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‘The baobab tree has fallen’



MASERU-As soon as he learnt that I was from Zimbabwe, Ralechate ’Mokose burst into an old classical liberation song, Tondosangana kuZimbabwe.
It was a moving song that he sang with gusto while he slowly shuffled his heavy frame to the beat.

Only after that song was done, amid some heavy panting, did we sit down for the formal introductions.
’Mokose told me that he had learnt the song through his interactions with Zanla guerrillas when he was in exile in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Tanzania, under President Julius Mwalimu Nyerere, was a fierce proponent of the decolonisation agenda and hosted hordes of liberation fighters from southern Africa in the 1970s.

’Mokose related to us how he also surprised President Robert Mugabe when he sang for him the same song in perfect Shona when he visited Lesotho in the late 1990s.
This was the ’Mokose whom we came to know – an affable, down-to-earth man with a zest for life.

It was only after those pleasantries were done when we sat down sat down at his home in Kolonyama for what proved to be an incisive interview on his personal story and his take on Lesotho’s stormy politics.
We were soon to learn though that it was never going to be easy to extract certain information from the man during the two-hour long interview.
Ever the diplomat, ’Mokose would remain guarded in his responses. It took a lot of patient cajoling to get him to open up.

But when he eventually opened up, every word that he spoke appeared to have been carefully picked, distilled and scrutinised.
Our conclusion was that here was a man, steeped in the traditions of diplomacy, who did not want to unnecessarily offend both friend and foe.
When we spoke to him in August 2017, ’Mokose together with his close lieutenants, had bitterly fallen out with Pakalitha Mosisili over the control of the Democratic Congress (DC) party.

At the centre of the wrangle was a realisation by ’Mokose and his colleagues within the party that Mosisili, after a 11-year stint at the helm had played his part. And now it was time to pass on the baton.
When that failed, ’Mokose and his colleagues walked away from the DC party and formed the Alliance of Democrats (AD) party.

As the DC secretary general, there was one subject though that ’Mokose spoke with refreshing candour – the break-up of his beloved DC party and what ailed his beloved Lesotho.
’Mokose told us that some time in 2011, Mosisili called him and the party’s then deputy leader, Monyane Moleleki, where he told them of his plans to retire.

But he said something changed after the 2015 snap elections when the DC began a vicious and calculated attempt to de-campaign Moleleki who was Mosisili’s shoo-in successor.
“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,” he said.

After they lost their court battle ’Mokose and his colleagues walked out of the DC and formed the AD in November 2016.
Even after the split, ’Mokose still retained huge respect for “his leader and friend” – Mosisili – adding his only weakness was in not being decisive enough to stop the split.

And so even as he delivered telling blows against Mosisili during the interview, one could still feel some measured responses against one he continued to view as his leader and mentor.
’Mokose’s vision was to see a unified Basotho nation.

That was why he saw nothing wrong with the AD cobbling a coalition deal with Thomas Thabane’s ABC and the Basotho National Party (BNP), which his colleagues within the “congress parties” saw as “The Great Satan” in 2017.

He wanted to see a Lesotho that was at peace with itself so that all focus could be placed on developmental issues.
’Mokose, who was now Lesotho’s ambassador to Canada, died last weekend after a short illness. He was 71.
’Mokose is survived by his wife, ’Mamok’haloe ’Mokose, and six children, two boys and four girls.

The AD secretary general, Dr Mahali Phamotse, described ’Mokose as a pillar of strength and a towering figure in Lesotho’s politics.
“He was the cornerstone of the party,” she said.
Dr Phamotse said ’Mokose was very close to Moleleki since their days in the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) in the 1970s.

“The deceased has left an indelible mark in the party,” she said.
Dr Phamotse said ’Mokose had a passion for music and would occasionally organise a group of young girls to sing the party’s songs during election campaigns.
He too would join the girls in song with great passion, she said.
“We are not pretending. We have been really weakened by this death,” she said.

Foreign Affairs Minister ’Matšepo Ramakoae said the government was deeply saddened by ’Mokose’s death adding they had already expressed their condolences to His Majesty King Letsie III and the diplomat’s family.
She said preparations are already underway to repatriate ’Mokose’s remains home.

Ramakoae said ’Mokose will be given a state funeral.
She said they are still waiting for post-mortem results to determine the cause of death.
Sello Maphalla, who was ’Mokose’s former student at Leribe Secondary School, described his former mentor as a passionate educationist who was dedicated to his work.

He became my role model because of his dedication to work,” Maphalla said.
’Mokose was an English and History teacher at the then Leribe Secondary School between 1971 and 1987 when he was appointed headmaster.
He was a great entertainer who would dance and play his guitar in front of his students, Maphalla said.

The two’s paths were to later cross again when they were now both in Parliament.
Maphalla said he became an MP before ’Mokose and “so I became his teacher in Parliament, lighting a path for him in Parliament”.
He was later appointed chief inspector in the Ministry of Education. He served in that capacity for two years.

In 1994, Mokose was appointed Lesotho’s high commissioner to South Africa, a move that saw him serve in the diplomatic services for the next 13 years.
In 1999, he was appointed Lesotho’s ambassador to Denmark until he left to join full-time politics in 2002 when he was appointed Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

Between 2002 and 2010, ’Mokose served as Minister of Forestry and Land Reclamation. He later served as Minister of Agriculture under Mosisili’s government.
When Mosisili’s government collapsed in 2017, Mokose was appointed Minister of Water under Thabane’s government where his AD was a junior partner. He was later appointed High Commissioner to South Africa and then as Lesotho’s top envoy to Canada where he died.

’Mokose’s wife, ’Mamok’haloe, says her Christian faith is helping her cope with her loss.
“I have learned from the Scriptures that death will always be there. And no one knows when and how he or she will depart this planet Earth,” she said.
She remembers how her husband always cracked jokes in the family.
“I will miss my husband playing his guitar,” she said.
He loved all kinds of music, she said.

A successful farmer in his own right, ’Mokose would grow beans for sale in Kolonyama. He also kept sheep and cattle to boost the family’s income, she said.

Abel Chapatarongo & Molupe Majara

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[BREAKING NEWS] Lebona sets curfew



MASERU– In an effort to curb the rampant increase of homicides in Lesotho, the Minister of Police Lebona Lephema has announced a 10:00pm-4:00am curfew, effective Tuesday May 16, 2023. Failure to comply with the curfew attracts a 2 years imprisonment or a fine.

Staff Reporter

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Two nurses deleted for misconduct



MASERU – A Kolonyama midwife, ’Mamalibeng Ralenkoane, who allegedly neglected a woman during labour has been deleted from the nurses’ register for the next six months.

The woman went on to deliver her baby by herself without professional assistance.

In another case the secretary-general of the Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC), ’Mamonica Makhoswonke Mokhesi, has also been deleted for violating a patient’s privacy.

The LNC’s disciplinary chairman, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, said Ralenkoane had committed an act of serious misconduct and deserved severe punishment.

Advocate Sepiriti ruled that Ralenkoane “should not be seen anywhere attending (to) patients”.

Ralenkoane was working as a midwife at the Little Flower Health Centre in Kolonyama, Leribe, when ’Mateboho Letlala was admitted there for labour in August 2020.

Letlala told the panel that Ralenkoane took her to the examination room and later left her despite that there were signs that she could give birth anytime.

“At 19:00 pm Ralenkoane examined the patient but left her unattended and the patient had to deliver on her own,” Advocate Sepiriti said in his verdict.

“Clearly the blame has to be put at the door of Ralenkoane,” he said.

Adv. Sepiriti ruled that she should be deleted with immediate effect for 12 months, half of which was suspended.

“During these six months period, Ralenkoane is prohibited in any way from attending patients and this judgment should be delivered at her place of work,” he said.

Letlala in her testimony said by the time Ralenkoane arrived, she was already having severe labour pains and was told to go to the labour ward for assessment.

She said when she stepped down the labour bed Ralenkoane said to her: “Ua seke ua tatela ho hema empa molomo oa popelo o buleile ka 3cm’ (meaning she seemed to be in a hurry yet the cervix had opened by 3cm only).

“I was so surprised because I could feel I was very close to delivering because this was my second child and I could say I have experience,” she said.

She said she told the nurse that she needed to use the toilet but was instructed to use a pan instead.

“As she left me on the bed pan I could not stand from the pan as the pains were severe. I called for help but to no avail,” she said.

She said the moment she got energy to stand from the bed pan she saw blood, she called her but there was no response.

“Ralenkoane promised to come after two hours but there were no instructions on what to do in case I needed help prior to two hours,” she said.

“I wheeled myself to the bed and sat on it, still calling to no avail.”

She said while still alone, her membranes raptured and the time of birth came and the baby was delivered.

“The child did not fall as I was able to hold him,” she said.

She phoned her aunt who told her to find s scissor to cut the umbilical cord.

She said she bled a lot and ran out of energy, then Ralenkoane arrived at around midnight.

“When she came in she asked where the baby was and I pointed to where I had put him where he clamped the cord,” she said.

She said it was then that she got assistance.

The investigator for Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), one Nteso, told Advocate Sepiriti that his findings were that “the mother’s life was in danger as she was found having bled heavily and tired and the baby’s life was also in danger from prolonged exposure which could lead to hypothermia and brain damage”.

“Ralenkoane was not there for the mother until she delivered in the absence of the midwife, this is a case of negligence,” he said.

However, in mitigation Ralenkoane said this was her first time to appear before the panel and has been a nurse for more than nine years.

She said she has two children to support and she has already been punished by the clinic as she was dismissed and that she has policies and loans.

She pleaded with the panel to have mercy on her.

In another case Mokhesi who was the Secretary General of LNC was also deleted from the register for two years after she was found guilty of sharing a patient’s picture on social media without their consent.

She was accused of defamation of character and violating the patient’s privacy by posting pictures of the injuries he had incurred.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Nurses back at work



MASERU -NURSES who have been on strike since Monday are set to resume work this morning after the government started paying their salaries.

The nurses went on a go-slow last week but escalated to a full-fledged strike on Monday after the government delayed their salaries. Some nurses claimed they had not been paid since March.

Morephe Santi, the secretary general of the Lesotho Nurses’ Association (LNA), said they have started telling members to go back to work after the government said the salaries will start reflecting in their accounts last night.

The strike has inflicted huge reputational damage on Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s government which came to power on promises of efficiency.

Minister of Public Service Richard Ramoeletsi blamed the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and the Human Resource Management System (HRMS) for the delay in April salaries.

Ramoeletsi told parliament last week that the two financial management systems were unable to reconcile, leading to delays in salaries.

But that explanation was little consolation for patients who bore the brunt of the strike.

At least 20 expectant mothers at Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek were told to go home because nurses could not help them.

Some of the women were later admitted at Tebellong Hospital, a facility under the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL).

“We were staying at the hospital’s roundavel awaiting our time to go to labour but on Thursday afternoon (last week we were called by the nurses and they told us to go to other hospitals or go back home,” said Maretlotliloe Mpeli, who is heavily pregnant.

She said the nurses told them that they could not work on empty stomachs.

’Matlotla Poling, 19, from Ha-Rankakala said she had to call her parents because she did not have any money to either go back home or to Tebellong Hospital.

The Machabeng Hospital management declined to comment, referring thepost to the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mosebekoa, said Machabeng Hospital “did not expel the expecting mothers but merely sent them back home”.

“Due to the ongoing strike by doctors countrywide …they decided to take those women to the places where they would get help,” Mosebekoa said.

There was similar anguish at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

“The strike has affected all the departments including the kitchen, maternity, and emergencies, but the managers are on duty,” said ’Makananelo Sepipi, the hospital’s spokesperson.

Sepipi said managers were forced to hold the forte “because some sections cannot be left unattended utterly due to their importance”.

“The operations are happening in the emergency section, even though they do not operate in a normal way.”

She said patients whose operations were scheduled for this week were sent back home.

Santi, the LNA’s secretary general, blamed the government for the chaos caused by the strike.

Santi said as much as the government likes to call them an essential service they do not prioritise their ministry.

“They do not appreciate us, it is like they do not see the importance of our job,” Santi said.

“The government turns a blind eye to the fact that our working environment alone can put us at risk of contracting diseases.”

“Now we are not able to buy food and other necessities.”

Nkheli Liphoto & Thooe Ramolibeli

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