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 5, Number 1 (First Quarter 1998)

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.


Election Preparations
New Maseru Post Office Opened
Cattle Raids Continue
Lesotho Defence Force Helicopter Crashes
BCP Sues LCD over Party Colours
Sri Lankans Stranded at Moshoeshoe I Airport
New Stamps Commemorate 40th Anniversary of Morija Museum and Archives
Thaba-Khupa Ecumenical Centre a Sad Failure
Air Lesotho Extends Flight Schedule
Unidentified Road Accident Victim Buried
Inauguration of Water Transfer Component of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project
Highlands Water Delivery Begins and is Diverted to Caledon River
Large Group of NGOs Petition the World Bank on Water Project
Arrests Follow Killings of Women Suspected of Witchcraft
Lesotho Congress for Democracy Vacillates Before Electing New Leader
Fraud at Roma Supermarket
Tragic Death at University Fun Day Carnival; Two Die in Village Near Roma
Serious Congestion at Maseru Bridge Border Post
Sequel to Telephone Workers’ Strike
Police Shoot Women Strikers
Date of General Election Fixed and Parliament Dissolved
Proprietor of Lakeside Hotel Dies in Car Crash
Man Sentenced for Intercourse with a Sheep
Court Case Against 32 Detained Police Further Delayed
Heavy Rainfall Results in Loss of Life
Hospital Workers and Schoolgirls Convicted after Abortions in Mafeteng
Death of Captain Frank Green
School Certificate Results Show Very Poor Performance in English
EarthPlan Presents Proposals to Journalists for Four Reserves
Passport Applicants Experience Frustrating Delays
Sexy Dresses Worn by Visitors Become an Issue at Maseru Central Prison
Auction Sale of Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase IA Equipment
Whodunit Published with NUL Setting
Lesotho Tops Survey of African Economies

Election Preparations

Registration began throughout Lesotho early in January for the 1998 elections. On registration, every person over 18 received a neat plastic identification card with coloured photograph of himself or herself. Persons were soon showing these to one another and comparing photographic likenesses, and this no doubt helped to promote the registration process through its six-week period (later extended by one week). 500 special cameras were available to cover the 2000 registration points countrywide. The theft of one of these cameras from Fraser’s Memorial Hall Registration Centre in Maseru made a news story, but the camera was recovered by police not long afterwards.

Assisting the Independent Electoral Commission in its work were two United Nations Election Experts who were to work in Lesotho until the elections had been successfully completed. They were an Australian, Francis Xavier Vassallo, and an Angolan, Onofre Dos Santos.

The original six weeks allowed for registration proved insufficient, and registration was eventually extended until 22 February. Lentsoe la Basotho of 12 February reported that 661 574 persons out of an estimated total of eligible voters of 1 031 202 had registered, the largest number being at Maseru Central with 17 162 followed by Maputsoe with 14 096. According to the constituency delimitation rules, the 80 constituencies were to be delimited with equal populations, allowing a 10% variation. The Maseru figure was already far in excess of the population figure allowed by this rule (and the Maputsoe figure was similarly going to exceed it). It was clear that many people not living in Maseru Central had simply registered there as a registration point of convenience. back to top

New Maseru Post Office Opened

The new Maseru Post Office opened at the beginning of the year. Of its four predecessors, three of the buildings still existed on the day of opening, being the second (1888), third (1925) and fourth (1962) Maseru post offices. The new post office occupies the site of the old Frasers ‘Crocodile’ Shop. known to many people as Frasers Retail, although in recent years most of it had been occupied by a furniture store. The 1962 Post Office had been built by Frasers to accommodate a supermarket, but when other traders had protested about unfair competition, the building had been sold to government. Now the post office was occupying both sites, and within days the 1962 post office was being demolished for redevelopment, although where funds would come from for a new building on the site was far from clear. back to top

Cattle Raids Continue

The southern border area between Lesotho and the former Transkei, now the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, continued to suffer cattle raiding incidents in 1998.

There were raids during the Christmas period and, on the night of New Year’s Day, a group of villagers from the Mzongwana area (some 10 km SE of Ramatšeliso’s Gate), who were said to be rustling sheep and goats, were attacked on the Lesotho side. The bodies of three unidentified men found in the Sehlabathebe area were later awaiting repatriation to South Africa.

Moeletsi oa Basotho of 15 February 1998 reported an escalation of the conflict in this same area with 11 persons from Mzongwana having been killed in Lesotho. Their corpses had first been taken to the Qacha’s Nek mortuary and then transported to Durban for post-mortems.

Further to the west along the troubled boundary, a meeting was held in mid-February close to the uncontrolled border crossing at Nene Gate. According to Radio Lesotho on 16 February it was attended by 2000 persons from both Lesotho and South African sides of the border. Although there was general agreement that past differences must be settled, the South African representatives also aired grievances against the people of Daliwe (Taleoe) and Fika-le-Mahloana (both villages in Quthing District), who were apparently not present and were alleged to be serious cross-border stock thieves. back to top

Lesotho Defence Force Helicopter Crashes

A Lesotho Defence Force helicopter crashed in a remote part of the mountains between Katse and Blue Mountain Pass on the evening of 9 January 1998. The crew of three and a civilian passenger escaped with relatively minor injuries, but the helicopter itself was badly damaged.

The helicopter, a Bell 412 Extra Power model, was the newest in the Defence Force’s fleet, having been bought only in 1994. The cause of the accident was said to have been an unexpected downdraught during poor weather conditions. It was later announced by the Lesotho National Insurance Corporation that the M25 million helicopter was insured by them and would be replaced.

Meanwhile salvage operations were undertaken by the Defence Force. The helicopter, weighing 5.3 tons, was too large to be lifted by another helicopter, but by partly dismantling it, it became possible to reduce the mass so that another helicopter could lift it. This was successfully undertaken early in March. back to top

BCP Sues LCD over Party Colours

When the Lesotho Congress for Democracy was formed in June 1997 as a break away from the Basutoland Congress Party, it adopted as its party colours, red, black, green and then black again. This colour combination made its colours almost identical to the red, black and green of the BCP. In January the BCP sought a High Court order restraining the LCD from using the BCP party colours. The case attracted considerable public interest and the LCD argued that its flag was in fact distinct from the BCP flag because an eagle had been placed in the centre of the red, black and green stripes. Judgment in the matter was given by Mr Justice Winston Maqutu on 25 February and the LCD was interdicted from using the colour combination red, black and green in any way as party colours, whether on flags, umbrellas or publications. LCD gave notice of appeal against the decision, although it was not immediately clear how an appeal could be held before the elections since the Lesotho Court of Appeal (members of which are all judges from outside Lesotho) was not due to sit until after the elections.

The battle of the colours was reported with some mirth by Mohlanka the newspaper of the Basotho National Party, which was a mere bystander. The front page cartoon of its issue of 13 March showed the Prime Minister, whose name, Ntsu, results in his being depicted in cartoons as an eagle, looking quite naked, having had his feathers completely plucked, while his lieutenants, Shakhane Mokhehle and Pakalitha Mosisili, are shedding tears. A bystander is saying Banna, Qhobs o e hlothile! Joale ke tsietsi! (‘Wow, Qhobs [Molapo Qhobela, leader of the BCP] has plucked it! This is really a calamity!’) Mosisili in the cartoon is saying Ha re nkeng Apili! (‘Let’s take it to the Appeal Court!’) back to top

Sri Lankans Stranded at Moshoeshoe I Airport

Some members of a group of Sri Lankan Tamils who had apparently first come to Lesotho the previous October were in early January still stranded at Moshoeshoe I Airport, where they had to sleep on tables, and had no blankets. Attempts to proceed to South Africa, Kenya or Hong Kong had only been partly successful. Out of an original 134, according to Moafrika of 9 January, 47 were still at the airport. They had been there since Christmas.

According to Mopheme of 20 January, the Sri Lankans (described as ‘more than 60’) came to Lesotho by chartered aircraft in two groups on 20 October and 1 November. The later group was originally only given permission to stay for 11 days, but, allegedly as a result of a bribe to an immigration official of more than $20 000, they were later allowed to stay for a further 30 days.

In an article in Lentsoe la Basotho of 29 January 1998, it was said that the Sri Lankans (‘more than 110’) had eventually gone back to Sri Lanka after discussion between the Lesotho and Sri Lankan governments. Apparently the Sri Lankan government sent tickets back to Sri Lanka valid from Johannesburg, but for a number of the Sri Lankans, Lesotho had to bear the cost of tickets from Maseru to Johannesburg. back to top

New Stamps Commemorate 40th Anniversary of Morija Museum and Archives

A set of six stamps was issued on 20 January 1998 commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Morija Museum & Archives. Although the anniversary being commemorated had been celebrated in 1996, the stamp issue had been delayed for various administrative reasons, amongst which had been the failure of the Lesotho Postal Administration to pay the Government Printer in Pretoria on time for previous issues, with the result that stamps already printed had been held up to enforce payment.

This kind of delay did not affect stamps which are originated and designed on behalf of Lesotho by the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation (IGPC). This New York based company has virtual control of the stamp issuing policy of numerous small countries in the world including various islands in the Caribbean. In southern Africa, it has had little influence except in Lesotho. In the case of Lesotho, by paying tribute to the appropriate decision-makers, IGPC secured control of Lesotho’s stamp issuing for a period spanning the 1980s.

With the restoration of democratic rule, it was thought appropriate that Lesotho should be in charge of issuing its own stamps, and the former Stamp Advisory Committee was revived, and the services of IGPC for a while dispensed with. However, shortly thereafter, the then Director of Postal Services, Mr Peter Khomonngoe, decided the committee should have more status, and he invited a number of prominent Maseru persons onto the committee and as an incentive to attend, paid M250 per person per meeting. Meetings were also held at the Maseru Sun Cabanas Hotel, where lunch was served to Committee members. Early in 1997, after Mr Khomonngoe had retired, the new Director, Mr. Tau, decided that the committee should be abandoned on the grounds that it was too expensive to run. (In fact it had cost almost nothing to run at an earlier stage.)

Meanwhile IGPC remained in the wings, but sent emissaries and other communications offering to pay Lesotho if it could issue stamps on its behalf. Moreover such stamps would be provided free in any quantities needed by the postal administration, saving it printing costs. Such arrangements had in the past resulted in stamps being issued as if by the Lesotho postal administration for such events as the 60th Birthday of Mickey Mouse (who was not born in Lesotho, and has never even visited there) and the 500th Anniversary of the ‘Discovery’ of America (an issue whose designs rather suggested that Lesotho was an island in the Caribbean). IGPC’s renewed offer of payment coincided with a period of financial difficulty in the post office because of lack of funds to pay for the new postal headquarters high rise building. Various IGPC issues were consequently accepted and appeared, including an issue for the 1998 World Cup Football Tournament which depicted on 14 different stamps various South American and European players and the 1978 Tournament Match between Argentina and Holland. (Lesotho has never got beyond the qualifying rounds for either the World Cup or the Africa Cup of Nations.) These World Cup stamps, IGPC announced as having been issued in Lesotho on 31 October 1997, an impossibility since this day was Coronation Day and a public holiday!

The promptness (six months early) in issuing stamps for the World Cup contrasted with the tardiness in issuing stamps for the Morija anniversary and indeed the Coronation itself (no Coronation stamps have yet appeared). Moreover the postal administration has so far failed to restore the monarch’s portrait to postage stamps. It had been removed during the time of King Moshoeshoe II after disputes between him and the government of the day had resulted in his going into exile on two occasions.

IGPC has meanwhile continued its influence over Lesotho stamp issuing policy. On 16 March 1998, it issued a Princess Diana In Memoriam issue of seven stamps. (Princess Diana also never visited Lesotho.) back to top

Thaba-Khupa Ecumenical Centre a Sad Failure

When the Thaba-Khupa Farm Institute was founded 20 km SE of Maseru in 1972, there was hope that at last an agricultural training centre had been created appropriate to local agricultural needs. The Institute was the main project of a Lesotho interdenominational organisation, Sodepax (the Society for Development and Peace) and was later jointly managed by the Lesotho Council of Churches. A group of international agricultural educators was recruited, an impressive set of teaching, residential and farming buildings was constructed, and apart from the agricultural courses there were courses on cookery, needlework, leatherwork and metalwork. A variety of agricultural implements and the girders for many of Lesotho’s footbridges were constructed at Thaba-Khupa.

25 years later, the early years of promise have come to naught. The houses are ruined, their windows broken, and even the fence surrounding the Institute has been stolen. The main teaching buildings have been occupied by an institution calling itself ’Mampoi High School. It is one of more than twenty new high schools unrecognised by the Ministry of Education which have been founded in the Maseru area within the past eighteen months by individuals who can derive a profitable income from school fees. All of them attempt a traditional academic syllabus, which leads to high if not total failure rates, and does little to equip pupils with skills needed to become gainfully employed. These new ‘high schools’ are usually in cramped premises. One is in a double garage attached to a house, another in two Portakabins. ’Mampoi High School at least has the advantage of extensive buildings in which it can squat, while its grounds are of a quite unprecedented extent for a high school. back to top

Air Lesotho Extends Flight Schedule

In addition to its regular twice daily flights to Johannesburg, Air Lesotho announced that it was introducing a twice weekly flight between Maseru and Durban beginning in mid-January. A new in-flight magazine, Airborne, became available to passengers on Air Lesotho flights. It contained details of the many activities of the newly-privatised Air Lesotho’s parent company, Rossair. These activities include a great many charter operations for relief activities sponsored by international organisations such as the Red Cross and United Nations. Air Lesotho is Rossair’s first venture into providing scheduled services.

In February it was announced that the 44-seater Fokker 27 which had been out of service for a long period had returned to Lesotho. It would be used on services to Johannesburg and to Cape Town. back to top

Unidentified Road Accident Victim Buried

The serious accident which occurred near Roma on 26 December leaving several people dead, resulted in two corpses still unclaimed at the St Joseph’s mortuary a week later. One still remained unclaimed nearly a month after the accident, despite attempts to try to find relatives. The body of the unidentified person was buried by Roma police on 21 January. back to top

Highlands Water Delivery Begins and is Diverted to Caledon River

Water delivery to South Africa by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project began on schedule on 8 January. However the water did not go to meet the needs of Gauteng Province, which for the moment was unexpectedly well-endowed with water, with the Vaal Dam overflowing with summer rains for the third consecutive year. Instead the 10 m3/s of water (rather less than the 17 m3/s which will be delivered later in the year) was diverted at Clarens into the Little Caledon (Phofong) river. It then proceeded downstream along the Caledon or Mohokare past Maseru into the Gariep Dam. The Gariep Dam was then approximately 88% full, so it could accommodate more water. Moreover, the water could be put to some use, because water discharged from the Gariep Dam (other than through the Orange-Fish Tunnel) can be used to generate hydro-electric power. There are a number of irrigation schemes in the Eastern Cape and downstream from the Gariep Dam which can benefit from the water.

Meanwhile the LHWP’s own hydropower station at ’Muela was not yet ready but was expected to be commissioned by August. This would enable Lesotho to generate a constant 70 MW of electricity, providing a surplus over the present average consumption of 53 MW. It was expected an agreement would be developed with ESKOM, so that peak power in excess of 70 MW could still be imported in exchange for exporting surplus power at other times. The ’Muela power plant would however before the end of 1998 make Lesotho largely self-sufficient in electrical power, saving the present M30 million per year bill for electricity imports.

The delivery of water and generation of electricity largely complete Phase IA of the project, central to which was Katse Dam, which was begun in 1991 and completed in 1997 and whose final cost is estimated at M1 400 million. During the peak part of dam construction, 2400 local persons found employment there, but by early 1998 the labour force had dwindled to a handful. These were working on such finishing touches as dismantling machinery, reinstating construction sites by seeding with grass, completing the roadway along the crest of the dam wall (the dam is 9 m thick at the top and 60 m thick at the base), and the installation of a lift linking the 15 levels of galleries inside the dam wall. Also yet to be installed was the 0.5 MW minihydropower station powered by the compensation water which has to be released to keep the Malibamatšo river from completely drying up below the dam wall.

Katse Dam, 165 m above the river, and 185 m above its foundations, is the highest dam in Africa. The Katse Reservoir is not as large in area as other man-made lakes in Africa because of the narrowness of the gorges it floods. However a record is set by the 4.35 m diameter Transfer Tunnel from the reservoir, which is the headpond, to the power station at ’Muela. Already in use to transfer water, it will become, when the power station opens, at 45 km the longest headrace for any power station in the world. At ’Muela the water passes into the ’Muela Dam which is tailpond for the power station (at present being bypassed by the water), and from there into the Delivery Tunnel at lower altitude. The gauging station is on this tunnel at Ngoajane in Lesotho, and thereafter the water can be discharged within South Africa into either the Caledon catchment at Clarens or into the Vaal catchment at the Axle river outfall.

By late January 1998, the surface level of the reservoir had reached just 4.5 m below the full supply level at 2053 m above sea-level. It was therefore some 160 metres deep at the dam wall, which is topped by an impressive spillway consisting of 10 bays each 15 m wide. It had not been expected that water would reach the spillway until water flowing into the reservoir from Phase IB of the project was also available. However, three consecutive wet summers now made it quite likely the spillway might be needed in 1998. The Katse Reservoir did in fact start overflowing early in March 1998.

Apart from the generation of electricity, and employment generation and increased Customs Union dues during the construction, the main benefit to Lesotho of the LHWP consists of royalties from the sale of water, estimated at $55 million per year at 1996 prices. back to top

Inauguration of Water Transfer Component of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project

The formal inauguration of the Water Transfer Component of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project took place on Thursday 22 January at the ’Muela outlet from the Transfer Tunnel. The inauguration was jointly undertaken by President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and King Letsie III of Lesotho, and the lavish celebrations were stated to cost M1.2 million. Amongst attractions were eight parachutists jumping in formation with Lesotho and South African flags.

Writing in the February 1998 issue of the newspaper Public Eye, a reporter, Thabo Motlamelle, was critical of the inauguration. He noted that although the Government Secretary, Mohlabi Tsekoa, was Master of Ceremonies, and the Chief Executive of LHDA, ’Makase Marumo, explained the evolution of the project, South African firms had received the contracts for virtually everything else provided for the occasion, including the lavish catering provision. The same report claimed that Lesotho Members of Parliament and Senators had been discriminated against in the food queue at the marquee. back to top

Large Group of NGOs Petition the World Bank on Water Project

As reported in Public Eye for February 1998, the Highlands Church Action Group, which is Lesotho based, was one of more than 20 NGOs based in a number of countries which had petitioned the World Bank not to approve further funding for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project unless a number of conditions are fulfilled. Amongst the NGOs petitioning were black civic groups in Gauteng, South Africa who feared that the cost of Phase 1B of the Project would add too much to the local cost of water and that fixing leaks in the Gauteng area would make Phase 1B unnecessary for two decades. The particular conditions required to be fulfilled by the petitioners related to settling grievances of households affected in Lesotho; an independent and cumulative assessment to be made of all aspects of the project including social and environmental aspects; Rand Water to publish figures and ensure public debate on conservation of water including tariff reform; and the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to take measures against heavy water consumers to implement efficient water conservation measures and to apply penalties to polluters and wasteful users. back to top

Arrests Follow Killings of Women Suspected of Witchcraft

As reported in Leseli ka Sepolesa of 10 February 1998 a 57-year old woman ’Matieho Ramakobo of Matšoseng Ha Sekhutšoanyane in Mafeteng District was killed on suspicion of witchcraft after her house was attacked on the night of 4 January. One of two children in the house with her at the time was badly injured. Police arrested eight people from the village in connection with the incident.

In a similar unrelated incident, 10 men and 8 women were arrested on 29 January at the village of Likueneng Ha Tsolo in Mohale’s Hoek District after a 46-year old woman, ’Makopanang Mahlahlane, had been burned to death in her house also on suspicion that she was a witch (moloi). The dead woman left a child aged one year, six other children and a husband. back to top

Lesotho Congress for Democracy Vacillates Before Electing New Leader

The ruling party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, had broken away from the BCP in mid-1997, when the BCP had deposed Ntsu Mokhehle as leader. Essentially a party built around one man, it faced difficulties when at the end of January it held a Conference at which a new leader was to be elected. Ntsu Mokhehle indicated he did not want to be re-elected because of ill health. He was also too ill to attend the Conference. Outsiders speculated on whether the leadership of the party would go to the Deputy Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, who is also Minister of Local Government and Home Affairs; or to the Minister of Natural Resources, Shakhane Robong Mokhehle. In the event the Conference avoided this difficult decision, by simply re-electing Ntsu Mokhehle against his own wishes.

Three weeks later, Ntsu Mokhehle having reiterated his inability to continue in the leadership position, the Conference was repeated. On 21 February, Pakalitha Mosisili was elected as the new Leader of the Party, Kelebone Maope as Deputy Leader, and Shakhane Mokhehle as General Secretary. back to top

Fraud at Roma Supermarket

The Hata-Butle Supermarket at Roma has recently been known to have been having serious financial problems. The shelves of the shop have become progressively empty, and the adjacent petrol filling station has been without petrol for months.

As reported in Southern Star of 5 February 1998, M9 million had been withdrawn from its bank account fraudulently over a six year period. The Manager of Hata-Butle, Mr. Motebele ’Mabathoana said in a statement that cheques had been cashed by Lesotho Bank, even though the signatories were not authorised persons to operate the bank account.

By March, Hata-Butle Supermarket had gone out of business, and a rival local supermarket run by the Thorn family had occupied the premises, which once again had fully stocked shelves. back to top

Tragic Death at University Fun Day Carnival; Two Die in Village Near Roma

Students at the National University of Lesotho staged a ‘fun day’ on Saturday 7 February. At the end of a day of sporting and musical entertainment, there was a tragic incident when a first year BComm student, Keketso Tlali, was stabbed to death by a fellow student. The student responsible for the killing gave himself up to the police.

On the same day, in an unrelated incident reported in Moeletsi oa Basotho, two brothers were shot dead at Ha Ralejoe village near Roma. This was apparently as a result of a dispute over stolen property. The gunman allegedly responsible was arrested by the police.back to top

Newspaper Reports Wild Rumours

According to the lead story in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 8 February 1998, an unidentified soldier was given M100 000 and weapons to blow up the police headquarters. These were given to him by a similarly unidentified government minister with the aim of creating dissension between army and police so that elections would not be held and the ruling party could remain in power. Moreover ‘this is planned so that it would result in certain BCP members being killed’. Reporters from Moeletsi tried to follow up the reports and were referred successively to the Military Police and the National Security Service who denied knowledge of such an incident. They also went to the secretary to the minister involved, but found her leaving the building and rushing to the bank and therefore unable to speak to them. In the following issue of Moeletsi it was reported that the reporters had also been refused an interview with the Head of the Defence Force, Major-General Makhula Mosakeng. back to top

Evidence that Refugees had been Compromised by Informers in the Early 1980s

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, examining South Africa’s murky past, from time to time also throws up detail relating to Lesotho.

According to a report in The Star of 10 February 1998, a former security policeman, Colonel Hermanus du Plessis, in his amnesty application gave evidence that there had been informers in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Lesotho. As a result, the security police had a highly developed counter-insurgency network which included a 200 to 300 page ‘photo album’ of all ANC activists who had crossed the border into Lesotho.

This detail emerged in passing while an account was being given to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the fate of a hapless Eastern Cape activist, Sizwe Kondile. Du Plessis had tried to recruit him as an informer, and when this failed, Kondile was lured to Komatipoort, handed over to a Vlakplaas security policeman, shot and his body burned to ashes. back to top

Serious Congestion at Maseru Bridge Border Post

According to Lentsoe la Basotho of 12 February, a new South African ruling had come into force by which border passes stamped into passports and valid for six months would in future only be granted to persons crossing not less than four times a week. Those with passes at present were being given sheets to be stamped on arrival in and departure from South Africa so that frequency of travel could be assessed. The step had been taken because of the large number of Lesotho residents who had taken advantage of the six month passes to study or reside in South Africa without the necessary permits.

As a result of the new procedures, long queues of vehicles formed at the Maseru Bridge Border Post. Those without border passes were even more severely delayed, often having to wait several hours to get passports stamped. back to top

Sequel to Telephone Workers’ Strike

300 workers of the Lesotho Telecommunications Corporation who had been dismissed following strike action in 1997 sought a High Court ruling for reinstatement. The judge referred the matter to arbitration, but when the LTC management declined this option he ruled in favour of the dismissed workers, who were to be reinstated forthwith. back to top

Police Shoot Women Strikers

Unrest amongst women clothing workers at Chinese-owned factories in Maseru has been a recurrent problem over a long period. Grievances include both salaries and working conditions.

Labour relations took a turn for the worse on Thursday 12 February at the Taiwanese owned jeans factory of CGM Industrial at theThetsane Industrial Estate to the south of Maseru. CGM Industrial, with 1700 employees is the third largest clothing manufacturing enterprise in Lesotho. After an unresolved wage dispute and strike, employees received dismissal orders, following which they staged a sit in, and held the Factory Manager so that he could not leave his office overnight.

At 9 a.m. the following day, police arrived to disperse the strikers, who it was alleged had threatened to burn down the factory. To the dismay of onlookers the police did not use conventional methods of riot control, but opened fire with live ammunition. One woman, 23-year old Libuseng Khauta of Teyateyaneng, was killed and 49 were injured in the shooting, 6 of them with serious wounds which resulted in their being detained in hospital. A man who was shot during the incident died nine days later.

The incident inflamed anti-Chinese feelings, and the Chinese community of Maseru, remembering what happened in the riots against foreigners in 1991, left Lesotho en masse shortly afterwards. Owners of most Chinese businesses in Maseru are in any case mainly resident in Ladybrand, where the community is now large enough to support a substantial Chinese school.

The Commissioner of Police, Brigadier-General Bolutu Makoaba, when asked to explain why live ammunition had been used instead of tear gas, expressed his regret about the incident, and said that the police had shot without orders being given. Three policemen were later suspended. There was however grave public dissatisfaction that such an incident could have occurred again, following police indiscipline in 1996 which had led to several deaths and many injuries when police had opened fire on Lesotho Highlands Water Project strikers in Butha-Buthe.

Following the incident, clothing factories in Maseru remained closed. The funeral of Libuseng Khauta was set for Saturday 28 February. As her body was collected from the mortuary for the wake on Friday night, Maseru was for a time brought to a halt as her friends and colleagues toyi-toyed through the centre of the city accompanying it first to the Pitso Ground before its final journey to Teyateyaneng. A statement from the Managing Director of CGM Industrial stated that M300 per month would be paid by CGM to the 3-year old boy who had been left motherless by the shooting of Libuseng Khauta. The firm denied any involvement in the police shootings

As reported in Mopheme of 3 March, the Managing Director of CGM, Adrian Chang, would close his factory, resulting in a loss of 3000 jobs if the Lesotho Government does not provide sufficient security. Following the strike, only 300 workers out of the 1632 who had been reemployed had managed to get into the factory. Others were too scared of the pickets mounted at the factory gates to return to work. CGM was running at a loss of M1.5 million per day. back to top

Date of General Election Fixed and Parliament Dissolved

Speculation about the date of the General Election was finally ended when on 19 February the Deputy Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, announced in Parliament on behalf of the Prime Minister that it would be held on 23 May. Rumours had been circulating that the Independent Electoral Commission was far from ready in its preparations and was favouring a date late in August. A draft schedule showing dates for preparation for the elections, leading up to polling on 29 August, was published in Mohlanka of 6 March 1998. Rumours that the IEC had been expecting a much later polling date were supported by the fact that even by late March the IEC had failed to issue a map showing the final constituency delimitation, and had not gazetted the boundaries.

Parliament was finally dissolved on Friday 27 February. This meant that delivery of the annual budget speech (normally late in March) would be delayed until the appointment of a Minister of Finance in the new Parliament.

Nomination date for the elections was set for 20 April. The election campaigns began in earnest with effect from 21 March when half an hour of morning broadcasting (5.30 a. m. to 6 a m., repeated on Saturdays 6 p. m. to 8.30 p. m.) was set aside for party political broadcasts by parties registered for the election. back to top

Proprietor of Lakeside Hotel Dies in Car Crash

The proprietor of Lakeside Hotel, Thabo Nqoko, died on Sunday 22 February in hospital from injuries received in a car crash in Berea District earlier the same day. Aged 23, he had inherited one of the most successful locally owned hotel businesses in Lesotho from his late father, E. M. Nqoko, who had similarly died in a car crash in Berea District in October 1982. The business will now be run by his mother ’Mathabang Nqoko, who took over after the death of her husband in 1982, and his own young widow Thandiwe Nqoko. back to top

Man Sentenced for Intercourse with a Sheep

According to the headline story in Moafrika of 20 February, a Berea District man, Sheshe Lebusa was convicted of having had sexual intercourse with a sheep (the Sesotho wording used in the report implied he had ‘raped’ the sheep). The sheep, which was said to have been exhausted by her experience, was brought as an exhibit to the Teyateyaneng Magistrate’s Court. A veterinary doctor had certified that she had been sexually assaulted. In his defence, Lebusa said that he had sought solace with the sheep to satisfy his sexual desires. He had been afraid that he might have contracted AIDS if he had had intercourse with women. He was sentenced to six months in gaol with the alternative of a M100 fine.

The report went on to say that according to Teyateyaneng police, this was the second incident of bestiality within the space of two months. Another Berea District man had been arrested at Lekokoaneng in a kraal in flagrante delicto with a donkey, and he had been similarly sentenced. back to top

Court Case Against 32 Detained Police Further Delayed

In November the High Court had set 9 February as the date for the case against 32 police accused of sedition. They had been detained following the Defence Force recapturing the Police Headquarters from a group of rebel police, who had purported to sack their commanding officers. However on 9 February the case was further postponed at the request of the Crown Prosecutor who requested more time to assemble necessary documents. As reported in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 22 February, the defence lawyer, Hae Phoofolo, reminded the court of the maxim ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, a maxim highly applicable in Lesotho where many murder cases, for example, are only heard several years after the arrest of suspects.

When the court case did eventually open, many days were spent on determining whether the leader of the police rebels, 2nd Lieutenant Phakiso Molise, had been properly been deported from South Africa. Settling this issue (the deportation was deemed to have been properly executed) took the court until the end of March, delaying further the case against the other police who had now spent over a year in gaol. back to top

Heavy Rainfall Results in Loss of Life

February rainfall exceeded the mean for the month over most of the country, and rain was particularly heavy during the second and third weeks. Although much of the rain on most days fell over a number of hours, there were also some downpours which resulted in rivers rising rapidly. Lives were lost in at least two incidents when vehicles were swept off low-level causeways. Two persons drowned on the Seleng crossing on the road between Ha Makoae and Mount Moorosi on 16 February. On 21 February, a vehicle bringing mourners back from a funeral was swept off the Manganeng (Liphiring) causeway at Ha Liile on the road from Mokema to Mahlabatheng. Three persons drowned. Several others were rescued.

In another incident, two people narrowly escaped death when their vehicle was swept off the Phuthiatsana causeway near Ha Makhoathi on the morning of 9 March 1998. They were the University Archivist, Mrs Celina Qobo, and the driver of the van belonging to the University Library, Mr Ralibetoe Mohapi. There had been heavy rain the previous evening (54 mm were recorded in Roma), but because of many diversions on the Boinyatso to Masianokeng road during reconstruction, the alternate route passing close to Thaba-Bosiu was taken. This road is tarred except for a short section with a low-level river crossing (money has not been yet found for a bridge to complete the road). A car had been swept away a year earlier at this same point and its two occupants drowned. On this occasion the van was also swept off the causeway when the driver unwisely attempted to cross when the river was flowing strongly. Fortunately the van lodged against a rock only a short way below the causeway. The occupants had to endure more than four hours in the water before they were finally rescued by helicopter. back to top

Hospital Workers and Schoolgirls Convicted after Abortions in Mafeteng

Although abortions are now legal in South Africa up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and in certain circumstances up to 20 weeks, they remain illegal in Lesotho. In its issue of 26 February 1998, Lentsoe la Basotho reported that two schoolgirls of the Catholic ’Masentle High School in Mafeteng aged 17 and 19, who were respectively three months and four months pregnant, had paid M100 and M150 respectively to have their pregnancies terminated by a worker and a nurse-aide of the Mafeteng Hospital, using hospital equipment. Originally the girls had been charged more for the operation, but had been unable to pay. In their defence the hospital workers said that they had been forced into carrying out the operations because their salaries were low and they needed money to send their own children to school.

All four defendants were found guilty by the Mafeteng magistrate, Michael Lehloenya. The hospital workers were sentenced to five months in gaol or a fine of M300. The two schoolgirls were sentenced to a year in gaol or a fine of M200. back to top

Death of Captain Frank Green

The former Chief Pilot of Lesotho Airways, Captain Frank Green, died on 6 March 1998 after an illness of some months. Frank Green was at one time the best known Mosotho pilot, frequently piloting the 44-seater Fokker on its twice daily flight to Johannesburg. His infectious cheerfulness eased the misgivings of many passengers, and often he even helped them by carrying their hand luggage out to the plane. He left Lesotho Airways when it began sinking into decline as a result of mismanagement, and thereafter flew aircraft for a while for the Lesotho Defence Force.

Frank Green owed his English-type name to a Scottish great-grandfather, and the family came from the Qacha’s Nek/Matatiele area. He leaves a wife, ’Mateboho, and children aged 18, 14 and 7 months. back to top

Search for Missing Prison Officer Fails

The man in charge of the Maseru Central Prison, Major Pusetso Lekhanya, disappeared on 29 December 1997 and, as reported in Mopheme of 10 March 1998, it seems that after more than two months there is no clue as to what has happened to him. He had last been seen when he left his family home at Ha Makhoa in Leribe District on 29 December to return to Maseru following attendance at a traditional feast. It seems that following the feast he failed to arrive in Maseru, and no-one has seen him since. His fellow prison officers feared that he was no longer alive.

Public Eye, in its issue of March 1998, also covered the story of Major Lekhanya’s disappearance. It reported additionally that Major Lekhanya’s nephew’s wife had disappeared on the same day. It was not known whether the two disappearances were related. back to top

School Certificate Results Show Very Poor Performance in English

The results of the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate Examination, written annually in November, became available at the end of February. Although there was a slight improvement, the stark reality was that Lesotho remained in the unenviable position of having the poorest performance of any country writing the examination. 1.8% of candidates received a First Class Pass, 11.0% a Second Class Pass and 23.6% a Third Class Pass, leaving more than 63.6% of candidates with no School Certificate at all, although most of these qualified for a ‘General Certificate in Education’ if they obtained a mark of 8 or better (on a scale of 1 to 9, where 6 is a School Certificate O-level pass) in at least one subject.

The best candidate in the country was also one of the youngest. She was 14-year old Jome Maria of Leribe English Medium School. She had completed her COSC in one year instead of two, and had the best marks for Mathematics in the country.

The Registrar of the Examinations Council, Mrs N. Ralise, commented on the very poor performance in English Language by Basotho candidates. Only 8% of school candidates had received a credit (6 or better) in English and only three candidates in the whole country out of 5424 school candidates had actually scored 1 in English.

It had not always been thus. In the 1960s over 60% of school candidates passed school certificate annually, and a quarter of all candidates achieved First or Second Class passes. A rapid decline took place in the early 1970s, when political unrest after the coup of January 1970 led to many high school teachers being arrested or leaving Lesotho to teach in other countries. Rock bottom was reached in 1982, when less than 20% of candidates received a School Certificate. Since then, there has been a slight improvement, and in the past four years the pass rate has been between 30% and 40%, except in 1995 when, as a result of the teachers’ strike, the pass level again fell below 30%. back to top

EarthPlan Presents Proposals to Journalists for Four Reserves

Several newspapers reported in March details of proposals for four reserves sponsored by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. The contract for establishing these reserves has been given to the South African firm EarthPlan. This was probably prompted by the fact that despite its 67 staff, the Lesotho Tourist Board has no record of successful establishment of reserves. The record of the Lesotho Ministry of Tourism, Sports & Culture is similarly dismal, plans for such obvious public facilities as a National Museum and a National Archives having been repeatedly shelved.

Of the four reserves, all located within the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase IA area, the most northerly site is at Liphofung, where there is a rock shelter with a natural waterfall and rock paintings. The site is also historically associated with King Moshoeshoe. A site museum and guided trail is planned for this site alongside a cultural village.

At the ’Muela Dam Reserve, there are plans for a nature reserve and museum which will display inter alia artefacts from a site flooded by the dam. A small zoological park may be established on the shore of the dam.

At the Tšehlanyane Reserve, adjoining the Hlotse Adit, a large area of indigenous forest is being preserved including the wild bamboo, Thamnocalamus tessellata, which is the host plant for a rare butterfly, the Bamboo Sylph, Metisella syrinx. The large quarry adjoining the forest may be developed as a site for a visitor facility, possibly a hotel.

At the Upper Bokong Nature Reserve which is situated nearly 3000 metres above sea-level on the road from Pitseng to Pelaneng, a Vulture Restaurant is planned, enabling visitors to see at close hand both Bearded Vultures and Cape Vultures which nest in the vicinity. The visitor facility planned for this site is an enclosed building overlooking a gorge and built into the cliff. It will be entered from a car park above, which will be situated some 300 metres along a spur road from the main road.

These four developments are planned to be carried out over the next 12 months and opened to visitors in 1999. EarthPlan has the contract to develop and to manage the sites over a five year period. back to top

Passport Applicants Experience Frustrating Delays

Chaotic scenes at the office in Maseru which issues passports were reported by the government newspaper, Lentsoe la Basotho in its issue of 12 March 1998. Large numbers of people were competing with each other for places in the queue, and resentment was building up because people were having their applications, after many hours wait, turned down. Reasons for turning down applications included the photographs of applicants being believed by the processing officials to have been taken more than six months earlier.

In its defence, the Passport Office stated that the problems had arisen because it had a shortage of staff and office space. The shortage of office space seemed rather surprising, given that it had only recently occupied a new office block (shared with the Traffic Commissioner’s Offices) close to the junction of Lerotholi and Moshoeshoe Roads. back to top

Sexy Dresses Worn by Visitors Become an Issue at Maseru Central Prison

In the main front page article of its issue of 13 March 1988, The Mirror reported that a notice had been put up at the entrance to the Maseru Central Prison saying that visitors were not allowed to wear sexually provocative dresses, and that as a result some women visitors to convicts and prisoners on remand had been turned back.

Although the notice turned out to be unofficial, its message was confirmed by the Superintendent of Prisons, Semena Marabe, who stated that sexually provocative dresses entice male prisoners to escape. It was also stated by him that ‘this type of dressing results in internal quarrels between prisoners as a prisoner whose wife came to see him in that fashion is mocked by others claiming that while he is languishing in jail, someone else is grooming her’. The newspaper also reported that on occasions prison warders form liaisons with the wives of prisoners. back to top

Government Invites Applications for Radio and Television Broadcasting Licences

In a move to liberalise what had hitherto been a de facto monopoly of radio and television, Government on 16 March invited applications from interested parties for licences to operate radio and television stations. Frequencies would be allocated by the Lesotho Telecommunications Corporation to successful applicants.

Given that most stations would probably need advertising revenue to survive, and given the relative scarcity of such revenue in Lesotho, it was not immediately clear what new stations might emerge. It seemed however that religious broadcasting stations, sponsored from outside Lesotho were fairly certain to be amongst the applicants. Indeed on the same day, the Lesotho Christian Broadcasting Network (a body hitherto unknown) announced it was applying for a television licence. It was understood that in all there were about ten applications for broadcasting licences. back to top

Auction Sale of Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase IA Equipment

An auction sale was advertised to be held at the Fouriesburg Show Grounds on the South African side of the international border on 25 March. The items on sale were equipment made redundant by the demobilising of Phase IA of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

Amongst items on offer were large numbers of caterpillar tractors, forklift trucks, lorries & trailers, buses, minibuses, cars, caravans and prefabricated buildings. There were also 800 tons of railway lines in 9 metre lengths, as well as other equipment used in the light railway systems used to remove spoil during the tunnelling process.

The company given the task of conducting the auction was the Phuthaditjhaba-located firm Shosholoza Auctioneers.back to top

Whodunit Published with NUL Setting

Kate Weatherley is an amateur detective who has three solved murder mysteries to her credit, as related in earlier commercially published books by Maisie Birmingham. You can help me (1974) was set in the East End of London; The heat of the sun (1976) in Ghana; and Sleep in a ditch (1978) again in the East End of London. Consistent with her earlier writing in which she set each ‘Whodunit?’ in a place where she has lived, The mountain by night (1997) is set on the Roma Campus of the National University of Lesotho, where her husband, Walter Birmingham, was Professor of Economics, 1975-8.

The action takes place at Roma during the long vacation during nine days of June 1980. Kate Weatherley is on a visit to her brother, but finds him already called to Bloemfontein where his wife is recovering from an operation in hospital. The ‘sister’ of a new expatriate staff member comes to Roma to visit. On arrival she is apparently unwell from travel fatigue and declines a lunch invitation and rests in a locked house. After lunch she is found strangled.

The murder is apparently inexplicable, but gradually amongst those closest to the victim not all is what it seems to be. Kate solves the mystery and only narrowly escapes death herself when she is lured by the murderer onto a local mountain at dusk (providing the book with its title which is borrowed from a name for Thaba-Bosiu).

Copies of the book can be purchased from the author, Mrs Maisie Birmingham, 7 Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 8JW, United Kingdom. back to top

Lesotho Tops Survey of African Economies

The Johannesburg Sunday Times in its business section on 22 March 1998 published the result of a survey by Harvard University’s Jeffrey Sachs for the World Economic Forum. To the surprise of many, Lesotho topped the African countries with a growth rate of 8.56% for the 1990 to 1996 period of the survey. Following Lesotho were Mozambique (6.58%), Uganda (6.54%), Botswana (5.06%) and Mauritius (4.93%). The Sunday Times did not comment in detail on the reasons for Lesotho’s position at the top of the table, but the early 1990s were a period of rapid growth in the clothing manufacturing industry. The additional revenue brought in by the construction of Phase I of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project would also have had a major but not enduring impact. Botswana over a long period seems to have the best performance of any African country. It has achieved a growth rate averaging 8% over a period of 20 years. back to top

[updated to 31 March 1998]

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