In August, a generation of jobless youths, denied employment
as migrant workers, and without employment opportunities at home, had joined the
post-election protests of opposition parties. These protests were at first
outside the gates of the Royal Palace, where the protesters called themselves
baitseki, ‘freedom fighters’, and began to call the area outside the Palace
gates ‘Freedom Square’. When the army mutinied, the gates were opened and the
youths were able to fraternise with the rebel soldiers inside the Palace
grounds, where they were apparently able to obtain arms fairly freely. When on
Tuesday 22 September SADC, at the Lesotho government’s request, sent Botswana
and South African troops to quell the army rebellion, the opposition politicians
called it an invasion. The youths responded. Unable to fight the military, but
by now apparently better armed than the Maseru police (many of whom were in any
case apparently in hiding for the day), they spilled out from the Palace
grounds. Acting together with the rebel troops, some of whom were still in
uniform, they targeted South African vehicles and businesses, and burned the
houses of six cabinet ministers, and of several Members of Parliament. The orgy
of destruction very quickly extended to almost anything at hand, including
offices and property of the government.
The SADC intervention force had military targets as its first
priority. It ignored until it was too late the destruction and its accompanying
looting and burning. In a few hours the shops of some 80% of Maseru’s Central
Business District had been destroyed, and most of them had been set on fire.
Those police who were at work had a hard time. According to
the police newspaper, Leseli ka Sepolesa of 29 October 1998, a gang of 14 rebels
attacked the Roma police on Tuesday 22 September (three houses of Cabinet
Ministers situated within 2 km of the Roma Police Station were burned down the
same day), and captured their arms, after which they went to Morija police
station and carried out a similar attack. The following day, a police vehicle
had been sent out to investigate the reported burning of the petrol station at
the airport junction at Mazenod. On the way back to Maseru, the police
encountered an armed gang of about 25, who attacked their vehicle and burnt it.
There was a debate amongst the attackers whether the police should be killed,
but in the end, they left them alive with the commander of the group shot and
injured and the other police beaten and covered with blood. The first gang had
hardly gone from the scene when another armed gang arrived, and fired at the
injured police. They had to go to a nearby village, and to take off their
uniforms, before they felt secure, and villagers helped to take the shot
policeman to hospital.
From Maseru, the madness continued to spread outwards to other
areas as the rioters hijacked vehicles (or used those already hijacked and
parked in the Palace grounds). By Wednesday almost the whole of the business
centre of Mafeteng was under a pall of smoke and had been destroyed. In
Mafeteng, even the hospital was looted, the youths taking the ambulance and
looting the dispensary of bandages, drugs and intravenous fluids. When over the
next few hours, some of them were amongst the 150 persons admitted to the
hospital with burns or gunshot wounds, the hospital did not have the wherewithal
to treat them. According to the doctor in charge, Dr ’Nyane Letsie (as quoted on
Radio Lesotho), 4 persons died who would have survived if the drugs had not been
looted. In an interview with Lintle Bless (The Mirror, 9 October 1998), Major
Mentoro Makaliana of the Mafeteng police, described how the police at Mafeteng
had had their arms seized by rebel soldiers (a policewoman, Bonang Serabele, had
been fatally wounded in the incident), and how as a result they had been
powerless to prevent the looting and burning.
Mohale’s Hoek also suffered severe damage. Businesses
destroyed included supermarkets, wholesales, filling stations, clothing shops,
furniture shops, and informal businesses operating from shacks. Jandrell’s
supermarket was the only one to survive. According to a report in The Mirror of
9 October, the District Secretary, Moholoholo Semanama, thought that the youths
who were responsible for burning the town were known to the police, and were in
a vehicle carrying BNP, BCP and MFP flags. Speaking on behalf of Mohale’s Hoek
police, Major Monyane Mothibeli, said that they had been unable to control the
situation because some youths had attacked them with stones at the same time
that other youths were setting fire to the shops.
Only north of Maseru were the destructive urges contained. The
traders of Teyateyaneng, assisted by the police, manned barricades preventing
the gun waving youths in bakkies from entering. In Maputsoe, the traders moved
their stock to Ficksburg; and in Butha-Buthe the looting was contained. Supreme
Furnishers in Butha-Buthe was looted, but the police went after the looters,
retrieved the booty, and then brought the looters before the magistrate, Mrs
’Matankiso Nthunya, where they were sentenced to either gaol or lashes. Other
looters were caught in the act at Savells, before they could actually remove
anything. Nevertheless the Butha-Buthe traders took fright, and some removed
their stock. In cases where their other branches had already been burnt at
Maseru and Mafeteng, chain stores announced they were leaving Lesotho
permanently. The Butha-Buthe branch of Savells was, for example, permanently
closed as a result of such a decision.
A tentative calculation of the jobs lost as a result of 48
hours of national folly was made by the Minister of Trade and Employment over
Radio Lesotho on 8 October 1998. Mr Notši Molopo stated that in Maseru, 141
business premises had been destroyed, and 1707 employees had been rendered
jobless; in Mafeteng, 87 businesses had been destroyed and 702 employees
rendered jobless; in Mohale’s Hoek, 16 businesses had been destroyed and 154
employees rendered jobless; and in Butha-Buthe, 2 businesses had been closed
down and 46 jobs lost. The overall loss was 246 businesses lost and 2609
salaried employees without work. Businesses destroyed ranged from those selling
clothing, beverages, furniture and construction materials to food wholesalers,
hairdressers and restaurants. Since the Minister did not mention damage and
destruction known to have taken place at other centres (Masianokeng and Roma,
for example), it was wondered if the total was complete. Moreover, the 2609 lost
jobs would have a knock-on effect leading to the loss of a total of perhaps
10000 jobs when it was considered that the wages of those now suddenly out of
work were spent in part on paying others to provide services. Child minders,
gardeners, security guards, minibus taxi drivers, informal vegetable sellers,
city centre pavement fast food vendors, landlords renting out malaene, and
owners of nursery schools and creches would be amongst those affected. It was
noted by some that whereas it was male youths who had been responsible for the
major acts of arson and destruction (although women had participated in the
looting), the actual loss of jobs would impact most greatly on women, who could
represent as high as 80% of the salaried employees losing their work. Men
however might represent a higher proportion of those affected by the knock-on
effect, because occupations such as security guards and taxi drivers and
conductors were exclusively male occupations.
No mention had yet been made by Government of the damage to
the economy, but it was clear that its revenue base had been seriously
undermined both through reduced income tax and through loss of sales tax from
the country’s most lucrative retail outlets. The future of the troubled Lesotho
Bank was also in jeopardy. Many of those who had lost employment had houses
built with loans from the Bank’s Mortgage Division (the former Lesotho Buildings
Finance Corporation). They would be unable to keep up mortgage payments, but
possession of their houses would make little sense: in a now depressed housing
market, the bank could only recover a fraction of their former worth. Loans to
destroyed businesses it emerged were not going to be honoured, insurance claims
being turned down under clauses which made them invalid when there was rioting
or civil insurrection. Although Lesotho Bank’s main Maseru branches had been
untouched by the riots, it had lost its branch at Mafeteng, while the Roma
branch had been broken into and all the computers stolen.
Another troubled institution was the Lesotho National
Development Corporation. Many of the burned shops had been rented from them, and
the buildings were now so ruined with collapsed walls and roofs that the sites
would have to be cleared. In many cases it might be years, if ever, before they
could be restored to their former state. In a statement on 15 October, the LNDC
Managing Director, Mrs Sophia Mohapi, said that tentative figures for the LNDC
were that 78 businesses in premises rented from the LNDC had been destroyed
leading to a loss of over 1000 jobs. Damage was estimated at over M40 million,
and rental income of M450000 per month was also being lost.
Meanwhile, economic woes were not helped by the general belief
that Lesotho was likely to receive a bill for the cost of the intervention
force, and that in the first week this had amounted to M8 million, and was
continuing to run at over M1 million a day. Given that the number of troops had
subsequently been increased to try to track down rebel soldiers who had fled to
the hills, it was likely to cost even more in subsequent weeks. Rumours about
Lesotho’s liability to pay for the intervention force finally received
confirmation when Mopheme of 15 December 1998 published the text of the
‘Agreement between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the
Kingdom of Lesotho concerning the Status of Armed Forces providing Military
Assistance’. As generally believed, this extensive document with 24 separate
articles, apparently signed on 16 September, granted the SANDF wide privileges
while operating in Lesotho, and made Lesotho liable for the entire cost of the
SANDF operation, this being estimated (according to Mopheme) at R80million per
month. It was not known whether there was a similar agreement covering the
Botswana contingent of the SADC force. If the Mopheme estimate of M240 million
for the first three months of activities by the intervention force was correct,
this was far more than a whole year’s revenue from the Lesotho Highlands Water
project, equal to over 10% of previously estimated total government revenue
(which must now obviously have been reduced), and almost exactly equal to the
normal three month wage bill for all government salaried persons, including
civil servants, teachers, nurses, policemen and soldiers. No revised budget was
available to show how government would redistribute its resources to meet this
The Chairman of the Opposition Alliance, MFP leader Vincent
Malebo, believed that the costs of the SADC intervention force were estimated at
M80 million per month. Under the agreement, Lesotho was liable to settle
accounts within 30 days of receipt. He stated that the Minister of Foreign
Affairs had refused to disclose who was going to settle the debt and how it
would be paid.
Newspapers in Lesotho also suffered from the disturbances. The
offices of Southern Star, Moafrika, and The Sun were all burned, while those of
Mopheme, The Mirror and Public Eye had been looted. At Mopheme and Public Eye
staff had been ordered out of their offices at gunpoint by rampaging youths. All
six newspapers, however, made arrangements to continue operation, and most
missed only two or three of their normal weekly issues, although The Sun (and
its Sesotho counterpart Thebe) faltered and disappeared not long afterwards: the
editor did not have the resources to replace its lost equipment, some of which
survived the fire, but was stolen from the ruins of the building. Epic Printers,
which prints almost all newspapers (other than church and government newspapers)
fortunately survived the riots. Although Mohlanka, with its offices safe inside
the BNP building, survived the riots, it ceased publication in October, its
staff refusing to work further and complaining that they had not been paid for
many weeks. Makatolle, the BCP newspaper, which had last appeared in July 1998,
also did not reappear, as a result of some internal problems within the party.
Amongst government offices, one of the hardest hit was the
Ministry of Local Government headquarters in the old TEBA building on Kingsway.
Most of its offices had been burned, although the office of the Principal
Secretary, in an adjoining building, escaped.
At the High Court, a large portion had also been burned,
including the Registry. Court files for civil cases for the period 1991 to 1998
had gone up in smoke (the records for criminal cases survived), as had the
contents of the Chambers of Justices Molai and Guni. A number of other offices
had burned including the personnel office, the police office and the judges’
cafeteria. The Registrar of the High Court, Mrs A. M. Hlajoane, quoted in
Lentsoe la Basotho of 8 October, said that she had no idea why the High Court
had been targeted.
On 18 November there was a statement from the Lesotho Chamber
of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) chief executive, Pea Machai. She stated that
stock had been lost worth M158 million, damage to premises had been M87 million
and job losses 6021. The figures had been arrived at after a joint survey by
LCCI, the Association of Lesotho Employers and Sechaba Consultants. A set of 11
recommendations was given to address the situation. Virtually all of these had
financial implications, however, and it was not clear where the necessary funds
might be found.
Southern Star in an editorial of 27 November 1998 had other
statistics. During the riots, the Ministry of Health had lost 17 vehicles and
medical equipment estimated at M4.1 million and the Ministry of Education had
lost 31 vehicles (not counting the 14 vehicles lost by the National University
of Lesotho). The Ministry of Agriculture had lost 160 vehicles, tractors and
other items of equipment, while the Maloti Highlands Abattoir had also lost most
of its transport fleet. The burning of the warehouses of the Schools Supply Unit
had resulted in the loss of school books to the value of M15 million. The
editorial asked that full statistics be published together with details of what
has been recovered.
The South African Defence Force had previously announced that
58 Lesotho soldiers had died while engaging the intervention force, and this was
a figure quoted by President Mandela. However, at a press conference at Lesotho
Defence Force Headquarters on Friday 2 October, the Public Affairs Officer of
the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant Tanki Mothae, stated that the actual
number of LDF personnel killed had been 18, together with one civilian, who was
a woman kitchen worker at the Makoanyane Barracks. Of the soldiers killed, 16
had died at Katse (some earlier reports had suggested that 21 soldiers had died
At the same press conference, it was stated that five soldiers
had been wounded and admitted to hospital. Four injured LDF soldiers were being
treated in Bloemfontein. There was some surprise that casualties at Makoanyane
had been so low given the extent of the conflict there. Some people suspected
that the SADC forces had continued shelling Makoanyane for some hours after most
of the soldiers had slipped out by the back fence. In relation to wounded
soldiers, it was known from local hospital reports that the actual number must
have been much higher than five.
At the same press conference, Lieutenant Mothae also reported
that less than ten soldiers were still missing. This seemed to be in conflict
with SADC reports that a considerable number of members of the army had fled
into the mountains and had to be pursued.
Civilian casualties in Maseru, as reported by Queen Elizabeth
II Hospital over a six day period from 22 September, amounted to 16 people
killed and 186 injured. St Joseph’s Hospital at Roma reported 8 deaths, and
there were known to be others who died in Mafeteng or whose bodies were not
taken to hospital mortuaries. Overall a total of about 50 civilian deaths and up
to a thousand persons injured seemed to be plausible figures.
Apart from the loss of shopping facilities and the consequent
need to spend hours in queues to reach Ladybrand, all sorts of additional
problems were beginning to afflict the public. It was announced, for example,
that all passport records had been lost when one building had been set on fire,
and all passport replacement applications would need new documentation and proof
Outside Maseru, the inhabitants of Mafeteng discovered (like
those at Roma) that they no longer had any banks in town. Mafeteng residents
travelled to the nearest town of Mohale’s Hoek where banks had survived, only to
find that their journeys were in vain. The queues at the banks were so long that
they could not get inside them before closing time.
Following the military intervention and massive outbreak of
looting, the unemployed youths who had destroyed Lesotho’s main shopping areas,
continued to look for other pickings.
On Thursday 1 October, 5 armed men hijacked a vehicle of
Mangwane Funeral Services near to Roma. They forced the occupants to drive back
to the head office at Masianokeng where they stole M60000 and raped a woman
On Wednesday 14 October, two youths rode in a taxi from Maseru
to Roma. At the bus stop known as Habasiane, they were asked to pay, refused,
and both drew pistols and shot the taxi conductor dead. Roma police later
arrested two men who were found to be in possession of unlicensed pistols.
On Monday 30 November the Lesotho Bank Agency at the Lesotho
Sun Hotel was robbed of M200 000 by five armed men. Three men were later
apprehended and charged and it was stated that at least one of them was a member
of the Lesotho Defence Force.
Also on Monday 30 November a well-known businessman and bus
owner, Setimela Paul Sekonyela, aged 43, was shot and killed at 7 p. m. at Qeme
Ha Pita by two armed men pretending to be passengers, while he was driving one
of his buses on the route between Maseru and Matsieng. Police stated they were
still searching for the killers.
The Mazenod Book Centre at Mazenod reported an armed robbery
on 23 November, and break-ins in the nights of 11 December and 14 December, when
books, bibles, watches, bags and money was stolen. According to Moeletsi oa
Basotho of 20 December 1998, some of the stolen items were later found nearby in
Ha Sekepe at the house of one Pule Moahloli, who was said to be a student at the
National University of Lesotho. Three persons aged between 18 and 20 were
arrested by the police, and taken to Mabote Police Station in Maseru. Mazenod
and the large populated area nearby suffers from having no police station.
The South African Minister of Safety and Security, Sydney
Mufamadi, chaired a meeting of the Lesotho Government and Opposition groups in
Maseru on Friday 2 October. At 7.30 p. m., a prearranged time for the press
(even though the meeting had not settled the details), the South African Deputy
President, Thabo Mbeki, announced that Lesotho would be having new elections
within the next fifteen to eighteen months. This announcement resulted in
considerable criticism from the three opposition parties, who stated that
agreement had not yet been reached and that discussions would continue on the
following Monday. Mbeki was forced to apologise for his premature announcement,
and in fact the talks eventually broke up without agreement on what kind of
government Lesotho should have until the proposed elections.
The village of Mahloenyeng Ha Rantsilonyane near Matsieng was
the scene of a serious incident on Saturday 3 October. Following a spate of
cattle thefts, two members of the village had been killed and buried on
consecutive Saturdays for allegedly conspiring with cattle thieves from Mauteng
(3 km to the north-east) to steal animals belonging to Mahloenyeng villagers. On
Saturday 3 October, villagers came from Mauteng to attend the second funeral.
After the funeral, feelings ran high, there were gun shots and the Mahloenyeng
villagers attacked some of the Mauteng people and did not let them go home.
According to the report in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 18 October, six of these
Mauteng residents were killed at 10 p. m. The newspaper details of what happened
are not clear, but it seems that in all nine people died as a result of the
Another version of the incident appeared in the police
newspaper, Leseli ka Sepolesa, of 15 October. This said that the total number of
deaths in the series of incidents had been eleven and included a policeman. 29
persons had been arrested by the Morija police in connection with what had
As part of the scheme to privatise major Government
enterprises, a Privatisation Scheme for the Maluti Highlands Abattoir was
published in Lesotho Government Gazette no. 60 of 7 August 1998. The abattoir,
situated on the northern fringe of Maseru, had a General Manager, 5 Senior
Managers, and 107 full-time staff, and was the main local source of meat for
Lesotho. In the advertised scheme, the Government offered 100% divestiture to a
joint venture consortium which was required to include Basotho interests in some
form. Bids were to be received by 11 September 1998.
The sale of this government asset, alas, did not take place.
The abattoir (like the new ceramics factory in Mafeteng) was damaged by rioters
and part of it burnt during the general mayhem which followed the coming of the
SADC intervention force.
Three residents from the Matatiele area and one Lesotho
citizen were killed on the night of Sunday 4 October in a battle over stolen
stock near Ha Kelebone SE of Mphaki in the Quthing District. The Head of Quthing
District Police, Major George Mofolo attributed the incident to invaders taking
advantage of Lesotho’s political instability. He reported that the raiders had
managed to drive away 958 sheep, 26 cattle and 3 horses and had also taken the
body of one of their dead colleagues. The other bodies were in the mortuary at
the government hospital in Moyeni.
Another serious incident was reported by both Radio Lesotho
and the SABC on 15 December. On this occasion it was said that 23 residents of
the Mount Fletcher District had crossed into Lesotho in search of livestock.
After Lesotho residents had complained of losses, the thieves were pursued by
members of the Lesotho Defence Force. An exchange of fire took place on the
border at Likhaebaneng Pass south of Ongeluksnek. 3 of the South Africans died
and 2 were injured. There were no casualties on the Lesotho side. 64 animals
being driven to South Africa were recovered.
After an unscheduled adjournment on 14 September, Parliament
was able to resume on Wednesday 7 October. The Speaker, Mr J. T. Kolane,
expressed his condolences to the Ministers and Members of Parliament whose
houses had been burnt and families attacked in the recent unrest. He said that
Lesotho had recently been criticised as the most unstable country in the world.
He hoped for plenty of rain so that those who have lost their jobs as a result
of recent events could go home to cultivate.
In the Senate, it was proposed by Senator Tankiso Hlaoli that
Senate extend its working week (at present only Tuesdays to Thursdays), so that
it had more time to scrutinize bills sent to it by the Lower House. The proposal
was adopted as an appropriate modification to the Senate Standing Orders, to be
implemented as circumstances required.
The Deputy District Secretary for Maseru, Mr Qobete Letsie,
interviewed by a NewsWire reporter, complained that large numbers of Basotho
were being deported to Lesotho through Maseru Bridge Border Post and there was
no money to assist them with food, accommodation or transportation to the
distant parts of Lesotho where they often lived. Typical of the latest 28
deportees, was Mxolisi Moletsana (21) from Quthing District, who had never been
to school and had been working on a farm at Ceres near Cape Town, where he was
found to not have a work permit. He had been receiving R100 ($16) a week, which
he described as ‘better than nothing’.
It was reported that some 600 Basotho had been deported from
South Africa since the beginning of the year.
On Sunday 11 October, the ruling Lesotho Congress for
Democracy planned a march and meeting to be held at Botšabelo on the outskirts
of Maseru. A crowd estimated at many thousands attended, and there were placards
supporting SADC military intervention. The Deputy Prime Minister, Kelebone Maope,
had already spoken when there was a disturbance in the crowd. It was said that
there was about to be an attempt to assassinate the Prime Minister, Pakalitha
Mosisili, who was on the platform. A shot was fired which injured a LCD
supporter in the leg, and a man was seized who was said to have been carrying a
bomb (or, as some said, a hand grenade), while four others, said to be
associates were identified. In the subsequent mêlée, the police made arrests,
but the van in which those arrested had been placed was attacked by the crowd,
its windows broken and the prisoners extricated. The alleged would-be assassin
was beaten to death, and four others were seriously injured, two of them dying
soon after admission to hospital. The Prime Minister meanwhile had been rushed
to his official car and the rally ended prematurely in disorder without his
being able to make his speech.
On the same day the opposition Basotho National Party
organised a rival meeting in another part of Maseru. This passed off without
Following the incident at the LCD rally, there were
allegations and counter-allegations. Some BNP sources blamed dissident LCD
members for having caused the incident; others said it had been deliberately
staged to discredit the opposition. LCD members tended to put the blame on the
opposition. On the programme Matšohlo of Leseli FM on 13 October, one of the
injured survivors was interviewed, who maintained that he was an LCD member and
that his party card could be produced to prove it. That those killed were LCD
members was also supported by Moeletsi oa Basotho of 18 October 1998 which
stated that one of those who died in hospital, Rethabile ’Molotsi, of Ha Tlebere
near Mazenod, about 18 years old, had also been a LCD member.
Evidence of a high casualty rate as a result of the use of
firearms appeared in the police newspaper Leseli ka Sepolesa of 15 October 1998.
The lead story was one of a policeman who had shot dead two other policemen and
injured another at Mafeteng on 28 September. The obituary column contained
details of 13 policemen and policewomen who had died in the previous month.
Eight had died after illness, but all of the remaining five (four policemen and
one policewoman) were said to have died as a result of firearms incidents.
A large quantity of seized arms and ammunition was destroyed
in a series of controlled explosions by SADC forces at the Makoanyane Barracks
on Wednesday 14 October and Thursday 15 October. The loud explosions which took
place could be heard throughout most of the Lowlands and Foothills of Maseru
District. Public Eye of 18 October reported that 3000 mortar bombs and 375 kg of
hand grenades had been destroyed by the SADC forces. Mopheme of 20 October gave
further details, although its catalogue of destroyed weaponry was a garbled list
of acronyms and calibres which was not readily intelligible. The weaponry
destroyed was apparently found scattered over land which was part of the
Makoanyane Barracks area, and had been removed by the LDF from the armoury. SADC
forces stated that they would not touch live ammunition and that it would be
blown up in situ five explosions at a time.
The Mopheme report also mentioned that with all the buildings
at Makoanyane Barracks reduced to shattered ruins, the SANDF had taken over the
Mohlomi Mental Hospital for use as a barracks. The patients at the hospital had
been evacuated to the National Health Training College.
For a long time there had been deadlock at meetings chaired by
Mr Sydney Mufamadi, South African Minister of Safety and Security. In these
meetings, opposition parties demanded dissolution of the present Parliament and
replacement by a ‘Government of National Unity’, while the ruling party firmly
stated that it had been fairly elected and was the only possible constitutional
In an attempt to break the deadlock, SADC tabled a draft
agreement, and the opposition parties were given a week to study it with their
members and to report back. The Parties reconvened with Mr Mufamadi in the Chair
on Wednesday 14 October.
After a marathon 13 hour meeting at UN House, it was announced
that agreement had finally been reached. Parallel with Parliament, which would
remain in place, there would be a Transitional Structure or Interim Executive
Committee (later renamed Interim Political Authority, which avoided there being
two different kinds of IEC!) to supervise arrangements leading to a new poll.
The Interim Political Authority would be in place by 31 October and would
consist of 2 members of each of the 12 Lesotho political parties who had
contested the 1998 elections. It would be required to complete the restructuring
of the Independent Electoral Commission by 31 December 1998, and the
restructured electoral system (presumably allowing the possibility of a partial
or complete proportional representation system) would be in place by 31 March
1999. Elections under the new system would then be held at a time within 15 to
18 months from the present.
As required by the agreement, Parliament did indeed pass the
Interim Political Authority Bill before the end of the month.
According to a report in Moafrika of 23 October, opposition
supporters visiting the Ntširele section of the Khubetsoana suburb of Maseru
were attacked by LCD (‘Majelathoko’) members on Sunday 18 October. Two died as a
result of the incident, one of whom was Mathibeli Rasekoai. Rasekoai was the son
of a prominent BNP politician, and one of his two wives was Koena Kotsokoane,
daughter of Lesotho’s first High Commissioner to Britain, Joe Kotsokoane.
Mathibeli had been only on a short visit to Lesotho, having long been resident
in South Africa where he had qualified as a clinical psychologist.
As reported in the Government newspaper Lentsoe la Basotho of
22 October, civil servants had received a circular letter from the Government
Secretary, Mr Mohlabi Tsekoa, stating that some civil servants had abandoned
their obligations and breached the civil service regulations by becoming
embroiled in politics in the previous two months. They could be punished in
various ways such as dismissal from the service or reduction of pay.
Following this letter, there was so much disquiet in some
government offices that not much work was done. It was an open secret in many
cases as to which people had supported the Palace vigil. Some defiant civil
servants even announced to their colleagues that if they were dismissed, they
would ensure that the offices where they had been working would be burned down.
Former good working relationships in many cases became difficult, with
suspicions as to who might report whom.
It was announced on Thursday 15 October that 21 soldiers who
were alleged to have participated in the army mutiny in September had been
arrested at morning parade. (According to later news reports the number arrested
totalled 32, and they were all junior officers.) They had been arrested by order
of authorities within the Lesotho Defence Force and taken to the Maximum
Security Prison with an escort from the SADC intervention force. Opposition
spokesmen denounced the arrests as undermining the spirit of the agreement
reached the previous day.
On Tuesday 17 November, it was announced that as a result of
investigations a further 13 more soldiers had been arrested and would face court
martial. 6 of the soldiers detained earlier were released on 18 November,
leaving a total of 39 in custody.
It appeared that court martial proceedings like those of the
High Court were going to be exceedingly protracted, as lawyers representing the
accusers and those charged spun out their arguments (and their fees). It was
considered the soldiers might suffer a similar fate to more than 32 police who
had been charged with mutiny after the events of February 1997, and who nearly
two years later were still being held in custody as the case against them
dragged on in the High Court. The court hearing against the police was suspended
on 11 September because of unrest in the country, but resumed on 25 November
before Justice Molai, one of the judges who had had the misfortune to have had
his chambers burnt during the September disturbances. By December the police on
trial were said (NewsWire 10 December 1998) to be afraid of losing their defence
lawyers, because they were running out of money to pay them.
Six SANDF soldiers were Court-Martialled in Maseru on 21
October, for a variety of offences including drunkenness, insulting a superior
officer, and disobeying a lawful command. Four were sentenced to periods up to
six months in detention barracks, while two others were fined. Three of those
convicted were demoted to the rank of rifleman, while two others were to be
discharged from the force after serving their sentences. Three other soldiers
were court-martialled and received similar sentences on the following day. The
Court-Martial was held in public at Bird’s Nest, the name given to the SADC
forces camp at the Mejametalana Airport near central Maseru.
The sentences were seen as meeting to some extent local
criticism of the behaviour of SANDF troops, and also as an example of how
military discipline should be enforced. People were hard put to remember an
occasion when Lesotho Defence Force soldiers had been court-martialled for
One unfortunate SANDF soldier did not have the opportunity of
being court-martialled. He had gone into a local shebeen with his gun, and while
drunk had had the gun taken from him, after which he had been shot dead.
Charges were still pending against some other SANDF soldiers,
and in one case a charge of rape was being investigated.
The SADC intervention force in a statement by its Commander,
Colonel Robbie Hartslief, reported in Mopheme of 27 October, that arms from the
Makoanyane Barracks were being stored in Bloemfontein where they were being
inventoried. He stated that even though it had been requested, the Lesotho
Defence Force Command had been unable to provide an inventory of the arms which
had been in the Makoanyane Barracks, and that when the SADC forces had entered,
they had found the arms store open so that anyone could have helped themselves.
Earlier on 15 October, three vehicles of the intervention
force had visited the University at Roma distributing pamphlets warning people
about the dangers of touching unexploded ammunition. The officers were quizzed
by students about arms which had been confiscated and taken to South Africa.
According to Information Flash of 23 October 1998, one Captain Lourens ‘observed
that members of the LDF are overly armed with four guns to a soldier. While he
conceded that it’s normal to have spare weaponry in case of damage, he said by
international standards Lesotho soldiers are over-armed’.
The leader of the Basutoland Congress Party, Molapo Qhobela,
suffered a stroke on Friday 23 October and was later admitted to hospital in
South Africa. Neither he nor the BNP leader, Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana was well
enough to attend the opposition party ‘prayer meeting’ which was held at the
base of Thaba-Bosiu on Sunday 25 October. At the meeting, speakers condemned the
presence of the SADC forces. Nevertheless, they formalised a decision already
taken that the ‘Palace vigil’ should be finally discontinued. Supporters had
already been warned about this from the middle of the previous week, and had
been asked to pack up and to be ready to leave. According to a report in
NewsWire of 22 October, special transportation was to be arranged for those who
had sustained injuries during the vigil.
After the meeting at Thaba-Bosiu, the crowd went to the Palace
to end the vigil formally. En route at Borokhoaneng on the outskirts of Maseru,
their vehicles encountered a bus coming in the opposite direction filled with
LCD members. According to the report in Mololi of 4 November 1998, there was an
unprovoked attack on this bus with stones and swords (lisabole). The windows of
the bus were smashed, and two LCD members were seriously injured and had to be
taken to hospital. When the crowd of opposition supporters eventually reached
the Palace, they were met by ten South African and two Botswana armoured
vehicles. Insults were shouted at the South African troops, and the addresses to
be made by political leaders to end the vigil formally were not possible.
Despite the official ending of the vigil, to some young people
the Palace was now their new home, and they were reluctant to move. NewsWire of
28 October 1998 estimated those remaining as less than 30. When asked why they
were not leaving, they gave as reason the need to protect the King and also
mistrust of the agreement by the opposition leaders. In Mololi of 4 November
1998 it was suggested that they were afraid to go home. The Mololi article
referred to the Palace Grounds as ‘Condom Square’, whereas the opposition press
had been calling them ‘Freedom Square’.
After intervention and warning by the National Security
Service, the last of the young people (lingangele, ‘thugs’, according to Mololi)
were persuaded to vacate their rooms in the Palace on Thursday 29 October, after
which the Palace gates were manned by unarmed Lesotho police and armed South
Mopheme of 27 October reported strong rumours that there was a
serious split in the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy and that a dissident
group was about to form a new Lesiba Party who would unseat the Prime Minister
with a vote of no confidence. The envisaged Lesiba Party was said to consist of
party stalwarts, who opposed rule by a clique of the party’s intellectual elite,
led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Details of the Interim Political Authority (IPA) became
available after negotiations between the 12 political parties which had
contested the May 1998 election. Each of the 12 parties was to have two
representatives in the IPA. Its function would be to facilitate and promote, in
conjunction with the legislative and executive structures in Lesotho,
preparations for the holding of a new general election within a period of 18
Amongst powers of the IPA would be the review of the Lesotho
electoral system and recommending changes to existing laws including changing
The IPA would be funded from the Consolidated Fund which
includes the Lesotho Highlands Revenue Fund (thus presumably diverting to itself
money originally earmarked for rural development).
On behalf of the SADC High Command, General Siphiwe Nyanda
announced on 30 October that there was to be a reduction in the size of the
intervention force, which was currently standing at 4300 soldiers, 3500 of them
being from the South African National Defence Force and 800 from the Botswana
Defence Force. Those being withdrawn included some of the heavy artillery
contingent. He announced SANDF force soldiers would be reduced in number by
1400. Those leaving would be 1 Special Service Battalion, 1 SA Infantry
Battalion and 1 Parachute Battalion, who would leave Lesotho on Monday 2
November. They would be replaced by 600 other soldiers of 2 SA Infantry
Battalion, including army engineers, who could assist in reconstructing the
destroyed army barracks at Makoanyane. The reduction of part of the force was
due to success in maintaining peace and security. However, there would be no
reduction in the Botswana Defence Force Contingent. Its members included
peacekeepers with experience in Somalia and they still had a role to play.
On 31 October, Radio South Africa carried essentially the same
story, but mentioned that there were still 200 soldiers of the Lesotho Defence
Force unaccounted for. However, the number was by no means certain, because the
total number of LDF soldiers was apparently unknown as a result of ‘poor record
keeping’. This news report resulted in people questioning how an army could be
so incompetent as to not know how many soldiers it had. Some speculated that
there might have been a number of ‘ghost’ soldiers on the establishment, persons
who drew regular pay but were not soldiers at all. Obviously such soldiers could
not have surrendered.
However, there was another rumour circulating in Maseru. This
was to the effect that there really were a number of rebel soldiers still out in
the countryside, and some of these had successfully covered their tracks by
enrolling in traditional initiation schools, where even the intervention force
was unlikely to find them. Mololi of 14 October had reported rebel soldiers
living in woods near cliffs at Malaoaneng Ha Seetsa, with further reports of
rebel soldiers in the Matsieng, Qeme, Mafeteng and Thuathe Plateau areas. It had
also been reported that some had been seen in Maseru in broad daylight in
A Lesotho Defence Force statement at the beginning of November
denied that there were so many rebel soldiers unaccounted for. It stated that
there were only four rebels still at large. Their names were given over Radio
Lesotho, and it was said that they were heavily armed.
SANDF forces were reduced by a further 750 on 8 December, the
troop reductions including certain logistical support elements and part of the
Military Health Service. However, there were no reductions in the Botswana
contingent on that date. The Vice-President of Botswana, Lieutenant-General Ian
Khama (a former commander of the Botswana Defence Force) paid a visit to the
Botswana troops in Lesotho during the second week of December. That the Botswana
troops were playing a useful role in Lesotho in the absence of adequate policing
was exemplified by an incident at Ha Raobi in Mohale’s Hoek District on 12
November (reported in NewsWire of 17 November). Two women who were being gang
raped by 20 men aged between 17 and 20 were rescued by Botswana soldiers, and as
a result were charged and would appear before the Mohale’s Hoek magistrate.
The clearing of the ruined shops of Maseru was obviously an
activity that would take months if not years, but by mid-October some activity
had begun. On 30 October, Radio Lesotho announced that the Polo Ground, as well
as some other unfenced open spaces near the centre of Maseru, were being
despoiled by rubbish from demolished buildings. This should stop immediately and
contractors should take rubbish to a more distant designated spot near the
Thetsane Industrial Estate.
The First Anniversary of the Coronation was marked by a set of
three postage stamps issued on 31 October. This made up to some extent the
failure in the previous year to issue stamps to mark the Coronation itself. The
Coronation anniversary stamps were of enormous size, larger than any stamps
issued in recent years.
Not so the new definitive stamps. These were planned by the
now disbanded Stamp Advisory Committee to be representative of the indigenous
flowers of Lesotho. An artist Ina-Maria Harris had been commissioned to prepare
the designs, and she produced 16 attractive designs which were expected to
replace the current butterfly definitives (produced by the Intergovernmental
Philatelic Corporation of New York, who, despite the multitude of colourful
Lesotho butterflies, had managed to choose amongst their designs only one
butterfly actually found in Lesotho).
The committee was disbanded before the final work had been
done on the stamps, and a university botanist had been asked to provide the
correct scientific and Sesotho names for the stamps. All 3000 or so of Lesotho’s
flowering plants have scientific names, but of the 16 designs, only 14 were of
flowers which had well-known Sesotho names. For the other two a proposed Sesotho
name was given to be considered by the committee. These two names were indicated
by asterisks. The committee never met, and the asterisks somehow found their way
onto the final designs of the 15s and M4.50 stamps with no explanation of what
they mean! The final stamps were far smaller in size than the committee had
planned, and unfortunately do not do justice to the intricate artwork.
The Director of Customs and Excise announced that with effect
from 16 November, commercial business, which had previously been allowed through
14 official border posts, would have to be confined to the Caledonspoort,
Maputsoe, Maseru, Van Rooyen’s Gate and Qacha’s Nek border posts. The decision
had been taken to reduce commercial fraud. Protests against the decision came
from business people in South African border towns. Traders in Himeville and
Underberg, which have had lucrative business connections with Mokhotlong via
Sani Pass, expressed concern in their local newspaper, The Mountain Echo. Also
seriously affected was the trade link to Mohale’s Hoek from Zastron.
The reduction in border posts was linked to the introduction
of Value Added Tax in Lesotho and refund procedures, according to the Acting
Commissioner of Trade, Mrs ’Mamoruti Malie in a statement on 29 October. More
details would be announced by the Minister, Mr Mpho Malie, before the
The South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission, under the
Chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (at one time a staff member of the
University at Roma, and later Bishop of Lesotho), published its five-volume
report on 30 October 1998. The report emerged as an extremely detailed
documentation of the years of apartheid, and the multitudinous transgressions of
human rights (described incident by incident) in which the white government of
the day and its surrogate black forces had been party to the assassination and
torture of its opponents. It also found that human rights violations had
occurred amongst those fighting for freedom. In The Star of 30 October, amongst
a gallery of the faces of white leaders and their henchmen found guilty of human
rights abuses were also the faces of Winnie Mandela and Chief Mangosuthu
Part 1 of the report (§§423, 426-430) contained considerable
detail about cross-border raids and atrocities committed in the 1980s in Lesotho
against South African political exiles as well as against Lesotho citizens. The
worst single incident in this period had been the Maseru Raid of 9 December 1982
when 30 South African and 12 Basotho citizens were killed in a single night.
This operation had been planned by Section A of the Security Police under
Colonel Jac Buchner assisted by Major Callie Steyn of Military Intelligence
using intelligence derived from interrogated detainees. The ANC’s chief
representative in Lesotho, Zola Nqini, had died in the raid, but many other
casualties had been innocent civilians including three members of each of two
Basotho families, one of the victims being a four-year old boy. Six of those
killed in the raid had been high school students, and one was a University
librarian, recently returned from studies in Britain.
The report contains details (§§225, 236-238) of the attacks in
which Father John Osmers was injured by a parcel bomb (no finding could be made
on who was responsible) and in which attempts were made to assassinate Mr Chris
Hani while he was living in Lesotho. South African security forces were held
responsible for these attacks. For the attack on 19 December 1985 (§§256-260),
blame is placed on a 17-strong team of Vlakplaas operatives led by Eugene de
Kock. 6 South Africans were killed in this raid and also 3 Basotho. They were
lured to a Christmas party by a South African agent resident in Lesotho, Mr
Elvis Macaskill, and as a result became sitting targets, except for MK commander
Leon Meyer and his wife Jacqui Quin, who left the party early and were sought
out in their house and shot and killed in front of their infant daughter.
Details are also given (§§302-304) of the incident on 25
February 1988, when a National University of Lesotho student, Thandwefika Radebe,
was shot dead at a roadblock in Lesotho. Of the two MK operatives with him,
Mazizi Maqekeza was shot and left for dead. On 15 March while recovering from
his wounds, his bed was moved under an open window in the Queen Elizabeth II
Hospital, where he was shot and killed, apparently by a member of the Ladybrand
security police. The second operative escaped to Roma, where he was later
abducted by four men, tied between the seats of a car and never seen again. His
fate remains a mystery.
§§200-206 deal with Operation Latsa by which the South African
Defence Force assisted the Lesotho Liberation Army to oppose the government of
Leabua Jonathan who had become sympathetic to the ANC and had opened up
diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. (The acronym LATSA is not explained,
but possibly means ‘Liberation (or Lesotho?) Army Training by South Africa’).
The LLA began operations in 1979 from Transkei, but by mid-1980 was receiving
weapons and training from the SADF. LLA camps were established at Dithotaneng in
QwaQwa and at a farm called Ferndale near Bergville in Natal, to which a number
of named Special Forces personnel were assigned. Ntsu Mokhehle was known to have
stayed at different times at the SAP farms Vlakplaas near Pretoria and
Kochfontein near Zeerust, and also at Port St Johns in Transkei where he
developed close ties with former Rhodesian military officers then running the
Transkei Defence Force. At least 34 LLA operations against the Lesotho
government are recorded for the period 1981-3, mainly against BNP supporters and
officials and also directed against infrastructural facilities. There is little
evidence of the ANC being targeted by the LLA except for the attack in February
1981 on the lawyer, Mr Khalaki Sello, who often defended ANC members.
Missing from the report, is any reference to the bus-hijacking
which led to several deaths at the hands of the South African security forces
during the Papal Visit in 1988. Although the Commission had succeeded in
discovering the truth about much of South Africa’s murky past including its
transgressions of the territorial integrity of its neighbours, it was felt by
many that more detail had yet to emerge in tales still to be told.
According to a report in Southern Star, TEBA CASH, which now
handles remittances and deferred pay on behalf of migrant workers, would operate
as a bank from early in 1999. Assuming that it would have branches in Lesotho,
this would further undermine the former lucrative role that Lesotho Bank had had
as banker to Lesotho miners in South Africa.
The most recent issue of the Central Bank Quarterly Review
(regularly issued six months in arrears) is for March 1998. The CBQR has printed
on its last page for some years a useful table monitoring the number of Basotho
miners in South Africa, their average earnings, their deferred pay and their
remittance payments. For the first quarter of 1998, the average numbers of
Basotho miners employed had gone down from 97860 to 81667 compared with the
figure a year earlier. The average annual earnings had, however, gone up from
M4790 to M5989.
Despite numerous planning documents that have stressed the
importance of rationalising the secondary school system, and creating a smaller
number of efficient schools, new secondary schools have been mushrooming
uncontrolled in the Lowlands of Lesotho during the past few years. Many have
absolutely minimal facilities, often a small rectangular building with just one
or two classroom partitions. One is established in two portakabins, and another
in the carport of a large house. Amongst those who have set up schools have been
traders, who see this as a valuable income-generating sideline.
Those who own or teach in the schools are often more
interested in making money than imparting education, and as the year ends,
stories abound of dishonesty. One of the commonest forms is for teachers to
collect the examination fees from pupils, especially large sums being for the
Cambridge Overseas School Certificate, the fees having been inflated as a result
of the decline in the value of the loti against the pound. On occasions, the
money does not reach the Examinations Council, but is used by teachers for their
own purposes, leaving the pupils unable to write the examinations.
An incident involving Junior Certificate fees at Mapoteng
Community Private School is reported in Lentsoe la Basotho for 29 October 1998.
Pupils were asked to share examination numbers leading to suspicion that they
had not all been registered, and money had been diverted elsewhere. At another
secondary school (one of three in the village of Ha Makhalanyane), there was
also an alleged diversion of money. The Headmaster was taken to Mabote Police
Station, and the pupils taken there to give evidence against him.
Looted goods have included large numbers of items from clothes
shops, so that it has been said that many are now permanently dressed as if it
The expression often used is o apere sephetho sa Langa,
literally ‘he (or she) is wearing the results of Langa’. The Langa report was
supposed to deal with the election results, but the tangible results to many
were the events subsequent to its publication which led to the opportunity for
widespread looting and a new wardrobe.
A former government-controlled firm, Lesotho Flour Mills, one
of the largest commercial enterprises in Lesotho, was successfully privatized in
May 1998, and fortunately escaped damage during the riots.
Public Eye of 1 November gives details of the structure of the
new Board, which represents a firm now with 51% of shares held by Seaboard
Corporation, while 49% of shares are held by government for sale to employees.
The new Chairman of the new Board of Directors is Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, a medical
doctor in private practice at Mafeteng, who has other business interests. She
heads a board which includes three Lesotho Government representatives and three
members from the Seaboard Corporation including Geoff Penny, the Managing
The Leader of the Basotho National Party, Evaristus
Retšelisitsoe (‘E. R.’) Sekhonyana died at 0530 on Wednesday 18 November 1998 in
Hydromed Hospital, Bloemfontein, at the age of 61, after a long fight against
cancer of the colon. He was buried at his home at Fort Hartley (Pokane, in
Quthing District) on 5 December in a ceremony in which representatives of the
three major opposition parties all made speeches and all three sets of party
colours were on display.
E. R. (as he was commonly known) was born on 22 March 1937,
and was a descendant of one of King Moshoeshoe’s best educated sons, Nehemiah
Sekhonyana, who after many vicissitudes had eventually been placed at Mount
Moorosi in Quthing District after the defeat of Chief Moorosi in 1879. E. R.
himself in due course became chief of a remote area (Ha Retšelisitsoe)
north-east of Mount Moorosi, falling under the Mount Moorosi area chief, his
close relative, the late Nehemiah Sekhonyana ’Maseribane. ’Maseribane had been
Deputy Prime Minister for much of the post-Independence period (1966-86) when
the BNP had been in power.
E. R. completed his primary education at Phamong, and his
secondary education at Roma College (the older name of Christ the King High
School). He subsequently studied in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and Sir George
Williams University in Montreal where he completed a BA degree in 1966.
Subsequently he won a Carnegie Fellowship enabling him to study for a
Certificate in Diplomacy at Columbia University in New York in 1967. On his
return to Lesotho, he was Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and in October 1968 returned to New York as Counsellor at Lesotho’s
Mission to the United Nations.
In 1971, he became Minister of Finance, Commerce and Industry
and in the same year became Chairman of the Basotho National Party (which had
seized power after losing elections in January 1970). His period as Minister of
Finance was one of major developments, including the establishment of Lesotho
Bank (in 1972); the Central Bank (established originally in 1978 as the Lesotho
Monetary Authority); and the Lesotho Defence Force (established originally from
the Police Mobile Unit in 1980 as the Lesotho Paramilitary Force). Amongst other
items of major public expenditure were the building of the government-owned
Lesotho Hilton, opened in 1978. Benco, the company which had contracts for most
of these major construction projects, also built E. R.’s personally owned Orange
River Hotel. Situated in the district headquarters town of Moyeni, this hotel
had décor similar to the Lesotho Hilton, and was the most luxurious hotel
outside Maseru. In 1977, E. R. bought Fort Hartley Store, which had long been
owned by the Rix family, and it was there that he was later to build a personal
After 10 years as Minister of Finance, E. R. became Minister
of Planning & Economic Affairs in 1981. Then in 1984 he became Minister of
Foreign Affairs, a post in which his self-confidence and diplomatic skills
resulted in his South African opposite number ‘Pik’ Botha having to accord him
considerable respect, the more so because Lesotho was finding it increasingly
profitable in terms of aid and armaments to form alliances with communist bloc
countries such as the Soviet Union and North Korea. E. R. also became a personal
friend of King Moshoeshoe II, an astute move, and an exceptional one, because
the King had been accorded little respect by other BNP politicians.
When the military coup took place in January 1986, the King
was temporarily given an enhanced status and E. R.’s standing with the King
enabled him to become Minister of Finance in the military government, the only
member of the old BNP cabinet to retain a portfolio. However, the years of high
expenditure were over, Lesotho’s earlier excesses resulting in a structural
adjustment programme being imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
The years of military rule were times in which there were
disputes between the King and the military and between the military leaders
themselves. When the King was forced into exile in 1990, E.R. eventually found
himself on the losing side and went temporarily into exile (along with his
erstwhile cabinet colleague Tom Thabane (present Foreign Minister)) in South
Political activities had been suspended in 1986, but the
suspension was lifted in 1991, and E. R. then took over the leadership of the
BNP. His party, although second in the polls, nevertheless suffered a crushing
defeat at the hands of the BCP in the March 1993 elections. The BCP in fact won
all 65 seats. The BNP, although under new leadership, could not live down the
still-remembered turmoil and injustices for which it had been responsible in
1970 and the years following.
Although defeated (and later split, when a former stalwart,
Peete Peete, formed his own National Progressive Party), the BNP maintained a
high public profile, and published a weekly newspaper, Mohlanka, throughout the
period 1993-8. No democrat, E. R. was a willing participant in the 1994 coup, as
a result of which he was briefly Minister of Foreign Affairs in a government
which no other state would recognise. When the coup collapsed under SADC
pressure, he was saved from a charge of treason by the indemnity granted to the
Amongst the successful campaigns mounted by the BNP under his
leadership, was applying pressure on Government to appoint (although belatedly,
which seriously affected its efficiency) an Independent Electoral Commission to
undertake the 1998 General Election. With the voting age reduced to 18, the BNP
mounted a campaign to secure votes from those newly enfranchised, some of whom
might follow a charismatic leader, and not be concerned or aware of past
transgressions. (Post-Independence Lesotho history has by common consent amongst
teachers been virtually excluded from school syllabuses.) In the May 1998
Election, the BNP came second with approximately one-quarter of the votes. With
the ‘first past the post system’ the party did not, however, get a proportional
share of 20 of the 80 seats, but just one seat, Bobatsi in Mokhotlong District.
Although knowing that he was now terminally ill, E. R. was the
leader who mounted the campaign of which the next largest defeated opposition
parties, the BCP (now split from the Mokhehle’s new Lesotho Congress for
Democracy) and the MFP soon became enthusiastic supporters. The elections were
denounced as fraudulent. The unemployed youth were the trump card. Brought from
the districts and fed with money from unidentified funds (although it was
significant that E. R. at the time had outstanding bank loans amounting to
millions from both Standard and Lesotho Banks), the youths became, with the help
of guns from army rebels, the key element in paralysing the elected Government.
When SADC troops came to assist, these youths were the agents who destroyed the
Central Business District of Maseru, an event which E. R. lived long enough to
A bon vivant who in the past 15 years had developed a
prodigious girth, E. R. was a Catholic whose family arrangements were not
generally publicised, although it was said by many that he had three wives. Some
of his children at the time of his death were studying at the University of the
Free State. At his funeral, according to the Catholic newspaper, Moeletsi oa
Basotho of 13 December, many priests, including four bishops, were present. The
Catholic Archbishop, His Grace Bernard Mohlalisi OMI, said that all had seen
that E. R. had embarked on a path that would bring him in front of God (A re
bohle ba bone hore E. R. o tsamaile ka tsela e tla mo fihlisa kapel’a Molimo).
Others who spoke included King Letsie III, Dr Khauhelo Raditapole of the BCP and
Thesele ’Maseribane of the BNP Youth League. The South African High
Commissioner, Mr Japhet Ndlovu, who was speaking on behalf of foreign
governments, was booed at the funeral, and the crowd had to be rebuked by E.
R.’s brother, Bereng Sekhonyana. In his speech Ndlovu extolled E. R.’s
contribution to South Africa’s freedom struggle at a time when Ndlovu had
himself been a refugee in Lesotho.
The National Security Service, which is a separate force from
both police and army, but now falls under the Ministry of Defence, developed out
of the original Police Special Branch, and in the period of undemocratic rule,
specialized in spying on the activities of political opponents. When in due
course these opponents became the ruling party, the NSS was unable to make the
awkward transition. It developed deep internal divisions, leading to a rebellion
in 1995 in which members of the NSS held its own Director hostage. The Lesotho
Government was only been able to solve this incident after the personal
intervention of the Commonwealth Secretary-General.
It might have been thought that the restoration of democracy
in Lesotho, and the end of apartheid might have heralded an era of transparency
in southern Africa in which the NSS would have a diminished role. However,
evidence that Government was still prepared to spend considerable sums on the
NSS appeared in advertisements in newspapers in November 1998. 15 ‘Higher
Intelligence Officer’ posts for graduates in Social Sciences were advertised
along with a common job description which was inter alia to ‘collect and report
intelligence about threats of espionage, terrorism and sabotage ... about the
activities of agents of foreign powers and from persons intended [sic] to
overthrow or undermine democracy ... about threats posed by the actions or
intentions of persons inside and outside Lesotho ... and collect and report
intelligence about any activity that may tend to operate to undermine national
Sporting contests between the SADC Forces, the Royal Lesotho
Mounted Police and the Lesotho Defence Force were held at the Setsoto Stadium on
Wednesday 25 November. In opening the competition, the commander of the Lesotho
Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Mosakeng stated that RLMP and LDF are part of
the SADC forces and the games were intended to promote friendship between the
RLMP won the volleyball tournament, SANDF the tug-of-war, LDF
the athletics competition and SANDF the soccer.
The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) which began work in
Lesotho in 1971, has had a long record of supplying volunteers as teachers and
as workers in a great many other religious and community development activities.
In the December issue of the Lesotho Council of Churches newspaper Likereke
Ntlafatsong the MCC Programme Coordinator, Mrs Betty Enns, gave reasons why MCC
was now withdrawing from Lesotho. She referred to the Mennonite doctrine of
non-violence and the fact that many of the volunteers had nevertheless been at
the receiving end of violence. She referred to her own experience of having been
robbed six times in three years and having three vehicles taken at gunpoint. MCC
personnel would be withdrawn until such time as a semblance of political
stability had returned to Lesotho. She asked where was the voice of the Church
in the era of looting? ‘How can the Church have a voice when some of those who
are preaching the word of God, too, are wearing the clothes they have stolen!’
... ‘We wonder how can people allow themselves to be driven to such anger as to
deliberately destroy their country and city? Knowingly drive themselves to
further hunger? It seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.’ ...
‘There must be a return to integrity, godly fear and trust.’
Answering a question in the Senate on 25 November, the
Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Mopshatla Mabitle stated that there were 1632
Chinese living in Lesotho who had applied for Lesotho citizenship. Their
applications could be approved only after five years’ residence, satisfactory
health records and evidence that they had money to invest in the country.
A one-day seminar on the results of the 1996 population census
was held on Thursday 26 November. The report on the 1996 census showed that the
population had grown from 1605000 in 1986 to only 1862000 in 1996, representing
a 1.5% growth rate between 1986 and 1996, compared with a 2.6% growth rate in
the previous decade. There was some scepticism amongst observers about the
figures, and many believed that the true 1996 population should have been close
to 2.1 million: as a result of changes in enumeration personnel and other
factors there had been massive underenumeration in 1996. Analysis of components
of the figures such as the number of children under 10 (which were down to a
half of the previous figure) seemed likely to provide fuel for a major
post-mortem on what went wrong with the census.
Lentsoe la Basotho of 3 December 1998 reported that equipment
for conducting elections which had been stored at the Makoanyane Barracks for
safekeeping by the Independent Electoral Commission, had in fact been badly
damaged during the fighting there on 22-23 September. Amongst equipment damaged
or destroyed were the cameras, films and other equipment used for registering
After considerable delays, the new Interim Political Authority
(IPA) was sworn in on Wednesday 9 December 1998. It derives its powers from the
Interim Political Authority Act 1998, and these include (§6(b)) reviewing of the
Electoral Code of Conduct; (§6(d)) reviewing the Independent Electoral
Commission; and (§6(e)) reviewing the Lesotho electoral system. Under §11, ‘a
member of the Authority shall receive such remuneration as the Authority may
The composition of the IPA is 24 persons, being 2 nominees
from each of the parties who contested the May 1998 elections. Those appointed
by the individual parties are:
MAY 1998 ELECTION % VOTE IN
PARTY & PERSONS APPOINTED NOTES
CONSTITUENCY & PLACEMENT IN POLL 1998 ELECTION
Lesotho Congress for Democracy
Tom Thabane Foreign Minister MP for Abia 60.3
Kelebone Maope Minister of Agriculture MP for Seqonoka 71.5
Basutoland Congress Party
Tšeliso Makhakhe former Min. of Education 3rd in ’Maliepetsane
Dr Khauhelo D. Raditapole former Min. of Nat. Res. 3rd in
Teyateyaneng poll 13.1
Basotho National Party
Dr Ebenezer ’Meli Malie former Min. of Education 2nd in Taung
Chief Lekhooana Jonathan 2nd in Kolonyama poll 38.2
Marematlou Freedom Party
Vincent Moeketse Malebo Min. of Inf. in Mil. Gov. 4th in
Machache poll 5.1
Moletsane Monyake former MD of LNDC not a candidate
Sefate Democratic Union
Bofihla Nkuebe Qeme MP after 1993 by-election 3rd in Qeme poll
Adv. Rethabile Sakoane not a candidate
National Progressive Party
Justin Sekhonyana Ntlhabo not a candidate
Alex Keoamang Makara 4th in Motimposo poll 0.6
National Independence Party
Antony Clovis Manyeli former BNP Min. of Educ. 4th in Maama
Motikoe Motikoe not a candidate
Christian Democratic Party
Anacleda ’Mamabela Sekonyela 7th in Koro-Koro poll 1.5
Phai Fothoane 7th in Qeme poll 0.7
Patriotic Front for Democracy
Rakali Aaron Khitšane 4th in Qhalasi poll 1.4
Adv. Lekhetho Rakuoane 3rd in Mantšonyane poll 8.7
Lesotho Education Party
Mamello Morrison former MFP spokesperson not a candidate
Samuel Thabo Pitso 4th in Mekaling poll 0.9
Lesotho Labour Party/United Democratic Party Alliance
Charles Dabende Mofeli 5th in Motimposo poll 0.4
Mthuthuzeli Patrick Tyhali 4th in Tele poll 2.6
Kopanang Basotho Party
Pheello Mosala not a candidate
Limakatso Rebecca Ntakatsane 4th in Lithoteng poll 0.7
As can be seen 8 of the 12 parties represented were unable to
field candidates in the May 1998 election who could gain even 10% of the votes
in their constituencies, and of these 3 parties scored less than 1% of the votes
in their constituencies. Parties that fielded just two candidates in May 1998
entered the IPA on an equal footing with those who could field candidates in all
80 constituencies. Of the 24 persons appointed, more than a third but less than
a half had some previous parliamentary experience, whether in the elected BNP
government, the appointed Interim National Assembly, the National Constituent
Assembly set up to prepare for the return to democracy, or the elected 1993-8
Parliament. 5 of the 24 appointees were women, a higher proportion than in the
National Assembly (3 out of 80) although smaller than in Senate (9 out of 33).
Amongst the women members was a lawyer, Rethabile Sakoane, who is the youngest
member of the IPA.
There was surprise that Mamello Morrison had appeared on the
list of nominees as representing the Lesotho Education Party. In The Mirror of
13 December 1998, she denied that (as most people believed) she was a member of
the Marematlou Freedom Party. Yet during the palace vigil, she had frequently
acted as if she was its spokesperson, and it was also widely remembered that she
had been editor of the MFP newspaper, Mphatlalatsane, even though it had ceased
to appear since May 1994, when it had run into financial difficulties. There was
a general belief that when the MFP chose its leader and another prominent member
as its nominees, Mamello Morrison looked to one of the minor parties who might
support her. The Lesotho Education Party, which had fielded just two candidates
who between them had only mustered only 82 votes in the May elections, was
receptive, and she was thus able to get an IPA seat.
The first formal meeting of the IPA was held at United Nations
House on Monday 14 December, and elected Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane of the PFD
and Dr Khauhelo Raditapole of the BCP as its two chairpersons. NewsWire of 15
December 1998 indicated that there appeared to be within the IPA two rival
groups of exactly equal size represented on the one hand by the LCD, to which
was allied the PFD, NIP, NPP, KBP and CDP. Set against this grouping was the BNP
to which was allied the BCP, SDU, MFP, LEP and the LLP/UDP alliance.
Chief Ranthomeng Matete of Morija was appointed Secretary to
the IPA, and it was reported that its regular meetings would be held at the
former High Court complex, which had been recently vacated by the move to the
recently constructed Palace of Justice. Moafrika of 18 December stated that the
IPA had been given rotten, burnt and smelly premises, a reference to the damage
done to the High Court during the riots.
It was announced on Radio Lesotho on 18 December that Mrs
’Matšepo Ramakoae had been appointed Principal Secretary for Defence in place of
Mr Ncholu Ncholu.
According to the Central Bank’s magazine, CBL Brief of
December 1998, Mr Stephen M. Swaray had arrived in Lesotho in August 1998 to
assume duty as the new Governor of the Central Bank of Lesotho. The new Governor
is a native of Sierra Leone, and has had previous experience as a Lecturer in
Economics at Fouray Bay College, University of Sierra Leone (1980-8); Budget
Controller, Mano River Union (1988-92); Deputy Governor (1992-3) and Governor
(1993-7) Central Bank of Sierra Leone; and Consultant Technical Assistance
Adviser to the International Monetary Fund (1997-8).
He succeeds Dr Anthony Mothae Maruping who had been Governor
of the Bank for a ten year period from 1988 to 1998, and who had left the bank
in May 1998.
The Minister of Health, Mr Vova Bulane, made a familiarisation
tour of the Maseru Private Hospital on Monday 14 December. The hospital has been
open for approximately a year and is situated close to the Maseru Bypass near Ha
The Minister urged patients to make more use of the hospital.
The Hospital Manager, Mrs Sophie Mohapi, indicated that despite a reduction in
fees, the hospital was facing a big problem because of shortage of patients.
Although not mentioned by her, a problem for the hospital is
clearly the fact that those with sufficient funds make use of the excellent
(although expensive) private facilities available in Bloemfontein at the
Hydromed Hospital. This hospital has a very much wider range of specialist
services. At its inception the Maseru Private Hospital had attempted to provide
some specialist services by weekly visits from Hydromed doctors. These visits
had declined, partly because of the small number of patients, and partly because
of the congestion at the border post, causing delays to doctors who could ill
afford to waste hours of valuable time.
The decision in March 1998 to end the monopoly of Radio
Lesotho and Lesotho Television and to allow private stations to broadcast in
Lesotho had by December 1998 resulted in two new radio stations being set up.
Highlands Radio had for long been advertising its début on Radio Lesotho itself,
and it apparently began broadcasting in November, although with a signal so weak
that it was difficult for it to be picked up outside Maseru. A second station,
People’s Choice, had 24 people on its payroll by December and was also promising
an alternative to the government station. A third station Moafrika Radio Station
was promised by the newspaper Moafrika in its issue of 13 November 1998 on FM at
97.00 kHz, although there was still no sign of it at the end of the year.
On the television front, it was reported in the Lesotho
Council of Churches newspaper, Likereke Ntlafatsong of September 1998 that a new
‘Christian’ television station, the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) would be
launched in Lesotho very soon. TBN was founded by an American called Paul
Grouch, and is said to now be in every continent of the world. Rev. Daniel M.
Maqhama will be its director in Lesotho.
The 80th birthday was celebrated on 26 December 1998 at the
Pitso Ground of Ntsu Mokhehle, former leader of the BCP and (after his party
dismissed him), leader of the breakaway Lesotho Congress for Democracy. Although
Mokhehle retired in favour of the now Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, before
the 1998 elections, he is still described as Life President of the LCD.
At the birthday celebrations there were speeches by the Prime
Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and a number of others. Ntsu Mokhehle himself
was unable to attend the celebrations, because he was in hospital in
Although good news was at a premium in 1998, the weather
proved an exception. All of the summer months from January to March and from
October to December had rainfall above average, and growing conditions for the
1998-9 summer were at the end of the year very good. The total rainfall for the
year in Roma amounted to 1228mm, just short of the all-time calendar year total
of 1237mm set in 1991. Nine out of the past twelve calendar years had been
wetter than the average (845mm for Roma). The bad year was 1992, when the
rainfall total had been just 515mm.
From the point of view of agriculture, the water year from
October to September is more important than the calendar year. This had also
been above average in 9 of the past 12 water years, with drought years occurring
in 1991-2 (641mm), 1992-3 (662mm) and 1994-5 (534mm), but excellent totals in
the past three years 1995-6 (1134mm), 1996-7 (1210mm) and 1997-8 (1029mm). The
overall water year record for Roma is 1949-50 with 1288mm, and the worst drought
year was 1932-3 with 447mm.
[Updated to 31 December 1998]