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 

SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 3, Number 4 (Fourth 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.


Aftermath of Killing of Lesotho Highlands Strikers by Police
Roma Hospital Acquires New X-ray but its Friends have to pay Sales Tax
10th Anniversary of the Signing of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project
Treaty

Court Judgment on Dissension in the Ruling Party
Lesotho Defence Force Act 1996
Ombudsman Act 1996
The Lesotho Liberation Army, the Prime Minister and Vlakplaas
Strikes by Airways Staff, Nurses and Taxi Owners
 Death Penalty for Murderer of Doctor Mohale
 Inquiry into Police Deaths
Independent Electoral Commission
Deaths of Parliamentarians; New Senators Appointed
Tragic Death of Dr. & Mrs Maema
End of Year Festivities

Aftermath of Killing of Lesotho Highlands Strikers by Police

The incident of 14th September, when police had shot strikers, continued to be a matter of concern for weeks afterwards, as rumours spread that the numbers of strikers killed had been higher than first reports had indicated. Newspapers printed several reports of bodies being dumped by police in various dams around the Butha-Buthe area. Moafrika in its 11 October issue, quoting company sources, gave the number of dead as 15, to which was to be added Moeketsi Motuba who had died three weeks after the incident in hospital. He was a relative of the late Edgar Motuba, who had been murdered for his reporting in Leselinyana during the period when Lesotho was under the regime of Leabua Jonathan. The same issue of Moafrika reported that 55 unclaimed corpses had been buried by convicts, 40 of these corpses at Maseru on 9 October on the orders of the District Secretary and 15 at Leribe in similar fashion at the request of the Motebang Hospital Mortuary. 40 of the corpses were badly decomposed. The newspaper reported concern from workers of Lesotho Highlands Project Contractors (LHPC) and ’Muela Hydro Power Contractors (MHPC) that some of their missing friends might have been amongst those who had been buried, although it appears that in fact the unclaimed bodies were those of paupers who had died in road accidents or knifings, and of newly born babies who had been abandoned by their teenage mothers, some of these bodies having been recovered from pit latrines.

By early October, there was a general belief quoted by politicians in speeches that the true figures of those killed in the Butha-Buthe incident exceeded 20, and those who had been injured exceeded 70. The twice-monthly paper Khakhaulane in its issue of 22 September to 6 October, under a headline ‘The Path Leading to Death taken by the Workers’, gave a lengthy 4-page account of the events of 5th to 14th September, which included eye-witness reports of bodies being dumped by police in dams and in the Mohokare at its confluence with the Moroeroe, and of two bodies being recovered from one of the dams near the Moroeroe river.

In the absence, of corroboratory information about additional casualties, the best information available was that the known and named persons who had died were seven in number. Six of them, who were killed on 14th September, were Thabang Johannes Kobeli of Khohlo-Ntšo; Eric Rametsi Mosala and Manti Mosala of Tajane; Skosana Skosana of Mokhotlong; and Makoetlane Makoetlane (home not stated) and Mohloai (first name and home not stated). A seventh, Moeketsi Motuba had died in Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. Also available were the names of 25 others who had been treated in six different hospitals. The funeral of Rametsi Mosala, who left a young wife and two children, was reported in Moafrika of 1 November 1996. It was held at the home village of the deceased, Ha Mpapa Molomo in the Tajane Ward.

Meanwhile, the Commission of Inquiry, whose Chairman was a senior civil servant, Mr. Maluke, had begun its work, and it was hoped that it might soon clarify what had really happened, and what the total number of casualties had been.

After over a month of stoppage, a formula was found for most workers to return to their jobs. An agreement was signed early in October between management and the Construction and Allied Workers’ Union of Lesotho (CAWULE) to rehire 1700 of the 2300 dismissed workers under new contracts. CAWULE had disintegrated as a representative of the workers a year or so earlier. The contractors now offered to pay for the training of shop stewards at the six construction sites. However, the 40 members of the outgoing workers’ committees and subcommittees were to be amongst the 600 workers who would get their severance pay and would not be rehired. It was noted also that most of the rehired workers (other than those on the hydropower project which was behind schedule) would in any case be retrenched within a year when the construction work on Phase IA was completed.

The cost of the stoppage was assessed (Star Business Report, 14 October 1996) as R450 000 per day by David Darcy, the contractors’ project director. By the weekend of 12th-14th October, the 1700 rehired workers were drifting back to the project sites, and work resumed.

An interim report by the Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the Butha-Buthe incident became available in November, and parts of it were published in English in Mafube of 30 November 1996. The findings of the Commission did not add much to information available from other souces, except to suggest that the total number of persons killed was five, being those previously named and with home village given, together with Moeketsi Motuba who had died in hospital. The interim report appealed to anyone to come forward who had information about others who had been killed or were missing. back to top

Roma Hospital Acquires New X-ray but its Friends have to pay Sales Tax

The Friends of St Joseph’s Hospital, a group of persons who support the hospital at Roma, had been trying to raise money for a new X-ray machine for the hospital since its 25-year old machine had broken down in August 1995. A vigorous fund-raising campaign had been embarked upon, and after much time and trouble, the necessary total of M269 616.06 had been raised for the X ray apparatus together with an automated processor for developing the X-ray film. Much of the money had come from supporters of the Friends in Switzerland, Spain, USA, and UK with a major contribution also negotiated through the Consulate General of Ireland. The new apparatus reached the Maseru Bridge Border Post in two vehicles early on 6 October 1996.

However, there it stood unable to proceed, because there was an unanticipated bill for sales tax of M26961.61. Government hospitals are exempt from paying sales tax, and mission hospitals are a key part of the same national health network, with government paying the basic salaries of their professional staff. It had not been expected that they would be discriminated against in the matter of sales tax. Frantic phone calls were made to the Minister of Finance, Dr Leketekete Ketso, a former university staff member, who had the power to grant sales tax exemptions, particularly to charitable or non-profit making organisations. However, it appeared he just did not want to hear about the problem.

Meanwhile the suppliers were about to ask the lorries to return to base after two days of camping at the border post. Fortunately, the Friends were able to find the M26 961.61 at short notice, because the firm delivering the machine had only asked for 80% of the price in advance, so money had been budgeted for the second instalment. The X-ray and processor arrived after a hectic two days, and were installed in a newly redecorated X-ray room and adjoining darkroom, the cost of refurbishing of which had been met by Lesotho Flour Mills. back to top

10th Anniversary of the Signing of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Treaty

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project Treaty had been signed on 24th October 1986, and the tenth anniversary was celebrated at each of the main LHWP sites in Lesotho during the month of October, culminating with an elaborate luncheon hosted by the King on the exact day of the tenth anniversary, 24th October 1996. On this occasion, the South African Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry was present. Notably absent were the two original signatories of the Treaty, the then Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Pik Botha of South Africa and Chief Thaabe Letsie of Lesotho. Since both countries had subsequently undergone a transition to democratic rule, the new democratic governments, while adhering to the Treaty, did not think it appropriate to honour representatives of the earlier regimes. back to top

Court Judgment on Dissension in the Ruling Party

The long awaited judgment in the High Court case brought by certain constituencies of the Basutoland Congress Party was finally delivered on Friday 18 October. Mr. Justice G. N. Mofolo in an interim order referred the dispute to the Leader of the Party to reach an amicable settlement with the parties concerned, granting him 14 days to do this, but with the possibility of an extension of time. In the meantime, all property of the party was vested in trust with the Leader of the Party, the Prime Minister, Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle.

A sequel to this was that a meeting of party members was held at the Cooperative College on Saturday 2 November. The meeting lasted for over six hours, but achieved nothing, and indeed appears to have developed into a series of personal attacks on Mr. Tom Thabane, personal adviser to the Prime Minister, whose earlier history of opposition to the party had made many of those present reluctant to accept him now as a bona fide party member.

The National Executive Committee of the Party (the NEC of 1994-5, as recognised by the High Court) met on 11 November. It took the line that in order to implement the High Court decision, the Leader of the Party, as Chairman of the NEC should at all times act in conjunction with the NEC. The Leader (Ntsu Mokhehle) should have directed the Secretary-General (G. M. Kolisang) to issue notices calling a meeting, which the Leader should then have chaired. That he had not done so was considered by the NEC as a flagrant disregard for the terms of the interim order. Indeed it was the leader who should have drawn the attention of the NEC to the terms of the interim order and the whole of the judgment. Having gained the views of the NEC, he should have then called a meeting with the four constituencies who had initiated the court case. Such action would have set the stage for an amicable settlement. Instead of this, the Leader of the Party had openly stated that he did not recognise the 1994-5 NEC, and had acted in a way which had deepened the rift rather than healed it.

Since the Party, and particularly the leader, was unable to mend the rift within the 30 days appointed, Mr. Justice Mofolo gave his judgment on Monday 25 November: the outgoing National Executive Committee was the legal executive of the party and was charged with organising the next Annual Conference when there would be elections for a new Executive Committee. These would presumably coincide with the Leadership Election, Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle’s five-year term as leader being about to come to an end. Given the disorder which had characterised the previous Annual Conference of the party, observers were wondering whether new elections could be held in a peaceful and orderly way unless the party engaged demonstrably neutral outside assistance for their electoral process.

Further evidence of dissension between factions was competition between them over control over the 35 year old BCP office, painted in the red, black and green party colours and situated at the foot of the hill near the Traffic Circle. Moafrika of 22 November 1996 described and provided a photograph of what was found when members of the Maporesha took over the building. The newspaper said that there was evidence that the building had been used as a centre for drug dealing, as a brothel, and as a clinic for conducting abortions. Those who know the building might wonder how so many different activities could be conducted in such a confined space. back to top

Lesotho Defence Force Act 1996

As a sequel to the Act of Parliament gazetted on 5 July 1996 which amended the sections of the Constitution dealing with the Defence Force and Defence Commission, the Lesotho Defence Force Act was published late in 1996. The Bill had been introduced into Parliament on 29 March 1996, but copies of the Act (Act No. 4 of 1996) only became available in December, even though the Act appeared as a Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 8 August 1996. Since, like other legislation, the Act was to ‘come into operation on the date of publication in the Gazette’, this raises the question of the true date of commencement. (Under §78(6) of the Constitution of Lesotho, ‘no law made by Parliament shall come into operation until it has been published in the Gazette.’) The delay in the appearance of the Act was no doubt attributable to the size of the document, the text of the Act and its schedules running to 134 pages.

The new Act provides information on the scope of employment of the Lesotho Defence Force. Under §5 of the Act, duties include the defence of Lesotho; the suppression of terrorism and internal disorder; ‘the maintenance of essential services including the maintenance of law and order and prevention of crime’; as well as other duties as determined by the Minister of Defence. It had been about a year since Military Police in red berets and with specially marked vehicles had first made their appearance. If their function were to maintain law and order within the army, this was in general applauded as a worthwhile development. However, it had been noted that they had also been mounting road blocks and assisting the regular police. The new Act made it clear that assisting the police fell within their responsibilities, and §190 of the Act in fact spelt out this role specifically.

Under §8 of the new Act, the Defence Council has a totally different composition from that provided for by the (unamended) Constitution, the new membership of six being now controlled by the Prime Minister or by the Minister of Defence, a portfolio which in Lesotho has (except during the period of Military Rule 1986-93) always been combined with that of the Prime Minister. Apart from the Minister of Defence, who is Chairman, the other members are the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, the Commander of the Defence Force, a Secretary appointed by the Minister of Defence, and two members apppointed by the Prime Minister.

Amongst provisions of the new Act are that all appointments, transfers, retirements etc of officers should in future be gazetted, providing some transparency about the army command, even though elsewhere in the act there are draconian penalties for disclosing information which might assist an enemy. For example §§41 and 42 of the Act provide for the death sentence for a number of offences committed ‘with intent to assist the enemy’; while §43 provides for the death penalty to be imposed for cowardly behaviour ‘in the presence of the enemy’; and §§48, 49 provide for the death penalty to be imposed for mutinous behaviour, and failure to suppress a mutiny with intent to assist the enemy. ‘Enemy’ is defined in the Act as including ‘all persons engaged in armed operations against the Defence Force or any forces co-operating with the Defence Force mutineers [sic], rebels and rioters’. Given this wide definition, it would appear that a large portion of the Defence Force as a whole might, if the Act had been in existence, have been liable to capital punishment for past deeds.

The extent to which the Act might have retrospective effect is, however, apparently limited. A large part of the Act deals with the operation of Courts-Martial and a Court-Martial Appeal Court, providing scope for a new profession of military lawyers. Moreover, the Act requires the Commander of the Defence Force to appoint a Provost Marshall from amongst his officers, the Provost Marshall to be responsible for the enforcement of discipline within the Defence Force. §122 states that any trial under the Act must be commenced within three years of the commission of the offence, but specifically exempts from this time limit §§47 and 48 which deal with looting and mutiny. However, §12(4) of the Constitution of Lesotho protects persons on criminal charges from being convicted for offences which were not offences at the time of commission, and also protects them from penalties greater than those existing at the time of the crime. Moreover §127 of the Constitution of Lesotho specifically states that whereas Parliament may establish Courts-Martial they are subject to the provisions of the Constitution.

The Act, like the quarterly Defence News, is published in English only, which means that its provisions will not easily be understood by many of the persons to whom it applies until a Sesotho translation has been made. However, like most legislation drafted by outside consultants or expatriate advisers, it may be that such a translation will not be made for some time, if ever. The Explanatory Memorandum to the original Bill (published as Government Notice No. 51 in Lesotho Government Gazette no. 84 of 1996 (13 September 1996) long after Parliament had in fact passed the Bill), provides some information about the way in which the new Act came into being. It had been made necessary by the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the 1994 Disturbances within the Lesotho Defence Force (the report was never made publicly available although parts were quoted in newspapers). The Explanatory Memorandum acknowledges the role of the ‘troika’ countries (presumably Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe) who came to Lesotho’s help when the Implementation Steering Group (set up after the Inquiry) ‘decided that ... we did not have sufficient institutional support to draft a Defence Act to suit our needs and to achieve what was possible within our numerous constraints’.

The passing of the Defence Act, like much government legislation, very largely escaped notice in the local English and Sesotho press, an indication that local reporters rarely attend parliamentary sessions. This might be less important if the parliamentary record, Hansard, were published and made available to the press within days of the relevant debates. Production of the Hansard of both the National Assembly and the Senate is however many months, indeed more than a year, in arrears.

The only newspaper comment which has been traced on the Defence Act at the time of its enactment was a very critical one in the Basotho National Party newspaper Mohlanka of 24 August 1996. On this occasion, Mohlanka produced an issue very largely in English (normally it appears only in Sesotho) presumably directed at those attending the SADC Heads of State meeting in Maseru. Mohlanka noted that the new legislation had passed through Parliament without discussion, and particularly criticised §6 of the Defence Force Act, which provided for the Defence Force to be deployed outside Lesotho (e. g., as indicated by the front page cartoon in Burundi) without reference to Parliament. back to top

Ombudsman Act 1996

The Ombudsman Act 1996 (Act 9 of 1996), also became available in December 1996, to ‘come into operation on the date of publication in the Gazette’. The copy of the Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary in which it was published was in fact dated 12 September 1996.

The Ombudsman Act expands on §§134 and 135 of the Constitution of Lesotho and sets out duties and functions of the Ombudsman which include investigation of infringement of fundamental human rights and instances or threats to ‘natural resources, environment or the ecosystem’.

The Act also reiterates the duty of the Ombudsman under §135(3) of the Constitution to submit an annual report to Parliament. The passing of this Act was apparently not reported in either the local English or Sesotho press. back to top

The Lesotho Liberation Army, the Prime Minister and Vlakplaas

The remarkable transition within South Africa since 1990 had been accompanied by the need to find a means by which those who had been caught up in the evils of apartheid could confess their past misdeeds and receive an amnesty. This means was provided by the setting up of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, under the Chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who had himself been twice a resident of Lesotho in the past. The Commission heard evidence at a number of venues in South Africa, including Ladybrand (on 31 October 1996), when it was natural that past events in Lesotho became the focus of attention.

The continuing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had by mid-1996 resulted in an extraordinarily detailed and harrowing picture of South Africa’s murky past becoming revealed. The names of those responsible for armed raids on Maseru had become known, although certain events which must have originated as South African dirty tricks (such as the bus hijacking at the time of the Pope’s visit in 1988) had not yet been explained. As time went on, it had become evident that members of the ANC, amongst other organisations, did not have an unblemished past, and the TRC provided an opportunity for them to reveal events which had occurred while they were in exile, including the execution of members of the party.

Lesotho’s past has been inextricably intertwined with that of South Africa. Its murky past is no exception, and questions were being asked as to whether Lesotho did not also need its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In July, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Sephiri Motanyane had stated in an answer to a question in the Senate that there was no need for such a commission in Lesotho. This had resulted in a correspondent to Moafrika in its 9 August issue asking whether the people of the Minister’s constituency, Malibamatšo, were not concerned about their orphans, their disabled and their dead which had resulted from the events of 1970-4 when rule by decree had been instituted and opposition brutally crushed.

However, it was not only BNP misdeeds which became the focus of attention, and appropriate for amnesty. Public interest centred on revelations about the Lesotho Liberation Army, Ntsu Mokhehle and the extent to which the LLA had been trained at Vlakplaas. Vlakplaas is a farm south-west of Pretoria, which, as had now become well-known from the TRC, had been the centre of covert operations of an apartheid murder squad led by Eugene de Kock, together with white police and paid black associates known as ‘askaris’.

Beginning in its issue of 9 August, Moafrika began publishing reports from Tšeliso Rapitse, which described how Ntsu Mokhehle and three BCP members in 1980 had had a rendezvous with South African Defence Force officers at a farm between Zeerust and the Kopfontein border post, from where Mokhehle had proceeded to Vlakplaas, where it is alleged he made contact with a Major-General G. G. Viktor of the killer squad; stayed with the notorious killers Alfred Nofomela and Joe Mamasela; and met ‘new friends such as Oupa Gqozo of Ciskei, Alfonso Dlakama of Mozambique, leader of RENAMO, George Matanzima of Transkei and Mangosuthu Buthelezi of KwaZulu-Natal’. One member of the BCP, Lethusang Mafisa (now an MP), as a result of these contacts, was sent to the base in the Caprivi where Inkatha members were being secretly trained.

The veteran LLA member, Rapitse, continued his account of the history of the LLA in Moafrika of 23 August and 6 September by which time he was claiming that from 1983/4, the BCP had its own Koeeoko (a mythical and terrible animal whose name had been given to killer squads during the time of the Leabua Jonathan regime). This Koeeoko of the BCP emerged when LLA members questioned the direction the LLA was taking, when its leaders, Tjaoane Sekamane, Thebe Motebang and Shakhane Mokhehle (now MPs of the Majelathoko faction as Rapitse was at pains to point out) had allowed it to be taken over by a Colonel Johan Coetzee and his associates. Rapitse provided gruesome details of killings of LLA members who questioned the path taken by the LLA War Cabinet, which he identifies as having been Ntsu Mokhehle (‘Nongkholo’ or Chief Vulture), Shakhane Mokhehle, Motebang and Sekamane. Taking on the role of the Mooki, who describes the cause of death at a funeral, Rapitse in Moafrika of 20 September described in detail the way in which further named members of the LLA were killed, being individually abducted from Welkom or parts of QwaQwa and taken by car to ‘Selakhapane’, the slaughter house. Others committed suicide rather than suffer the same fate. It was put out that those who died had been spies of Leabua Jonathan. At the end of the article in the paper of 20 September, the editor, Candi Ramainoane, offered to publish the account of anyone who knew a different version of these events. Moreover he stated that if the ‘War Cabinet’ did not publish its own correct version, then the nation would believe Rapitse’s version, and the relatives of the deceased ought to take legal action.

Those who looked in the newspaper the next week for a denial of the events looked in vain. Instead an article signed by S. Ramonate made new allegations, in particular that dissident members of the LLA (one such was Lethole Matela) were ‘sold’ at Vlakplaas to be given to Leabua Jonathan to be killed at Setibing, the mountain training area of the army. In return for these, Leabua provided the South Africans with members of the ANC.

Moreover, according to Ramonate, the late Koenyama Chakela had related an incident that had occurred while the party was in exile in QwaQwa. One night Sekamane and Motebang had arrived to invite Chakela and Mahosi to an urgent meeting of the Executive Committee. However, he had been warned that Mokhehle had ordered that he and Mahosi be killed. They therefore refused to go, and hid at a distance from the house. A short time later they watched Koeeoko arrive in the form of five persons who smashed the door down, but left when no-one was found in the house.

Ramonate also reported that Thebe Motebang, the present member of Parliament for Khafung, and a member of the ‘War Cabinet’, had killed the wife of a man in the Free State while trying to shoot a member of the LLA. For this he had been arrested in South Africa, but had been released after the intervention of Ntsu Mokhehle. Motebang, it was said, would be well advised to appear before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission before its deadline of December, otherwise he might find himself serving years in gaol in South Africa.

Government had earlier taken action against Moafrika by deciding that advertisements for government positions would no longer be placed in the newspaper. Moafrika had also suffered the invasion and damaging of its office by members of the Majelathoko on 20 September, and its editor, Candi Ramainoane, had also been required to appear before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee on 18 September because of his paper’s earlier reporting of the Prime Minister’s illness. The issue of 18 October contained a headline that the newspaper was being sued by four cabinet ministers for damages of M12 million, not for the reporting about the LLA, but for a story in the issue of 20 September, when under the heading ‘’Nete e patiloeng’ (‘the truth has been hidden’), the newspaper had quoted unsubstantiated sources to the effect that ministers had hidden details about their true role in the event when Highlands Water Project workers had been killed by police at Butha-Buthe.

Meanwhile actual evidence given at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was keeping the issue of the Prime Minister’s involvement in Vlakplaas alive. For example the Vlakplaas ‘askari’ Joe Mamasela alleged that Ntsu Mokhehle had been at Vlakplaas early in 1981, but he was not used against South Africans, rather he was directing his action towards Lesotho. Confessed Security Police killer, Dirk Coetzee stated that he had cooked meals for Ntsu Mokhehle at Vlakplaas.

The newspaper Khakhaulane (which is the paper of the BCP Youth League and which also supports the Pressure Group faction of the BCP), also reported statements by Tšeliso Rapitse. In its issue of 22 September, it referred to the long unsolved death of the veteran BCP member, Koenyama Chakela. He had returned from exile, when an amnesty had been offered by the Leabua Jonathan Government in 1980, and according to Rapitse, he was killed by an LLA emissary, Ntšopata Rapapa in July 1982. Rapapa had had Chakela’s brief case sent on to Sekamane and Motebang. According to Rapitse, Rapapa’s fearlessness frightened Ntsu Mokhehle, and this resulted in his sending him to carry out the assassination of the BNP minister, Jobo Rampeta, in August 1982. Immediately after this he was himself shot by those who had been sent to go with him on the mission to kill Rampeta. (Another similar version of these events was published by Moafrika on 29 November 1996.)

The November issue of Khakhaulane printed a statement of the National Executive Committee of the BCP made through the Secretary-General, G. M. Kolisang. The statement was in response to the ‘alarming’ statements being made about Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle being present at Vlakplaas where according to Mamasela victims had been burned alive to erase marks of torture. The NEC was of the opinion that it was up to the person concerned, Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle, to accept or deny the evidence of Mamasela. Khakhaulane also reported some of the details of what had been said by Joe Mamasela and Johan Coetzee on Leseli FM on 25 November. In this phone-in programme, one of the questioners had been Candi Ramainoane, editor of Moafrika, and Mamasela’s detailed reply about Ntsu Mokhehle was printed verbatim as the lead story in the issue of Moafrika dated 29 November 1996. Mamasela said that Mokhehle had resided at Vlakplaas with four advisers and had been aware of the sensitivity of the situation. He had indeed been aware that the Boers, while facilitating action against Leabua Jonathan’s regime, would prefer that it might appear to be originating in Botswana. Making use of the discomfort of the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition BNP, Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana also appeared on Leseli FM on 27 November calling on the Prime Minister to resign because he had been a Vlakplaas collaborator.

The Prime Minister broke his silence in a statement made on the popular early morning phone-in programme of Radio Lesotho, Seboping, on 2 December. He denied reports by Mamasela and Coetzee, broadcast on Leseli FM, that the LLA had been trained at Vlakplaas, saying that in fact they had been trained in Libya. The Prime Minister’s statement (also published in Makatolle of 4 December 1996 and Lentsoe la Basotho of 7 December 1996) described his problems of finding a host country when he was excluded from both Botswana and Zambia at the end of 1980. He had in fact resided in a shack on a farm near Zeerust on the Botswana border with his assistant, Taaso Taaso. He had been there for 1½ years and after a Mosotho called Sello had arranged for him to go to Johannesburg for an eye operation, this same Sello had arranged for him to stay for a few days while recuperating at a farm near Pretoria, on the side of Pretoria called ‘Erasmus’ [Vlakplaas is 7 km SW of the Pretoria suburb of Erasmia]. As far as he knew, neither farm had been called Vlakplaas, and he had not met the Vlakplaas killers who said they had known him. From Zeerust, he had moved to the Odendaalsrus Location and thereafter to QwaQwa, where he was reunited with members of the LLA. After the Military Coup of 1986, it had become possible for him to return to Lesotho and the LLA was disbanded.

The story did not die. The BNP newspaper Mohlanka in its issue of 24 August had been very quick to report allegations which were emerging about the Prime Minister. Apart from the allegations of Moafrika about executions of LLA members, it also printed allegations that LLA members joined with South African forces in the fight against SWAPO in Namibia. A further detailed instalment (which conveniently left out details about the non-democratic nature of the BNP at the time) appeared in the issue of Mohlanka of 14 December 1996. Wide-ranging allegations were made about the extent to which the BCP and LLA in exile had connived with the apartheid regime; that Ntsu Mokhehle had passed on information about the Pan African Congress and Azanian Peoples Liberation Army to the South African Security Police; and even that BCP/LLA elements (some of whom were said to have been at the National University of Lesotho) had guided the South African Defence Force during the Maseru Raid of 9 December 1982, which had led to the deaths of many ANC exiles as well as of Lesotho citizens.

By the end of 1996, it was apparent that the Lesotho press was becoming collectively a ‘Truth Commission’, although the ‘Reconciliation’ element was largely missing. Mafube of 14 December 1996 carried the story of Tumelo Ramotala who had been sent by the Boers to kill Chris Hani, the leader of the ANC military wing, who was then living at Lithabaneng on the outskirts of Maseru. Ramotala had bungled the attempt and had himself been injured when the bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely. Ramotala had then been arrested by the Lesotho police, but they had conveniently allowed him to escape. Subsequently, he had gone to Vlakplaas where he had come across Ntsu Mokhehle, who was living there.

Moafrika by this time had found yet another LLA voice from the past. ‘Paki’, in Moafrika of 20 December 1996, in a long account, described how he had taken part in an attack on Lesotho from Qwaqwa and after many sufferings at the hands of the South African police had subsequently, as a result of BCP intervention, been recruited to become part of a detachment of the LLA. This group was trained at Lusikisiki in Transkei, and formed a different group from the Libyan-trained members of the LLA. back to top

Strikes by Airways Staff, Nurses and Taxi Owners

Strike action, which had become increasingly common, continued in the latter part of 1996. However, one strike that was threatened did not materialise. The workers of the Lesotho Telecommunications Corporation, who had been on strike earlier in the year, called off the strike due on 19 October when the Board of Directors of LTC agreed to a 20% salary rise.

Lesotho Airways Corporation was not so lucky. Its workers staged a four-day strike from 5th to 8th November, with a number of grievances including uncertainties as a result of the proposed privatisation of the Lesotho Airways Corporation. The problems of Lesotho Airways were described in depth in Khakhaulane of 7 September. The heaviest burden was the debt with which the Corporation had been saddled as a result of the unwise purchase forced on the Corporation of the Boeing 707, ‘Lengau’ during the period of military government. By the time the aircraft had been sold again, there was a debt of over M5 million to Lesotho Bank, a debt which was still growing through interest. Staff at LAC had been reduced from 165 to 100, and amongst other problems had been the loss of qualified staff who had sought greener pastures elsewhere. LAC was down to two Twin Otter aircraft, and it was a struggle to get the third aircraft, the Fokker 27 flying again after being damaged by hail as long ago as October 1995. Although it had been repaired there were no longer pilots licensed to fly the plane, and to achieve this would require two pilots to go to Netherlands for a two weeks course before being recertified, and also five air hostesses who travel with the plane would have to be trained in Cape Town.

A nurses’ strike began on Monday 11 November. This followed an earlier go-slow strike in August following which the nurses claimed that their grievances had still not been met. Grievances included shortage of staff, lack of equipment, salary levels and transport problems, these last being especially acute for nurses on night duty. Nurses returned to work on Thursday 5 December after the Minister of Health, Mr. Tefo Mabote agreed to review their salary structure.

A two-day strike by minibus taxi owners began on Thursday 14 November. The strike was a protest against harassment by the Military Police, who, it was alleged, beat taxi drivers and issued excessive fines, which according to the owners were ‘for no valid reason’. However, taxi passengers noted that the fines were being isued for infringements of traffic laws such as overloading and stopping at unauthorised places, regulations which had been more often breached than observed. A number of larger buses which ran during the strike were stoned, and windows were broken. back to top

Death Penalty for Murderer of Doctor Mohale

In a sequel to a robbery in April 1992 when the proprietor of the Golden Hotel in Mafeteng, Dr. Mohale, had been shot dead, Tšeliso Lempe was found guilty in the High Court in November and sentenced to death. The case, like most murder cases, had taken four years to reach court, an example of the backlog existing in High Court proceedings, which has resulted in the number of prisoners on remand being similar in number to actual convicted prisoners. back to top

Inquiry into Police Deaths

In another quite different case, after a year no charges had even yet been laid following the shooting dead of three senior policemen and the injuring of three others in an incident in Maseru Central Charge Office on 31 October 1995. In November the Prime Minister presented to Parliament a summary of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the incident, this Inquiry having been carried out by a South African judge, Mr. Justice G. P. C. Kotze.

The Inquiry found that the incident occurred after differences of opinion had developed within the police force over police action to terminate the teachers’ strike, and after some junior policemen married to teachers who had been teargassed had surrounded the Charge Office. It thus confirmed what appeared to be common knowledge on the streets of Maseru on the same day as the incident took place. Not all of the Report was made public since it was decided not to prejudice envisaged criminal proceedings. However, even a year after the event, it appeared that no charges had been laid. back to top

Independent Electoral Commission

In Parliament on 29 November, the Prime Minister announced that following recommendations made by the National Forum held in Maseru in September 1995 (at which a wide variety of political and other organisations were represented), Government had agreed to the establishment of an Independent Electoral Commission, and electoral legislation was being drafted to effect this, so that the IEC could be operational by April 1997, in time to prepare for the General Election which must take place early in 1998 at the latest. back to top

Deaths of Parliamentarians; New Senators Appointed

The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Pakane Khala, died of cancer at the age of 52 on 4 November. Mr. Khala had spent most of his adult life in Cairo, where he had staffed the BCP Office from 1960 to 1990, and where he had been news editor and announcer on the Sesotho service (beamed at Southern Africa) of the Egyptian Broadcasting Corporation from 1966 to 1977. He had had only a short ministerial office, having been appointed only on 6 May of this year. His death would mean a by-election in the Nqechane Constituency. His place as Minister was taken by Mr. Monyane Moleleki, a former Minister of Natural Resources, who was sworn in on 11 December.

A former Minister of Health in the BNP government, Senator Patrick ’Mota died on 25 November of a heart attack. He was well known also as a local chief and progressive farmer at Pulane in Berea District. In 1970, he had accompanied the then King, Moshoeshoe II, when the King had been forced to go into exile in the Netherlands.

Chief Seeiso Mohale Maama was shot and killed by an unknown assailant at his house in Boinyatso in October. This occurred a few days before he was due to be installed as Principal Chief of Ha Maama Ward, when he would have taken over from his wife who had been Acting Principal Chief and thereby also a Member of the Senate.

The number of women senators increased by two on 28 November, when Chieftainess ’Mampota Masupha of Ha ’Mamathe, a widow of the late Chief David Masupha, was sworn in to replace her husband who had been killed in a car accident in August; and Chieftainess Maqheqheba Sekonyela of Tlokoeng Ward was sworn in to replace her husband, Chief Halialohe Sekonyela, who had retired for health reasons. On the same occasion, Chief Masupha Seeiso, uncle to King Letsie III, was sworn in as Chief of Matsieng in place of Chief Seeiso Seeiso, who had gone to London to further his studies. back to top

Tragic Death of Dr. & Mrs Maema

A multiple car crash on Van Reenen’s Pass during adverse weather on 14 November took the lives of Dr. & Mrs. Malefane Maema. It was a tragic end for a couple who had by a strange coincidence been born on exactly the same day, 29 December 1957, had married on the same day, 11 September 1982, and had died on the same day.

Malefane Maema had been one of the most brilliant students at the National University of Lesotho, proceeding from there to Cambridge on a Cambridge Livingstone Trust Scholarship, and later completing a doctorate at Imperial College, London University, in Ecology and Epidemiology. This served him in good stead as a lecturer back at his old university, and then as a staff member of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, where he became Head of the Environmental Division in 1991. In 1995, at the unusually early age of 37, he had been appointed to a Professorship at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, where he and his wife were returning after he had attended (chairing one session) the Workshop on the Phase IB Environmental Impact Assessment.

Lisebo Maema (née Mosala) had also had a distinguished academic career and had held a senior post in the Lesotho Ministry of Economic Planning, before moving to Natal to work with the Reconstruction Development Corporation.

The double funeral was held at the Anglican Cathedral in Maseru on 30 November and was attended by over a thousand friends and relatives. Grievously touched by the loss of their parents were three daughters aged 7, 10 and 12. back to top

End of Year Festivities

Christmas in Lesotho has increasingly become a very long break with an increasingly large number of institutions observing a two week or longer break, once the preserve of the building trade only, whose two week break over Christmas and New Year has been traditional for at least half a century. With both Christmas and New Year’s Day (also a public holiday) falling midweek, holidays of at least two weeks duration were common this year. The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority began its break on 14th December and the National University of Lesotho on 19th December.

In recent years, a new and noisy way of celebrating end of year festivities has been added, and this year was the noisiest yet. Fireworks, mainly of Chinese manufacture, which had been practically unknown in Lesotho until about five years ago, were being widely marketed and purchased, in theory for use at the New Year, but in practice being detonated by children as soon as they were being regularly distributed for sale in November. Hospitals reported a number of injuries as a result of fireworks improperly used. back to top

[updated to 1 January 1997]