SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 3, Number 1 (First Quarter 1996)

Summary of events in Lesotho is a quarterly publication compiled and published by  David Ambrose since 1993 at the National University of Lesotho, P. O. Roma 180, Lesotho.

SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 3, Number 1 (First Quarter 1996)

Summary of events in Lesotho is a quarterly publication compiled and published by  David Ambrose since 1993 at the National University of Lesotho, P. O. Roma 180, Lesotho.

Education Bill
Death of King Moshoeshoe II
Education Act in the Aftermath of the King’s Death
New Chief Executive for the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority
Taxi Lawlessness
Senior Government Finance Officials Convicted of Embezzlement
Unrest in Rural Areas
’Manthabiseng ‘Bus Stop’ Closed
’Manthabiseng Killers Finally Sentenced in Court
Coup Attempt Ends in Farce
Annual Conference of the BCP
Problems of Selecting a New Vice-Chancellor for the National University of Lesotho
New Newspapers
Parliament
Donor Conference
Commission of Inquiry into Death of King
Deaths in Taxi Violence at Qacha’s Nek
British Army Training Team Leaves Lesotho

Education Bill

The Education Bill which had provoked particular hostility to Government from the Catholic Church had by the New Year been passed by both houses of Parliament and awaited the royal assent. Although this is a mere constitutional formality, the Church mounted a major demonstration outside the palace gates in Maseru on Friday 12th January. His Majesty in a message to the demonstrators asked them to act peacefully. back to top

Death of King Moshoeshoe II

About midday on Monday 15th January the nation was shocked to hear through South African radio sources that His Majesty the King had died in a road accident. Radio Lesotho began to play hymns from midday without explanation. The news of the King’s death was confirmed by the Prime Minister in an announcement over Radio Lesotho at 4 p. m.

It appears that the King had expressed the desire to visit his cattle which in summer are kept at cattle posts in different parts of the Maloti administered by the Matsieng Ward. Cattle are driven out to pasture from these cattle posts early in the morning, the King himself as a child having helped to herd cattle.

One particularly well known royal cattle post is in the Mantšonyane area, and in order to reach it at daybreak, the King left his home at Matsieng about 1 a. m. At about 4 a. m., it appears that his Toyota 4 by 4 left the road shortly after making a left turn on the ascent to Cheche’s Pass about 5 km beyond the Senqunyane Bridge on the Mountain Road. The vehicle plunged several hundred metres down a steep slope, coming to rest in the gorge nearly opposite the village of Ha Noha. The front escort vehicle had had some problems shortly before, and the King’s vehicle had overtaken it. As a result neither escort vehicle saw what happened and some time was spent locating the missing vehicle, although people descending from the Cheche’s Pass reported having seen a vehicle leaving the road.

His Majesty apparently died almost instantly with a 13 cm gash in the skull and multiple injuries. His driver, Tseko Moshe, who was thought by many (see report in Moafrika of 26 January 1996) to have been driving while too tired to concentrate, died shortly afterwards. Of two security personnel travelling with the King, and apparently in the back seat, one was seriously injured and the other escaped with bruises.

Once news of what had happened became known, the King’s body, which had been taken by police vehicle to Mantšonyane Hospital, was transferred by helicopter to Maseru. It was later transferred from the mortuary at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital to Bloemfontein again by helicopter for embalming. Arrangements were made for a period of state mourning and a week of memorial events, which included an Interdenominational Service at the Setsoto Stadium on Tuesday 23rd January, and a Catholic Mass at the Stadium on the arrival of his body back from Bloemfontein on Wednesday 24th January. This was followed by Lying in State on Thursday 25th January at the Palace in Maseru, and a wake at Matsieng the following night.

The State Funeral on Friday 26th January was held at the foot of Thaba-Bosiu Mountain. It was attended by a large number of visiting dignitaries including Heads of State of four neighbouring countries, President Sir Ketumile Masire of Botswana, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Former President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia was also present. They proceeded to Thaba-Bosiu in a convoy of cars from Moshoeshoe I Airport for the religious service and funeral ceremony which began in wet weather at 10 30 a. m., making use of a podium which had been installed (but not used) for the Pope’s ill-starred visit to Lesotho in 1988.

Speeches were given in both English and Sesotho, with summaries provided in both cases by the Master of Ceremonies, Kenneth Tsekoa. Amongst those who spoke to express sympathy to the nation and the family were Chief Lekunutu ’Mota of Qwaqwa, on behalf of Basotho (including descendants of the Royal House) in South Africa; President Masire, on behalf of neighbouring states; and Chief Emeke Anyaoku, Commonwealth Secretary-General, on behalf of the Commonwealth. The reply on behalf of the Royal Family was given by the King’s brother and Principal Chief of Mokhotlong, Chief Mathealira Seeiso. The ceremony and speeches lasted until shortly after 2 p. m.

There had been no similar funeral at Thaba-Bosiu since that of former Paramount Chieftainess Regent ’Mantšebo, who was buried on top of the mountain in 1964. Her burial had accorded with the century-old tradition that the Principal and Paramount Chiefs of the Nation should be buried on top of the mountain. Of the Paramount Chiefs and Kings, the only exception since King Moshoeshoe I had been Paramount Chief Griffith who became a Catholic and was buried at the Catholic Mission at Matsieng.

Normally the coffin is borne by pallbearers to the top of Thaba-Bosiu accompanied by a bodyguard of horseman. On this occasion, because of the very wet weather, both the coffin and dignitaries were conveyed to the top of the mountain by helicopter, while the bodyguard of horsemen in black and scarlet blankets wound up the zigzag trail to the summit separately, accompanied by many thousands of people. Amongst them, the King’s own horse was led to the place of interment, riderless and with a Basotho hat placed across the saddle representing the King, who had been an enthusiastic horseman and race horse owner.

Horses and helicopters do not mix well and it was with difficulty that riders on the summit could control their mounts when disturbed by the loud noise of the three helicopters (two from the Air Wing of the Lesotho Defence Force, and one from South Africa). King Moshoeshoe II was laid to rest in a downpour of rain close to the grave of the founder of the nation, King Moshoeshoe I. Nelson Mandela, alone of the visiting Heads of State, was present at the interment. As the mourners dispersed, the traditional washing of hands seemed superfluous as the heavens opened, and the cliffs of Thaba-Bosiu were wreathed in waterfalls on all sides.

It was the largest gathering of horsemen in Lesotho for many decades, but not all horses managed to reach home. For several days after the funeral groups of people were seen beside roads leading from Thaba-Bosiu, cooking horsemeat from animals which had not been able to make the full return journey.back to top

Education Act in the Aftermath of the King’s Death

Although Lesotho was in mourning during the period between the death and funeral of King Moshoeshoe II, the newspaper Moeletsi oa Basotho continued to give front page coverage to the dispute between the Church and the Government over the new Education Act. Under the front page headline ‘Hona hase Molao — ke Phoso’ (‘This is not a Law — it’s a Mistake’) the newspaper castigated the Government and in particular the Minister of Education, Tšeliso Makhakhe, for sponsoring a law depriving churches of their educational freedom, and for announcing on the day after the death of the King that the King had already before his death signed the Education Bill making it Law. The newspaper also found it strange that the signing of this particular law was being announced over the radio when the Royal Assent to other laws was not announced in this way.

Matters were made worse by the text of the Education Act 1995. It was printed in an issue of the Lesotho Government Gazette which stated that it was published 29th December 1995, with the text of the Act stating that it became law on publication in the Gazette. This later had to be retracted in a Gazette of 31st January 1996, which stated that the Gazette should have been dated 17th January. The same issue added four pages of text which had been left out of the previously published Act, and a Gazette of 5th February 1996 published the Explanatory Memorandum to the Education Bill, something which should properly have been done when the Bill was introduced into Parliament, not after it had been made law. back to top

New Chief Executive for the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority

The position of Chief Executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority had for well over a year been clouded with uncertainty. The former Chief Executive, Masupha Sole, had been suspended from office, and after a management audit called for by the Joint project technical Commission, had not been reinstated. He was eventually provided with an early retirement package. On 1st February, a new Chief Executive was introduced to the LHDA by the Minister of Natural Resources. He was ’Makase Marumo, an experienced highways engineer, who had at one time been Principal Secretary for Works, and in recent years had worked for the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. back to top

Taxi Lawlessness

The owners and drivers of minibus taxis had for a long time regarded themselves as exempt from laws governing others, generally stopping to pick up and set down passengers wherever they liked throughout central Maseru, blocking at least one lane of traffic, and elsewhere overtaking on the hard shoulder of the road scattering pedestrians. Numerous serious accidents had occurred in recent years involving the taxis, some of them involving ten or more deaths of passengers in a single accident in which an overloaded taxi was travelling at high speed. Such accidents had occurred within the past two months at Teyateyaneng near St. Agnes where some 14 people were killed, and at Moroeroe just east of Butha-Buthe on 1 February 1996 where 12 people died.

Further examples of taxi lawlessness had occurred in 1995 when there had been a major demonstration protesting against the Extradition Treaty about to be signed with South Africa. Maseru had been brought to a halt, because those driving stolen taxis thought they might be extradited to South Africa, from where the taxis had been stolen.

Early in 1996, new trouble broke out. Taxi drivers protested at the new fares which were to be implemented with effect from 1st January. They were apparently angry that bus owners, whose fares are marginally less than taxi fares, had not implemented the rises, and were taking away their passengers. Access to Maseru was blocked at Lekhaloaneng on Monday 22nd January, and bus passengers were forced out by taxi drivers and conductors armed with sticks and knives. Many people ended up walking to work. Armed police stood by, and apparently did not intervene, even when passengers were abused by taxi drivers and conductors. A sequel to the event was a high speed chase, leading to a taxi overturning at Ha Makhoathi. As a result, a taxi conductor was killed and several other taxi employees were injured. One report said that the accident followed a police chase; but the police newspaper, Leseli ka Sepolesa (13 February 1996) said that it was as a result of a disagreement between taxi drivers, which resulted in one taxi chasing another.

A further showdown occurred in the following week. Taxi drivers, harassing any motorists they encountered en route, gathered for a meeting at Boinyatso on Thursday 8th February. This was to protest over the buses run by the police, which provide a parallel and cheaper public service on some routes. On Friday morning there was no minibus taxi service, but police and army buses, some ten in all, provided a public service, escorted by armed police in cars, and with helicopters overhead. The taxi owners, perhaps alarmed by their loss of revenue, reinstated normal services on the Friday afternoon. back to top

Senior Government Finance Officials Convicted of Embezzlement

Judgment was finally passed early in February in the fraud case in which the Accountant-General and Deputy Accountant-General together with the Chief Engineer in the Ministry of Home Affairs were jointly accused of embezzling M2 million of Government funds, which had been laundered through a bank in Ladybrand. All three were found guilty, and were given effective 30 year prison sentences together with large fines (M250 000 or an additional seven years in the case of the Accountant-General, D. P. Matebesi, and his Deputy, M. P. Mokotoane). The accused were expected to appeal against the High Court Judgment in the Court of Appeal. back to top

Unrest in Rural Areas

In rural Lesotho, two different kinds of unrest were causing great distress. Internally, population pressure on grazing areas seemed to be resulting in serious disputes between villages, in which one village would attack a neighbouring village and burn its houses. Action between the villagers of Tibeleng and Malimong in Mafeteng in 1995 had led to the Red Cross having to house many refugee villagers in tents. In January 1996, elsewhere in Mafeteng, a dispute between the villagers of Letaeng and Ha Tšupane led to another 113 houses being burnt. In February an apparently quite independent incident in Thaba-Tseka District, south-west of Mantšonyane, resulted in over 100 houses being destroyed in the village of Ha Felete. The perpetrators were said to be the inhabitants of two neighbouring villages, Matomaneng to the north, and Ha Fantisi to the south. All three incidents took place in relatively remote areas far from police stations, which are concentrated in urban areas.

The second kind of unrest concerned Lesotho’s southern border. Since 1994 when Transkei was reabsorbed into South Africa, there had been cross-border cattle looting incidents. The rise in these was apparently as a result of the collapse of the former Transkei police force. This had been better paid than the South African Police and rebelled against reincorporation, a rebellion which was quelled in a confrontation with the South African Defence Force in Umtata in 1994. It appears that subsequently the police were either absent or inadequately commanded in many of the rural areas of the former Transkei, some of which border Lesotho. Over the period 1994-6, cross-border cattle raids, and harassment of Basotho travelling into the Maluti District near Matatiele had resulted in a number of deaths of Basotho on both sides of the border, as well as stock losses on both sides. A particularly serious incident occurred at the end of January at Tabase, a police post in the former Transkei close to the eastern part of Quthing District. 13 young Basotho herdsmen and herdboys, who had apparently been arrested by local police, were killed in unexplained circumstances. Their bodies were taken from there to Durban, where a team of pathologists from Lesotho and South Africa carried out post-mortems. These indicated severe bruising before death, and bullet wounds which showed they had been shot at close range. The bodies were returned to Lesotho on 14th February, and it was reported that some police in South Africa had been arrested as a result of the incident. back to top

’Manthabiseng ‘Bus Stop’ Closed

An event which had been long in coming was the closure on 13th February of the ’Manthabiseng ‘Bus Stop’ [Bus Station] in Maseru which had been established as a temporary measure as a result of the riots of 1991, when the old bus stop area was closed following wholesale destruction in the immediate vicinity. Buses, taxis and shacks of all kinds had taken over the old Agricultural Showgrounds Area, creating an insanitary slum, but also employment of`new kinds, including the provision of wheelbarrow ‘taxis’, linking the shopping centre to the temporary bus terminal over a kilometre distant. However, the promised new bus station on Moshoeshoe Road had not yet materialised and although a trench dug across the road at ’Manthabiseng prevented the old area being used, some buses merely moved 200 metres up the road to a site adjoining the University’s Institute of Extramural Studies. Other buses, and many of the stallholders, moved to the already very congested roads in the Pitso Ground area, crowding pavements with caravans, tents and cooking stoves. This was much to the annoyance of the licensed shopkeepers, who had to endure smoking and cooking smells, as well as the incessant shouts of touts trying to find passengers for their various buses and taxis. The fact remained that the City Council had not yet made adequate provision for buses, and by allowing most available sites conveniently near the city centre to become business premises, it had squeezed out the buses and severely disadvantaged people without motor vehicles. The name ’Manthabiseng which had been attached to the now dismantled bus station was the name of the unfortunate lady, ’Manthabiseng Senatsi, who when allegedly shoplifting, had on 20th May 1991 been beaten to death by Basotho security guards, thus sparking off major riots. These had resulted in massive looting and burning in several Lesotho towns, while the Indian and Chinese communities became temporary refugees in neighbouring Free State towns. The riots had subsequently had a serious adverse impact on foreign investment in Lesotho. back to top

’Manthabiseng Killers Finally Sentenced in Court

By coincidence, and also indicating the almost interminable delays in Lesotho’s judicial process, the trial of some of those arrested for causing the death of ’Manthabiseng Senatsi finally reached a conclusion early in 1996, nearly five years after the event. By this time, one of the accused had disappeared and forfeited bail. Two men and a woman from the shop where ’Manthabiseng was beaten to death were found guilty of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and on 28th February were given prison sentences, but with the alternative of paying fines. back to top

Coup Attempt Ends in Farce

Leap Year traditionally provides certain liberties, but what occurred on 29th February in Lesotho was quite unexpected. Those who tuned in to the 1 p. m. Sesotho news on Radio Lesotho were startled to hear the news bulletin being interrupted by a male voice saying Ke na le molaetsa o potlakileng (‘I have an urgent message’). The voice then introduced himself Ke ’na Bolofo (‘I am Bolofo’), following which he went through the customary and lengthy procedure in formal addresses of paying respects to each and every high office bearer in the land. There was then a whisper from someone else Ke u thusa ho bala? (‘Shall I help you to read?’). This was followed sotto voce by È-è, re kena pina ea sechaba pele (‘No, put on the National Anthem first’). There followed the playing of the National Anthem following which Bolofo announced that the Lesotho Parliament had been dissolved and the Constitution suspended (although by whom was not stated). In justification it was said that the Members of Parliament had taken to buying guns instead of paying teachers more, and had prevented the police from investigating the King’s death. Details which later emerged were that Bolofo was one Matsoso Bolofo, a former member of the Lesotho Defence Force who was now a security officer employed by Lesotho Bank. He was on a week’s leave from his job, and had entered the Radio Lesotho studios without difficulty, because people thought he was visiting his wife, who was employed there as a dispatch clerk. Associated with Bolofo were Lelingoana Monyane Jonathan, a driver and former body guard to the leader of the BNP, E. R. Sekhonyana; and Ntente Sesioane, Deputy Leader of the United Party.

The Ministry of Information complex had, since the Military Coup of 1986, been guarded by a group of soldiers, who as time passed became more interested in playing incessant games of morabaraba than monitoring visitors. Thus Bolofo and his companions had little difficulty in passing them. However, the small guard house did have a radio tuned to Radio Lesotho, providing background entertainment. Apparently no-one was listening to it very attentively, but it gradually dawned that there was some unexpected variation in the otherwise routine fare. Games and siestas were interrupted, the nature of what was happening impacted, and some ten minutes after the trio had entered the studio they were arrested, disarmed by the soldiers and handed over to the police. It was then necessary for the Minister of Information, Lira Motete, to come to Radio Lesotho and to make a statement that the Government had not, after all, fallen, and that the aspirant coup makers were in custody. back to top

Annual Conference of the BCP

The Annual Conference of the ruling Basutoland Congress Party had been postponed twice because of internal dissension and the death of the King. It was finally held at the Cooperative College Hall in Maseru on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th March. Delegates to this Conference are elected by a complex indirect electoral system, which begins at village level, and continues through branches of the party corresponding closely to polling station areas. Delegates from branches and villages in the ratio 10 : 1 attend the Constituency Conferences, and these elect delegates to the national Annual General Meeting (Party Conference) at a rate of 1 for every 500 branch members. Because more polling station areas are needed to serve the geographically larger mountain constituencies, they tend to have more representation at the AGM. In total in 1996, there were 1221 delegates to the Annual Conference varying from 11 to 30 delegates per constituency and including some 200 delegates from party branches in South Africa. The number of party members stood at 198 680, but members who were non-delegates could only attend the Annual Conference as observers.

Because of internal dissension between the two main factions of the party, the Majelathoko (also described as ‘ruffian conservatives’ by the English language press) and the Maporesha (‘pressure group’), it was expected that the Conference would be a difficult one. These expectations were realised, although the party did manage to avoid a split into two separate parties, as had occurred in recent months in the rival Basotho National Party.

Ominous signs of trouble began on the Friday evening when members of Shakhane Mokhehle’s faction, the Majelathoko, seized control of the gates at the Cooperative College during preliminary registration. On the Saturday, the Conference was opened by the Leader of the party at about 11 30, and after an hour he announced that because of his health he would be handing over to the Deputy Leader, Molapo Qhobela. At this point it appears that those controlling the gates had not allowed observers (non-delegate members of the party) into the courtyard of the College. The DPM intervened after lunch and said that they should follow him when he entered, which they did, although this led in turn to a tense situation in the grounds.

Only delegates were allowed into the meeting in the hall of the college, and the meeting proceeded with the Minutes of the last Conference (held at the end of 1994) being read and discussed. This should have been followed on the Agenda by a Report on the Constituencies and Provinces, but it was moved and adopted that this be not read. The Secretary-General, G. M. Kolisang, then began to read his Annual Report, as required by the Party Constitution. He reached page 27 of its 40 pages when the National Security Service and Police intervened with a message that for security reasons the meeting should adjourn, and it did so at 6 p. m. rather than the planned time of 6 30 p. m.

The following morning, security staff of the party discovered that by 5 30 a. m., the hall had already been occupied by people mingling with delegates, and indeed the whole premises had been taken over. The Party Executive then met in the party offices and consulted at length with the police and security services on what action should be taken. They resolved that the hall should be cleared, but were surprised to discover that in the meantime the Party Leader, the Prime Minister, had himself gone to the hall at about 10 30 a. m. Those present respected the Leader’s request that the hall should be cleared of non-delegates.

When the Conference resumed, it was moved and agreed that the remaining 13 pages of the General Secretary’s Report and the Treasurer’s Report should be set aside. It was observed, however, by many that this was irregular, because it was mandatory that these reports should be presented to the AGM.

The Conference then continued to the annual elections for party office-bearers, for many delegates the crucial matter on the Agenda. Exempted from such an election was the Leader of the Party himself, who had been elected for a five-year period, and would only be due to face re-election in a year’s time.

The results of the elections were a victory for the Shakhane faction at the expense of the Pressure Group faction, which contains many of the party’s intellectuals. The key post of Secretary-General was won back by a small margin by Shakhane Mokhehle, who at the previous Conference had lost the same post to G. M. Kolisang. Monyane Moleleki, who had fled Lesotho and vacated his cabinet post during troubles with the army, was elected Deputy Secretary-General. The post of Deputy Leader of the party was won by the Deputy Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, who by 554 votes to 534 unseated his fellow cabinet member, Molapo Qhobela. The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Lira Motete, took over as party treasurer; and Thebe Motebang, an MP who was formerly a member of the Lesotho Liberation Army, unseated the Minister of Education, Tšeliso Makhakhe, as Party Chairman. Even the editorship of the party newspaper, Makatolle, changed hands. The Minister of Agriculture, Mopshatla Mabitle, displaced the veteran journalist and politician, Mohaila Mohale. Mohale, born in 1924 and a Second World War veteran, had begun his career on Johannesburg newspapers as long ago as 1949. In his political career, he had represented the Pela-Tšoeu constituency in the 1960s, being reelected there when parliamentary democracy was restored in 1993. He had been appointed editor of Makatolle when it was revived in August 1992, some 22 years after it had been banned following the destruction of democratic government in the 1970 coup.

The turbulent nature of the Conference led to certain delegates feeling that the electoral process had been unprocedural. On the following Thursday, 14th March, an application by delegates from three constituencies to the High Court succeeded in halting the transfer of power to the new Executive, pending a hearing set down for the 29th March at which a judgment would be given into the legality of the election procedure.

Meanwhile, the BCP as a whole was being attacked from another quarter. The resettlement of members of its Lesotho Liberation Army had proved a difficult task given that the BNP dominated police force, army and prison service would not accept former LLA members into their ranks. Many remained unemployed and highly dissatisfied with their situation. Radio Lesotho was not prepared to give them an opportunity to air their grievances, and Radio Sesotho, the South African Sesotho service, provided them with this opportunity. Over several days, increasingly desperate voices urged the Government to meet their needs, otherwise action might have to be taken by them. back to top

Problems of Selecting a New Vice-Chancellor for the National University of Lesotho

The National University of Lesotho seemed in 1996 likely to provide local headlines as a drama began to unfold regarding the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor. Some people began to predict that disruption was likely to be no less serious than in the much publicised Makgoba case which had recently caused serious problems at Wits University in South Africa.

The outgoing VC of NUL was Professor Adamu Baikie, a Nigerian, whose appointment had been personally advocated by the late King Moshoeshoe II, then Chancellor of the University. Baikie had served eight years in the VC’s post, and his contract had not been renewed in December 1995. Although appointed in good time to find a successor, the joint selection committee of Council and Senate had not by December 1995 found a successor, and staff had been asked to suggest the names of persons who could be ‘head-hunted’. By February, readvertisement, and the process of nomination had yielded six applications, and four nominees. The Selection Committee. when it met of February 23rd, chose a short list of persons, all expatriates. All Basotho (according to a later press release) had been eliminated by the ‘objective selection mechanism’. Of three Basotho nominees (the fourth nominee was an expatriate), one had declined to run for the position, and two others had declined to supply information requested.

Early in March, the President of the Lesotho University Teachers’ and Researchers’ Union (LUTARU) appeared on television, and LUTARU held a press conference accusing the Selection Committee of overlooking Basotho academics, and using selection criteria which did not appear in the advertisement for the post. The members of LUTARU let it be known that they would harass any expatriates invited for interview, and having obtained their names, they wrote to them individually indicating that they would not be made welcome at the University. The issuing of a press statements to the media by both the University Council and LUTARU did nothing to defuse the situation, nor did an attempted reconciliation meeting between LUTARU members and the Selection Committee held on Thursday 20th March. back to top

New Newspapers

Two new Sesotho newspapers appeared in March, adding to the papers Makatolle of the BCP and Mohlanka of the BNP, which had been revived during 1995. The MFP had failed to pay bills to the printers of its papers, and had long been without a voice in the press. However, in March 1996 it came out with a weekly Masututsane. The second new paper was a fortnightly, Khakhaulane edited by Mthwalo Mthwalo on behalf of the BCP Youth League. back to top

Parliament

Parliament finally embarked on its Second Session on 29th March, with the King delivering the Speech from the Throne setting out policy. The Speech was printed in full in English in Mohlanka of 6 April 1996. Amongst matters referred to were the National Dialogue of September 1995, and a February 1996 Workshop on the Role of the Lesotho Defence Force, attended by members of the LDF, and also Colonel James Smaugh of the United States Army and Mr. Laurie Nathan of the Centre for Intergroup Studies in South Africa. The review of the economy noted that Lesotho was entering the Sixth National Development Plan period, and that unlike previous plans the new plan would be for three years only, 1996/7-1998/9. References were made to policies in each sector including the strengthening of the Ministry of Local Government.back to top

Donor Conference

A Donor Conference was held in Maseru on 26th-27th March. A total of M770 million was pledged as assistance to Lesotho for a period covering the next five financial years. back to top

Commission of Inquiry into Death of King

Almost without exception, the nation had accepted that the King’s death in January had been accidental, although Bolofo, who had taken over Radio Lesotho for a short time on 29th February in a desperate coup attempt, had in his broadcast accused the Government of not allowing a proper inquiry to take place. Whether in response to this or some more general discontent, the Government belatedly did set up a Commission of Inquiry early in March headed by Superintendent Geoff Rees of Scotland Yard, accompanied by three colleagues. It was not expected that a really different version of events would emerge, but it was noted that certain details had remained unclear, such as who first arrived at the scene of the accident, what they found, and what happened immediately afterwards. The police had not issued a statement which included these details. The Commission was required to report by 30th April.back to top

Deaths in Taxi Violence at Qacha’s Nek

As Easter approached more disturbing news came of trouble on Lesotho’s border with the former Transkei at Qacha’s Nek. Feuding between Lesotho and South African taxis had already made it hazardous to travel the route. Another major fight broke out between taxi owners and on this occasion three were shot dead near the Qacha’s Nek Border Post. back to top

British Army Training Team Leaves Lesotho

On 31 March 1996, the British Army Training Team (BATT) which had been involved in training the Lesotho Defence force uninterruptedly for the previous 15 years finally left Lesotho. An article in Defence News of March/May 1996 by Geoff Wain, the Acting British High Commissioner, mentioned that members of BATT (usually two to three British Army officers) had over the years ‘been involved in almost every aspect of training for the Lesotho Defence Force, from the recent officer commissioning course to basic drill instruction, from weapons training to quartermaster store management.’

The withdrawal of BATT did not mean the end of Britain’s involvement with the Lesotho Defence Force or with the Lesotho Ministry of Defence. Philip Jones, Civilian Adviser to the Ministry of Defence, would remain in post until March 1997. Also Short Term Training Teams would still be sent to meet specific needs. Moreover two members of the Lesotho Defence Force, Officer Cadets Stemere and Mokaloba, would be sent to Sandhurst Military Academy in the United Kingdom for a one year course which it was planned they would complete in April 1997. back to top