SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 3, Number 1 (First Quarter 1996)

Summary of events in Lesotho is a quarterly publication compiled

SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN LESOTHO

Volume 10, Number 2 (Second Quarter 2003)

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.

Public Eye Publishes Rogue Issue
New South African High Commissioner to Lesotho Presents Credentials
Villagers Kill Alleged Multiple Murderer
Imperial Fleet Services Criticized in Government Commissioned Probe
Hotel Victoria taken over by Don Group
Defence Force Colonel Murdered
Hungarian Geologist Identifies Lesotho Rock Structures as Fossil Termitaria
Lesotho Red Cross Elects First Woman President
IEC Commissioner Mafole Sematlane Removed from Office
Death of Former Academic and Minister, Michael Sefali
Death of Rock Art Specialist Patricia Vinnicombe
Former Basotho Cannon Stolen
Masupha Sole Loses Appeal but has Sentence Reduced
Sexual Offences Act 2003 becomes Law
Former Minister of Agriculture, Vova Bulane, Dies in Car Crash
MILES Chairman’s Remarks Result in US Funding Being Withheld
Metolong Gorge Feasibility Study Progresses despite Major Heritage Implications
National Library Demolished
Thuathe Meteorite Featured in New Zealand Magazine
Death of Well-known Veterinary Surgeon, Norman Raditapole
Former NUL Lecturer Becomes Wits Vice-Chancellor
Lesotho Garment Sector Continues to Expand Despite Water and Container Problems
Murder at Morija Published
Square One Computers Building Advertised
Lesotho Acts on SARS
Parishioners Close Church after Dispute with Priest
NHTC Closed until August; LCE also Closed for Over Two Weeks
State Visit to Botswana; Minister Studies and Applauds Botswana Local Government
Work Begins on New Factory Estate in Mohale’s Hoek
Ministry of Education Closes Schools
Deaths Follow Lesotho Helicopter Crash into Katse Reservoir
Lesotho Implements Kimberley Process Regulations
Chartered Accountant Conducts Public Feud with Minister of Finance
Attorney Escapes after Shots Fired at Car
Lesotho Inflation Rate Drops
New Factory Workers Union Formed
Law Society Protests Removal of Magistrate
Law Society President Arrested
Free Public Standpipes to be Discontinued
National University of Lesotho to be Restructured from 1 July 2003
VAT to be Introduced on 1 July 2003

Public Eye Publishes Rogue Issue

The newspaper Public Eye, is now Lesotho’s largest weekly newspaper (there are no dailies) and commonly has 40 pages, much of it in colour. The issue of 2 April (possibly prompted by April Fools’ Day disease) came out as a completely rogue issue, with stories and pictures printed on top of each other so that very little of the newspaper was legible. The perpetrator, as advertised by himself on the front page, was one Tšepo Sehlabi, who also advertised that the newspaper was free. It was believed that after the issue came out, he was being sought by the editor and was nowhere to be found! back to top

New South African High Commissioner to Lesotho Presents Credentials

The new South African High Commissioner to Lesotho, Mr William Leslie, presented his credentials to His Majesty King Letsie III on Thursday 27 March 2003. He replaces the late Japhet Ndlovu, who died in office in Maseru after a short illness on 12 October 2002.

As reported in Lentsoe la Basotho of 3 April 2003, in his address when presenting his credentials, the new High Commissioner said that it was not the first time he had been in Lesotho. He had visited the country between 1976 and 1990 as a representative of the African National Congress. Moreover as a businessman, he had employed not only South African refugees but also many people from Lesotho.back to top

Villagers Kill Alleged Multiple Murderer

Keleng Tabola, a criminal who was on the run after alleged multiple killings, was finally killed by villagers at Ha Kholoko, near Roma on Sunday 30 March 2003.

Tabola of Tloutle Ha Shale in the Roma Valley had embarked on a killing spree not long after being released from gaol, where he had been serving a seven year sentence for the murder and mutilation of two local men. The number of his recent victims seems not to be known with certainty, but locally was thought to be more than ten persons. One particularly brutal murder was of ’Mamahlape Makoanyane of Tloutle Ha Mpiti, whom he saw using a cellphone. He thought she was calling the police when in fact she was simply calling a friend. She was shot dead outside her house.

In his own village of Ha Shale, Tabola had been responsible for several deaths, and several other villagers were injured when the police arrived searching for him and shot into houses in the mistaken belief that he was hiding there. Ultimately he fought with an erstwhile associate, one Tšoarelo Monyatsi, whom he wounded so badly with an axe that he died in hospital. Tabola’s mistake following this, was to attend Tšoarelo’s funeral up on the plateau above the Maphotong Gorge at Ha Kholoko. On the Sunday following the funeral, he went to the local shop and quaffed two ‘quarts’ of beer without paying. The owner of the shop,’Malekhooa, complained and Tabola reacted angrily and fired three shots. This brought villagers who found Tabola wrestling with the shopowner. The villagers then set on the inebriated Tabola with sticks until he died. Immediately thereafter, according to the report in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 6 April 2003, the villagers ululated as if they were celebrating a wedding.

Instances of mob justice have become increasingly common as people have become dissatisfied with the inefficiency of the police and the slow pace of the legal system. Less than a month after the Tabola incident, on the night of Tuesday 29 April 2003 one Adam Lenonyane, of the Maseru suburb of Tsoapo-le-Bolila, was abducted from his home, and taken to Borokhoaneng where he was necklaced. His burned remains were visible to all as they passed the Battery Centre the next morning on their way to work along the main South Road into Maseru. According to the newspaper Public Eye of 2 May 2003, Lenonyane had been out on bail on a murder charge when he had committed another murder, and he had been deliberately necklaced at the spot where he had allegedly committed his latest murder a week earlier. According to the newspaper report, the 20-year old Lenonyane had been killed a day after a group of men had gone to the Thamae Police Station demanding to know if the police had arrested him following the latest murder and they found that he had not been arrested. The people of Borokhoaneng told the newspaper reporter that they were relieved that they had been rid of someone who had been a multiple rapist and murderer and had thanked the victims he mugged by stabbing them to death.

In a third incident, reported by Leseli ka Sepolesa of 20 June 2003, a suspected thief at the village of Mankoaneng Ha Teko, 12 km south of Maseru, was apprehended by the village vigilante group (komiti ea thibelo ea litlolo tsa molao) and when beaten to extract a confession, received injuries from which he died. The uncle of the deceased reported his death to the police at Thetsane Police Station. back to top

Imperial Fleet Services Criticized in Government Commissioned Probe

By the late 1990, the former Lesotho Government Plant and Vehicle Pool Services (PVPS), falling under the Ministry of Works, had become a serious embarrassment to Government with at any given time over 500 government vehicles in need of repair, and the capacity to make these repairs so low that the number of vehicles off the road was growing steadily ever larger.

After recommendations from a firm of consultants, PVPS was taken over in 1998 by Imperial Fleet Services Lesotho (IFSL), many former government employees being laid off in the process. IFSL is a company, 80% of whose shares are held by the South African parent company Imperial Fleet Services, while 20% are held by the Lesotho Government, these shares being held for eventual local Basotho ownership in terms of the government’s privatization policy. IFSL owns, maintains and leases out its vehicle fleet to government which no longer owns vehicles.

However, it seems that the Lesotho Government suspected that not all was above board at IFSL, and recently commissioned a company, MMR Advisory Services to report on what was happening. Although MMR’s report has not been published locally, the Mail & Guardian of 4 April 2003 summarised the 80-page report, a copy of which it had somehow acquired.

The report is damning about IFSL practices and amongst points it makes is that Imperial Fleet Services South Africa charges IFSL a large and unjustifiable management fee, even though IFSL senior executives are paid full salaries to manage IFSL; IFSL charges exorbitant fees for training Basotho panelbeaters (M800000 in two years, yet only one Mosotho had qualified in that time from the apprenticeship programme); and that IFSL charges the Lesotho Government daily rates and rates per kilometre which are 10% to 13% higher rates on short-term rentals than is normal for private hire in Lesotho - discounts would be more appropriate because of the size of the operation.

Imperial also runs the South African government’s outsourced car fleet, and the Lesotho report follows a South African Department of Transport investigation into Imperial’s operations there. back to top

Hotel Victoria taken over by Don Group

The Hotel Victoria in the centre of Maseru, already closed for over a year, is to be reopened under the auspices of the Don Group, a South African hotel chain, whose Chief Executive is Lesotho-born Thabiso Tlelai. This was announced to journalists by the Minister of Finance, Mr Tim Thahane, on 27 March 2003. The Don Group has nine hotels in South Africa, including hotels in Cape Town, Sandton and Pretoria, and has recently expanded its operations into Ghana and Uganda. It specializes in ‘suite hotels’ where each bedroom or group of bedrooms has an adjoining room which can be used for business meetings or similar purposes. To convert the Hotel Victoria to this new style of hotel will take time, and it is estimated that it will not reopen until 2005. No announcement was made about the future of the Molimo-Nthuse Hotel on the Mountain Road. This had formerly been run by the Hotel Victoria, and has also been closed for over a year.

Openings and closings of visitor facilities in Maseru are very much the order of the day. The Hut was a restaurant constructed in place of the Boccaccio Restaurant, which like the Basotho Hat, was burned in the 1998 disturbances. The Hut was designed in the shape of a thatched frustum of a cone, matching the adjoining conical Basotho Hat. However, it has recently closed, leaving just a Hair Salon in its basement. The Basotho Shield is another thatched building facing the Hut and Basotho Hat across Orpen Road, a road whose section turning off Kingsway is now a cul-de-sac because of the new Mpilo Boulevard relief road. The Basotho Shield was built as a tourist display centre, but has long been leased out to commercial enterprises. The new Lesotho Tourist Development Board has, however, adopted it for refurbishment, and it has recently become the site of much rebuilding activity. back to top

Defence Force Colonel Murdered

According to a report in The Mirror of 9 April 2003, Colonel Clifford Tjotjela Polisa of the Lesotho Defence Force was shot dead and his woman companion raped when the car in which they were parked near Masianokeng was attacked on Friday 4 April. Mobile phones, watches and M60 in cash were stolen.

Police investigations following Colonel Polisa’s death led to further tragedies. Police went to the house of a 77-year old man named Mosola at Masianokeng, apparently in connection with Polisa’s death. The man initially refused to open the door, but when he did finally do so, he apparently had a gun and a policeman, Talimo Molapo, was fatally wounded. Mosola was taken into custody at Mabote Police Station, where it was reported, according to The Mirror of 14 May 2003, he died soon afterwards of undetermined causes. Lentsoe la Basotho of 15 May 2003 reported the same story but with variations. The elderly man had been arrested on 4 May at Ha Tšosane, not Masianokeng, and he had, according to a police spokesman, died of high blood pressure in police custody before he could get medical help. The Mirror of 14 May reported that meanwhile another suspect had been arrested, a catechist at Nazareth mission. He had been found with the stolen property in his possession.

Colonel Polisa, who headed LDF Military Intelligence, held a BA in Public Administration from the National University of Lesotho and an MA in Public Administration from the University of Liverpool. He had also undertaken a number of military training course in Lesotho and abroad. back to top

Hungarian Geologist Identifies Lesotho Rock Structures as Fossil Termitaria

The rocks exposed in western Lesotho are sedimentary rocks laid down some 241 to 183 million years ago. At about 183 million years ago, and for a period of some 500 000 years thereafter the sedimentary rocks were rent by vast tectonic activity when narrow slit volcanoes opened up across country spilling out lava which formed layers covering the sedimentary rocks, these layers being the basalts which are now the Maloti.

In much of Lesotho, following a number of uplifts, the boundary between the top of the sedimentary rocks and the basalts is at about 1800 metres above sea level, and this boundary can be seen almost anywhere in western Lesotho as a horizontal line between the cream coloured cliffs below and the darker basaltic rocks above. The cream (sometimes orange and sometimes even pink) cliffs are known to geologists as the Clarens Formation, although for the layman the older name Cave Sandstone is more descriptive, because the cliffs become often hollowed out into vast rock shelters, shelters where in some cases man has lived for tens of thousands of years and thus important for archaeologists. Many of the rock shelters are also important rock painting sites.

There is a large rock shelter at Roma which gave the Roma area its older name of Tloutle, and immediately above this rock shelter there is a series of strange rock structures rather resembling trees and their branches, but lacking the silicified wood which is found in petrified trees elsewhere in Lesotho. These structures, although known to people locally, had no obvious explanation.

On 5 April 2003, at the suggestion of a staff member at the National University of Lesotho, the site was visited by a Hungarian geologist, Dr Emese Bordy, who is an expert on the Clarens Formation, and the closely related formations beneath it. She came back from her visit wildly excited. The structures were clearly, she maintained, fossil termite nests. The columns and the subterranean passages and chambers of termites living 183 million years ago, immediately before the igneous intrusions, could all be clearly recognised.

Termites belong to the insect order Isoptera, and are today extremely widespread in tropical and subtropical areas of the Earth, with several species being commonly found in Lesotho. These include the hemispherical mound builders, Trinervitermes trinervoides, and the underground harvester termites, Hodotermes mossambicus, whose existence is revealed when once a year on a cloudy damp afternoon, the alates emerge in thousands on their nuptial flights.

Termites are often misleadingly called white ants, but in fact are not in any way related to ants which belong to the order Hymenoptera. Nevertheless they have developed complex societies which rival those of ants, and indeed have skills in cultivating underground fungus gardens, and keeping other insect species (the so called ‘termitophiles’), rather like humans keep cows, for the secretions they can live off.

How did such societies develop and how old are they? The early history of the Isoptera is clouded in mystery and according to a recent book, Gondwana alive, is only imperfectly known back to the early Cretaceous at 144 million years. Insect fossils in fact are very difficult to discover, unless they happen to be trapped in amber.

The Roma discovery, together with a small number of other recent finds in the USA and in the upper Clarens Formation in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, have helped to push termite/Isoptera history back at least a further 40 million years. More work needs to be done to describe the recent finds, including fossil termitaria which have also subsequently been recognised as occurring extensively in the upper Clarens Formation on the Roma Plateau. A systematic search also needs to be made to see if they occur elsewhere in Lesotho, and preliminary reports suggest that similar structures have already been found near Morija.back to top

Lesotho Red Cross Elects First Woman President

At its Annual general Meeting held in Maseru from 5 to 6 April 2003, the Lesotho Red Cross elected its first woman president. She is Mrs ’Makabelo Priscilla Mosothoane of Hlotse, better known there as the Principal of the very successful Leribe English Medium High School. (All high schools in Lesotho are English medium, but no doubt the name was chosen to avoid confusion with Leribe High School.) back to top

IEC Commissioner Mafole Sematlane Removed from Office

A story which had occupied many column centimetres of media space for several months was finally ended by a Legal Notice in a Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary of 7 April 2003. It simply stated that the King, on the advice of a tribunal set up to investigate the matter, had removed Mafole Sematlane, a member of the Independent Electoral Commission, from office for misbehaviour with effect from the date of the notice. back to top

Death of Former Academic and Minister, Michael Sefali

The death occurred on Monday 14 April 2003 at the age of 63 of Dr Michael Malefetsane Sefali, a former Senior Lecturer in Economics at the National University of Lesotho and the second Director of the University’s Institute of Southern African Studies. He died from pneumonia at the Maseru Private Hospital after a short illness.

Michael Sefali was born on 20 May 1939 in the remote Matebeng area of what was then Qacha’s Nek District. He completed high school in 1960 at Roma College, the predecessor of Christ the King High School. In 1962, he took advantage of opportunities the Soviet Union was offering to African students and after a preliminary year enrolled in 1963 at the Moscow State (Lomonosov) University, which in 1967 awarded him the Degree of Master of Sciences in Economics. The many courses for the degree included Russian Language, Dialectical Materialism, Fundamentals of Scientific Atheism, Agricultural Economics and Industrial Economics, in all of which he was marked Excellent. He was also marked Excellent for the course Economic History of Socialist Countries, but only Good for his performance in Economic History of Capitalist Countries. His MA thesis was on the economic problems of modern Africa.

After his return to Lesotho, Sefali worked in Maseru from 1968 to 1975 as managing clerk and accountant at a firm of attorneys in Maseru.

He was appointed initially as a Research Fellow in Economics to the Roma Campus of the then University of Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland in 1975. He became Lecturer in Economics in 1976 and was also the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences from 1976 to 1978.

In 1978, Michael Sefali was awarded through the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa a fellowship to return to Russia. His PhD awarded was awarded in December 1980 for a dissertation with the title (The struggle of the developing countries of Africa for economic independence and the restructuring (‘perestroika’) of international economic relations: the case of Lesotho). Unfortunately there exists no English translation of the text of the thesis.

Shortly after his return to NUL, Sefali was appointed as the second Director of the Institute of Southern African Studies. ISAS had been set up by the independent National University of Lesotho to ensure that the university’s research work was not too parochial and encompassed the whole southern African region. The first Director of ISAS, Dr Stan Mudenge, had used the post to travel widely (ultimately this served him well because he became Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe), but he had in fact achieved little on the ground at NUL. It was only during Dr Sefali’s directorship that ISAS did grow into a viable research institution, helped by a period of general University expansion through donor support, which recognised ISAS as having a role as an independent body within the then apartheid-dominated region. It was Sefali who ensured that ISAS recruited staff; established two functional divisions, one for Research and the other for Documentation & Publications; and became host to a number of international research projects of which the Human Rights Project was one of the earliest. This was done at a time when human rights in Lesotho were at a low ebb, because of its own government’s use of imprisonment without trial, while police practised torture with impunity. The Human Rights project, in which King Moshoeshoe II took a personal interest, was able to publish objective assessments of the situation in a number of the then SADCC countries including Lesotho. ISAS also became the focal point of the Southern African Development Research Association, following its hosting in November 1981 of a major international Workshop on ‘Research Priorities in Southern Africa’ which culminated in the adoption of what became known as the ‘Roma Declaration on Research for Development in Southern Africa’.

Dr Sefali remained Director of ISAS until January 1986, when at no notice at all, following the Military Coup of 20 January 1986, he was made a Member of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Economic Planning and Manpower Development. As Minister he was particularly active in international economic groupings and became a member of the Joint ACP-EEC Council of Ministers. He was elected President of this Council in August 1989, and as such was one of the co-signatories of the new ACP-EEC Lomé IV Convention in December 1989. Sefali signed for the 68 African, Caribbean and Pacific states, while the Prime Minister of France, Michel Rocher, signed for the European Economic Community.

However Lesotho’s distinguished role in the Joint ACP EEC Council of Ministers was short-lived. The new Council of Ministers, although appearing to be appointed directly by the King and acting as a Cabinet, in fact was subordinate to the Military Council. When the Military Council clashed with the King on 19 February 1990, the King was dethroned and went into exile, and Dr Sefali, who was seen as one of the King’s appointees, was summarily dismissed from the Council of Ministers. Although he resumed his position as Senior Lecturer in Economics on 1 March 1990, he was arrested at the University gate on 14 March 1990. While subsequently detained without charge or trial, he was himself subjected to torture and his case was taken up by Amnesty International.

After his release he returned to the University for a relatively short period leaving in mid-1991 to take up a position as Principal Economist in the Southern African Development Community Secretariat in Gaborone. He subsequently returned to Lesotho and established an economics consultancy. For a period he was Vice-President of the Senate, the Upper House of the Lesotho Parliament, but was dismissed early in 2002 after a dispute with the Senate’s President. In October 2002 he was appointed Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister.

Amongst his publications, Sefali was author of a textbook, Introduction to political economy (1977), ‘designed to give African students an elementary grounding in Marxist political economy’. He also published Maoism and the liberation movement (1978), which was originally a paper given to NUL’s Lumumba Society. He was concerned about the ‘treacherous role of Maoism in undermining the community of socialist states’, but upbeat about what he saw as the then ‘further upsurge of the working class movement against the rule of monopoly capital in the capitalist countries’. Subsequent publications included contributions to volumes on decolonization, apartheid, and Lesotho’s economic development. He also contributed an article on structural adjustment programmes in the Lesotho Law Journal.

A Marxist who remained true to his overseas ideological training, his funeral at Kokobela Cemetery, Maseru, on 20 April 2003 was not conducted by priests but by a personal friend who had been one of his neighbours.

Michael Sefali leaves a wife, Eunice, and five children, four of whom are now adults while the youngest is still at school. back to top

Death of Rock Art Specialist Patricia Vinnicombe

The Mountain Echo of April 2003 reported the sudden death, while attending a conference in Port Samson, Australia, of the eminent rock art specialist, Patricia Vinnicombe.

Pat Vinnicombe was born on 17 March 1932 on the farm West Ilsley in the Underberg District of KwaZulu-Natal, a farm where there were rock paintings which attracted her interest from an early age. As a child she pestered her father for an answer to the question as to what had happened to the people who had made the paintings.

She eventually trained in occupational therapy at the University of the Witwatersrand, a subject which was fortuitously in the Faculty of Medicine where her lecturers included Raymond Dart and Phillip Tobias. From Jean Humphreys of the South African Archaeological Society she learned the importance of making accurate tracings of rock paintings and in the 1950s she travelled to England where some of her tracings were exhibited at the then Imperial Institute. In France she met and gained inspiration from the Abbé Breuil, the aged and eccentric doyen of the French rock art community.

Although she worked briefly as an occupational therapist, by 1957, she had secured funds which enabled her to work full time on rock art, her activities until 1961 falling under B. D. Malan of the South African Historical Monuments Commission. During this time she met the archaeologist, Patrick (‘Pat’) Carter of Cambridge University who was undertaking fieldwork in south-eastern Lesotho. They married in 1961.

Thereafter the two Pat Carters undertook a number of joint undertakings, and Pat Vinnicombe (who retained her unmarried name in publications) provided an interim report on her work in the South African Journal of Science in 1967. In this article, she mentioned that she had by then a total of 308 recorded sites, of which 67 were in southeastern Lesotho in the Leqooa, Tsoelike, ’Melikane, Qutu, Sehonghong, Mokhotlong and Khubelu valleys. One of these sites in the Tsoelike valley depicted a fishing-scene using coracles. She had published a detailed article on this earlier, and it has become a familiar item much used in later rock art and historical literature.

The husband and wife team went on to carry out formal archaeological excavations in Lesotho at Moshebi’s Shelter near Sehlabathebe in 1969; the nearby Soloja’s Shelter and Sehonghong Shelter in 1971; and ’Melikane in 1974, spending altogether 29 months in the field. Both Pat Carter and Pat Vinnicombe received doctorates from Cambridge University for their meticulous work, much of which was subsequently published (together with that of a successor Oxford archaeologist, Peter Mitchell) in the British Archaeological Reports International Series.

Rock art has a special public appeal, and much of the content of Pat Vinnicombe’s doctoral thesis found its way into a large and sumptuously illustrated book People of the eland: rock paintings of the Drakensberg Bushmen as a reflection of their life and thought. In this book, published in 1976 by the University of Natal Press, about a quarter of the rock painting sites illustrated or otherwise discussed are in the Qacha’s Nek, Thaba-Tseka and Mokhotlong Districts of Lesotho. The plates include both coloured photographs and meticulously executed coloured tracings made on site. There is also a wealth of historical detail about the last of the Bushmen (or Baroa or San) in Lesotho. However, Pat Vinnicombe, when she gave public lectures, used to say that only some 20% of the material she had collected by the time the book was published had actually been used in the 410 page book.

Pat Vinnicombe’s marriage to Pat Carter did not survive, but she continued rock art exploration in Lesotho, notably an expedition to the Senqunyane valley with Britt Bousman, where 54 archaeological sites, 29 of them painted sites, were located in 1976. However, this additional material was never published because Pat Vinnicombe took up an appointment with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Australia.

On retirement, she returned to South Africa, and occupied an honorary position with the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she was able to deposit and work on her unpublished material, including Lesotho rock art photographs.

Her sudden and unexpected death came as a shock to friends and relatives in both South Africa and Australia. back to top

Former Basotho Cannon Stolen

As reported in The Star of 16 April 2003, a Swedish manufactured muzzle-loading cannon, 200 years old, was stolen during the Witblits Festival in Philippolis in the southwestern Free State. The cannon was apparently one which had been captured from the forces of King Moshoeshoe by Free State commandos during what was known to them as the ‘Second Basotho War’ in 1865.

In fact, to the Basotho this war was known as the ‘Seqiti War’, seqiti being an onomatopoeic word derived from the sound of a cannon, a weapon which the Basotho had first acquired in quantity from traders in the 1860s, and whose characteristic boom distinguished the conflict from earlier wars in which the sound of the musket had been more typical. In the Seqiti War of 1865, the Basotho were known to have had at least six cannons, one with King Moshoeshoe at Thaba-Bosiu, while his sons Letsie and Molapo had respectively two and three cannon. It is likely to have been one of these latter cannons which was captured and 138 years later stolen in Philippolis. back to top

Masupha Sole Loses Appeal but has Sentence Reduced

The appeal by the former Chief Executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, Masupha Sole, against his High Court conviction for having accepted bribes was heard by the Court of Appeal in April. The Court allowed the conviction to stand but reduced the sentence from 18 years to 15 years.

Meanwhile the long process of prosecuting individual firms which had paid the bribes continued. The case against Lahmeyer International was completed by May, with judgment expected to be given in June; and at the end of May the case was heard against Highland Water Venture, the consortium made up of Kier International of UK and Impregilo of Italy which had actually built the Katse Dam. This case was relatively short in that one Jacobus Michiel du Plooy of Ficksburg pleaded guilty to transferring at least US$375000 from his own Swiss bank account to the Swiss bank account of Masupha Sole to influence him to award a contract to either Highlands Water Venture or Impregilo. Rather oddly for someone possessing a Swiss bank account, Du Plooy said he knew no European languages and gave all of his evidence in Sesotho. The case was postponed to 22 July for evidence in mitigation and sentence.

Meanwhile the Canadian firm, Acres, was appealing against its $2 million fine, a case to be heard in the Court of Appeal on 6 August. back to top

Sexual Offences Act 2003 becomes Law

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 was published as a Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary (no. 29 of 2003) on 22 April 2003 and came into operation on that date.

The new Act is notable for its harsh sentences and also its clumsy drafting which takes liberty with the English language. For example in the Interpretation Section of the Act, ‘coercive circumstances’ are defined to include any circumstance where there is application of force or threats, but is extended also to mean any circumstance where ‘a perpetrator knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that he/she is infected with a sexually transmissible disease, the human immuno-deficiency virus or other life threatening disease does not, before committing the sexual act, disclose to the complainant that he/she is so infected’. Under Section 3, sexual acts are unlawful if they take place in coercive circumstances, and a person who commits an unlawful sexual act with another person commits a sexual offence.

Under penalties in Section 32, even if it is a first conviction, ‘a person who is convicted of an offence of a sexual nature shall ... be liable, where a person is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, and at the time of the commission of the offence the person had knowledge or reasonable suspicion of the infection, to the death penalty’. One can conclude from this that a HIV-positive person, knowing his or her HIV status, could face the gallows, if he or she does not reveal this status to their partner before sexual intercourse.

The Act is however confusing in that it also states under Section 32(a)(iii) that the penalty in the same circumstances is imprisonment for not less than 10 years.

The penalty for a first conviction for rape, including marital rape, is imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 years. The same period of not less than 10 years is applied for sexual offences against children (but imprisonment of not less than 15 years for anyone who has sexually abused a child on more than one occasion). Anyone who is HIV-positive, but does not know it, automatically gets a sentence of not less than 10 years for a sexual offence.

Second offences attract even harsher penalties ranging from not less than five years for indecent exposure to 20 years and life imprisonment for more serious offences.

In relation to HIV status, a person charged with a sexual act involving penetrative sex has to have a blood sample taken within a week of being charged. The results of the test are only revealed for purposes of sentencing if a conviction is secured. This requirement might in practice be difficult to implement in some cases. For example, The Mirror of 4 June 2003 revealed that some government hospitals, such as the hospital at Qacha’s Nek, do not have any HIV testing kits.

The Act obviously raises many very difficult issues of human rights and the humane treatment of offenders, because its prescribed minimum sentences provide little scope for pity or mercy. There is also no obvious provision for mitigation. For example, condoms are nowhere mentioned in the Act, despite the fact that nationally condom use is widely promoted as a means of ‘safe’ sex, and arguably may have induced more people to indulge in penetrative sex (whether legal or illegal) at younger ages.

An obvious problem with the Act is that it was not preceded by a White Paper, although there was apparently some discussion with a number of organizations, including women’s organizations who felt the need for harsh penalties to deter offenders, particularly those who were HIV positive and infecting others. Secondly, when presented to Parliament as a Bill, few people outside Parliament were aware of it. There was at the time no discussion in any newspapers, although the magazine Lesotho Monitor (whose Editor-in-Chief was a parliamentarian - the Senator, Dr Rakoro Phororo) did give it some space, and one contributor spoke of it as an ‘angry’ piece of legislation. Thirdly, its contribution to preventing the spread of HIV is very much debatable. It might well inhibit people from discovering their HIV status. For those who do know they are HIV-positive (or learn that they are HIV-positive after a court case), given that anti-retrovirals are almost unavailable in Lesotho, they are essentially already terminally ill. Thus sentencing them to death or to long periods of imprisonment seems rather pointless. Possibly some special kind of humane detention might be more appropriate.

The Act should obviously, in all fairness to the large number of people affected by it, be made as widely known as possible. Yet the Government’s Department of Information initially failed to mention it in any of its publications. Moreover, the Act is in English of a kind that few people can understand (indeed the Act seems to contradict itself at times) and there is no Sesotho version. It is understood however that there are plans to publish a Sesotho version, although the translator will obviously be somewhat challenged to find correct Sesotho terms for some items on the list of sexual practices considered by the Act to be ‘sexual acts’.

By June, the first reports of the implementation of the Act in the Government newspaper, Lesotho Today, were appearing. In the issue of 12 June 2003, the case was reported of a factory worker who accepted what she thought was a lift home from two men, who then took her to their home and allegedly raped her. Two arrested suspects were taken for HIV/AIDS testing at Motebang Hospital, Hlotse before being charged. The paper notes that a minimum 10 year gaol sentence will be applied if they are convicted and found to be HIV-positive, whether or not they were aware of their HIV status.

Meanwhile in the High Court, as reported in Public Eye of 27 June 2003, a 24-year old man, Sakoane Mphasa, of Marutlhoaneng near Boleka in Mafeteng District, was sentenced to death for raping and then killing a 10-year old girl, and at the same time strangling her 4-year old brother. The accused also stole family property. Justice Kelello Guni said that since the offences had taken place in 1992, they were not covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The newspaper report did not comment on why the case had taken so long to be brought to the court.

A two-day sensitization workshop on the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was held on 17-18 June at UN House in Maseru for legal professionals and law enforcement officials. The workshop was organized by the Lesotho Law Reform Commission and supported by UNICEF. back to top

Former Minister of Agriculture, Vova Bulane, Dies in Car Crash

The former Minister of Agriculture, who since March 2003 had been Minister to the Prime Minister, Vova Bota Benjamin Bulane, died in a car accident near Mafeteng on the morning of Saturday 26 April 2003. Bulane had been travelling towards his constituency of Qhoali in a Toyota Land Cruiser when his driver apparently collided with another vehicle while overtaking. The Minister’s vehicle overturned and he was killed instantly while his bodyguard, Bongani Peter Cekwane of Waterfall, Qacha’s Nek, died later in hospital.

Vova Bulane, who was 63, was born at Tšitsong near Mphaki in Quthing District, and first went to school in the Matatiele District of East Griqualand. He eventually qualified as a teacher in Lesotho, and having returned to his place of birth, he worked there both as a farmer and in 1971 as the founder principal of the Anglican Mopeli Secondary School.

Politics intervened and he was no longer allowed to work as a teacher. For a short time after 1982 he was employed as Financial Manager by the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association, but the government of the time ensured that he was unable also to keep that job.

From 1985 onwards, having left Lesotho, he was Head of the English Department at the Bonamelo College of Education in Qwaqwa, at a time when the exiled Basutoland Congress Party had its headquarters nearby. In 1993, he became the Chairman of the Phuthaditjhaba branch of the BCP in Qwaqwa. In 1998, he returned to Lesotho and was elected Lesotho Congress for Democracy MP for Qhoali Constituency. From 1998-9 he was Minister of Health & Social Welfare and from 1999 until the cabinet reshuffle in March 2003 he was Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

Well bearded and soft spoken, Vova Bulane was noted for his humility and also for being (despite his LPPA experience) a family man par excellence. By his first wife, Selina ’Mabulane Seitlheko, he had three sons and six daughters, and by his second wife ’Malebaka Flory Nyangentsimbi he had five sons and three daughters. Both wives as well as his many children and grandchildren were at the funeral at Roma. This is where Vova Bulane had made his home with his second wife, who is also now the Member of Parliament for the local Maama constituency. Vova Bulane’s funeral on Friday 2 May was an Anglican ceremony held at the large chapel of Christ the King High School, Roma. He was buried at the nearby Mabitlaneng Cemetery near Mahlanyeng, Roma. back to top

Metolong Gorge Feasibility Study Progresses despite Major Heritage Implications

Although Lesotho’s water resources are relatively abundant compared with other southern African countries, most available water is in the Maloti where relatively few people live, and the heavily populated Lowlands of Lesotho are relatively poorly served by perennial rivers. The Mohokare or Caledon, the border river with South Africa, has come increasingly under pressure, and in drought years can completely dry up. The situation has been exacerbated by a number of factors, including increased abstraction for both domestic and agricultural use on the South African side of the river. South Africa is believed to take three-quarters of water abstracted, while the river actually receives some three-quarters of its flow from tributaries on the Lesotho side. Among South African cities which use Caledon water is Bloemfontein, with water being pumped to the Free State capital via the Knellpoort Dam from an abstraction point downstream from Wepener. In Lesotho, the river is the main source of water for Maseru, via pumped storage from the main stream to the Maqalika Dam.

It has long been known that Maseru’s water resources are precarious and could easily fail in a drought year. Indeed, in the spring of 1994, the Caledon river ceased flowing, and the Maqalika Dam level dropped so far that even with severe water restrictions in place there was less than three weeks’ supply left for the capital city.

The 1994 crisis resulted in studies being made to augment the Maseru water supply, including proposals to raise the dam wall at Maqalika to increase the reservoir capacity, and construction of the so-called ‘Crushers Dam’ (the site was close to a former stone crushing plant) on the southern Phuthiatsana river near to its confluence with the Mohokare.

Neither proposal was in fact implemented, and a certain amount of complacency was no doubt generated by the fact that after the very dry water year of 1994-5 (‘water years’ run from October to September), there were seven consecutive water years in which rainfall was above average. Meanwhile, Maseru’s water supply needs had been growing rapidly as new factories with ‘wet’ industries, such as manufacturing stone-washed jeans were springing up in response to the opportunities provided by the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act. This Act provides preferential access to US markets for countries fulfilling certain conditions, which the new democratic Lesotho was able to meet. The largest of the new Maseru factories, the Nien Hsing Denim Mill, currently nearing completion, is estimated to require additional water equivalent to one-third of the present Maseru water supply.

Two initiatives are currently under way in relation to water supply needs. One is a 18-month study, the so-called Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme, looking at how to meet the water needs of all of Lesotho’s Lowlands urban and quasi-urban communities which currently have more than 2500 people (now over 50 in all) for the next 30 years.

In parallel with this study, is a specific study relating to a dam which could meet Maseru’s short-term needs. The Crushers Dam site favoured earlier has been abandoned, because it has a fatal flaw: the reservoir would have silted up within a short period. A new site, the Metolong Dam site, has recently been chosen much farther upstream on the Phuthiatsana for a feasibility study.

The Metolong Dam site is 10 km in a straight line east of Thaba-Bosiu, in a deeply incised and picturesque sandstone gorge, the most attractive gorge of its kind near Maseru, closely overlooked on the upstream side by the village of Ha Seeiso on the north bank and Metolong Ha Makhale on the south bank. The dam is planned to be some 70 metres high with a full surface level of 1676 metres, and preliminary drillings have already been undertaken at the site for the dam wall, which could be either concrete or rockfill, although the latter would take longer to build. The cliffs of the gorge are typical of the Clarens Formation and form natural rock shelters, and when surveyed in the early 1980s by the Analysis of Rock Art in Lesotho (ARAL) project, 34 different rock art sites were discovered immediately upstream from the dam site. Of these, 25 are below the planned inundation level, while the others are only some 5 to 10 metres above it. Although many of the sites when surveyed by ARAL contained only small patches of residual paint on friable rock surfaces, there were also several significant sites with large numbers of paintings, particularly in the area some distance upstream from the dam wall.

There are even more serious heritage implications of the Metolong Dam in relation to archaeology. Two major excavated sites at Ha Makotoko and Ntloana-Tšoana will be drowned by the waters of the reservoir to a depth of some 40 metres. Both sites have Later Stone Age deposits which have contributed enormously to knowledge of man in western Lesotho during the past 10000 years, as well as providing evidence of past climates and vegetation and fauna including two mammal species now globally extinct, the Blue Antelope and Quagga. However, the Ntloana-Tšoana site has something more. It includes a Middle Stone Age deposit going back perhaps some 70000 to 80000 years linked possibly to the Howiesonspoort Culture. Precise dating at this period is more difficult because the radiocarbon scale only works with reasonable precision for the past 50000 years.

Clearly when an Environmental Impact Assessment Statement is prepared for the Metolong Gorge site, there will be major heritage implications, which will have to include a detailed archaeological survey, and if the heritage implications are not considered a fatal flaw, then urgent archaeological rescue work will be needed before impoundment begins.

Archaeology, once a Cinderella amongst academic subjects, has recently received something of a boost in the new South Africa. Obviously the apartheid regime school history books have had to be replaced. They effectively considered that history in southern Africa began with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 to establish what some later revisionist historians have called ‘a cabbage patch on the way to India’. However, hominids have been living in southern Africa for some millions of years, and the immediate ancestors of most present day South Africans for some 2000 years, while the ancestors of the Khoisan peoples have lived for at least a few tens of thousands of years and perhaps very much longer. For the earlier history of the people of southern Africa, beyond the period of written history and oral tradition, the sources are to be found via the discipline of archaeology. Archaeology now has a place in South African school history syllabuses, and historians as a result are being required to widen their horizons to beyond the period of the written record.

Excavations at Ha Makotoko and Ntloana-Tšoana in the Phuthiatsana gorge were undertaken by Peter Mitchell of Oxford University and the findings published in several academic periodicals, although the two main articles are in the South African Archaeological Bulletin (1992) and the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (1993). Other archaeological work in Lesotho has been undertaken under contract by a number of individuals, but particularly by teams from the University of Cape Town. Until now, the National University of Lesotho has not been directly involved with archaeology except in relation to rock art through the ARAL project. However, the History Department of NUL has recently decided to expand its interests and a recent graduate has proceeded for further studies in archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Archaeology will no doubt in the future form a significant component of the NUL history syllabus, and perhaps eventually, as at the University of Botswana, become available for study as a separate discipline. back to top

MILES Chairman’s Remarks Result in US Funding Being Withheld

The Chairman of the Media Institute of Lesotho (MILES), Nthakeng Selinyane, created a furore when at a 9 April ‘war forum’ and in a subsequent article in Public Eye he compared President George Bush to Adolph Hitler and his government to that of Nazi Germany. As reported in Public Eye of 2 May 2003, this outburst in the context of the Iraq War resulted in the US Ambassador, Mr George Loftis, refusing to fund further MILES activities including a Human Rights and Media Training Workshop.

Selinyane, who is also a Lecturer in Development Studies at the National University of Lesotho, was unrepentant, and refused to withdraw his remarks.

A letter was later published in Public Eye of 23 May from the Public Affairs Officer, Sharon Gordon, at the United States Embassy. It stated that the US Embassy had not withdrawn support for MILES. It had simply declined a request for new money after Mr Selinyane had grievously insulted the Ambassador, the US President and his nation. back to top

National Library Demolished

The Lesotho National Library, which is situated on Maseru’s main street, Kingsway, was demolished in May 2003 to make way for a new three-storey building. The old building, which consisted of a modern frontage added to a sandstone house (the former residence of the Manager of the adjacent Standard Bank) had in recent years suffered from structural design problems, and in particular a leaking roof which had been very difficult to rectify.

The new library is apparently planned to accommodate the National Archives on its upper floors and is being built with Chinese assistance. The wisdom of siting the National Archives on Maseru’s main street in the middle of the Central Business District seems not to have been a matter of public debate. Also it is not clear whether the building will be able to be expanded to accommodate additional materials as inevitably is necessary with a National Archives.

The National Archives are at present in temporary storage in a former residential house in Maseru West to which they were moved from the National University of Lesotho Library with no prior discussion with or notice to users in October 1997. Although there is legal provision for an Archives Commission, at present it does not exist because no Minister of Culture since the restoration of democracy in 1993 has nominated members to the Commission, and the terms of office of former members have long since expired. back to top

Thuathe Meteorite Featured in New Zealand Magazine

The Thuathe Meteorite has created more of a stir internationally than in Lesotho itself. Meteorite: the International Quarterly of Meteorites and Meteorite Science is a periodical published by the Pallasite Press in Auckland, New Zealand. In its May 2003 issue it gave considerable coverage to the Thuathe Meteorite, including a colour photograph on the cover of a meteorite collector, Mamhlongo Maphisa, who is shown holding two of the larger stones. Of the two articles inside, one by David Ambrose & Sumitra Talukdar describes the reactions of persons in six different villages to the stones that fell around them almost simultaneously at about 11 minutes to 4 o’clock on the afternoon of Sunday 21 July 2002. The second article, by R. S. McKenzie gathers together a variety of information both from Lesotho sources and from observers in the eastern Free State and the University of the Free State, some members of which also collected some stones from the meteorite fall in Lesotho. Both articles have maps and a number of photographs of meteorites and of the strewn field.

The Thuathe Meteorite was also featured in the BBC Focus on Africa magazine in its April to June 2003 issue. This was a rather more popular article, ‘Bombed by rocks’, which included several colour photographs of meteoritic stones and their collectors.

Two scientific articles about the meteorite appeared in the South African Journal of Science for March/April 2003, which also provided a collage of coloured pictures on its front cover. One article was the result of collaboration between David Ambrose of the National University of Lesotho, Paul Buchanan of the Centre for the Study of Antarctic Meteorites in Japan, and Uwe Reimold of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. The second article was by a team from the University of the Free State. There is also a forthcoming technical article on the Thuathe Meteorite to appear shortly in the United States published periodical, Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

Meanwhile a number of meteorite collectors and dealers have descended on Lesotho, mostly from Tucson, Arizona, which seems to be the centre of the World meteorite trade. They surprised people with the high prices that they were prepared to pay for stones. A Meteorite Fund set up by David Ambrose from stones that were purchased has been able to support a number of projects, including repairing of the Chief’s Office at Ha Sofonia, and helping St Joseph’s Hospital at Roma. It has particularly helped the Boqate Lesotho Evangelical Church Primary School, the only school actually situated in the strewn field. The fund has paid school fees for needy pupils, sponsored visits by a mathematical games demonstrator (and prizes for pupils who excelled), bought a number of items of equipment, and most notably provided funds for a new school block consisting of a classroom, library, principal’s office and storeroom. Local builders are undertaking the building work, providing much needed employment in an area which is without resources other than beautiful scenery. The school is nestled close to the foot of the cliffs of the Thuathe Plateau, and from the school grounds is visible the remarkable rock pinnacle, ’Mamolalana, which had proved to be a rich hunting ground for the pupils in their search for meteoritic stones.back to top

Death of Well-known Veterinary Surgeon, Norman Raditapole

Norman Napo Raditapole, who held the distinction of being the first Mosotho Veterinary Surgeon and also the first African Veterinary Surgeon in English-speaking Africa, died early in May 2003 at the age of 74.

Norman Raditapole was born at Pitseng in the Leribe District in July 1928, the eldest of nine children. After obtaining his Matriculation from Basutoland High School in 1948, he studied at Fort Hare University College, where he showed an interest in training in veterinary science.

At his funeral, it was said by a member of the family that the colonial authorities were interested in testing out Norman’s devotion to animals, and sent him to work as a farm labourer for a Mrs Thatcher who had a farm at Westminster in the eastern Orange Free State. He was treated in the manner of South African farm labourers at the time, having to stand in a queue at the kitchen window to get his ration of milk, and never being allowed to enter the kitchen itself. Many years later, Mrs Thatcher had sick cattle and requested the services of a veterinary surgeon from Lesotho. Dr Raditapole returned to the very same farm, provided the necessary services to the cattle, and was afterwards invited to tea in the living room. As he left, he told Mrs Thatcher that he was the same farm labourer that she had once employed!

In fact, Dr Raditapole had graduated at the Royal College of Veterinary Medicine in Scotland in 1955, and had gained useful experience with a firm of London veterinary surgeons, McDonald & Evans, before returning to Lesotho in 1956. Appointed Veterinary Officer by the Colonial Administration, from 1958 to 1962 he was seconded to Ghana. On his return he became Veterinary Research Officer, and as Independence loomed became the first Mosotho Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperatives & Marketing.

His relations with the non-democratic government of the 1970s deteriorated and he resigned from the civil service in 1975. He worked successively for a international organization and then the Botswana Government until 1981 when he returned to Lesotho to work as Director of Livestock Services. However, he left Lesotho again not long afterwards, and in the period 1985 to 1995 worked first as State Veterinary Surgeon and then Director of Veterinary Services for the Government of Bophuthatswana.

Norman Raditapole married Alina Mahali Naledi, the daughter of a well known businessman of Sebaboleng on the outskirts of Maseru. They had five children, two daughters and three sons, including two sets of twins. Tragically, however, two of the sons were killed in separate road accidents. One of these accidents, earlier in 2003, claimed the life of Dr Nthethe Raditapole who, like his father, had qualified as a veterinary surgeon. back to top

Former NUL Lecturer Becomes Wits Vice-Chancellor

Professor Loyiso Nongxa, who in the mid-1980s had been a mathematics lecturer at the National University of Lesotho was in May 2003 formally chosen as Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, a post which he had filled in an acting capacity for some time, following the premature departure of the previous Vice-Chancellor, Professor Norma Reid Birley.

Nongxa was the first black South African to be chosen as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and while many Rhodes Scholars use the opportunity to read for an undergraduate honours degree, Nongxa used his opportunity to undertake a DPhil in group theory, a branch of abstract algebra. The degree was awarded in 1982, and while Loyiso Nongxa was on the staff of the National University of Lesotho, portions of his doctoral thesis were published in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society.

Professor Nongxa left Lesotho for the University of the Western Cape after a comparatively short stay. He later moved to Wits, where he eventually became Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research. His links with Lesotho have been maintained in recent years by his appointment to the Council of the National University of Lesotho.

Nongxa’s appointment to Wits means that the two oldest South African Universities now both have Vice-Chancellors with NUL connections. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town is Professor Njabulo Ndebele, who at different times was a student, lecturer, Professor of English and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at what is now the Roma Campus of the National University of Lesotho. back to top

Lesotho Garment Sector Continues to Expand Despite Water and Container Problems

The Maseru Southern By-pass skirts the former Maseru Race Course, still with the Papal Podium of 1988 in place, and then passes through the gap between the Qoaling and Mpilonyane hills. As it descends to the Thetsane Industrial Site, the blue roofs of the vast new Nien Hsing Denim Mill are a prominent landmark on the left of the road, a development which in order to provide better access has necessitated the removal of the Vehicle Testing Station. The Nien Hsing Mill at $100 million represents the largest single foreign direct investment in Lesotho. When it is fully operational in 2004, the new factory will produce 2 million metres of fabric per month, although even this will not meet local demand, because Lesotho garment factories already are consuming nearly 3 million metres of cloth per month.

Information about the phenomenal growth of the garment industry has been documented in a recent report, Lesotho garment industry subsector study commissioned by the British Department for International Development for the Lesotho Government Ministry of Industry, Trade and Marketing.

Although a variety of mostly minor industrial enterprises had been attracted to Lesotho by the Lesotho National Development Corporation in the first 20 years after Independence, it was in the late 1980s that a combination of circumstances caused a number of South East Asian (mainly Taiwanese) garment making firms to relocate to Lesotho. They had previously had factories in South Africa, mainly in the ‘homelands’, but exports had become difficult because of sanctions against the apartheid regime, while in Lesotho under the Lomé Agreement they could get duty free access for manufactured garments to European markets. The Lomé regulations, however, changed with time. At first sewn garments were acceptable, but later at least two manufacturing stages had to be accomplished in the exporting country. In effect this meant setting up mills to weave the cloth or make the knitted fabric as well as making up the finished articles. In the late 1980s Lesotho managed to get a 4-year postponement of these stricter regulations, and this provided a boost to the garment industry, whose local investments were reduced because they could use LNDC provided factory shells. However, by the early 1990s, there was no further postponement and the mainly Taiwanese firms in a few cases closed although others managed successfully to penetrate the United States market, despite there being at the time an effective 17% tariff barrier.

Experience with the North American market stood these firms in good stead when the United States passed the African Growth and Opportunity Act 2000. This offered duty-free and quota-free access to United States markets for poorer African countries which met certain criteria relating to democracy and human rights. Lesotho was one of a small number of countries which qualified and foreign garment manufacturers seized the opportunity to open new factories. Since then jobs in the garment industry have risen by at least a thousand a month, reaching 32000 workers in 2001, and probably now well over 50000, although precise statistics are difficult to come by. By 2002, Lesotho had already become one of the five top African countries exporting to the USA under AGOA and Africa’s largest exporter of clothing to the USA. The jobs, mainly in four factory estates, two in Maseru and two in Maputsoe, might be thought to have compensated for the declining opportunities for migrant mineworkers. However, the factory workers employed are, with few exceptions, women. Salaries moreover are only in a few cases more than the minimum legal wage.

The Lesotho garment industry is an extraordinary exercise in international economic logistics, in which Lesotho plays host to a mere stage in a global enterprise, where the business agreements are negotiated far beyond its boundaries. The deals are typically between Taiwanese firms and United States suppliers to chain stores, and they involve massive orders, such as 30 000 dozen units per month of one style of jeans or tee-shirt. Containers are packed in the Far East with fabric from China, South Korea or Taiwan, and they arrive by ship at East London and then travel by rail to Maseru. Virtually nothing is left to the vagaries of suppliers in southern Africa, because the containers literally supply all that it is needed: fabric, fabric markers, trims, thread, swing tickets, hangers and even plastic bags. When the container arrives at the factory, all is ready for the garment manufacturing process, and at the end garments are packed (local cardboard containers from South Africa are the only local input) into a different container and shipped by road to Durban or East London and then by sea to the USA.

It is fair to say that this phenomenal expansion in industry was largely unforeseen in Lesotho, and has consequently resulted in new problems. One of these is the lack of facilities to deal with containers. A 1980 study had noted that Maseru Railway Station was then receiving just three railway type containers (the kind which open at the sides) per day, while ‘overseas’ containers (which open at the ends or from the top) were a very rare event. This is no longer the case. A 2001 survey found that the ‘Maseru Container Terminal’ was a ‘completely inadequate facility operating under dangerous and unsecured conditions’. Moreover because of the backlog in operations there were already at that time 130 overseas containers destined for Maseru having to be stored in Bloemfontein and being charged demurrage at R293 per day. Spoornet, the successor to South African Railways, which runs the Maseru Railway Station, has not enjoyed a very happy relationship with the Lesotho Government. It will not invest in a new container terminal in Maseru unless it can get title to the land. Moreover, it has been irritated by its employees having to have Lesotho work permits (a difficult bureaucratic process) even when they are simply crews of trains whose journeys are almost entirely in South Africa. However, the need for a proper container terminal, or even a second rail link to the southern Maseru industrial estates, has now become extremely urgent, if the industrial expansion is to be serviced.

The actual container traffic is rather extraordinary. One set of full containers from the Far East makes the rail trip to Maseru and then returns empty by rail and sea to the Far East. A second set of quite different containers from North America arrives empty by road (this set if it came by rail would create impossible problems at Maseru Railway Station), is packed with the completed garments, and then makes the journey back by road to South African ports to return to North America to deliver the goods. Possibly, if the bottleneck at Maseru Station cannot be overcome, both sets of containers will in future travel by road, adding in this case, because of problems of customs clearance, to problems at the already extremely congested Maseru Bridge Border Post.

While the container problem can presumably be relatively easily overcome, and indeed a modern container terminal at the Maseru Station ought to be a profitable enterprise, a more ominous problem is water supply. The jeans factories are a ‘wet’ industry using large amounts of water, as also will be the denim mill. The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is already under criticism from the factory owners for providing an unreliable supply, but the new denim mill alone is estimated to need about a third of the present total Maseru water supply. The proposed Metolong Dam or an alternative scheme is being hurriedly put together, although there is no hope of water from such a scheme being available within less than about four years.

There is a further water problem and that is one of effluent. Factory processes such as the production of stone-washed jeans, result in streams of bright blue water flowing out of the factories untreated into the Mohokare (Caledon) River. Downstream from this point is the intake to the Bloemfontein water supply via the Knellpoort Dam. This environmental problem has yet to be seriously tackled. The principle elsewhere in relation to pollution is that the ‘polluter pays’, so that there should be an appropriate effluent treatment works paid for by the factories responsible. There is however little sign so far of appropriate action to ensure that this happens. back to top

Murder at Morija Published

On Wednesday 22nd December 1920, the Rev. Édouard Jacottet, the Director of the Theological School at Morija, sat down to lunch with five other people, one of his three daughters, Madeleine, and four guests. Not long after they had taken the soup — Jacottet’s favourite soup, and he alone took two helpings — all of those who had been at the table became violently ill. Although the others survived, Jacottet died that night. There had been arsenic in the soup and he had been poisoned.

Who had done this terrible deed? The police eventually arrested three people, and charged them with the murder. Two were daughters of Jacottet who had not been present at the meal, the oldest daughter, Marcelle, and the youngest, Marguerite. Thethirdwas the Rev. Sam Duby, a fellow missionary of Jacottet’s, who was Director of the Bible School and also Manager of the Morija Printing Works and of the Sesuto Book Depot.

As evidence came out in Maseru at the preliminary hearing in February 1921, it was clear that all three had motives. Marguerite had been a 17 year old at Eunice High School in Bloemfontein, when a search of the girls’ lockers for stolen money had led to the discovery in her locker of not money but love letters from Duby, a married man with his own family. Jacottet had been summoned by the Headmistress, Miss King, and he had promised her that he would have his colleague dismissed by the missionary society for unbecoming conduct. Marguerite had been expelled from the school, and it had been put about falsely that the reason for the abrupt termination of her schooling was that she had stolen money. Duby’s career as a missionary was at a premature end, as was that of Marguerite as a schoolgirl.

However Marcelle also had major grudges against her father. At 35, she was more than twice the age of Marguerite. As a young woman, she had had an affair with a Morija student, but such were missionary attitudes in those days that marriage between a missionary’s daughter and a Mosotho was virtually impossible. She apparently became pregnant and had an abortion with help from a local ngaka. This ordeal must have engendered a terrible bitterness at missionary attitudes. She subsequently went overseas, but recently, after her mother’s death in 1919, Jacottet had required her to return to Morija to look after the family. The night before his murder, Marcelle had had a row with her father. Marguerite was not to be allowed to go on a picnic planned for the next day, because of the problems she had caused. Marcelle took the side of Marguerite. If Marguerite could not go, she would not go, and both would have lunch with the Dubys! In the end the weather ruled out the picnic, and there were two parallel lunches: one in which three persons shared a common hatred of Jacottet who, as they perceived it, had destroyed their lives; the other where Jacottet sat down to poisoned soup.

So who did murder Jacottet? It is a pity to spoil the book Murder at Morija by giving the answer to this real life murder mystery. Convicted poisoners were hanged in those days. What finally happened?

The book, by Tim Couzens, is far more than just a murder mystery. It has 496 pages of text and 64 pages of illustrations. It provides an insightful history of Lesotho up until the 1920s, including an account of the work of writers such as Thomas Mofolo (who also lapsed from the moral rectitude expected by the missionaries). It also covers the origins of the strands of Protestantism which found their way to Lesotho; and, contrastingly, describes famous poisoners of history and their fates.

The origins of the book go back to 1991, when Professor Tim Couzens was External Examiner in English at the National University of Lesotho. He had with him a novel, Love at the mission, published obscurely overseas. It was set in a country called Bantusiland, which Couzens felt could possibly be Lesotho. It was at NUL that he learned that what he had was not just a novel, but actually a true story of a poisoning. The writer (who had been the wife of the public analyst who had detected arsenic in Jacottet’s stomach) had been so intrigued by the eventsthatshehadwoven theminto a novel and published it pseudonymously.

With this lead, Couzens set out to unravel the murder mystery, something he does sympathetically, for what occurred was a disaster to the church. It lost its two finest scholars. His book is not only compelling reading, but likely to be an important text on Lesotho and its history for many years to come.

The book was launched in South Africa in May 2003, and the publishers, Random House, printed 7000 copies. By June 2003 when there was a separate launch of the book in Lesotho, copies were already relatively scarce, the publisher having already distributed most of his stock.

Lesotho readers of the book were of course the most critical. Although Jacottet had been murdered over 80 years ago, there were those who had talked to people who had still vividly remembered what had happened. Thus it was soon spotted that Jacques Zürcher, the missionary printer, could not have been present at Jacottet’s funeral on Christmas Eve in 1920. He had only arrived in Lesotho for the first time in 1921! And then there was the long remembered belief that Duby had many years earlier also had an affair with Marcelle Jacottet, who had worked closely with him in the Morija Sesuto Book Depot. Dark secrets of the missionary past became openly discussed.

Overall, however, the book has been well received, and has received rave reviews in the South African press. The idea has been floated that a very much abridged version would make a script for a film, which could be filmed on location in Morija.back to top

Square One Computers Building Advertised

Square One Computers was established by the present Minister of Trade, Industry, Cooperatives & Marketing, Mpho ’Meli Malie, as a commercial enterprise some 20 years back. It was at the time one of the pioneer computing firms in Maseru, but in recent years its founder had obviously had less time for the firm because of his political commitments. Newspapers in April carried a photograph of the Square One Computers building as part of advertisement that the whole building or a part of it was available for rental as office or shop space. back to top

Lesotho Acts on SARS

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, commonly known as SARS, a disease which often proves fatal, has so far been confined mainly to countries of the Far East and Canada. These countries include Taiwan, a country from which there are over a thousand nationals working in Lesotho, so that travel between the two countries is relatively common. According to The Mirror of 7 and 14 May 2003, the Lesotho Government had set up a task force mandated to screen visitors from the Far East at Moshoeshoe I International Airport and at other border posts. Moreover, the Lesotho Government had instructed the Lesotho Embassy in Beijing to no longer issue visas to persons from Mainland China, who would not be allowed to enter Lesotho. However, visitors from Mainland China are relatively few compared with those from Taiwan. Lesotho has no diplomatic mission in Taiwan.

SARS was made a notifiable disease in Lesotho under the Public Health Order 1970 by notice in the Lesotho Government Gazette of 10 June 2003. back to top

Parishioners Close Church after Dispute with Priest

As reported in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 1 June 2003, parishioners of St Cecilia (Buasono) Mission at Ha Mabekenyane in Berea District became involved in a heated dispute with their priest Father Augustinus Mahlaku, over the matter of the mission graveyard. Father Mahlaku declared on 22 May that the present graveyard could not be further used because it was full, and that the remaining mission land should be reserved for fruit trees so that bottled and dried fruits might be made for the needy. He advised his parishioners to go to the chief to seek a new graveyard. The priest’s refusal to make available further land for burials resulted in a confrontation which led to the church members closing his church and office.

As reported by Moeletsi oa Basotho of 22 June 2003, the church was only reopened nearly a month later on 15 June, following a ruling from the Archbishop that those who had closed the church should reopen it and the priest on his part should reopen the graveyard and find somewhere else to plant trees. back to top

NHTC Closed until August; LCE also Closed for Over Two Weeks

The National Health Training Centre, according to an announcement by the Minister of Health & Social Welfare, Dr Motloheloa Phooko, in May will remain closed until the start of the new academic year in August. This follows repeated unrest at the school, which is the government facility training nurses and laboratory technicians.

The NHTC is situated at Botšabelo, and was established with Irish Aid some 15 years ago when it was expected that a new National Referral Hospital might also be built at the Botšabelo site. In the event, there were no funds for the new hospital, nor adequate funds for the recurrent costs of the training centre. The staff establishment was minimal, it being expected that doctors and nurses at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital would undertake most of the teaching. However, not only were the hospital staff already overstretched, but the NHTC’s location some 5 km away proved a severe problem.

The announcement about the Centre indicated that although it would remain closed (and thus first and second year students would miss 6 months of teaching), special arrangements were being made so that the third year students could complete on time. Meanwhile before the reopening in August, attempts were being made with renovations to buildings in the hope that this would solve the lack of accommodation at the school.

Meanwhile there was also unrest at another Maseru tertiary establishment, the Lesotho College of Education (formerly known as the National Teachers’ Training College). The LCE students had boycotted the College’s refectory, whose food they deemed inadequate, and were demanding that they be given the food allowance in cash so that they could choose where they ate. When they threatened violence, the College’s administration, headed by the Director, Professor John Musaazi, called in police on 30 April 2003 to clear students from the campus. Most students returned to the LCE campus on 16 May, having signed a declaration that they would abide by seven specified regulations. back to top

State Visit to Botswana; Minister Studies and Applauds Botswana Local Government

His Majesty King Letsie III and Queen ’Masenate made a State Visit to Botswana from 19 to 23 May 2003, travelling not only to Gaborone, a traditional Kgotla at Molepolole and the Jwaneng Diamond Mine, but also to well known tourist destinations such as Chobe and Maun. Normally the Queen acts as Regent for the King, but since both were away at the same time, the King’s younger brother, Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso was sworn in to act as Regent in the absence of the Royal Couple.

The party visiting Botswana was large including four Principal Chiefs, the President of Senate and three Cabinet Ministers and two other Members of Parliament. During the visit an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement was signed by the Foreign Ministers of Lesotho and Botswana.

At the Kgotla at Molepolole, the Lesotho’s Minister of Local Government, Dr Pontšo Sekatle was able to see Botswana local government in action. In an interview reported in Lesotho Today of 29 May 2003, she told Letuka Mahe that ‘The visit [to Molepolole] was the core of the whole state visit, since this was not only where effective local government was being implemented from, but also where the culture of chieftainship still prevails’. back to top

Work Begins on New Factory Estate in Mohale’s Hoek

In a statement quoted in Public Eye of 23 May 2003, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Mpho Malie, announced that construction work was to begin in June on a new factory estate at Mohale’s Hoek. The first factory is for garment production, but it is expected that materials production and fabric dyeing will be added later. The new factory, Fancy Garments, has an Italian Chief Executive, Luigi Malvestio. It will employ 1500 Basotho initially and 3000 when in full production.

Mohale’s Hoek becomes the fourth town in Lesotho after Maseru, Maputsoe and Mafeteng to have clothing factories. A similar development had been expected at Butha-Buthe, and land had recently been identified for a factory estate. However, it was outside the urban area, and whereas in the past land could simply be reallocated, it was now the practice that compensation similar to that paid by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority was expected. The Lesotho National Development Corporation had not budgeted for such expenditure. The Butha-Buthe factory development is therefore at present on hold, even though Butha-Buthe residents are eager to find work to replace jobs lost at the end of the construction of the north end works of the Lesotho Highlands Water project. back to top

Ministry of Education Closes Schools

Although it is an offence to run an unlicensed school, the Ministry of Education has for many years turned a blind eye to the large number of private schools which have mushroomed in urban areas.

Early in May, however, the situation changed and a large number of schools operating without licences were shut down including more than 30 such schools in Leribe District ranging from pre-schools to primary, secondary and high schools. A similar operation took place in Maseru District. One result of this was that some 500 children and teachers from a number of unlicensed Maseru schools marched on the Ministry of Education on Tuesday 27 May 2003. These included children from the Maseru Academy High School in Maseru East, Khubetsoana Academy High School at Khubetsoana, Ants High School at Ha Foso, and Mpilo High School situated precariously just above the Maseru inner relief road. A petition was presented to the Minister by the teachers from the schools. back to top

Deaths Follow Lesotho Helicopter Crash into Katse Reservoir

A helicopter on charter from the Air Wing of the Lesotho Defence Force crashed into the Katse Reservoir on Tuesday 20 May 2003. The helicopter was flying low above the water with a film crew, two South Africans and a German, all three of whom survived the crash. They were extremely fortunate that the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority had a water sampling team in a small boat nearby which was able to rescue them while swimming in the water only some three minutes after the crash. The pilot, Lieutenant Lererileng Maloi, and one other passenger, Sethunya Nthako, were not so lucky. They both died in the crash. Nthako, a Chartered Engineer and graduate of the National University of Lesotho and the University of Leeds, was the General Manager of the Engineering Group of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority.

Interviewed in Bloemfontein Medi-Clinic by a reporter for The Star, one of the survivors, Jan du Toit said that the film crew had been working for the German television company Deutsche Welle for which they were making a documentary on the world’s largest dam projects. The pilot had been asked to fly about 30 metres above the water so that they could capture on film the narrowness of the gorge. Du Toit believed that the pilot flew too low.

There was a further tragedy at the crash site. A team of 23 divers from the South African Police Service arrived to recover the plane which had sunk in some 100 metres of water. One of them, Inspector Michael Bradley, got into difficulties and could not be revived after being brought back to the surface.

The police diving team, which was not able to work at great depths was then supplemented by the South African firm Sub Tech Diving and Marine of Durban, which has equipment allowing divers to work down to a depth of 120 metres, and a device called a Fish Finder which can locate underwater objects. The wreckage of the helicopter was eventually located, and on 1 June 2003, 12 days after the crash, the bodies of the two victims were recovered. Lieutenant Maloi’s body was found close to the helicopter, whereas Sethunya Nthako’s body was found still strapped to its seat in the helicopter. The wreckage of the helicopter was removed from the dam and flown by a large transport helicopter to Maseru. The lost helicopter, known as Mashai, was one of two identical helicopters, known as Sani Top and Mashai, which were operated by the Air Wing as part of its overall fleet of six helicopters. back to top

Lesotho Implements Kimberley Process Regulations

The Kimberley Process is the name given to a set of regulations which were devised as a result of a series of intergovernmental meetings held successively in Kimberley, Belgium, Moscow, London, Luanda and finally Gaborone in the period May 2000 to November 2001. The meetings resulted from the campaign against ‘conflict diamonds’ defined by the United Nations as ‘rough diamonds which are used by rebel movements to finance their military activities, including attempts to overthrow legitimate governments’. The recognition that wars in countries such as Angola, Congo and Sierra Leone were being financed by such diamond sales had led to campaigns such as that of World Vision, the largest privately funded international relief organization in the United States. It ran its campaign with the message ‘Dying for a diamond? So are thousands of innocent children’.

Some countries, and in particular Botswana (where diamonds are more than 80% of its exports), became alarmed that there might be a global boycott of African diamonds, and the Kimberley Process Regulations were devised to ensure that ‘clean’ diamonds from particular countries could be identified and certified. Subsequently, the United States Clean Diamond Trade Act 2001 prohibited import of rough diamonds into the United States from countries which had not implemented a system of controls as required by United Security Council resolutions or the Kimberley Process, and in Interlaken, Switzerland, on 5 November 2002, 52 governments resolved to implement the Kimberley Process on 1 January 2003.

Although Lesotho has not met this deadline, as a diamond exporting country it had no choice but to follow suit, which it did by gazetting the Precious Stones (Kimberley Process) Regulations 2003 (Legal Notice No. 66 of 2003), which came into force on publication as a supplement to the Lesotho Government Gazette of 23 May 2003. The regulations require a certificate to be issued for the export of rough diamonds by the Commissioner of Mines and Geology, the diamonds themselves having to be sealed in a tamper resistant container and registered in an international database. The regulations for diamond imports are similar, and diamonds can only be imported from a country which is a participant in the Kimberley Process.

Lesotho’s diamond exports have been relative minor in recent years, but with the imminent reopening of the Letšeng Mine in Mokhotlong District, they can be expected to rise significantly. back to top

Chartered Accountant Conducts Public Feud with Minister of Finance

Mr E. M. Khali, a local Chartered Accountant, went on record in the local press immediately after the March 2003 Budget Speech as one of the main critics of the Minister of Finance, Dr Timothy Thahane. By May, Khali was alleging fraud in the 2001/2 Public Accounts and saying that Thahane should be called before the Public Accounts Committee. A major issue, according to The Mirror of 28 May 2003, is apparently the auditing of the 2001/2 Public Accounts. Khali had been contracted to do this work together with colleagues Noto and Ntšala. Ntšala’s contract with Khali expired, and when Khali’s work was found to be incomplete, Thahane then gave the work to Ntšala.

The feud received further ventilation in Mopheme of 10 June 2003 when it reported Khali giving a press conference on 9 June at which he indicated he had evidence that Thahane had imposed directives on the Director of the National Manpower Development Secretariat to renew scholarships of Basotho students who had failed at South African universities. Khali alleged that these students were Thahane’s relatives or members of ‘his BNP party’ and viewed these instructions to the Director of the NMDS as ‘irregular and fraudulent use of public funds as well as misuse of his official position’. back to top

Attorney Escapes after Shots Fired at Car

Seymour Clyde Harley of the firm Harley & Morris escaped unhurt when three shots were fired into his car as he went to work on 28 May 2003. The person responsible has not been apprehended. Harley & Morris is currently selling 19 properties in Maseru and various Lowlands towns in order to recover debts owed to Lesotho Bank.back to top

Lesotho Inflation Rate Drops

Inflation, which had remained in double figures for the whole of the year 2002, dropped significantly in the first months of 2003. As can be seen from the chart, by April 2003, it was down to 7.2% from the figure of 11.0% in January 2003, and very much down from the peak figure of 13.7% a year earlier. The drop in inflation had been helped by the strengthening of the rand (and therefore the loti) against the United States dollar by some 40% in the previous twelve months. By early May, perhaps influenced by sentiment against the Iraq War, the loti had in fact strengthened to M7.05 to the dollar, a 32 month best.

However, a month later it slid back to over M8.20 to the dollar. Although the improved rand/dollar exchange rate had obvious advantages in reducing the prices of imported goods, particularly fuel, it also seriously affected the competitiveness of Lesotho’s textile exports, almost all of which are destined for North American markets.

Fuel prices fluctuated considerably in the period March to May. On 1 April 2003, the pump price for petrol in the Lowlands was increased from M3.90 to M4.10 per litre. However on 15 May it was reduced to M3.80. back to top

New Factory Workers Union Formed

A new union, the Factory Workers Union (FAWU), was formed in May 2003. Its Secretary-General is the Member of Parliament for the Lesotho Workers Party, Billy Macaefa, and within a week of its formation, according to Macaefa as quoted in The Mirror of 4 June 2003, it already had 5000 members. The formation of the new party followed a power struggle in the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU) between Macaefa and the Secretary-General, Daniel Maraisane. back to top

Law Society Protests Removal of Magistrate

The Judicial Service Commission for reasons that were not disclosed informed by letter the Chief Magistrate of Maseru, Mr Molefi Makara, that with effect from 1 July 2003 he was to be transferred to an executive post in the Ministry of Justice. He was given 6 weeks to wind up his business as Chief Magistrate.

In a strongly worded statement reported in the press, the President of the Law Society, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, expressed the anger of the Law Society at the move, stating that the Judicial Service Commission’s power was to appoint persons to judicial offices, and to dismiss them from them. It did not have the power to transfer them to a different post outside the Judiciary. back to top

Law Society President Arrested

The President of the Law Society, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, made news two weeks running, when police searched his offices on 12 June 2003 and arrested him and charged him with obstruction of justice. Mda was released on free bail the following day. According to Public Eye of 20 June 2003, the search warrant stated that property of the crown had been stolen and was concealed at the office of Mda in Mafeteng.

Four other persons, two men and two women were also arrested and allowed free bail in the same matter. It is understood that the allegations against Mda and the other four persons relate to the case in which Mda is representing Lieutenant Mole Kumalo, an army officer. Kumalo together with Lesoli Maphathe, is charged with murdering Maile Mosisili, the son of the Prime Minister on 11 February 2001. According to The Mirror of 18 June 2003, it was alleged that Mda had enticed crown witnesses to sign false statements or affidavits to give false testimony at the trial, conduct aimed at weakening the Crown’s case and detrimentally affecting its prospects for conviction. The murder case in the High Court is proceeding, but has at present been adjourned until August. back to top

Free Public Standpipes to be Discontinued

With effect from 1 July 2003, ‘free’ public standpipes, which are the main source of water in many peri-urban areas, will no longer be free. The practice by which the Ministry of Local Government was paying the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to provide free water to residents will end.

Under the new arrangements, WASA, which is not subsidized by government, will provide water only on a commercial basis. Three options are amongst those being implemented or considered for implementation. The water kiosk option where water is sold at 20s per 20 litres is already in operation in Butha-Buthe, Thaba-Tseka and the Maseru suburbs of Ha Leqele and Ha Abia. 40% of the takings go to WASA and 60% to the local community authority, who use this money to pay the operator. A second option is the shared water point, where an elected committee controls the public standpipes and collects the payment for the water bill on a monthly basis. A third option is prepaid meters or water cards, which operate like telephone cards. This option has not yet been implemented in Lesotho, even experimentally.

Public reaction to the new system will be carefully monitored. In South Africa, residents now have a basic entitlement to free water, but pay steep charges if they exceed their allocation. In Lesotho, no urban water in future will be free, and this may result in serious problems for the poorest of the poor, and in particular the large numbers of unemployed. Some kind of provision for this poorest group may be necessary, both for humanitarian reasons and also because if this group becomes desperate, it might resort to vandalizing the supply to meet what is after all a basic human need.

Unlike traditional villages which were sited close to springs most often at the base of cliffs, the peri-urban areas of towns are often placed on flat areas without springs, and could not have come into being without the provision of boreholes or some other piped water supply. back to top

National University of Lesotho to be Restructured from 1 July 2003

The newspaper, Mopheme, in its issue of 13 May 2003, carried an interview with the outgoing Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho, Dr Nqosa Mahao whose term of office ends at the end of June 2003.

Under the restructuring there will be five Executive Deans, who will be in charge of three Faculties and two Institutes. The new Faculties are being created by amalgamation of existing Faculties and will be the Faculty of Law & Social Sciences; Education & Humanities; and Sciences, this last Faculty embracing the three former Faculties of Science & Technology, Agriculture, and Health Science. The two Institutes will be the Institute of Research replacing the Institute of Southern African Studies (ISAS) and the Institute of Distance & Continuing Education replacing the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (IEMS).

In the new structure, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor’s position also disappears. He is to be replaced by two Deputy Vice-Chancellors, one in charge of academic affairs and the other responsible for finance and administration. back to top

VAT to be Introduced on 1 July 2003

Advance announcements for some months have indicated that Value Added Tax (VAT) is being introduced into Lesotho on 1 July 2003. VAT will be levied at 14% as in South Africa and replaces the present 10% General Sales Tax. The exceptions are telephones and electricity which will be charged at 5%, while 12 basic items are zero-rated including agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides), beans, bread, brown flour, lentils, livestock and poultry feeds, maize grain and maize meal, milk, domestic paraffin, peas, water and wheat grain. back to top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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