesotho politicians uncontaminated by the country’s violent past, that narrative needs to change.
“The biggest cure is to engage in the reform agenda and find ways we can mend within a reformed environment.”

A qualified Chartered Accountant and a successful businessman in his own right, Thotanyana says Lesotho will never enjoy lasting peace until the fundamental issues of poverty and unemployment are addressed.

“We need a citizenry that is economically independent and once we achieve that people will find peace in the country,” he says.
Thotanyana says the looming vote-of-no-confidence in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is a vivid reminder that “democracy is in full swing in Lesotho”.

He says Lesotho needs Constitutional reforms so that the “constitution can provide proper institutions of oversight and the necessary checks and balances”.
Thotanyana however has issues with “our electoral model” which he says sometimes contributes to an unstable political environment.

He says while the Mixed Member Proportional system “has a compensatory element so that each party has fair representation”, the model has in the past contributed to “unstable” governments.
“The fact that members can cross the floor at any time they want will create an unstable environment and political volatility.”

Thotanyana says he feels Parliament needs to come up with a “window” in which MPs can cross the floor.
Under the current situation, we have political parties that spend all their time scheming how they can “consolidate and win power”.
“We need a moment where the governing party can sit down and govern.”

Although Thotanyana formally entered mainstream politics when he stood as an LCD candidate in his home-town of Teya-teyang in the 2015 election, he says “he has always been a political animal” as long as he can remember.

The LCD was a behemoth on Lesotho’s political landscape, winning elections with thumping margins until Mosisili quit the party and formed his own Democratic Congress (DC) party in 2012.
A bitter power struggle saw Mosisili pack his bags to find a new political home. The LCD was never to be the same again. It soon morphed into a shell of its former self.

The party performed dismally in the 2012 election winning just 26 constituency seats. Thotanyana however blames the dismal performance on lack of adequate time to prepare for the election.
“The split happened too close to the election and the party could not regroup.”
However, the party’s fortunes plummeted further in the 2015 election when it could only claim 12 seats.

Thotanyana stood under the LCD ticket in his home-town of Teya-teyang confident that his popularity as a “son of the soil” and his close links with Lioli Football Club, which is based in the town, would sweep him into power.
He was wrong.

He too lost to the All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s Prince Maliehe.
In a candid assessment of why the party lost, Thotanyana says this was due to a sleek “propaganda war” waged by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s ABC and the Basotho National Party (BNP).

He says the two parties successfully used the power of incumbency to batter the LCD’s reputation.
The ABC and BNP were close allies in the last coalition government.

“The two parties had similar ideologies and they battered the party (LCD) with lots of propaganda. The LCD found itself an outsider in its own government,” he says.
He says while the propaganda war was being waged against his own party, they did not do enough to counter “the misinformation campaign”.
“I am not sure we invested enough to make sure our story was heard.”

The result, Thotanyana admits, was that the LCD was seen as a “trouble-maker”, an allegation he rejects with contempt.
He says the party’s stance on the issue of “engagement within the coalition government” was not understood properly.
“It was interpreted along constitutional lines and was too legalistic and the moral aspects were ignored. We lost the propaganda war.”
While the LCD might have lost the propaganda war, Thotanyana insists “the party won the war”.
“We had had enough and wanted an exit from that administration.”

Thotanyana says their time in government over the last 24 months has given them enough time to regroup and organise.
“All challenges have gone away,” he says boldly. “Our task right now is to rebrand the party and rejuvenate it.”
Thotanyana says the LCD is a party with an illustrious history of working closely with the poor and marginalised communities.
He cites the policy of free primary school education and old age pensions for Basotho. It is such policies that made the LCD the “darling of the masses” with its then leader, Mosisili, seen as the “poster boy” of Lesotho politics.

“This is a party with a history, it’s a party for the poor that talks their language and understands them better. Our task is to reposition the party to respond to current challenges and those of the future.”

But why would a successful businessman swap the boardroom for the turbulent world of politics, with all its attendant risks and pitfalls?
Thotanyana admits that he entered politics much earlier than he had planned. Although he has always been fascinated by politics, he says he only planned to get into full-time politics after retirement.

He says he had a change of thought after “his people” in Teya-teyang appealed to him to represent them in Parliament.
“Although I believed I was the best candidate, I lost,” he says.

He was to soon learn that voters are not necessarily appeased by grandiose policies and manifestos but base their decisions purely on emotions.
“We vote by heart and not our brains. Voters don’t care about the individual candidate, they are a lot more emotional,” he says.
“They clearly told me I was standing on the wrong side (politically).”

As a minister in charge of a key ministry for Lesotho, Thotanyana says he has become used to people making “noises over Mothae Mine”.
That is particularly true because “there are people who believe Mothae can be a springboard to great wealth”.

“They cannot see anybody else taking over the mine other than themselves. The matter has become politically contaminated, people want to politicise the whole matter. But we have been very transparent in our dealings. It is giving us the best value there is.”

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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