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Rose Moremoholo


VODAFONE Foundation has committed USD$8 million (approximately M120 million) in the treatment of Lesotho’s children and pregnant women living with HIV.Vodafone Foundation is working in collaboration with Vodacom Lesotho Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Health.

The project called Moyo, which means close to my heart in Swahili, will identify children and pregnant mothers living with the virus and help them to remain in treatment.They will be helped through a mobile technology and M-pesa mobile-money.

Vodacom Lesotho Board Chairman Matjato Moteane said the aim is to “double the number of HIV positive children on treatment in the next three years”.Pilot projects, which started in September last year, have run through Maseru and Leribe districts where, through mobile clinics, families were encouraged to bring their children out for testing and for those that are infected to keep them on treatment.

“These mobile clinics, staffed with healthcare specialists, mobilise communities on the back of Vodacom Lesotho’s strong brand to come out to sites once every month and receive health services,” Moteane said during the launch.

The technology helps to collect data, manage patients and coordinate services.  M-Pesa will be used to provide transport money for children and pregnant women to health care services. Moteane said in his village home it costs M6 to get to nearest clinic.

“This may look like little money, but for someone who has no money this is too much and through this project we are trying to reach to such people who find it hard getting to a health care service because they don’t have money to get there,” Moteane said.

Vodafone Foundation project manager Lee Wells said the focus of the project “is not only to find children with HIV but to bring health care services to the people in rural areas”.

“The reason Vodafone Foundation became involved in the project was because of a request for additional investment from VCL and we went to our funders who told us they were keen for us to use the networks and our branding to get more children in health care”.

“It’s not about the Vodacom Lesotho brand but it’s about bringing health messages from a trusted partner. We know VCL has a strong reputation here, and all the partners asked that we use the brand to bring all people to the health centres,” Wells said.

An SMS will be sent to a registered member who hasvisited a clinic or was visited by door-to-door health workers to remind them of their appointment.

If they need transport money,it will be sent to them through M-pesa.

Minister of Health, ’Molotsi Monyamane, said he was happy that private companies such as Vodacom are helping in the fight against HIV and Aids.

“I believe, for the first time ever in our country, we have a private sector company putting a huge amount of its resources, its entire workforce and expertise behind an initiative that is targeted at improving the lives of its customers at this scale.”

Monyamane for a long time there has been a gap between health service providers and the patients because health facilities are far from the people.

“Despite the fact that the drugs are free and the information is free there was a gap.” The question, he said, was how to get people to the treatment centres

“The gap was with people accessing our services,” Monyamane said.

The minister said with 212 clinics, 18 hospitals, “we could not encourage people enough to take pills and swallow them”.

“Why? Because we became too regimental, we did not listen to people. We asked people to test and come back three more times while they walk half a day only to be told ‘we are closed’ when they get to the clinics”.

Minister of Communication, KhotsoLetsatsi, said this public-private partnership should be an indication to the rest of the private sector, the development community, and the public sector.

“Telecommunication has proven that when applied meaningfully it can go way beyond connecting individuals telephonically but it can also create opportunities for life improvement across all areas of life, whether is it through driving financial inclusion or through connecting children and pregnant women to much needed lifesaving treatment,” he said.

The United States ambassador, Matthew Harrington,through whom the USAID contributed US$D3 million (about M45 million) to this exciting public-private partnership said the US was very proud to be close and dedicated partner in the fight against the HIV epidemic in Lesotho.

“Today we have come together to celebrate an innovative new approach to the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Harrington said.

“It is an innovation both in terms of funding model, a public private partnership and also because of the way this partnership uses mobile technology to find and to care for as many Basotho children as possible,” he said.

Harrigntoncongratulated Lesotho for the progress it has made against the HIV epidemic.

“We are beginning to see glimmer of hope now, after so many years of hard work and bad news. Despite the burden of HIV, a severe shortage of health workers, and resource limitation, Lesotho has made some progress against HIV epidemic,” Harrington said.

Harrington said the element of partnership that they are supporting is an approach called index-patient tracking, which is designed to identify HIV positive children and start them on live-saving treatment as soon as possible.

“This will be accomplished via door-to-door HIV testing and counseling and provision of outreach services for pregnant women and children,” he said.

There will be a leading celebration of the Moyo Lesotho Benefit concert at ThabaBosiu Cultural Village on Saturday where KingLetsie III and Queen ’MasenateMohatoSeeiso will be present as the patrons of Moyo Lesotho initiative.

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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