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Why ABC lost the elections



MASERU – THE All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s thumping defeat in the election last week could have dealt the party a massive blow from which it might never recover.

The party is now down 200 000 votes and 40 seats. It did not win a single constituency.

Eight compensatory seats are all it has to show for its efforts.

So spectacular was the collapse that even the leader Nkaku Kabi did not win in his constituency. Other stalwarts also bit the dust.

Whichever way you look at it, the party faces an uncertain future. And it has only itself to blame for the remarkable demise.

Incessant internal squabbles were the biggest cause of its undoing. Having failed to manage its succession, the party embarked on a path to self-emolition.

Thomas Thabane, its founder and former leader, should take the blame for swinging the hammer that delivered the most fatal blows on the party.

He held on to power for too long and stubbornly refused to let internal democracy prevail when it was time to go. Instead of taking the back seat in the race to replace him Thabane repeatedly interfered, pretending to be neutral but playing for one of the teams. His undemocratic tendencies put off even some of the party’s staunchest supporters.

By the time Kabi took over, the ABC was damaged goods. His spirited campaign in the weeks preceding the election could not turn the tide.

Thabane had created a monumental mess that was killing the party slowly.

His first mistake was to wage a war to block Nqosa Mahao’s election as his deputy leader. In so doing, he was tearing the ABC constitution and antagonising a significant bloc in the party.

Thabane refused to work with Mahao and resorted to political chicanery to frustrate him.

A frivolous court case was launched to nullify Mahao’s victory. Thabane might not have been the face of that lawsuit but he sure gave his blessing.

When that failed Thabane became belligerent and refused to work with Mahao.

Mahao eventually left to form the Basotho Action Party (BAP), taking with him a significant chunk of ABC supporters and MPs.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro replaced Mahao but Thabane and his hawks immediately leapt on him. It became clear that Thabane was not holding on to power for his preferred candidate but for himself. He was the team he was fighting for.

Majoro was hounded out of the party but refused to let go of the premiership.

It was a decision that would haunt the party for months and eventually play a role in the party’s poor showing in the election.

Instead of extending the olive branch and mitigating the damage, Kabi and his supporters sharpened their knives against Majoro and his government.

When their ill-conceived move to topple Majoro’s government in parliament failed, Kabi and his executive pulled out the ABC from the government.

It was a pyrrhic victory because it did not change anything.

Majoro continued to rule with the remaining ABC MPs who were ministers and saw no incentive in toppling the government. The Democratic Congress (DC) also provided a buffer that insulated Majoro from Kabi’s manoeuvres.

As the elections approached Kabi realised the mistake of alienating Majoro.

Majoro refused to give him access to the state resources that could have oiled his campaign. Bereft of the means that come with being the incumbent, Kabi had to scrounge around. He became so desperate that he received dirty money from the famo music gangs loathed by many because of their heinous crimes.

It didn’t help that he did not have any positives to point at to justify his pleas for a fresh mandate from the people. Under the ABC corruption and unemployment had worsened. Nepotism and cronyism were the order of the day.

Billions of state funds had been pilfered by civil servants under the ABC’s watch.

Roads were poked with potholes and infrastructure crumbled.

Hunger had exacerbated to make a mockery of the ABC’s election promise to eradicate it. Basotho were living in fear because of violent crimes.

The police were not only corrupt but also poorly equipped to deal with the scourge of crime. The government was so broke that it failed to pay suppliers and delayed civil servants’ salaries. The economic transformation the ABC fervently promised had failed to materialise.

To the angry voters, it did not matter that the bulk of the government’s financial troubles had been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that had shaken almost every economy in the world. True, the company closures, especially in the textile industry, had emptied thousands onto the streets.

Granted, the lockdowns had affected the government’s revenues. True, Lesotho’s share of the Southern African Customs Union revenues was at its lowest in years.

Yet none of those explanations would have resonated with the voters who had long convinced themselves that the ABC was to blame for their economic problems.

Kabi was up against a perception that had been concretised.

It did not help that Kabi is not a gifted orator and lacks the charisma of Thabane in his prime. He might have schemed his way to the top but he could not talk his way into the voters’ hearts. Kabi could not fill Thabane’s outsized boots. The lack of a clear campaign message only made things worse.

Without Thabane, his political godfather, to handhold him, Kabi was at sea. He struggled to find his voice and made schoolboy blunders. His attempts to ingratiate himself with the dangerous famo gangs was political suicide.

Yet the voters might still have forgiven the ABC were it not for other monumental mistakes committed by its government.

One of the biggest bungles was the government’s inept handling of the wool and mohair industry. They railroaded an ill-advised policy to localise the industry by giving Stone Shi, a Chinese national, the monopoly to buy wool and mohair from the farmers.

The decision would not have been as infuriating if Shi had played fair with the farmers.

The government however continued to force the farmers to sell their fibre to Shi even as it became clear that he was broke, his business model unworkable and scamming the poor farmers.

When the farmers resisted the injustice, the government set the police on them. Some of its ministers vowed to punish farmers who refused to sell to Shi.

By the time sense prevailed and the policy was reversed, thousands of farmers were on their knees. Their flocks had dissipated and bank accounts were empty.

To make up for its mistake the government settled some of Shi’s debts to the farmers. But the damage had been done. The rural voters were infuriated and itching to punish the ABC at the polls.

The legal troubles of Thabane and his wife only deepened the animosity towards the ABC. The two might be off the hook for the 2017 murder of Lipolelo Thabane but the case remains alive.

Thabane’s wife, Maesiah, was vile with both her character and mouth. She gave the impression she was running the government on Thabane’s behalf.

Whether this was a myth or lie, Thabane did nothing to refute it.

She would harangue senior government officials and ministers for incompetence.

When she was not injecting herself into government and party matters, she was misusing her newfound status as the first lady.

She brawled with a woman at a local hospital. A waiter at a lodge was tongue lashed for delaying her drinks. A young man who mistakenly called Thabane was frog-marched to the State House to be whipped by Maesiah and her friends.

Within just a few months she had become the most hated woman in Lesotho and her husband suffered for it.

When Mahao broke away it looked like his party was the sanctuary that embittered ABC supporters were looking for. And for some months it looked as if the BAP was going to be the biggest beneficiary of the ABC fiasco.

Then out of the blue came Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) and Lesotho’s political establishment went into a tailspin.

Kabi looked paralysed as the RFP grew. Unlike other political leaders, he didn’t seem to have jabs against the RFP. His party was reeling.

It’s still sliding and its death beckons.

Unless something dramatic happens over the next five years the ABC’s tombstone will read: “Here lies a party that contrived to kill itself. A party that squandered massive goodwill and buried itself”.

A mouthful but true all the same.

Staff Reporter

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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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