SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 3, Number 1 (First Quarter 1996)

Summary of events in Lesotho is a quarterly publication compiled and published by 

SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 5, Number 2 (Second 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.


Lcd wins May 23 general elections

Inauguration of Mohale Village

Death of Sebastian Poulter
River Baptisms Ends in Tragedy
Miracles Claimed During Evangelical Crusade
Battle of the Party Colours Takes New Twist
Sesotho Thesaurus Published
Lerotholi Technical Institute Becomes Lerotholi Polytechnic; NTTC Becomes LCE
Parliament Enacts Inappropriate Legislation Relating to Tourist Facilities
33 Die in Three Road Accidents
Runup to the General Election
Lesotho Highlands Revenue Fund in Disarray
New US Ambassador to Lesotho Appointed
Downsizing at South African High Commission
VCL Expands Cellular Telephone Network
Further Deaths in Qacha’s Nek/Matatiele Border Conflict Result in High Level Meeting
Death of Bob Matji
KPMG Recommends Restructuring of Civil Service Grades
Corporal Punishment Abolished in Lesotho
New Head of European Commission Delegation takes up Post
Death of Professor Mini Bam
Results of General Election: LCD 78 Seats, BNP 1 Seat, 1 Seat Pending
Aftermath of Elections
Non-Academic Staff on Strike at National University of Lesotho
Appointment of New Cabinet
Appointment of New Senators
Women Promoted to Senior Positions
New Fax Newspaper Makes its Début
Agricultural Development Bank and Lesotho Bank in Distress
Dispute over Government Postage Leads to Delays
South African Footwear Industry Loses Out to Lesotho
Large Numbers Attend Funeral of Medicine Murder Victim
Further Demonstration Against Election Result
Death of Veteran BCP Politician Khauta Khasu

 

LCD WINS MAY 23 GENERAL ELECTION

LCD 78 seats BNP 1 seat (1 seat pending)

See pages 4-5 got runup to election and page 8 for detailsback to top

Inauguration of Mohale Village

The Minister of Natural Resources, Mr Shakhane Mokhehle, on 3 April 1998 inaugurated the newly constructed Mohale Village, headquarters for the Phase IB of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Situated close to Likalaneng on the Mountain Road, Mohale includes administration offices, a bank, clinic and mortuary. It will be the administrative centre for the construction of the Mohale Dam and Transfer Tunnel, activities which will create some 6000 jobs during the five year construction period.

On the same occasion the new tarred spur road to the tunnel entrance at Ha Koporale was opened and 29 replacement houses for families displaced by the project were handed over.

The 145 metre high rockfill Mohale Dam will be linked to the Katse Reservoir by a 32 km long tunnel through which water will flow under gravity. This tunnel will be constructed by Tunnel Boring Machines working from each end, and the tunnel will be lined with precast concrete segments. The previous transfer tunnel (north from Katse) had been designed to be largely unlined, but experience with Phase IA had led to the decision to incorporate concrete lining in the design, the basalt rock being judged not sufficiently stable without this support.

The tunnel is scheduled to be completed by February 2001, and water delivery is scheduled to take place by January 2003. back to top

Death of Sebastian Poulter

Sebastian Poulter, a well-known writer of books on the Lesotho legal system and on Basotho customary law died on 3 April 1998 at the age of 55 in Southampton, England.

Poulter came to Lesotho in 1967 in the days of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland as lecturer in law. His talents were recognised by his peers when in 1969, at a younger age than the then Vice-Chancellor approved of, he was elected Director of the School of Economic and Social Sciences. An indefatigable worker, he produced in 1972 with his colleague Vernon Palmer a 596 page book, The legal system of Lesotho. Other books followed including Family law and litigation in Basotho society (the published version of his Oxford doctoral thesis) in 1976; and Legal dualism in Lesotho published in 1979. Although Poulter had returned to Britain in the early 1970s, he returned to Lesotho in 1977 for two years as Professor and Head of the Department of Law. Amongst national responsibilities he then shouldered (but were little known because of their sensitive nature) was Chairmanship of the Pardons Committee, which advised the King in relation to the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in relation to prisoners sentenced to death. He again spent a year in Lesotho in 1986-7.

In Britain, he became eventually Reader in Law at the University of Southampton, and specialised in the legal rights of minorities. He published a major work entitled English law and ethnic minority customs in 1986. A book aimed at the general public using some of the material from the larger work was published in 1990 under the title Asian traditions and English law. His publications culminated in Ethnicity, law and human rights: the English experience published in 1998, a tour de force, which received excellent reviews and is likely to remain for long the standard textbook in its field. At the time of his death he had been nominated for a personal Chair at the University of Southampton.

During 1997, Sebastian Poulter had been stricken down by a painful condition of the leg which made it increasingly impossible for him to walk. He had formerly been an active tennis player and the increasing pain and disability weighed heavily on him. In early April he took his own life.

Sebastian Poulter leaves a wife, the former Jane Bonvin, whom he first met in Lesotho in the 1969, when she was a volunteer lecturer in the University Law Department. She is now a British Circuit Judge for the County of Hampshire. They had no children. back to top

River Baptisms Ends in Tragedy

Five members of the St John Apostolic Faith Mission Church at Ha Tšosane were swept away during a baptismal service in the Phuthiatsana River some 30 metres upstream from the causeway between Ha Makhoathi and Ha Mosalla on Saturday 4 April. Although two were rescued, three persons drowned, all three of them ministers of the church. Two bodies were recovered the following day and the third was found jammed into the pipes of the road causeway the following Thursday, following efforts by the police and army.

A similar tragedy occurred at a baptismal service on 14 April, when Bishop Paolosi Bohloko of the Christian Assembly Faith Church of Jesus was also drowned in the Phuthiatsana near the old bridge at Masianokeng. Several others who were carried away had lucky escapes. Only 24 hours earlier a young boy of Ha Sekepe, Mazenod, had drowned while trying to swim a short distance away in the Koro-Koro tributary of the same river.

The Phuthiatsana River was still flowing strongly early in April, following record-breaking rains during March 1998. The tragedies are in part because the ability to swim is very rare in Lesotho. Although Greater Maseru has a population of about a quarter of a million, there is no public swimming pool, and apparently the Maseru City Council has no plans to build one. back to top

Miracles Claimed During Evangelical Crusade

A ‘Gospel Crusade’ was held in Maseru from 3 to 5 April led by the German preacher, Rev. Reinhard Bonnke, no stranger to Maseru, because it was there that the early stages of his Christ for All Nations campaign had begun in a tent in the 1970s. According to the report in the newsletter of the Christian Council of Lesotho, Likereke Ntlafatsong (no. 2 of 1998), ‘Many people, in what could be described as a wave of healing and redemption, saw and experienced miraculous healing as Reverend Bonnke prayed for the sick. The blind saw, the crippled walked, the paralized [sic] were restored to normal. Those sick of cancer, tuberculosis and other diseases were healed and praised God’.

In the time since he left Lesotho, German-born Reinhard Bonnke has held crusades in many countries, not all with the same apparent success. His appearance in northern Nigeria, for example, led to many deaths in sectarian rioting. In Lesotho, his visit received support at the highest levels, and both His Majesty King Letsie III and the Queen Mother, Queen ’Mamohato, attended the crusade.back to top

Battle of the Party Colours Takes New Twist

On 6 April, a special session was held of the Lesotho Court of Appeal to consider an appeal against the High Court Decision which had forbidden the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to use the red, black and green of the Basutoland Congress Party (from which the LCD had split in June 1997). The Court of Appeal, whose members are three South African judges, overturned the High Court decision. As a result, what are essentially the same party colours were being used by both the two leading parties during the election campaign, the LCD version differing only in a wider black band and the use of an eagle on the party flag. back to top

Sesotho Thesaurus Published

A book which has been under preparation for many years was finally published in April 1998. Khetsi ea Sesotho is a thesaurus or dictionary of synonyms of Sesotho, including also for each entry words which are opposite in meaning. It is the first substantial dictionary entirely in Sesotho (as opposed to the excellent Sesotho-English dictionaries which have long been available). The book also includes a list of Sesotho proverbs (but without explanations) and a list of personal names which have other names of similar or identical meaning.

The book is of over 300 pages and attractively produced in either hardback (M90) or paperback (M60). It is published by the author, Thabo T. E. Pitso, and can be obtained from him personally (P. O. Box 1215, Maseru 100) or from bookstores in Maseru.

There remains a need for a Sesotho dictionary, one in which Sesotho words have Sesotho definitions. Khetsi ea Sesotho is in many ways a useful book, but simple Sesotho words such as sefate, tree or tlhapi, fish, are not there because there are no normal synonyms in use. On the other hand khomo, cow gets an entry because there are poetic synonyms for a cow such as the well-known molimo o nko e metsi, the god with the wet nose. back to top

Lerotholi Technical Institute Becomes Lerotholi Polytechnic; NTTC Becomes LCE

By Act No. 1 of 1998, Lerotholi Technical Institute, which has in recent years frequently been known as the Lerotholi Polytechnic, is actually officially renamed thus. Similarly by Act No. 2 of 1998, the National Teacher Training College is redesignated the Lesotho College of Education. The new legislation provides both institutions with a considerable degree of autonomy under a Governing Council, an arrangement similar to the National University of Lesotho.

The Lerotholi Technical Institute began life as long ago as 1906, and is widely known as Fokothi, the Sesotho pronunciation of the name of the Rev. Nelson Fogarty, its first superintendent. The NTTC was founded in 1975 as a single national teacher training college to replace a number of separate denominational colleges. Both institutions are situated in Maseru. back to top

Parliament Enacts Inappropriate Legislation Relating to Tourist Facilities

In recent years, publication of the legislation for a particular year has been beyond the apparent capability of the Government Printer, and issues of the Gazette have continued to appear many months into the following year. In 1997, a Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 31 December 1996 appeared without forewarning as late as August 1997, greatly frustrating efficient librarians who by then had bound their 1996 set of government gazettes. Appearing similarly (but not quite as late) in 1998 was the Accommodation, Catering and Tourism Enterprises Act 1997 which appeared in April 1998 as an issue of the Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 30 December 1997.

The new Act is yet another example of top-down legislation drafted by itinerant consultants who collected their fee and add another example of their purported expertise to their curricula vitae. It reflects no credit on either Parliament or the Tourist Board, whose 67 employees, totally located in the metropolis, should be promoting tourism rather than impeding it.

The Act prescribes in great detail minimum requirements for a great many different facilities, which in future (when the Minister brings it into operation) can only be operated by the public with a licence from a new Accommodation, Catering and Tourism Enterprises Board. Everything is prescribed in the Act from the heights of ceilings to the number of towels in the bathrooms, and if for example one operates a motel it ‘shall have at least eight rooms, a fuelling or car servicing station’. Seven room motels will be illegal. Managers of hotels are required to have ‘a hotel management certificate obtained from an educational institution recognised by the Ministry of Education’, and a person who contravenes this section ‘is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding M5,000 or to imprisonment for five years or both’, a lesser gaol sentence apparently not being provided for. The fine for not keeping a record of every guest in licensed premises is ‘a fine of M2000 or two years imprisonment or both’ (no lesser penalty is provided for), and there is a general penalty being ‘a fine of M1000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both’ for contravention of any provision of the Act. Anyone reading the Act will be put off from wanting to operate any of the virtually exhaustive list of facilities which require a licence. These range from hotels to camp-sites, bed-and-breakfast establishments and youth hostels (self-catering youth hostels so common in other countries are apparently proscribed).

Lesotho was wholly metricated more than 25 years go and yet alien units appear in the Act (which provides a clue to the national origin of the person who drafted the legislation). For a Guest House, for example, each bedroom must have a floor area of not less than 80 sq. Ft [sic, the compositor was clearly so unfamiliar with feet that he provided it with a capital F]. A metric equivalent of 7.59 square metres is helpfully added. However, whoever did the conversion got the arithmetic wrong. It should have been 7.43 m2.

Tourism in Lesotho has recently been in the doldrums because of lack of direction in the Tourist Board. A number of guest houses have been established in places such as Roma, Malealea and Morija. These have been purely private initiatives, as are those in a number of remote villages where simple accommodation is available to hikers and pony trekkers. Such accommodation does not seem to be exempted from the rigorous requirements of the act, whose only achievement, if implemented, might be to suppress existing, though meagre, tourist infrastructure in rural areas. Similarly, informal catering enterprises, which exist in hundreds to meet domestic need, could hardly meet the rigorous requirements of the Act which include a building (many at present function under an awning or are in the open air), ‘at least two sinks with hot and cold running water’ and ‘table appointments of good quality’.

The Accommodation, Catering and Tourism Enterprises Act is one of several in recent years which seem to have gone through Parliament without the implications being properly explored, and without the press and public becoming aware of their enactment. For example, the Building Control Act 1995 (Act No. 8 of 1995) criminalised with severe penalties the construction of any building in Lesotho without a permit. Fortunately for the builder of a rondavel in a remote village, it is unlikely that his activities will be detected and acted upon. The same Act provides that ‘any person who discharges waste-water effluent of substandard quality into natural or impounded bodies of water shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding M50,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years for each day he continues to discharge such effluent and for each day that the receiving body continues to be polluted’. M1 million fine or life imprisonment for polluting a dam for a period of three weeks seems draconian legislation indeed. back to top

33 Die in Three Road Accidents

A head-on crash between two buses occurred at Thabaneng just north of Mafeteng on 15 April. 18 passengers died and 13 were taken to hospital. A police spokesman noted that although one bus had burst a tyre, there were indications that excessive speed was the cause of the accident.

Another serious accident took place on Thursday 7 May at Marabeng, 10 km north of Maseru on the road to Teyateyaneng. 8 bus passengers died and 20 others were injured in a collision between a passenger minibus and a petrol tanker.

On Sunday 31 May, 7 employees of the Lesotho National Development Corporation died and 8 were seriously injured when their vehicle collided with another at Kolonyama in Leribe District. The LNDC staff were returning from a funeral of one of their colleagues in Butha-Buthe. back to top

Runup to the General Election

As parties completed their nominations for the General Election on May 23, it became clear that only three parties had the resources to field candidates in all 80 constituencies. These were the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and the Basotho National Party (BNP). The LCD had been formed in June 1997 as a result of a split in the BCP, and it was conjectured that in many constituencies the former BCP vote would now be divided between the BCP and LCD. This might provide a window of opportunity for the BNP in constituencies where it had polled in 1993 more than half as many votes as the BCP. Under the old delimitation these constituencies were Peka, Mount Moorosi, Maama, Qacha’s Nek and Thaba-Chitja, all of which now had somewhat new boundaries as a result of redelimitation of the constituencies. However, such predictions could be upset by many factors including voters abandoning loyalty or restoring loyalty to the BNP. Also and most significantly, it was largely guesswork how the new voters would be voting. With the reduction of the voting age to 18, persons aged from 13 to 20 in 1993 (now aged 18 to 25) would be voting for the first time. They represented some 20% of all registered voters.

At the end of the nomination process 80 candidates were fielded by the LCD; 80 by the BCP; 79 by the BNP (a dispute about the Maama constituency nomination having not been resolved in the 80th constituency); 56, 19 of them women, by the Marematlou Freedom Party; 35 by the Patriotic Front for Democracy; 32 by the Sefate Democratic Union; 27 by the National Progressive Party; 8 by the Lesotho Labour Party/United Democratic Party Alliance; 6 by the National Independence Party; 3 by the Kopanang Basotho Party; 3 by the Christian Democratic Party; and 2 by the Lesotho Education Party. Apart from these 12 political parties, there were 30 Independent candidates.

Not all arrangements went smoothly. An Independent Electoral Commission vehicle carrying registration papers was stolen and the papers dumped by the roadside. The Director of Elections, Khothatso Ralitsie, was suspended after allegations had been made that he was involved in actions not consistent with the work of the Commission. On 14 April, leaders of the BNP, BCP and MFP parties complained in a joint statement that copies of the provisional electoral lists were not being provided to them for scrutiny (instead the IEC was providing time when the lists could be scrutinized in their office only). Although a sum of M11 875 was provided to each party by the Government to help them fight the election, party leaders complained it was not enough (the surprise to many was that it was granted at all). Even within parties matters were not going smoothly. In four constituencies (Maama, Mafeteng, Rothe and Matsieng) disputes arose as to who should be nominated, and these led to protracted High Court actions. At Mafeteng, the Minister of Education, Lesao Lehohla, found his own party had nominated someone else for his seat. His High Court action was successful and the Judge awarded him the right to stand and at the same time castigated the LCD for not following its own constitution.

The three main opposition parties brought an urgent application to the High Court on the Monday before the election asking for the election to be postponed because the Independent Electoral Commission had not furnished them with voters’ lists free of charge, and because they had not been given sufficient time to scrutinize the lists. The High Court Judge noted that although there were some irregularities they were insufficient to justify postponement of the election.

Shortly before the elections, salary increases and promotions were announced for the army, and a general 10% salary rise (significantly above inflation) was announced for civil servants. The LCD later stated that these announcements were a coincidence, and that the salary rise was the normal one granted at the beginning of the new financial year. Others noted that it had however been announced ahead of the annual budget speech which had been postponed because of the elections. back to top

Lesotho Highlands Revenue Fund in Disarray

The Fund into which royalties from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project are paid is known as the Lesotho Highlands Revenue Fund (LHRF), or more popularly as Fato-fato (‘Dig-dig’) from its sponsorship of pick and shovel activities such as the building of dams and roads. Government’s attempts to make it an independent body foundered when, in its attempts to support grass-roots development, it found no viable independent local government institutions (local government having been politicised or suppressed by previous governments), and resorted to funding local development projects through constituency Members of Parliament. The inexperience of many MPs in financial and project management resulted in loud protests and adverse newspaper publicity. This in turn reached the notice of the World Bank, which then served notice that Lesotho must put its house in order before the World Bank could continue support to the Highlands Water Project.

Currently LHRF activities are suspended and the Lesotho Government has placed advertisements nationally and internationally for a consultant to design and implement an information, education and communication campaign so that LHRF can be reformulated into a ‘social fund that responds directly to the needs of communities’.

Whoever takes on this consultancy will have to face the reality that even after five years of democratic government, not much has yet been achieved in the reform of local government. The Local Government Act, drafted by a British consultant, has already been seen to be flawed and will need amendment even before its date of implementation, which has yet to be announced. The one small reform to local government initiated by Parliament during its five year life was the removal of chiefs from the ex officio chairmanship of Village Development Councils. This has led to tension and dissension between Chief and Council in the great majority of local communities in Lesotho. Under such circumstances, entrusting these communities with funds for their own development is fraught with difficulties. The proposed Community Councils (probably to be formed from groupings of VDCs) would probably be better custodians of development funds, but because of flaws in the Local Government Act, there is still debate about the form they will take and about the delimitation of their boundaries and electoral wards. back to top

New US Ambassador to Lesotho Appointed

For the first time, the United States is to be represented in Lesotho by a woman Ambassador. Ms Katherine Hubay Peterson is shortly to replace the present Ambassador, Mr Bismarck Myrick, who has served in Lesotho since April 1995. Ms Peterson’s previous experiences include working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the former Zaire, and postings in Jamaica, Mexico and most recently in Namibia where she was deputy chief of mission in the US Embassy. back to top

Downsizing at South African High Commission

The South African High Commission in Maseru, situated on the top floor of the Lesotho Bank Tower occupies premises once occupied by the now long-departed German Embassy. Until recently it had a complement of staff which included a Military Attaché, and First, Second and Third Secretaries. However, with over 100 foreign embassies and high commissions to be maintained, the overall cost has become too great for South Africa. The Military Attaché left in March, and in such matters Lesotho will be served from Pretoria. All three Secretaries were due to leave by mid-1998, and were to be replaced by a single new First Secretary. back to top

VCL Expands Cellular Telephone Network

The distinctive red and white masts of Base Transmitter Stations for an expanded VCL (Vital Cellular Link) cellular telephone network made their appearance in April in Maseru West, on the Berea Plateau and at Roma, this last one being on the site of the old Lesotho Observatory Foundation. Further masts were to be installed at Mohale and in the remaining Lowlands towns. VCL’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Andy Moqhali, also announced that VCL’s switching centre had been moved from the old Lesotho Telecommunications Corporation building in Maseru to a site in Maseru West. VCL had been adversely affected during the LTC strike in 1997 and would now be independent of its facilities.

Mobile telephones have already become part of the Maseru scene, and are a not unusual cause of interruptions in meetings, the owners hastily rising and making their way to go outside the room to answer calls. VCL’s advertisement showing a herdboy on a donkey using a cellular phone is not yet a depiction of reality, although passengers in minibus taxis using cellular phones to inform family of their progress homewards are increasingly common. Such use is rather safer than by drivers in motor vehicles.back to top

Further Deaths in Qacha’s Nek/Matatiele Border Conflict Result in High Level Meeting

Another in a long series of border incidents occurred on 1 May when four South Africans from the Eastern Cape village of Mzongwana were killed on the Lesotho side of the border while engaged in a cattle raid. The incident took place at the village of Likhoaleng Ha Makoae in Qacha’s Nek District close to the unofficial Rankakala’s Pass crossing point. As a sequel to the incident, a high level ministerial meeting was held in Matatiele on 15 May. This was attended by three Lesotho cabinet ministers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Kelebone Maope. On the South African side it was attended by the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Alfred Nzo, and the Minister of Defence, Mr Joe Modise. Also present was the South African Commissioner of Police and the respective Ambassadors of Lesotho in South Africa, Mr. Lincoln ’Mokose, and of South Africa in Lesotho, Mr Japhet Ndlovu.

Arising from the meeting it was decided to establish joint monitoring committees consisting of people living in border communities, and also to establish a binational ministerial forum to meet at least once a year to assess developments in relations between the two countries. back to top

Death of Bob Matji

A well known Lesotho resident, Bob Matji, was buried on 2 May at a funeral in Maseru attended by the veteran politician Govan Mbeki, father of the Vice-President of South Africa.

Born Robert Elias Mokgothu Matji at Marabastad, Pretoria, on 25 March 1922, Bob Matji in the 1940s and 1950s had played an active role in the trade union movement, in the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress. He was Cape Province Provincial Secretary for the ANC from 1950, but his leading role in the Defiance Campaign in the Cape Province led to his being banned and confined to the Port Elizabeth magisterial area. He fled as a refugee to Lesotho from South Africa in 1956, and at first became a staunch member of the Basutoland African Congress which later became the Basutoland Congress Party. He served in the pre-Independence Legislative Council, where his speeches were eloquently polemical, designed to hasten the end of the colonial regime. However his belief in democracy led to a direct clash with the BCP. He and the party parted company in the early 1960s when he disagreed over Ntsu Mokhehle being re-elected party leader in a non-democratic manner.

For many years he was a prominent businessman in Qacha’s Nek, where his SPU Stores (SPU = Super Products Unlimited) were amongst the best known in town. Moving later to Maseru he became an active member of the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce, and was also a member of the Council of the National University of Lesotho. He was also known as a generous benefactor who helped large numbers of Basotho schoolchildren from poorer families to find the fees necessary to attend school. He leaves a wife, son, 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren. back to top

KPMG Recommends Restructuring of Civil Service Grades

The international firm of accountants and business advisers Klyveld Peat Marwick Goerder (KPMG) have recommended a restructuring of the civil service salary grading system. In a follow up from a 1996 Salaries Review Commission, KPMG was commissioned to design a new pay and grading structure. The outcome, in a report submitted to Government on 23 March, is a recommendation that the present 20 grades in the civil service be reduced to 12 by merging present salary grades in pairs except for the unskilled Grade 1 at the bottom, and Grades 18, 19 and 20 at the top.

Other recommendations of KPMG are that promotion should be based on competence and performance and that service-based salary progression should be phased out over time. A system of job evaluation which is easy to administer is proposed in the report. back to top

Corporal Punishment Abolished in Lesotho

The Subordinate Courts (Amendment) Act 1998 (Act no. 6 of 1998) came into force on publication in the Lesotho Government Gazette of 12 May 1998. Amongst its provisions is the abolition of corporal punishment.

Previously magistrates could award sentences of up to 15 strokes with a cane. However, as the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill indicates, ‘corporal punishment is considered inhuman and degrading punishment’. It was necessary to abolish it to bring legislation in line with Lesotho’s 1993 Constitution and also with two international human rights instruments which Lesotho had ratified. These were the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, ratified by Lesotho on 9 April 1991; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, ratified by Lesotho on 9 December 1992.

The new legislation also enhances the sentences available to magistrates. The Chief Magistrate can now impose fines up to M40 000 and imprisonment up to 20 years, while magistrates of the five lower ranks have lesser powers of jurisdiction down to the Third Class Magistrate who can impose fines up to M12 000 and imprisonment up to 6 years. While the increases in fines reflect to some extent a necessary adjustment because of inflation, the increases in prison sentences available are obviously in a different category (the 20 years was formerly 10 years, and the 6 years was formerly 2 years). Whether criminals would prefer to have longer prison sentences instead of strokes of the cane is not discussed. The increased jurisdiction of magistrates is stated rather ‘to facilitate efficient and effective administration of justice and progressively decrease high numbers of cases filed in the High Court’.back to top

New Head of European Commission Delegation takes up Post

A German with a background in agriculture is the new Head of Delegation of the European Commission in Lesotho. He is German-born Richard Zink, who is no stranger to Lesotho, having served with FAO in the Khomokhoana Project in 1977. Subsequently he had experience in Botswana, Haiti, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa, the last three postings as Development Advisor for the European Commission. The European Union’s most important single contribution to Lesotho at the present time has been loan finance for the ’Muela Hydropower Component of the Lesotho Highlands Water project. back to top

Death of Professor Mini Bam

A retired Professor of Education at the National University of Lesotho, Villiers Mini Bam, died in Maseru on Friday 22 May at the age of 79.

Born at Tsolo, South Africa in 1918, he was a graduate of Fort Hare, and from 1942 a teacher at Lovedale College. He became Principal of the newly-founded Kama Secondary School at Middledrift, Eastern Cape in 1947. With encouragement from a fellow Fort Hare graduate, J. M. Mohapeloa, he relocated to Lesotho where he was from 1960 Headmaster of the Anglican St Agnes High School at Teyateyaneng. In 1968, he became Lecturer at the Roma campus of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, which in 1975 became the National University of Lesotho. He became Dean of the Faculty of Education in 1976, and Professor of Education in 1981.

His wife, Edna, and a daughter, Mrs Thando Mngadi, both of whom had also worked at the National University of Lesotho, predeceased him. He is survived by 4 children, 14 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

His funeral was held at the Anglican Cathedral in Maseru on 30 May. Amongst the many mourners were His Majesty King Letsie III and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who had once been a colleague on the teaching staff at UBLS. back to top

Results of General Election: LCD 78 Seats, BNP 1 Seat, 1 Seat Pending

The General Election held on 23 May resulted in an overwhelming victory for the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). Based on the size of the pitsos on the Sunday before the election, many people had predicted an LCD victory. However the extent of the victory took most people by surprise. The LCD pitso at Botšabelo had been best attended, with many young people waving their arms as if in flight, indicating their support of the party which has an eagle as emblem. (The party’s detractors called these supporters bo-mankhane or bats.) The Basotho National Party (BNP) pitso on the ’Manthabiseng Plateau, just above the newly completed (and as yet unopened) National Convention Centre, was also well attended, with many young people present in the newly enfranchised 18 to 20 age group. The Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) pitso at Ha Foso was the smallest of the three, but many people expected existing members of Parliament at least to retain their present seats.

In the event, most constituencies showed the same pattern, namely LCD with most votes, followed by BNP and trailed by BCP in third place. The main exception to this pattern was in Mokhotlong District where BCP came second in three of the four constituencies, and narrowly failed to win the Mokhotlong constituency. The fourth Mokhotlong constituency, Bobatsi was narrowly won by the BNP (by 117 votes), the only seat in the country which did not fall to the ruling LCD.

In Teyateyaneng, the former Minister of Natural Resources, Khauhelo Deborah Raditapole, took on the incumbent Minister, Shakhane Robong Mokhehle. Many people believed that she would have a strong personal following in the constituency, but in the event she polled only 1041 votes for the BCP compared with 5523 which went to Mokhehle.

In Taung, as had happened in 1993, Mpho Malie of the LCD took on his father, Ebenezer Malie of the BNP, and again won by a resounding majority, this time 5184 votes to 1353.

The best performance by an Independent candidate was in the remote Hloahloeng constituency in the mountains of Mohale’s Hoek District. Tšokolo Phate, standing as an Independent, received 1678 votes, pushing BNP into third place and BCP into fourth place.

Amongst seats which were only narrowly won by the LCD were Mount Moorosi, where the leader of the BNP, Evaristus Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana lost to his LCD opponent Tšeliso Ramoroke by just 206 votes (3919 to 4125). The deputy leader of the party, Lekhooana Jonathan lost by 341 votes (2954 to 3295) in the Kolonyama constituency.

Leaders of other parties in general fared badly. The leader of the Marematlou Freedom Party, Vincent Moeketse Malebo came fourth in the Machache constituency with just 379 votes. In Bela-Bela, the candidate for the National Progressive Party, a breakaway party from the BNP, was the leader of the party, the veteran politician Nkuebe Peete Peete (in fact many people call the party the Nkuebe Peete Peete party because of his initials). He came fourth with 903 votes. In the Koro-Koro constituency, where there were 10 candidates, the leader of the United Democratic Party, came tenth with just 8 votes, which must be something of a record for a party leader. In fact Makara Sekautu might have had something to contribute had he been elected. He had been gaoled after the 29 February 1996 coup, which had lasted a mere 10 minutes. He had said that as a result of his experiences he would campaign for better prison conditions. Alas, convicted prisoners do not have the right to vote, so his potential supporters were absent at the polls.

An extraordinary situation occurred in the Maama constituency. Two rivals contested the BNP nomination, Tsolo Louis Lelala and Pius Leseteli Malefane. Lelala, who had been the BNP candidate in 1993, had the larger local following, but Malefane was known to be favoured by the party leadership. The matter could not be resolved and the dispute was taken to the High Court, which in turn referred it back to the constituency party to hold a primary election to decide the candidate. Feelings ran so high that no fair primary election could be held. On election day, BNP supporters found they had no BNP candidate to vote for. It was the only one of the 80 constituencies that the BNP did not contest, and if 1993 figures were anything to go by, it was the constituency they would have been most likely to win.

Disputes about nominations were also taken to the High Court in the Mafeteng, Matsieng and Rothe constituencies. In the Mafeteng constituency, the dispute was between the incumbent Minister of Education, Lesao Lehohla and another LCD MP, Mrs Matšeliso Moshabesha. It was known that Shakhane Mokhehle and Kelebone Maope, two of his cabinet colleagues, were against Lehohla, while he received support from the party leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, a long time close associate from the time in their student days when they were gaoled together after the 1970 coup. Lehohla won the right to nomination, and also won the seat with a massive majority. However, the dispute suggested to many that the LCD was no longer monolithic, and fissiparous tendencies were developing even before the elections had taken place.

Amongst new elected members of the National Assembly are two ministers, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kelebone Albert Maope, and the Minister of Finance, Victor Leketekete Ketso. Both held cabinet positions in the previous parliament by virtue of having been nominated as Senators.

The new Parliament has 80 seats, but voting was not held in the Moyeni constituency, being defended by one of the ministers of the outgoing Parliament, Tefo Mabote. The Sefate Democratic Union (SDU) candidate, Tšabalira Tšephe, died between the nomination and polling dates, and in accordance with election regulations, the poll had to be postponed. It will be held on 1 August. back to top

Aftermath of Elections

Following the General Election, the large number of international observers declared the elections to have been generally free and fair. The Lesotho National Council of NGOs came to the same conclusion. Leaders of the three main opposition parties, however, claimed that the registration process had been flawed, registration lists had not been given to the parties in good time, and when they had become available, there was a statistically improbable number of people who were born on the 1st of the 1st month, the 2nd of the 2nd month, the 3rd of the 3rd month etc.

While some people thought that this might have been a simple registration stratagem to assign precise birth dates to those who did not know their true birth dates, the defeated parties felt that they had found evidence of a flawed registration process. Protest marches took place in Maseru, but a call for a stayaway from work did not get much support.

The new Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, was duly sworn in on 28 May, replacing Ntsu Mokhehle, who had announced his inability to contest the election because of ill health. The first sitting of the new Parliament was set for Friday 5 June. back to top

Non-Academic Staff on Strike at National University of Lesotho

Non-academic staff disrupted the life of the university when they went on strike on Wednesday 13 May. The cause of the strike was the failure of the University to implement a pay rise of 12%, which they alleged had been promised and budgeted for some time earlier. University services were disrupted as a result of electricity and water failures. One major break in a water pipe allowed fresh water to flow away at over a litre a second for three days. Chinese workers, who were constructing the new Science Block Extension, offered to help, but they were chased away by the strikers and their tools taken. A temporary repair was finally carried out by a detachment of seven soldiers. Attempts by strikers to persuade them to stop working failed, because they said they had to obey orders.

The strike ended with issues apparently unresolved on 26 May. The strikers were by that time concerned that they would not receive their monthly salaries if the strike continued. However, after the return to work and payment for the month, they resumed industrial action with a go-slow strike.back to top

Appointment of New Cabinet

Following the General Election, the new Cabinet was announced, with two exceptions on 2 June 1998. The exceptions were the portfolios of Works and Transport and of Agriculture and Land Reclamation. There was speculation that these had been offered to Shakhane Mokhehle and Kelebone Maope who had refused them out of pique because they were not being restored to their previous Cabinet posts of Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Foreign Affairs respectively. However, a week later it was announced that they had indeed been appointed to these posts, and moreover Kelebone Maope had been appointed Deputy Prime Minister. This was generally seen as an attempt by the new Prime Minister to try to defuse differences which had arisen during the election campaign and which had come to a head over the party nomitation for the Mafeteng constituency.

The full list of Ministers in the new Government is as follows:

PORTFOLIO PREVIOUS APPOINTMENT

Prime Minister & Minister of Defence Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of

Rt. Hon. Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili

& of the Public Service Home Affairs & Local Government

Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of

Hon. Kelebone Albert Maope Minister of Foreign Affairs

Agriculture & Land Reclamation

Minister of Finance & Development Same, but differently named Ministry

Hon. Dr Leketekete Victor Ketso

Planning of Finance & Economic Planning

Minister of Local Government & Minister of Agriculture, Co-operatives,

Hon. Mopshatla Mabitle

Home Affairs Marketing and Youth Affairs

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Motsoahae Thomas Thabane Adviser to the Prime Minister

Minister of Natural Resources Hon. Monyane Moleleki Minister of Information & Broadcasting

Minister of Justice, Human Rights,

Hon. Sephiri Enoch Motanyane Same

Law & Constitutional Affairs

Minister of Industry, Trade & Marketing Hon. Mpho ’Meli Malie MP, but had earlier been in Cabinet

Same except portfolio previously named

Minister of Education Hon. Archibald Lesao Lehohla

Education & Manpower Development

Minister of Information, Broadcasting

Hon. ’Nyane Mphafi New in Cabinet and also new MP

Posts & Telecommunications

Minister of Employment & Labour Hon. Notši Victor Molopo Same

Minister of Health & Social Welfare Hon. Vova Bulane New in Cabinet and also new MP

Minister of Tourism, Sports & Culture Hon. Hlalele Motaung New in Cabinet and also new MP

Minister of the Environment, Women’s Minister of Transport, Posts &

Hon. ’Mamoshebi Kabi

and Youth Affairs Telecommunications

Minister of Works & Transportation Hon. Shakhane Robong Mokhehle Minister of Natural Resources

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Hon. Mofelehetsi Salomone Moerane New Minister and also new MP

At its first meeting, the National Assembly re-elected Mr John Teboho Kolane as Speaker and also re-elected Ms Ntlhoi Motsamai as Deputy Speaker. The formal opening of the new Parliament was on Friday 19 June when poverty reduction and employment creation were main themes of the King’s speech. A large number of proposed Bills to be submitted to the new Parliament were outlined in the speech dealing with such diverse matters as stock theft, telecommunications, salaries of MPs, civil aviation, forestry, corruption, hire purchase, road traffic and environment protection. back to top

Appointment of New Senators

The Senate of the Lesotho Parliament, like the British House of Lords, consists of both hereditary members and appointed members, although in the case of the Lesotho Senate, the appointed members only sit for the period of a single Parliament. The hereditary members are the 22 Principal Chiefs of Lesotho, while the 11 appointed members are appointed by the King on the advice of the Council of State following a General Election.

The new Senators appointed in June included four chiefs, the King’s uncle, Chief Masupha Seeiso, together with three women chiefs, two of whom were members of the previous Senate. These are the two so-called ‘Independent Chiefs’ of Mohale’s Hoek District whose dynasties have aspired over several generations to have the status of Principal Chiefs. The third woman chief is Chieftainess ’Manapo Majara of Sekamaneng in the suburbs of Maseru, a member of the MFP.

Four of the Senate appointments go to veteran politicians of other political parties, including Khetla Rakhetla of the BNP, Peete Nkuebe Peete of the NPP, Makalo Bennett Khaketla of the MFP (at 86 the oldest Senator), and Jacob Mokhafisi Kena of the Communist Party of Lesotho, a World War II veteran, who is also Leader of the Patriotic Front for Democracy (PFD). The other Senators are a self-styled ‘youth activist’, Sofonea Shale; a lawyer, Moses Masemene, who is blind and represents disabled people; and a second lawyer, Tankiso Hlaoli, who is a supporter of the BCP. The BNP disowned its Deputy Leader, Mr Rakhetla, after he accepted the Senate nomination.

At its first meeting, Senate by 14 votes to 9 elected Chief Sempe Lejaha, its former Deputy President, as its new President in place of Mr Thabo Ntlhakana. Dr Michael Sefali was elected Deputy President. Chief Sempe Lejaha is both an experienced civil servant, who has attended courses on Parliamentary procedure and also the traditional chief of Majaheng and Phororong in Berea District. back to top

Women Promoted to Senior Positions

The new Parliament with just three women MPs has, despite 15 new seats, exactly the same number of women parliamentarians as the previous Parliament. One woman amongst the three is a Cabinet Minister, ’Mamoshebi Kabi, Minister of Transport, Posts and Telecommunications. She also had cabinet rank in the previous Parliament.

If women are seriously underrepresented in Parliament, this is less true of other areas of public life, where increasingly women are found in senior positions. Amongst these is the position of Managing Director of the Lesotho National Development Corporation, occupied by Mrs Sophia ’Malikotsi Mohapi since June 1997.

The Chief Executive of the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) since September 1996 has been Mrs ’Mamotsielehi Akhosi. Chief Executive of the Lesotho National Insurance Group is Mrs ’Mabaeti Molelekoa, and Chief Executive of the Water and Sewerage Authority is Mrs ’Mamosebi Pholo, a lawyer by profession, and previously the Authority’s Corporate Secretary. Another recent appointment has been Ms Mpho Molapo as Managing Director of the Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation.

In the education field, the Registrar of the Examinations Council of Lesotho is Mrs N. S. Ralise. The Registrar of the National University of Lesotho is Ms ’Masefinela Mphuthing, while the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University is Dr Lydia Thikhoi Jonathan.

Back in Maseru, Dr Ntutulu Mapetla is Medical Officer of Health, while the British Council, no longer with resident British staff, employs Mrs Stella Cweba as its Manager. The Commissioner of Sales Tax is also a woman, Mrs Hlaoli, as is the Director of Statistics, Ms Mpho Morojele. The Chief Executive of the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association is Mrs Ntharetso Lieta.

Women are still seriously underrepresented in the judiciary (just one judge out of nine is a woman), although as has been seen women chiefs have three of the appointed positions, and several of the inherited seats in the Senate. back to top

New Fax Newspaper Makes its Début

NewsWire, a daily English newspaper sent to fax machines made its début on 1 June 1998. For US$25 per month (more for institutions), individuals can receive some six A4 pages of news each weekday on their fax machines. There is no price quoted in local currency. Approximately half of the new newspaper carries local Lesotho news and the remainder includes a page of letters to the editor and some regional and world news. back to top

Agricultural Development Bank and Lesotho Bank in Distress

The annual reports of the Lesotho Agricultural Development Bank, when available, have painted a gloomy picture of incompetence and failure to satisfy the auditors. They have also reflected the very real problem of convincing those to whom agricultural credit has been granted to actually pay it back. In a bid to stay solvent, the LADB diverged from the purpose for which it was established and diverted some of its money to building a prestigious headquarters in Maseru. This is the only building in Lesotho with escalators. It has, moreover, sufficient spare capacity to lease out space to Woolworths and other shops which provide a better return for money than agricultural credit. The parlous state of LADB is admitted in an unusually frank description of the state of the bank by the Director of the Privatisation Unit in a Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary of 5 June 1998, where it is said to be in a ‘severely distressed situation’. It appears that the Bank is to be closed and what remains of its assets and liabilities will be transferred ‘to Lesotho Bank or other registered financial situations’. By the end of June hundreds of worried customers of the LADB were besieging the bank trying to close their accounts. A branch manager, Mr Likano Tšiu confirmed that nine out of ten of all customers visiting the bank were there to close their accounts.

Meanwhile Lesotho Bank itself is hardly a paragon of efficient banking. For six months, it has been managed by a group of Irish accountants brought in to solve its problems. Their impact, however, has hardly been noticeable to the ordinary customer in terms of improvements. In fact, not only are queues at counters as long as ever, but new problems have arisen such as unavailability of cheque books. The autoteller machines continue to give frequent problems, and as an economy the Morija and Masianokeng branches have been closed forcing the customers to make additional long journeys to undertake banking business. The same issue of the Gazette says of Lesotho Bank that it is ‘the intention of Government ... to dispose of the majority of its shares in this corporation by a process of restructuring and formation of a strategic alliance prior to public flotation’.

Meanwhile with effect from 19 June Savings Account holders at Lesotho Bank were told that the minimum amount needed to keep their accounts open had been raised from M100 to M500. back to top

Dispute over Government Postage Leads to Delays

In its continuing dispute with the rest of government over payment for carrying government postal items free, the post office began turning back Government items in large numbers requiring postage stamps to be affixed. Amongst those affected were subscribers to the Lesotho Government Gazette and the government newspaper Lentsoe la Basotho. By the end of June, Lentsoe la Basotho had reluctantly begun to affix stamps, while at the Government Printer’s large numbers of subscribers’ copies of the Lesotho Government Gazette remained undespatched. The need of the Post Office to raise additional revenue was widely believed to be connected with the problem of financing the new Post Office high rise building. Although completed several months earlier, the part above the ground floor post office and the first floor Department of Posts headquarters continued to remain largely empty because renters could not be found for the upper floors. back to top

South African Footwear Industry Loses Out to Lesotho

Relatively high wages in South Africa compared with low wages in Lesotho were causing shoe manufacturers to relocate to countries such as Lesotho, according to a report in The Star of 23 June 1998. It quoted a R120 weekly wage for cutters in Lesotho compared with M750 in South Africa. The comparable weekly wage for stitchers was said to be R80 in Lesotho compared with R450 in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg-based Amber Footwear had relocated to Lesotho last year, and Pinetown-based Crown had already moved sections of its production process, and might ultimately relocate the remainder. However, it seems not all is well with shoe factories in Lesotho. Springfield Footwear had already closed one of its six factories and was believed to be considering closing another. The newspaper quoted a belief that much ‘Lesotho’ footwear was actually rerouted goods from the Far East. back to top

Large Numbers Attend Funeral of Medicine Murder Victim

Makhanya Kokame of Mafikeng Ha Lehloba near Roma, a former Government Roads Department employee, who for some time had been mentally deranged, disappeared on 15 May. In mid-June, two mutilated bodies, which at first were unidentified, were found at Thaba-Putsoa on the Mountain Road. It transpired that one of the bodies was that of the missing Makhanya, and the eyes were missing from the corpse. The throat of the other person had been cut and the hands removed.

Makhanya Kokame was buried at Roma in a funeral attended by several hundred people on 28 June 1998. There was a general belief by those present that he had been a victim of liretlo, medicine murder, and some persons speculated that his abduction a week before the elections was no coincidence.

Liretlo cases are still reported from time to time by the local press. Lentsoe la Basotho of 23 April 1998 reported that seven men and a woman of 82 years had appeared in court following the murder of a five year old child at Semonkong Ha Ralimpe. back to top

Further Demonstration Against Election Result

A crowd of mainly young people, said by the press to be thousands, demonstrated in Maseru on Tuesday 30 June against the result of the General Election on 23 May. This was the third march of its kind and was sponsored by the BNP, BCP and MFP who presented petitions to the Independent Electoral Commission and to the King asking for the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections. The petition stated that as a result of a post-election audit of 31 constituencies, the LCD appeared in fact only to have won only 12 of them. Details were not provided. back to top

Death of Veteran BCP Politician Khauta Khasu

The death occurred in hospital at the end of June of veteran BCP politician, Khauta Khasu. He died from injuries sustained in a motor accident which had occurred at Matukeng near Hlotse on 9 June.

Khasu, born at Peka in 1927, had been one of the founders of the Basutoland African Congress, which became the Basutoland Congress Party. He was BCP Chairman from 1963 to 1991. Amongst his political successes, the most famous was his defeat of Leabua Jonathan in the Kolonyama constituency in the General Election of 29 April 1965. After 1974, he had spent many years in exile. From 1991-7 he was also estranged from the BCP, having formed his own Hareeng Basotho party, which performed dismally in the 27 March 1993 General Election. The party was reunited with the BCP in 1997 but this did not yield any success at the polls. Khasu leaves a wife who was seriously injured in the accident which led to his own death. back to top

[updated to 30 June 1998]