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

SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 4, Number 3 (Third Quarter 1997)

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.

Local Government Act Published
Political Party Rivalries Continue
Amendment to Constitution Paves Way for Independent Electoral Commission
Military Police Take Harsh Action Against Taxi Drivers
Migrant Sex Workers Suffer Retrenchment
Minister of Natural Resources Clashes with WASA
Chiefs Form a Union
BCP Party Conference
New Anglican Bishop Elected
Chinese Sentenced to 27 Years in Gaol for Multiple Murder
Mayor of Maseru Reelected and then Dismissed
Rossair Buys Lesotho Airways
Lecturers on Strike at University
Industrial Action Interrupts Telephone Services
Basotho Employed as Farm Labourers in South Africa
Katse Dam Nearly Full
Supply of Cereals
Parliament Disrupted by the Dispute Between LCD and BCP
Death of Joel Thabiso Mohapeloa
Deplorable Conditions at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital Given Newspaper Publicity
BNP Leader Sued for Debts by Bank
Coronation Preparations Spark Public Debate
Death of ‘ZB’ Molete
University Bus Attached to Pay Debt
New United Nations Building Handed Over by Government
University Honours Paul Ellenberger at Graduation Ceremony
Death of Mrs. Nana Tau
Serious Bus Accident Claims Seventeen Lives
 

Local Government Act Published

The long awaited Local Government Act 1997 was finally published after Royal Assent in the Lesotho Government Gazette of 3 July 1997. It makes provision for Municipal, Urban, Rural and Community Councils, but with an emphasis on Municipal and Urban Councils. The Community Councils had in fact been added to the original White Paper as a result of a consultation process with the public.

Municipal Councils are envisaged for District Headquarters towns, and other selected main urban areas such as Maputsoe. For other smaller towns, Urban Councils are envisaged with slightly reduced powers. The Rural Councils are envisaged for the parts of districts not covered by urban or municipal councils. Community Councils are left largely undefined, but could presumably be formed by combining Village Development Council Areas into viable units.

The Minister for Local Government, Pakalitha Mosisili, announced that Government intended introducing Local Government before the end of its term of office. However, given the short time still available, many doubted that this exercise could be successfully completed until later. Indeed, by the end of September, some of the necessary preliminaries such as the creation of a Boundaries Commission, the formalisation of electoral procedures, and detailed financing and training requirements were still matters of discussion.  <<<back to top

Political Party Rivalries Continue

The creation of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) by the Prime Minister in June left in its wake a considerable upsurge in political activity and demonstrations. Posters directed against the LCD used a variety of alternative interpretations of the party initials, one of which was Lekhotla la Coetsee [sic] le DeKok, continuing the allegations that Ntsu Mokhehle’s past was tainted by his association with the Vlakplaas killer squad police. The newspaper Moafrika in its issue of 4 July reported uncomplimentary songs and slogans being recited at demonstrations, one of which was Mokhehle o a beta, o betile molao oa motheo; lehlanya lea kopaneloa, ha u le mong le tla u tsietsa, haholo haele le le tona (‘Mokhehle is raping, he has raped the constitution; a mad person, especially a mad man, can only be overcome by concerted action, if you act alone he’ll give you problems.’) However, the LCD, not to be outdone, adapted and adopted its own new songs (Mololi, 9 July 1997) one of which began Nkemele Ntsu, nke ke be ka sala mona (‘Wait for me, Ntsu, I don’t want to be left behind’) with imagery suggesting he was a Moses leading his people from the bondage of the BCP. The original subject of this song had been Molapo Qhobela.

Another development was the resignation of Thulo Mahlakeng, President of the BCP Youth League at the League’s meeting on 5-6 July. His long speech on that occasion was reported by Makatolle of 9 July. It reviewed the history of the Youth League and its sponsorship of the newspaper Khakhaulane which had disappeared when the BCP Pressure Group had begun its own edition of Makatolle. The speech was highly critical of Ntsu Mokhehle whom he described as Prime Evil. Mahlakeng did not in his speech give the reasons why he was resigning as president.

On 14-15 July the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations held a two day meeting in Maseru to discuss political developments. It was attended by 118 delegated from 76 of the LCN’s member organisations, and issued a statement which stated that Mokhehle’s action in founding the LCD was ‘politically and morally wrong’. This was a more clear cut condemnation than could be collectively issued by a Heads of Churches meeting on 16 July. They issued a statement which equivocated rather than condemned.  <<<back to top

Amendment to Constitution Paves Way for Independent Electoral Commission

Following repeated calls from political parties that Lesotho should have an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) along the lines of the South African IEC, legislation was at last enacted, although so late that many commentators wondered whether the IEC would be able to undertake the tasks required of it in time for the next General Election which statutorily must be held before next March, the fifth anniversary of the previous election.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution Act 1997 (Act No. 7 of 1997) was published in the Lesotho Government Gazette on 7 July 1997. Amongst its provisions are the lowering of the voting age to 18, adding probably nearly 10% to the size of the electorate. The main provision is the transfer of electoral arrangements to an Independent Electoral Commission of three persons to be appointed by the King on the recommendation of the Council of State, with the Chairman of the IEC to be a ‘person who holds, has held, or qualifies to hold high judicial office’. The new sections of the Constitution dealing with the powers, duties and functions of the IEC are entrenched sections of the Constitution requiring a two-thirds majority in Parliament for amendment. The Act came into force on 15 July.

Parallel to the Act, and made in terms of the amended Constitution was the National Assembly Election (Amendment) Act 1997 (Act No. 8 of 1997), published in the Gazette on 21 July and coming into force on 24 July. This established the procedure for nominations for membership of the IEC by political parties to the Council of State. The procedure was duly followed, with several opposition political parties collaborating in the process. The members of the IEC were announced by Legal Notice in a Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary on 1 September. They were Sekara S. Mafisa, Letjea Qhobela, and Morie J. Khaebana. They were sworn in on Thursday 4 September. Sekara Mafisa is a well-known lawyer, who is perhaps best known as Secretary to the Commission which investigated unrest in the army in 1994. Letjea Qhobela is a retired civil servant, who had been Chief Establishment Officer during the colonial administration, and was the first Chairman of the Public Service Commission after Independence. Morie Khaebana was for many years Clerk to the National Assembly.

Under the legislation enacted, the existing Elections Office is abolished, together with the post of Chief Electoral Officer. Also abolished is the Constituency Delimitation Commission, which had already prepared a provisional delimitation for the 1998 elections. Although money was voted for the IEC, on 17 September, the Chairman of the IEC was already complaining publicly that funds were not yet available, and the handing over by the former Chief Electoral Officer, Lebohang Tšepane, had not yet been done. The IEC had, however, by this time secured office space in Development House, the new, large and underutilised Lesotho National Development Corporation office block on Kingsway in Maseru.

The post of Director of Elections was advertised locally with a closing date of 26 September 1997 in newspapers published in the week beginning 22 September. The job description given was for the person to be the Chief Executive of the IEC and to be the Manager of the IEC staff.  <<<back to top

Military Police Take Harsh Action Against Taxi Drivers

The military police, who have acquired the name Mashai from their commander, Major P. Shai, were created some two years ago to maintain discipline within the Lesotho Defence Force. However, the Defence Act makes provision for their also being used for ordinary policing duties at the request of the Commissioner of Police. In fact they have functioned as additional traffic police for some time, to the chagrin of drivers of minibus taxis, who complain that they administer justice with blows rather than with the issue of fines.

On Wednesday 9 July, members of the military police diverted minibus taxis from Nazareth, Roma and Morija to the Roma Police Station, a matter of considerable inconvenience to passengers who were thereby delayed, and who voiced their annoyance on the Radio Lesotho phone-in programme the next day. At Roma the drivers were given a lecture about the need for taxis to obey the rules of the road and a few blows were administered to them to indicate what might happen to them rather more vigorously if they did not obey. Passengers were not to be immune. Already it was widely known that the Mashai, when they encountered an overloaded taxi, were inclined also to beat up the passengers who had boarded the taxi and created the overload.

Public reaction to this action was in general not unfavourable. Taxis have a very high accident and indeed fatality rate through speeding and drunken driving; they race each other to bus stops to get passengers; and overloading has been the norm rather than the exception. The traffic police had so far had little impact on the problem, and there was a general perception that this was because they could be easily bribed. The Mashai were needed to bring some order into the taxi business. <<<back to top

Migrant Sex Workers Suffer Retrenchment

A report in The Star of 11 July indicated that police in Johannesburg were arresting and deporting foreign prostitutes who were taking away the livelihoods of local ‘sex workers’. Amongst these were women from a number of countries including Lesotho. <<<back to top

Minister of Natural Resources Clashes with WASA

The Minister of Natural Resources, Shakhane Mokhehle, as reported in The Mirror of 11 July publicly slated the Board of Directors of the parastatal Water and Sewerage Authority stating that it should deal with corruption and theft rather than raise water tariffs. There was some sympathy for the Acting Chief Executive, Mrs. ’Mamosebi Pholo, who was thereby placed in a very difficult position. WASA had become increasingly unable to meet its commitments because of an increasingly large annual budgetary shortfall, caused in large part because WASA tariffs had not been allowed to rise in line with inflation. <<<back to top

Chiefs Form a Union

A new and apparently unprecedented pressure group resulted from a meeting held at Matsieng on 16 July attended by 99 traditional chiefs, including a large number of Principal Chiefs. A letter from the meeting was sent to the King urging him to summon the Council of State to receive representations from political parties on the political crisis arising from the creation of the LCD.

By 3 August, the same grouping held another meeting at which 122 Chiefs were present. This provided the opportunity for the launching of the constitution of a new organisation to be called Thesele, after one of the praise names of King Moshoeshoe I. Thesele chose as the Interim Chairman of its Executive Committee, Chief Khoabane Theko, Principal Chief of Thaba-Bosiu. Despite its origin as an organisation founded by Chiefs, the Constitution of Thesele apparently also allows commoners to be members. <<<back to top

BCP Party Conference

The BCP held its party conference on 26-27 July at Sefika Hall Maseru. This was its 1997 Conference and with dissident members now having joined the LCD, the conference went smoothly resulting in Molapo Qhobela, already the de facto Leader of the party, being formally elected to that position. Ntsukunyane Mphanya was elected National Chairman, GM Kolisang Secretary-General, and Jack Mopeli, Public Relations Officer. Not filled was the post of editor of Makatolle, and it was resolved to advertise the post. The party paper, Makatolle, normally a weekly, had in the meantime become somewhat irregular, with an average of only two issues a month over the period June to August. Its place had to some extent been taken by the revival of the BCP Youth League newspaper, Khakhaulane with effect from mid-July under the editorship of the new Leader of the Youth League, Lebohang Hlaele. <<<back to top

New Anglican Bishop Elected

At an Anglican Diocesan Assembly on 28 July, the former Suffragan Bishop, Andrew Thabo Duma, was elected Bishop of Lesotho to replace Bishop Philip Mokuku, who had submitted his resignation.

Philip Mokuku had succeeded Desmond Tutu as Bishop of Lesotho in 1978. Retiring at the comparatively early age of 61 was providing him with the opportunity of a ‘sabbatical’ year at Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham, England.

Bishop Duma was born in 1935 in Mokhotlong and is slightly older than the retiring bishop. His early career was as a teacher in his home parish of Mokhotlong. He was ordained in 1965, and subsequently served in a number of Anglican parishes in Lesotho, being appointed Suffragan Bishop in 1992. He is married with eight children, and will be enthroned as bishop on 2 November.

Another change had already taken place at the Anglican Cathedral of St. James and St. Mary on 29 June, when Rev. Lebohang Kheekhe was inducted as Dean of the Cathedral and Archdeacon of Maseru. <<<back to top

Chinese Sentenced to 27 Years in Gaol for Multiple Murder

A 38-year old Chinese national, Shao Ming Sheng, was sentenced early in August by Justice Churchill Maqutu to 27 years in gaol for the shooting at Lekhaloaneng, Maseru of Xu Wen Da and his wife and the strangling of their 12 year old son. The High Court heard that Shao, a Chinese peasant, had paid $4000 to a company which had guaranteed to take him to Lesotho, where a visa would be arranged so that he could work in South Africa. According to the report in The Mirror of 8 August, he was one of ‘plane loads’ of Chinese who had been brought to Lesotho with a similar purpose. When after one year the visa had not materialised, his frustration had taken violent form against Xu, whom he believed to be connected with the company to whom he had paid the money.

The High Court case was originally delayed because of difficult in finding a suitable interpreter, the accused not speaking either English or Sesotho. This was eventually solved by acquiring the services of ’Malikabiso Ntabenyane, who had learned Chinese during four years spent at the Yu Yuan Language Institute in Beijing in 1985-9 under sponsorship of the then Lesotho Government. Although Mrs. Ntabenyane had hoped to be employed at the Lesotho High Commission in Beijing, these hopes had not been fulfilled. However, opportunities for employment had arisen within the large Chinese community in Maseru, few of whom speak English (or Sesotho) to any extent. <<<back to top

Mayor of Maseru Reelected and then Dismissed

The Mayor of Maseru, Thabiso Molikeng was reelected in July. Shortly afterwards he travelled to New York with the Town Clerk, Makalo Ntlaloe at the expense of the Maseru City Council, but apparently without its approval. Members of the Council at a meeting during his absence complained about his expensive journey made at a time when the Council had not been able to find money for protective clothing for Council staff. On his return Molikeng was dismissed, and a new Mayor, Lepekola Mokemane was chosen. The dismissed Mayor thereupon took legal action to obtain reinstatement, and the case opened before Mr. Justice Ramolibeli on 30 September 1997. <<<back to top

Rossair Buys Lesotho Airways

The firm Rossair Contractors Pty Ltd which specialises in the air charter business has bought Lesotho Airways. This was announced in July by the Privatisation Unit, although at the time of the announcement some details of the transfer were still being negotiated. In the meantime, a Rossair Beechcraft 1900C 19-seater aircraft had already been introduced on the twice daily Maseru to Johannesburg route, cutting the journey time to an hour, and improving comfort, because the plane flies at a higher altitude where there is less turbulence. Rossair promised to introduce larger aircraft if the numbers of passengers warranted it. However, from August there was already some competition on what had been for many years an exclusive Lesotho Airways route, with services being introduced by Airlink, a South African Airways subsidiary.

The formal signing of the sales agreement was held at the Lesotho Sun Hotel in mid-September. As reported in The Mirror of 26 September 1997, Rossair was investing M30 million in what was now to be formally renamed Air Lesotho, and would hold 80% of the equity, while the remaining 20% was being held by the Lesotho Government, shares which would be available for individual Basotho ownership. The staff of 38 was to be reduced to 31, but M250 000 was being donated for the training of people who would eventually work in Air Lesotho. The actual purchase price, according to Mopheme of 23 September 1997, was M11.2 million. <<<back to top

Lecturers on Strike at University

The opening of the new Academic Year of the National University of Lesotho was interrupted by a strike called by the Lesotho University Teachers’ and Researchers’ Union (LUTARU). The cause of the strike was an incident on 1 August in which Dr. Motlatsi Thabane, Head of the History Department, had been stopped at the University gate on an alleged irregularity of transporting University equipment without permission (apparently a computer printer which he was returning after repair). He was apprehended and when he protested was apparently beaten by two of the security guards.

LUTARU’s response to the incident was to demand the dismissal of the Head of Campus Security, Major Refiloe Motaung, and Security Guards Koatsa and Nkoane. The strike lasted for two weeks and resulted in most LUTARU members boycotting the official opening of the Academic year by the Chancellor, His Majesty King Letsie III, on Monday 11 August.

As reported in the September issue of the student magazine Insight, after two weeks the University administration agreed to dismiss the two security guards. This led to the non-academic staff going on strike in protests and toyi-toying around the administration block. The non-academic staff strike in turn led to students not getting their allowances, so they in turn went on strike, manning the entrance gate and preventing staff from entering and leaving. They then ‘charged in a dangerously militant mood towards the administration block sending lecturers and the non academic staff scurrying away for safety.’ In resulting skirmishes with police and security guards, shots were fired and ‘tufts of grass could be seen flying in the air as a result of the shooting’. No one was hurt, however, and the policeman responsible was ‘whisked away to cool off’.

The students had had a rough start to the academic year. Even before the strikes, they had been seriously inconvenienced by administrative inefficiency in allocating hostel rooms, as a result of which students ‘competed for the scarce rooms from dawn to dusk’. <<<back to top

Industrial Action Interrupts Telephone Services

Workers at the parastatal Lesotho Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) began a go slow on 11 August over concern about the restructuring of LTC and a 60% pay rise which had been demanded but not agreed to. One result was that Lesotho was cut off from the world, causing losses to the hotel industry and travel agencies which could not make airline bookings.

A month later, the situation was still not normal. Roma, for example, was without telephones. In this case it seems that there had been agreement between the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority and LTC to pay for the relocation of telephone lines affected by road widening along the Phase IB Access Road between Masianokeng and Boinyatso. Payment had been made, but the work had not been done on time, probably because of the go slow, and dismissal of workers who had not signed a ‘commitment’ paper. The Construction Company had deadlines to meet with penalty clauses, and it demolished the poles, before the rerouting of the telephone line had been completed.

The telephone service to Roma was later restored only to be deliberately cut again at the period of the Graduation Ceremony at the end of September.

Workers who had not signed the ‘commitment paper’ had meanwhile taken High Court action against the LTC management to require it to reopen the gates so that they could return to work. A High Court ruling was expected on 23 September by Mrs. Justice Kelello Guni. The newspaper Pula in its 2 October issue said that the failure to give a ruling on the announced date was received by the workers with ‘much incredulation’ [sic] and wondering why the case not could have been passed for ruling by another judge so that they would not be further be deprived of their salaries. When the ruling was finally given on 30 September, they found that they had lost the case. <<<back to top

Basotho Employed as Farm Labourers in South Africa

A report in Mopheme of 12 August described a recruiting agency which has placed 2000 Basotho men and women in farm jobs in South Africa. The work is paid at the comparatively low rate of R1.50 per hour (less than the Lesotho statutory minimum wage in commerce and industry), but food and accommodation is provided, and there is apparently no dearth of applications from persons who would otherwise be unemployed.

Apparently most of those recruited work in the labour-intensive seasonal work of asparagus harvesting, and some 1200 of the 2000 workers are employed by the Delmont International Food Company, which processes asparagus. <<<back to top

Katse Dam Nearly Full

It was reported in August that the Katse Dam was only 12 metres short of its Full Surface Level of 2053 metres above sea level, and with good winter rains and snow, was still rising. It was speculated that it might reach the Full Surface Level before the first water transfer to South Africa, which had now been fixed for 22 January 1998.

The extremely fast rate at which the dam had filled was the result of two extremely wet summers. However, with a very strong El Niño event in the Pacific, it was being predicted that the 1997-8 summer would be very dry. The Lesotho Meteorological Service, as quoted by Radio Lesotho on 17 September, stated with an air of confidence that severe drought conditions would prevail over Lesotho from October to February, followed by a resumption of normal rainfall in March 1998. South African meteorological sources were rather different in their predictions. They expected, as had happened in the El Niño of 1982-3, that the Lesotho part of the highveld would have above average rainfall in October and November, followed by drier than normal conditions in the following months. <<<back to top

Supply of Cereals

The Food Security Bulletin published on 15 August by the National Early Warning Unit of the Disaster Management Authority contained details of its projections for the 1997/8 summer, the cereal production statistics apparently being based on actual production in 1996/7. The figures show the extent to which Lesotho falls short of food self-sufficiency. For example maize requirements are projected at 298 000 tons, compared with estimated production of 91 000 tons; wheat requirements at 93 000 tons, compared with estimated production of only 5 000 tons; and sorghum requirements at 45 000 tons compared with estimated production of 13 000 tons. The situation has deteriorated from 20 years back when Lesotho produced a wheat surplus, sufficient sorghum for domestic consumption, and at least half of its maize requirements. <<<back to top

Parliament Disrupted by the Dispute Between LCD and BCP

Parliament reconvened on Friday 22 August after a two month adjournment, during which the BCP had not forgotten that 15 points of order which it had raised with the Speaker on 11 June had still not been answered. On the opening day, the Speaker, Dr. J. T. Kolane, indicated that although he had made a ruling on the points of order, he could not read it to the House, because of the way in which the BCP Parliamentary Committee had written a letter of accusation about him to the King.

This set the scene for a series of attacks on the Speaker and retaliation with suspensions, unprecedented in Lesotho’s Parliament. The core of the problem was apparently the Speaker’s ruling that the BCP was the Opposition Party, when in fact the BCP wanted to be still called the ruling party, having been the party which had indisputably won the 1993 General Election. The problem was, however, that in the Parliament some 38 MPs now supported the newly created LCD, while only about 25 supported the BCP.

Feelings ran high in Parliament when members of the BCP described members of the LCD as thieves, because they had stolen the BCP Parliamentary leadership. When, on the request of the Speaker, there was a refusal to withdraw this statement, three BCP Members of Parliament. Khechane Sekoto, Peo Moejane and Ntsukunyane Mphanya were suspended from Parliament by the Speaker for a week. When the three returned to Parliament on Monday 1 September, before the week was over, police were called to remove the MPs. However, the police were reluctant to execute the order and Parliament was adjourned.

On Thursday 4 September, BCP Members of Parliament as a mark of protest refused to accord the normal respect to the Speaker’s Procession. As a result a further 18 BCP MPs were suspended from Parliament for a week. On this occasion the police actually removed a number of Members of Parliament bodily, including Tšeliso Makhakhe, a former minister, who was carried from Parliament by police.

The high level of disarray within Parliament led the Speaker to clear the Public Gallery, from which there had apparently been some reactions during exchanges in Parliament. This had the effect of banning the Press from attending sessions, a matter which led to considerable adverse comment. The ban on use of the Public Gallery was in force from 29 August until 16 September.

Parliament was by this time being ridiculed in newspaper headlines. The BNP paper Mohlanka of 30 August had the headlines Paramente e fetoha mantloane (‘Parliament is becoming a girls’ game of toy houses’), while the LCD paper Mololi of 3 September had the headlines Paramente e fetoloa thakaneng (‘Parliament is being turned into a boys’ dormitory’). The Catholic newspaper Moeletsi oa Basotho in its issue of 7 September noted that after two weeks Parliament had transacted no business, and provided a verbatim account of a typically ill-tempered exchange between members and (on the occasion reported) Madam Deputy Speaker. Its own headline was BCP e hatile boriki Paramenteng (‘The BCP has stepped on Parliament’s brakes’).

At the end of the suspension period, BCP MPs did return to Parliament, but they continued their protest by routinely walking out after a few minutes each day.

In headlines in its issue of 23 September 1997, Mopheme reported that there were rumours that the speaker, Dr. J. T. Kolane, was wanting to resign. No hard evidence was however produced that this was the case. The same rumour was reported in Mohlanka of 20 September 1997, which also attacked Kolane under the headline Kolane o tsamaisoa ke leVlakplaas, ‘Kolane is being directed by a Vlakplaas man’, referring to the common jibe being used against Prime Minister, Ntsu Mokhehle that he had associated with the members of the Vlakplaas killer police squad, whose nefarious activities had become revealed as a result of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Despite the obvious fact that the Independent Electoral Commission was in no position to conduct an immediate election, a Motion was placed before and passed by the Senate late in September to the effect that the King should immediately dissolve parliament to make way for elections, in view of recent political events, including the impasse in the National Assembly. 22 of the Senators (there are 31 at present, since there are two vacancies caused by the deaths of Patrick ’Mota and Chief Qhobela Leshoboro) supported the motion, and it also took the form of a published resolution where it was also supported by 24 members of the National Assembly. All supporters stated that they ‘stand dissociated from the current Parliamentary farce and accordingly withdraw our support for all actions and bills that the usurper L.C.D. Government intends to put before Parliament until after General Elections when there will be an elected Government’. The full text of the Resolution was published in Mohlanka of 4 October 1997. <<<back to top

Death of Joel Thabiso Mohapeloa

The death occurred on 23 August of Joel Thabiso Mohapeloa, OBE, at the age of 92. ‘JT’ had a long and distinguished career in the Lesotho public service, which he joined in 1943 after 17 years working as an administrator at the University of Fort Hare.

In 1946 Joel Mohapeloa was appointed to administer the new Basotho National Treasury at Matsieng to which fines in local courts were to be paid. Later he occupied the key position of adviser to the Resident Commissioner, and he was the first Mosotho Chairman of the Public Service Commission. In 1965 he was appointed by the Chancellor of the then University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland to be the member of the University Council to represent the cultural aspirations of Basutoland. He served on the Council for over 10 years and in 1971 became its Chairman.

Joel Mohapeloa’s wife, Bernice Tlalane Mohapeloa predeceased him by a few months. He is survived by his brother, Professor J. M. Mohapeloa, and by two sons, Dr. Lennox M. Mohapeloa and Eric Karabo Mohapeloa, as well as a niece, Bernice Tlalane Mohapeloa, who grew up in their household. Dr. Mohapeloa (whose wife, Dr. Mercy Mlotywa is a paediatrician) worked for a long period in Mohlomi Hospital as Director of Mental Health Services, and after retirement in Lesotho worked in Fort Beaufort. He now lives in retirment in Ladybrand. Eric Mohapeloa, after retirement from the University, where he was Fire Officer, now works for the N. J. Thorn company in Roma. <<<back to top

Deplorable Conditions at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital Given Newspaper Publicity

It has been common knowledge for some time that conditions at Lesotho’s largest hospital, the government-owned Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru, fall short in many respects. Amongst serious problems has been the lack of nursing staff, particularly at night, this being largely a logistical problem resulting from inadequate transport. There had formerly been a three-storey nurses’ hostel adjoining the hospital which functioned also as a training college for nurses. In the mid-1980s, in anticipation of the building of a new National Referral Hospital at Botšabelo, nursing training was moved to a new National Health Training Centre (now called College) on the Botšabelo site. A consequence was that trainee and supervising nurses were living at a considerable distance from the institution where they did their practical work, and were often not available when needed.

Deficiencies in the nursing service have been long recognised but apparently not rectified. For example, in the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital Annual Report for 1988, the Medical Superintendent, Dr. Mosotho, in reference to nursing shortages at night and at weekends stated that ‘during these times, the patient-staff ratios are so high that it should not be surprising to see patients assisting one another, or some of them being found dead without knowing how and when’. The 1988 report was also extremely critical of cleaning, laundry and linen management services.

Writing in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 31 August, two persons, who had recently been patients in the hospital, indicated that the situation was today no better. One of them, M. Rakaibe, said he was writing to bring the matter of the shocking negligence at the hospital to the attention of the nation and to parliamentarians. In relation to Ward 5, where he was a patient, Rakaibe refers to unchanged bed sheets when beds are occupied by new patients, patients wearing their own clothes in hospital, and persons unable to wash themselves being left unwashed. Pyjamas were unavailable for patients. Food trays were infested with cockroaches and other insects, and of the large number of patients dying in hospital the majority (in the writer’s opinion) were dying of hunger because they did not have friends or relatives to look after them and to feed them. Rakaibe reported that there were no nursing staff from 10 at night until the next morning, and there was no one available in the hospital to whom patients could make complaints. The second writer, who signs herself as Mokuli ea khathatsehileng (‘A fed-up patient’) was a surgical patient in Ward 1. She provides a detailed account of the way patients are abused by hospital cleaners, and makes an appeal to the administration of the hospital and to the Minister of Health about the way the ward is run. <<<back to top

BNP Leader Sued for Debts by Bank

The LCD newspaper Mololi in its issue of 10 September 1997 reported proceedings in the High Court in which Nedbank, the successor to Standard Chartered Bank in Maseru, was suing the leader of the Basotho National Party, E. R. Sekhonyana, for the sum of M1 847 000. The debt was reported to have arisen from losses resulting from the management of the Orange River Hotel in Moyeni. This hotel had been built for Sekhonyana, then Minister of Finance, at the same time as and by the same firm as the Lesotho Hilton. Sekhonyana did not appear in court. He was absent from the country undergoing surgery in Johannesburg. <<<back to top

Coronation Preparations Spark Public Debate

The Seboping phone-in programme of Radio Lesotho on 11 September was devoted to a discussion of preparations for the Coronation of King Letsie III, set for 31 October. Given that Lesotho has not staged a full coronation before, there is no tradition about the form the occasion must take. Mopheme of 16 September reported that amongst opinion expressed by callers was that traditional animal-skin attire was preferable to the ‘ugly Salvation army type of uniform that King Moshoeshoe was made to wear during the Military Rule ceremonial occasions’. Others voiced the view that the King should arrive on horseback, or if in a car it must be flanked by horsemen. The view was also expressed that Maseru’s congested and potholed roads needed to be improved for the occasion.

By mid-September, there were signs that some roads at least were receiving attention. Airport Road which links Kingsway to Moshoeshoe Road was closed for resurfacing, resulting in extremely serious congestion along Kingsway itself for much of the day. Also being reconstructed was the main road to the Setsoto Stadium, while the Stadium itself was being extensively refurbished for the Coronation Ceremony.

King Letsie III was King of Lesotho from 12 November 1990 to 25 January 1995 when he abdicated in favour of his father, King Moshoeshoe II, who had been deposed in 1990 by the Military Council then governing Lesotho. He was reinstated as King on 7 February 1996 after his father was killed in a tragic road accident. During his previous four year period as King, there had been no suggestion that a formal Coronation should be arranged.

Since there had not formerly been a Coronation in Lesotho, members of the public were wondering what the correct Sesotho word might be for such an occasion. Posters from the Ministry of Information made it clear that what should be used was the phrase Mokete oa tlhahiso sechabeng meaning literally ‘Festival of presentation to the nation’. <<<back to top

Death of ‘ZB’ Molete

The death occurred in Maseru on 13 September of one of the founders of the Pan Africanist Congress, Zachius Botlhoko Molete, commonly known to everyone as ZB.

Born in Winburg in the Free State in 1930, ZB had a Motswana father who was a teacher and a Ndebele mother. Educated at Kroonstad High School and Fort Hare, after a period as a teacher, he took up law studies in Johannesburg. When the PAC was formed in 1959, he became the PAC’s Secretary for Publicity and Information. He played a leading role in the anti-pass campaign in South Africa in 1960, and was arrested. He fled to Lesotho in 1963, while on bail pending an appeal against a three-year prison term. Thereafter, Lesotho was his base, although he undertook many journeys to Europe and the Far East on behalf of the PAC in the period 1964 to 1968.

ZB later became a high school teacher in Lesotho (including for a considerable period at Lesotho High School), following which he served for a while as an administrator for the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry. His roots were by this time quite firmly in Lesotho and he did not return to South Africa, following the creation of democratic government there in 1994.

Amongst those who spoke at ZB’s funeral in Maseru was the South African Commissioner to Lesotho, Mr. Japhet Ndlovu. <<<back to top

University Bus Attached to Pay Debt

Passengers on the bus owned by the National University of Lesotho which normally conveys staff resident in Maseru to Roma each morning had a surprise on Monday 22 September. The bus was stopped by High Court order by the Lakeside Hotel just after 7 a. m., and ordered to be sequestrated to pay an outstanding debt. The passengers sat tight, and since the High Court order was to appropriate the bus for sale but not its human contents, it was eventually released. However, as a result of the incident, a number of lectures were not given at the University that morning.

The University’s inability to either pay debts or to collect money owed by its own debtors has recently become a severe embarrassment. The computer system formerly in use in the Bursary became apparently inoperable, and there was no usable manual or computer backup. As a result many records seem to have been lost. A new system was instituted in mid-1997, but catching up with the backlog will take time. <<<back to top

New United Nations Building Handed Over by Government

It is a convention that host governments provide accommodation for the offices of the United Nations and its specialised agencies. In the case of Lesotho, this had been achieved by the government paying rents to the owners of a number of different office blocks, including the Red Cross, where the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were housed.

On 25 September, the Prime Minister opened and handed over United Nations House, a M16 million purpose-built office block to house the Maseru offices of UNDP, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC).

The new building is situated opposite the Maseru Club in United Nations Road. This road had formerly been known as Lagden Road, but it was renamed to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, a time when it was already known that United Nations House would be built there. <<<back to top

University Honours Paul Ellenberger at Graduation Ceremony

The annual University Graduation Ceremony was held at Roma on Saturday 27 September. King Letsie III, in his capacity of Chancellor of the University, in a five hour ceremony conferred 360 degrees and also awarded 423 certificates and diplomas to National University of Lesotho students. The Moshoeshoe Scholar award went to Matšeliso Flora Ntsoelikane, a Sociology student who also distinguished herself on the athletics track and in playing football.

The degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, was awarded to Paul Ellenberger, the distinguished palaeontologist whose work on fossil trackways in Lesotho has been widely recognised internationally. Both of Paul Ellenberger’s parents were born in Lesotho, his father, Victor Ellenberger, having been born in the cave house at Masitise. It was in this cave that Paul Ellenberger’s grandfather, David Frédéric Ellenberger, had in 1866 established the first mission in Lesotho south of the Senqu River. When Paul Ellenberger, had been the missionary at the same mission a century later, he had discovered a fossil trackway a previously unnoticed fossil trackway on the ceiling of this very same cave house. Although it had been expected that Paul Ellenberger, who is aged 78, would attend the ceremony, he was unfortunately ill and advised by his doctor not to travel from his present residence in France. The degree was awarded in absentia.

Strike action by the Lesotho Telecommunications Corporation ensured that telephones to Roma were not working on the graduation weekend. This also prevented Radio Lesotho relaying the proceedings live as is normally the case. <<<back to top

Death of Mrs. Nana Tau

The death occurred in Johannesburg on 29 September of Mrs. Nana Tau, a former Librarian of the National University of Lesotho, and also a former member of Lesotho’s diplomatic service who served in the mid-1980s as Lesotho Ambassador to the USA and later (briefly) as High Commissioner of Lesotho to the United Kingdom.

Born Mildred Cebekulu in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, the late Nana Tau entered Pius XII College as a student in 1960. It was there that she met and married Martin Maama Tau a member of the administration, who was also a traditional chief from Pitseng in northern Lesotho. Apart from her excursion into the diplomatic service during the government of Leabua Jonathan, Mrs. Tau’s professional career was in librarianship. From her eventual position at Roma as University Librarian, she was appointed Librarian at the University of Fort Hare in 1993. However, her health by this time was not good, and in 1997 her contract was terminated for medical reasons. While on this terminal leave, and while seeking a retirement residence in Johannesburg, her condition deteriorated suddenly leading to her death.

She leaves her husband (who lives in Roma) and two daughters, two other daughters having predeceased her. <<<back to top

Serious Bus Accident Claims Seventeen Lives

Accidents involving public service vehicles which result in loss of life are unfortunately of very frequent occurrence. A very serious accident occurred on the evening of 30 September, when a bus bound for Morija from Maseru collided head on with a lorry travelling in the opposite direction at Thoteng-ea-Moli Ha ’Masana. 11 people died at the scene of the accident and 29 others were taken to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru where six of them later died.

[updated to 30 September 1997]

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