New Maseru Post Office Opened
Cattle Raids Continue
Lesotho Defence Force
BCP Sues LCD over Party Colours
Sri Lankans Stranded at
Moshoeshoe I Airport
New Stamps Commemorate 40th Anniversary of Morija Museum and Archives
Centre a Sad Failure
Air Lesotho Extends Flight
Unidentified Road Accident
Inauguration of Water Transfer Component of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project
Highlands Water Delivery Begins and is Diverted to Caledon River
Group of NGOs Petition the World Bank on Water Project
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’
Police Shoot Women Strikers
General Election Fixed and Parliament Dissolved
Proprietor of Lakeside
Hotel Dies in Car Crash
Man Sentenced for
Intercourse with a Sheep
Against 32 Detained Police Further Delayed
Heavy Rainfall Results in Loss
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
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
Lesotho Tops Survey of
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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
[updated to 31 March 1998]