Summary of Events in Lesotho
Volume 13, Number 3, (Third Quarter 2006)

Summary of Events is a quarterly publication compiled and published by Prof. David Ambrose since 1993 at the National University of Lesotho in Roma.

Death of Chieftainess ’Mamathe Gabashane Masupha
Married Persons Equality Bill Reaches Parliament
Research Article Reinterpretes Lesotho Rock Painting Originally Copied in 1873
Poverty Reduction Strategy Document Published
New Schedule of Minimum Wages Gazetted
Celebrations for 40th Anniversary of Lesotho's Independence
Anglican Church Statistics Published
603-carat Diamond Found at Letšeng Mine
Member of Parliament Shot Dead by Robbers at his Home at Thaba Bosiu
                                               LHWP Phase II Advertisements Indicate Two Dam Sites Now on Short List                                         18 MPs Cross the Floor in the National Assembly to Form New Parliamentary Party
Prime Minister Gives Evidence in Criminal Defamation Case which Later fails to Proceed
Mokhele Likate Commissioned as Ambassador to Japan
Proliferation of Lesotho Radio Stations Documented
Minister of Finance and Development Planning Reports on Operation of Pension Scheme
Oblate Brother and Robber Die and Two Brothers Injured in Shootout at Mazenod
Dual Citizen Motion moved in the National Assembly
Prime Minister Inaugurates New University Buildings
Accident on Maseru Bypass Demolishes Pedestrian Overbridge
ABC Leader Tom Thabane Interviewed in South Africa
New Chief of Thaba-Tšoeu Installed
ABC Maseru Rally Attract Thousands of Supporters
Fifth Annual Prisons Day Celebrated in Maseru
State of Mokhotlong Road becomes Senate Concern
Three Opposition 'Parties' form an Alliance
Accusations of Witchcraft and Mob Action follow death of St Mary's Teacher
Patrick Duncan's Sotho Laws and Customs Reprinted
National Education Dialogue Held
Death of Veteran Journalist C.S. Maboloka
Lesotho Likely to Receive over M2 billion from Millennium Challenge Corporation
64 Unclaimed Corpses Buried
New Periodical Ka Paramenteng Appears
Parliament Dissolved; General Election to be held on February 17
Thuathe Meteorite Find is Largest Recorded
Lesotho's Vertebrate Biodiversity Updated 
Southern Ground-Hornbill Makes Surprise Lesotho Appearance
Police Disappear
Dutch Aid Worker Killed in Attack at House of Minister Mpho Malie
93 Long-term Residents Become New Lesotho Citizens
New NUL Vice-Chancellor Assumes Office
Major Bribery Trial Proceeds; British Firm Implicated 
Three Sentenced to Death for Murder of Factory Manager
New Parties Emerge but Not All Will Fight Election
Four Die and Six Injured as Out of Control Lorry Crashes into Maseru Border Post
New UNICEF and WFP Representatives Appointed
Local Film Premiered at Kingsway Cinema
Liyban Envoy to Lesotho Expelled
Inflation Remains in the 6% to 7% Band, but Recent Fgures Unavailable

Death of Chieftainess ’Mamathe Gabashane Masupha

The death was announced in June 2006 of Chieftainess ’Mamathe Gabashane Masupha at the age of 88. As reported in Mohahlaula of 29 June 2006, a very large funeral was held at Ha ’Mamathe in Berea District on 25 June 2006.

Chieftainess ’Mamathe had the misfortune that her husband, Principal Chief Gabashane Masupha, had been hanged by the British Colonial Administration in 1949 for medicine murder. The heir, David Masupha was then a small child, and Chieftainess ’Mamathe had acted for a long time as Principal Chief of Ha ’Mamathe until their son had been able to assume office as Principal Chief of the Lioli, as the people of the ’Mamathe Ward (and their football team) are known.

Tragedy seems to have dogged the family, because their son, Principal Chief David Gabashane Masupha died in hospital after a road accident on the evening of Saturday 10 August 1996. He was succeeded by his widow Chieftainess 'Mampota Masupha also known as Chieftainess 'Masenate David Gabashane Masupha.

Chieftainess ’Mamathe was the daughter of Chief Lebona Nkhahle Mohale of Mohale’s Hoek. She was thus a descendant of King Moshoeshoe’s younger brother, while her husband was a direct descendant of King Moshoeshoe through one of his best-known sons, Masupha.back to top

Married Persons Equality Bill Reaches Parliament

A Bill which has long been in gestation, and which is necessary for Lesotho to fulfill its responsibilities under certain human rights conventions (not to mention qualifying for the Millennium Challenge Cooperation funds), was finally presented to Parliament for its First Reading on 22 September 2006.

Although frequently referred to, even in Parliament, as the Married Persons Equality Bill, the correct name is apparently the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Bill 2006 and it amends the laws and rules which give a husband absolute marital powers. The Bill passed through both Houses of Parliament after considerable debate and some amendments in the Lower House.

After the passing of the third reading in the National Assembly on 7 November 2006, and the passing of the third reading in the Senate on Wednesday 15 November 2006, the Bill was awaiting Royal Assent.. back to top

Research Article Reinterpretes Lesotho Rock Painting Originally Copied in 1873

In 1873, the Chief of the Amahlubi, Langalibalele, fled into Lesotho from Natal, after a dispute with the Natal colonists. This resulted in a military expedition being assembled to try to capture him in the heart of the Maloti. In the event, Langalibalele and his people spent only a few days crossing the northern Maloti, from which they descended near Ha Koasa, where Langalibalele was arrested by the men of Chief Molapo and handed over to the colonial administration.

The leader of the military expedition was Inspector J. M. Grant of the Frontier Armed & Mounted Police and he did not know about Langalibalele’s capture, or rather he was unwilling to believe the stories which he heard through the bush telegraph. So he proceeded with his expedition which entered Lesotho at what is now Qacha’s Nek. At the time the pass was close to the village of Chief Moorosi’s son, Ncatya, and indeed Qacha’s Nek came to be named after him. Ncatya was able to provide the expedition with a Moroa (San) guide, Qing. Also on the expedition were Nehemiah Sekhonyana Moshoeshoe, one of King Moshoeshoe’s most educated sons; and Joseph Orpen, who, following Eugène Casalis, had at one time been de facto Foreign Secretary to King Moshoeshoe (and had been declared persona non grata in the Orange Free State for his support of the Basotho).

The expedition proceeded northwards from Qacha’s Nek, camping in the large rock shelters which can be found in the Senqu valley. Orpen was fascinated by the rock art in these shelters and made copies of some of the more significant paintings. He also questioned Qing about the meaning of the art, using a double translation, because Qing could speak Seroa and Sephuthi, and Sekhonyana Moshoeshoe could speak Sephuthi and English. Joseph Orpen could not really understand the rather puzzling and fantastic information about the rock art that he was told, but he nevertheless wrote it down, and in the following year, 1874, published both Qing’s commentary and colour reproductions of the rock paintings, the first reproductions of Lesotho rock art. He also sought out Dr Wilhelm Bleek, the philologist who first managed to learn and write down (albeit with numerous diacritics) a San language, and Bleek provided a further interpretation of the rock art through one of his San informants, Diä!kwain. This was published as an attachment to Orpen’s article.

The published reproductions of paintings were from four sites, one of which was from the source of the Kraai river, near Orpen’s farm, Avoca. A second was from ‘the cave of Medekane in the Maluti’. This presents no problem, because the rock shelter called ’Melikane is still a well-known landmark. The other two sets of paintings were ‘from the cave Mangolong in the Maluti’ and ‘from the upper cave at Mangolong in the Maluti’. For a long time, it was not known exactly where Mangolong was, but in 1971, two different groups independently discovered that the Mangolong paintings could still be seen at Sehonghong rock shelter in the eastern Maloti. One group was the rock art expert, Pat Vinnicombe and her archaeologist husband, Pat Carter; and the other was a group from the university at Roma accompanying another rock art expert, Lucas Smits. In Sesotho today, ho ngola, means to write, but the word was hijacked by the missionaries and invested with a new meaning. It originally meant ‘to draw’ or ‘to make pictures’. The name Mangolong, using this older meaning, thus signifies ‘the place of drawings’ or more simply ‘art gallery’, a fitting appellation for the Sehonghong rock shelter.

As a result of the work of David Lewis-Williams, who later became Professor of Cognitive Archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Sehonghong and ’Melikane paintings and Qing’s commentary on them have become central to the reinterpretation of San rock art. Following Lewis-Williams’ 1977 doctoral thesis, what Qing was trying to tell Orpen is interpreted in terms of trances induced by the shamans or medicine men in the San communities. The paintings are not to be taken as literal representations, but rather as hallucinatory images in which very often creatures (called therianthropes) appear which are part man and part animal.

So much has been written about Orpen and Qing that one wonders that there is much left to be said, but a University of Cape Town rock art specialist, Pieter Jolly, has recently turned his attention to the ‘upper cave at Mangolong’, and to the rock painting that Orpen copied there, which is also reproduced here. Pieter Jolly has published his interpretation in a research article in the June 2006 South African Archaeological Bulletin. The ‘upper cave at Mangolong’ is almost certainly the rock shelter known as Pitsaneng or Tsoaing some 800 metres upstream and north-east along the Sehonghong river from the main Sehonghong (Mangolong) rock shelter. This rock shelter has recently been the subject of a University of Oxford doctoral thesis by John Hobart, whose excavations revealed that the San who had occupied the shelter in the past thousand years had not been simply hunter-gatherers, but had made pottery and also at times kept sheep. The pottery explains the name Pitsaneng, ‘place of a small pot’, presumably given to the rock shelter when the first Basotho settlers to arrive there in the 1880s were surprised to see a piece of pot sticking out from an exposed bank in the shelter.

The painting of people with ‘lizard tails’ is no longer visible, although a painting of a single lizard-tailed person was recorded by Smits in 1971. So who are the people in the painting recorded by Orpen and what are they doing?

Pieter Jolly has for a long time been interested in the interaction between ‘agropastoralists’ (also called Bantu or Iron Age people, the term including Sotho-Tswana and Nguni) and the ‘San’ (also called Bushmen or Baroa). In particular he has analyzed rock art to see what it can tell us about this interaction. In the painting three of the figures carry knobkerries, typical Basotho weapons, not known to be used by the San. However, at the same time they appear to have arrows projecting from their shoulders, perhaps from hidden quivers on their backs, indicative of what is almost exclusively San weaponry. Then again four of the figures have projections from their heads, which seem likely to be inflated bladders used as headdresses, a well-documented practice of the agropastoralists but not the San. So these figures have both San and agropastoralist features and the lizard or snake tails might be a shamanic hallucination. Jolly comes to the conclusion that the five people portrayed in the paintings probably represent Bantu-speaking agropastoralists and/or San influenced by the cultures of Bantu-speaking agropastoralists, engaged in an essentially Bantu-speaking agropastoralists’ rite - which may have been connected with initiation. Part of the clue for this last interpretation is Qing’s calling the people Qweqweté which may be cognate with the isiXhosa word for initiates, abakwetha.

The delight of rock paintings of this kind is that everyone can have their own theory. Come to the rock painting afresh and you might see something different from Jolly. Surely it depicts three armed men and two women. (To give him his credit, Diä!kwain also thought two of the figures were women.) This is even more apparent in the original coloured version of the painting in which the figure on the right has a white outline giving him a fuller male waist than the pinched waists of the women. What is happening? Well the lizard tails suggest for certain a hallucination brought about by a trance state. In such a state, fantastic dreams appear to come true. Possibly the San artist is depicting a fantasy in which San men have acquired agropastoralist weaponry and accoutrements which make them so attractive to agropastoralist maidens that they are happily being abducted! back to top

Poverty Reduction Strategy Document Published

The document Poverty reduction strategy 2004/2005 - 2006/2007 finally became available in published form in late 2006, although in the absence of a Government Bookshop (an unfortunate deficiency in Lesotho, long pointed out but yet to be rectified), was not easily obtainable.

Prior to this document, the last published development plan was the Sixth National Development Plan 1996/97 - 1998/99. This was supposed to be the first of a proposed series of ‘rolling’ (overlapping) plans, but in the event it was the only one of the ‘rolling’ plans published. It is believed that there were negotiations for the second rolling plan to be prepared on behalf of government by consultants but after disagreements this did not happen.

Meanwhile there has been a parallel activity, the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), which has engaged the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for a long time. It derives ultimately from the UN-sponsored World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995. This led to donors committing US$200 million to Lesotho at a Round Table Conference in November 1997 so that a Poverty Action Plan could be formulated ‘with focus on grassroots level’.

The PRS document which has finally emerged, states that it ‘presents a situation analysis for each priority area and an overview of the objectives, strategies and activities that will be pursued during the three year period’. It resembles the earlier five and three year plans in that, like these, it was not published ahead of the planning period, but rather after the period was well advanced. In fact at the stated publication date (June 2006, but some months before actual distribution) the period to which it actually relates was already 75% over. Earlier drafts had, however, been circulated and were available on the internet. There had also been wide stakeholder involvement, with 20 000 people in 200 villages participating in consultations leading to an earlier publication, The voice of the people. The technical working group which devised the published PRS had over 50 members, not counting donor representatives, two teams of consultants and several persons also employed as consultants in an individual capacity.

Just as in the case of the Five Year Plans, there are useful summaries of the past, particularly on matters such as the structural changes in Lesotho’s economy. However, the projections for the three years have of course by now been overtaken by actual events. The strategy identifies eight key priorities:

Creation of Employment comes first because it is seen as the best means of addressing poverty. Measures are described to attract domestic investment and foreign direct investment through streamlining procedures to improve the investment environment. Amongst areas needing attention are improvements in water supply reliability, and modernizing the Maseru rail terminal so that it can handle containers efficiently. Passports are needed both for local identification and travel purposes, and the backlog of service delivery and increased corruption in the department are noted as needing attention. Of particular importance is improving the efficiency of the Department of Immigration and improving labour productivity and stability. The need to produce new investment promotion materials is noted, as well as the challenges presented by competition in the textile sector. It is noted that small, medium and micro enterprises can make an enormous contribution to economic development and poverty reduction. Agribusiness, tourism, and mining are mentioned as areas with employment potential and part of key strategies for employment. Amongst other strategies mentioned here is establishing a comprehensive social security system and (as was in fact implemented in November 2005) a pension for all citizens over 70 years.

Improvement of Agricultural Production and Food Security is discussed in the light of Lesotho having been unable to grow enough food to feed its population for decades. Food security is seen as coming primarily from expanding formal and informal work opportunities and through boosting the purchasing power of those with employment. Thus the food purchased will be mostly imported rather than grown nationally. However, in relation to improving domestic production a series of improved practices are advocated, including reforms in the land tenure system, and methods by which the poor, who do not have the means to fully utilize their land (which often lies fallow), can release it for use by others.

Development of Infrastructure is seen as essential for the creation of a conducive investment climate. Areas needing attention include roads, water supply, town planning, electricity and housing.

Deepening of Democracy, Governance, Safety and Security is noted as important in the light of the damage caused by the events of 1998. Further steps are needed to consolidate democracy at national and local levels. Amongst a list of some 13 areas needing attention are the inefficiencies and delays in the justice system and the overcrowding of prisons.

Improving Access to Health Care and Social Welfare is a further priority for which a number of strategies are listed, mainly improvements in the existing system. Although ‘insufficient numbers of health personnel especially in rural areas’ is mentioned, rather surprisingly it is not given particular prominence, and amongst the proposed strategies the document fails to mention any strategy to train and recruit more doctors and nurses, other than the rather weak strategy ‘train health personnel at all levels’.

Under Improving Quality and Access to Education the theme is mainly expansion, although in relation to technical, vocational and tertiary education the strategy does mention ‘bringing the courses offered at these levels more in line with manpower needs’. However, the laxity in this area is not firmly addressed. Students with government loan bursaries have in recent years, compared with the more distant past, been relatively free to study what they liked, with the consequence that there are many unemployed graduates, while in certain professions, notably nursing, medicine, paramedical areas such as radiography (not a single trained Mosotho working in Lesotho!), primary school teaching and secondary school science teaching there are chronic shortages.

In relation to Management and Conservation of the Environment a number of strategies are mentioned including increasing the capacity of the National Environment Secretariat and implementing the Environment Act 2001, which is at present dormant legislation.

The problem of Improvement of Public Service Delivery is related to that of poor attitudes of civil servants, and it is stated that the Lesotho Government is committed towards identifying public service delivery bottlenecks and rooting out corruption. The strategy mentions improvements and reforms, although these are stated in rather general terms. (This is an area where reforms are frequently stated to be necessary, but are rarely effectively implemented.)

Apart from these eight key priorities identified by the strategy, certain other issues cut across all others. These are the Combating of HIV and AIDS, now believed to account for 70 deaths a day in Lesotho and by 1999 already having resulted in 90 000 AIDS orphans. Another is addressing problems relating to Gender, Youth and Children, where a number of strategies are listed including legislation to remove gender discrimination, and the improvement of social services.

In relation to Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation, mention is made of strengthening a Project Appraisal Committee. Amongst risks and assumptions, it is stated that the most critical assumption is the need for Political Will.

The table of incremental costs assigns M1 546 million to infrastructure development, 42.0% of the total costs, followed by M598 million to ‘Essential Health Care and Social Welfare’ (16.2%), M525 million to ‘Increasing Human Resource Capacity’, and M431 million to ‘Improving Public Service Delivery’. Smaller amounts are allocated to the other strategies.

At the end of the document, there is a series of core indicators in each of the sectors with most recent available figures (usually for years from about 1998 to 2003), and against these are the 2006 targets. For example the 2002 primary and secondary school teacher to pupil rates were respectively 47: 1 and 24: 1 and the aim is to change these by 2006 to 40: 1 and 30: 1. However, there does not seem to be any strategy mentioned which addresses the need to train more primary school teachers.

Of course we have now reached the end of the year 2006, and it would be of interest to know how many of the targets have been reached and, if not, a diagnosis of the reasons for failure.back to top

New Schedule of Minimum Wages Gazetted

The annual revision of minimum wages appeared as the Labour Code Wages Order 2006 ( Legal Notice No. 165 of 2006 in Supplement No. 2 to Lesotho Government Gazette no. 49 of Friday 29 September 2006). It provides for new minimum wages to come into force on 1 October 2006.

Minimum wages for agricultural workers are no longer gazetted and right at the bottom of the gazetted wages schedule are domestic workers whose minimum monthly wage rises from M230 to M240, which is less than a third of the minimum wage for this category in South Africa. However the minimum monthly wage for domestic workers who have had more than twelve months service is now gazetted separately and is M252 per month. These represent rises of 4.3% and 9.6% compared with an inflation rate (August 2006, the latest available) of 6.8%.

Small businesses are defined as undertakings which do not employ more than 5 persons and are wholly owned by Basotho companies or partnerships, with majority shareholding of Basotho ‘as natural persons’ and include butcheries, snack bars, coal and wood dealers, general cafés (i.e. small shops), greengrocers, caterers and guest houses). The minimum monthly wage in such enterprises rises from M466 to M480, but for employees with more than 12 months service the rise is from M466 to M490. These represent rises of 3.0% and 5.2% compared with the inflation rate of 6.8%.

In manufacturing industry, the minimum wages have risen from M643to M660 per month for a trainee and for a ‘textile general worker’ and from M686 to M710 for a trained textile machine operator, respectively rises of 2.6% and 3.5%, in both cases far less than the inflation rate, but presumably reflecting the precarious profitability of this sector where there have been many retrenchments, although recent signs of recovery.

Workers in the construction industry fare little better with the minimum wage for a construction worker now M818 compared with M794 a year ago, a rise of 3.0%, while the minimum for a construction machine operator or certificated employee such as a bricklayer, carpenter, steel fixer, welder or electrician, has risen from M1400 to M1442, also a rise of 3.0%. In the previous year the rises had been 10.0% and 11.4 %.

Those working in the wholesale and retail business have fared somewhat better. The minimum wage for workers in wholesales, supermarkets and furniture shops has gone up from M779 to M830 (6.5%), and for minisupermarkets, bakeries and cafés (other than those classified as small businesses) it has gone up from M758 to M810 (6.9%).

In the hospitality sector workers in hotels, motels and lodges have had their minimum monthly wage increased from M779 to M840 (7.8%), while those working for restaurants, caterers and guest houses have received an increase from M758 to M800 (5.5%).

A trained security guard now has a minimum monthly wage which has risen from M934 to M982 (5.1%), while a trainee security guard’s wage has risen from M750 to M800 (6.7%).

The minimum wage for funeral parlour workers has risen from M779 to M810 (4.0%), but for those with more than 12 months service with the same employer it is now M818, a rise of 5.0%.

Minimum wages in the transport sector have not been gazetted separately since 2003, but they now reappear in the Order. They range from M909 to M1318 for drivers, while the minimum monthly wage for a certified auto electrician, motor mechanic or panel beater is M1442.

Overall the ‘general minimum wage’ has risen from M673 to M686, a rise of only 1.9%, but for employees with more than 12 months service with the same employer it has risen from M673 to M697, a rise of 3.6%.
This year, 2006, employees may have suffered because of the census. The Bureau of Statistics has failed to keep to its schedule and has been publishing retail price indices very late. The reason given for this has been that employees have been working on the census, which was held in April 2006, but seems to have occupied staff for the whole year. While the inflation rate reached a low of 2.9% in August 2005, it has been climbing fairly steadily ever since, with a particularly steep rise between April 2006 and May 2006 from 5.1% to 6.7%, after which it has fluctuated in the 6% to 7% band. back to top

Celebrations for 40th Anniversary of Lesotho's Independence

The end of September and beginning of October 2006 were marked by an unprecedented choice of activities. The Morija Arts & Cultural Festival spanned the period 28 September to 1 October, but its attendance was relatively low, particularly because many of those who might have attended were at the National University of Lesotho Graduation Ceremony on Saturday 30 September. Meanwhile there were several days of celebrations for the 40th Anniversary of Independence.

The Independence anniversary celebrations included daytime events such as public lectures, an exhibition at the National Convention Centre and horse and donkey racing. At midnight on the evening of 3 October, the new national flag was unfurled. Finally, on the evening of Wednesday 4 October, there was a gala banquet in rather chilly weather under three huge marquees erected in the grounds of the Royal Palace. Guests included the Presidents of Botswana and Sierra Leone and the Vice-President of South Africa. None of these were strangers to Lesotho. Five weeks earlier, President Festus Mogae of Botswana had handed over the SADC Chairmanship to the Lesotho Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili in Maseru.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone was even more familiar with Maseru but at an earlier period, because he had once worked there as the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative. In the case of South African Vice-President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, her stay had been at the National University of Lesotho for four years as a student. A number of awards were made but heading the list was ex-President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. He emerged from the dinner as Sir Kenneth Kaunda, having been dubbed with a sword by His Majesty King Letsie III and made a Knight Commander of the Most Courteous Order of Lesotho.
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Anglican Church Statistics Published

The Anglican Church in Lesotho is the third largest denomination, but unlike the Lesotho Evangelical Church and Catholic Church has never had its own newspaper. As a result, information on the church is not very widely available. However, the most recent twice-yearly UK-based Lesotho Diocesan Association Newsletter does provide a list of parishes and priests. As listed there are 30 Anglican parishes in Lesotho, and 19 full-time clergy receiving stipends. These are supported by 16 non-stipendiary or self-supporting clergy in the parishes. However, 8 parishes, most of them in remote areas, are without a rector.

The Newsletter reports on the Lesotho Diocesan Association’s annual meeting where the problem of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho was highlighted. It is noted that the former bishop, Philip Mokuku, is now Vicar-General, in effect acting in his former capacity as bishop, and it is reported that relationships in the diocese are improving. There is a great need for a Diocesan Treasurer and Secretary and the Association is trying to recruit a suitable person. Amongst other news was the blessing of a new church at Ha Rankhelepe (on the west side of the Qeme Plateau, and possibly the first new Anglican church in the Lowlands of Lesotho to be built for over 50 years). This had been funded by the Southern African Church Development Trust. The retirement was also announced of Michael Pocock after more than 20 successful years as Headmaster of St Stephen’s Diocesan High School in Mohale’s Hoek. In that time, the school has shown itself to be one of the academically best schools in Lesotho.

Amongst activities of the Lesotho Diocesan Association have been the provision of funds to build new rectories in Anglican parishes in Lesotho. The secretary of the association for many years has been Canon Ron Tovey, a former priest in Lesotho. He will shortly be 80 and he has announced his retirement from the secretaryship of the association. back to top

603-carat Diamong Found at Letšeng Mine

It was reported in The Star of 5 October 2006 that a 603-carat diamond had been found at the Letšeng Mine, which is situated at 3000 metres above sea level in Mokhotlong District. Named the Lesotho Promise, the diamond is the largest ever recovered from Lesotho, and worldwide it is the 15th largest diamond ever found. There are 5 carats to a gram, so the new diamond weighs in at just over 120 g, about twice the mass of a hen’s egg, which typically has a mass of about 60 g. (The largest diamond ever found was the 3106-carat Cullinan Diamond, which was discovered at the Premier Diamond Mine near Pretoria on 26 January 1905.)

As reported by the mine’s joint owners who are Gem Mining Company and the Lesotho Government, the new diamond is a white stone which is rated D, the top colour for diamonds. The diamond, which is rather larger than a golf ball, was sent for sale at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in Belgium where it realised $12.4 million (about M90 million) and was purchased by the South African Diamond Corporation. After cutting, the individual stones, probably a large heart-shaped gem and several smaller stones, are considered likely to raise M150 million. Lesotho’s previous largest diamond was the 601-carat Lesotho Brown, found at Letšeng in 1967.back to top

Member of Parliamet Shot Dead by Robbers at his Home at Thaba Bosiu

A National Independent Party Member of Parliament, Ford Jobo, was shot dead by armed robbers at his home at Lihaseng, Thaba-Bosiu on the night of 6 October 2006. Money and a gun were stolen.

Ford Jobo, born in 1931, was a descendant of King Moshoeshoe’s younger brother, Jobo Mokhachane, and was himself the current Chief of Lihaseng. For much of his life he had worked as a manager of Frasers stores. He became a proportional representation MP after the elections of May 2002, one of five representing the National Independent Party. His funeral was held at Lihaseng on Saturday 21 October 2006, where the speakers included the Principal Chief of Thaba-Bosiu, Senator Khoabane Theko; the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Ntlhoi Motsamai; and the nonogenarian Leader of the National Independent Party, Mr Anthony Manyeli. Ford Jobo survived by his widow, 5 sons, a daughter and 8 grandchildren.

Sebolai Sebolai, aged 39, was sworn in as a replacement National Independent Party MP on Monday 23 October 2006. He is a former policeman, who was later employed successively by Lesotho Bank, the Agricultural Development Bank and the Boliba Cooperative Society.

LHWP Phase II Advertisements Indicate Two Dam Sites Now on Short List

The Feasibility Study for Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project has now apparently reached the point of deciding shortly on the location of the recommended dam site. Advertisements (for example in Mopheme of 11 October 2006) called for labour based contractors to undertake test pitting and trenching at either the Polihali or the Taung dam site.

The Taung dam site is a short distance downstream from the confluence of the Malibamatšo and Senqu rivers, the two largest rivers draining the northern Maloti. The resulting reservoir would reach the base of the Katse Dam, but water would then have to be pumped up into the Katse Reservoir.

The alternative Polihali dam site is upstream on the Senqu about half way between the confluence with the Malibamatšo and Mokhotlong. A lengthy tunnel would be needed to link the resulting reservoir to the Katse Reservoir, but if the dam were high enough to allow gravity transfer, there would be considerable saving in recurrent costs, because pumping would be avoided. back to top

18 MPs Cross the Floor in the National Assembly to Form New  Parliamentary Party

TRumours had been circulating for some time that the unity of the ruling party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was under threat and that Motsoahae Thomas (‘Tom’) Thabane, the Minister of Communications, Science & Technology, was making overtures to his fellow MPs to help him form a new opposition party. The break was formalized on 13 October 2006 when 18 MPs crossed the floor to form the new All Basotho Convention Party, which immediately became known as the ABC Party. 17 of the MPs in the new party were from the LCD, and the eighteenth was Lehlohonolo Tšehlana, representing Mokhotlong (constituency no. 79). He was an Independent MP, who had been expelled from the LCD early in 2004 by the party’s National Executive Committee for ‘misconduct against the Constitution of the party’.

Of the other 17 MPs, 5 were from the 8 Maseru urban constituencies and were Seeiso Simon Sehloho (Mabote, constituency no. 29); Lehlohonolo Mafaesa (Stadium Area, no. 31); ’Mapheello B. Tšuluba (Qoaling, no. 33); Molobeli Bernard Soulo (Lithoteng, no. 34); and the party leader Tom Thabane (Abia, no. 36). This means that more than half of the Maseru urban constituency members had defected to the new party.

Outside Maseru, the party’s MPs extend to all districts except Quthing and Qacha’s Nek. In the north there are 7 MPs: M. Maliehe (Butha-Buthe, no. 5); Sello Peter Maphalla (Hlotse, no. 13); Mokholane Pita (Maputsoe, no. 15); Lijane Edwin Selikane (Mosalemane, no. 19); Matooane Mokhosi (Bela-Bela, no. 21); Clement S. Machakela (Mahlatsa, no. 22); and Mabuo Kojoana (Thupa-Kubu, no. 26).

From south of Maseru, there are just 3 MPs, one in each of Maseru, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek Districts, respectively: Molebatsi Khaile (Qeme, no. 42); Retšelisitsoe Ranooe (Kolo, no. 48); and Seabata Joseph Monare (Qhalasi, no. 57).

The remaining two MPs are from constituencies in the Maloti: Freddy Rantelali Shea (’Maletsunyane, no. 46); and ’Nyane Mphafi (Thaba-Tseka, no. 74).

Following the formation of the ABC, the LCD’s strength in the National Assembly was reduced to 61 MPs only, with the opposition parties holding 59 seats. 40 of these are proportional representation seats, and for such MPs, there is no provision for crossing the floor, a resignation or death resulting in the next person on the p. r. list taking over. back to top

Prime Minister Gives Evidence in Criminal Defamation Case which Later Fails to Proceed

A case which has been given headline treatment by newspapers resulted in the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili giving evidence in the packed court of the Chief Magistrate of Maseru, Molefi Makara, on Monday16 October 2006. Three former members of the ruling party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, ’Maketso Motjope (37), Methe Pekeche (61) and Qamaka Ntšene (45) were charged with criminal defamation, a charge which arose from a pamphlet which was circulated alleging that the Prime Minister had had a sexual relationship with a cabinet member colleague, Dr Pontšo Sekatle. The hearing was reported in Mopheme of 18 October 2006 and Public Eye of 20 October 2006, both of which gave it front page treatment.

The Prime Minister spoke of the great distress the pamphlet had caused him, and said the pamphlet was ‘scurrilous and preposterous’. The pamphlet had been found by his daughter Thato who had thrown it at him asking whether he knew anything about it. The pamphlet was most devastating to him personally and to his wife and children. ‘To my great shock, my children believed it to be true and so did my wife’. He also said that at Cabinet level he was confronted by Dr Sekatle who was in tears and wanted to resign because of the allegation. The pamphlet had affected the stability of Cabinet, because at Cabinet meetings some ministers would eye himself and Dr Sekatle mischievously.

The case was due to proceed, but despite its high profile nature it fell victim, like so many other cases in Lesotho, to inefficiencies in the justice system. As reported in Mopheme of 22 November 2006, it could not proceed because the State provided defence attorney, Advocate Thabo Mpaka, was currently not available, nor would he be available until March 2007 and he had not briefed another lawyer to take his place. Moreover an order from the court that the three defendants should be provided with legal aid had not been complied with. It was not clear when the hearing would resume.back to top

Mokhele Likate Commissioned as Ambassador to Japan

For the first time, Lesotho will have a diplomatic mission in Japan, a country which in recent years has provided considerable donor aid. As reported in Lesotho Today of 19 October 2006, the new Ambassador is Mokhele Likate who was recently commissioned by His Majesty King Letsie III. Mokhele Likate, born in 1952, has degrees in Administration from the National University of Lesotho and the University of Southern California. He has had a variety of posts in the public and private sectors. From 1986-1992 he was Registrar of the National University of Lesotho, and more recently from 2000 to 2004, he was a member of the Independent Electoral Commission. He was also one of the founders of the firm Moradi (Pty) Ltd, a firm which since 1981 has specialized in quarrying and crushing gravel for building purposes.back to top

Proliferation of Lesotho Radio Stations Documented

At question time in the National Assembly on 19 October 2006 (as reported in Hansard), the Member of Parliament for Hlotse asked a question about the operation of radio stations in Lesotho. In the absence of the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology (who had left the government to form the ABC Party) the reply was given by Mrs M. Mahase-Moiloa, Minister of Employment and Labour.

She reported that currently there are 10 licensed radio stations in Lesotho, although one (LEC Radio, with the licence held by the Lesotho Evangelical Church) was not yet operating. Two of the remaining radio stations were owned by government and these were Radio Lesotho, which began broadcasting in 1966, and ‘The Ultimate FM’ which began operations on 9 May 2006. Most of the other stations were owned by religious broadcasting organizations and were (in order of the first date of broadcasting) People’s Choice Radio (8 December 1998); Moafrika Radio (said to be owned by the 3rd World Evangelical Movement for Human Rights and Democracy) (3 January 1999); Joy Radio (owned by Multimedia Communications) (15 August 1999); Catholic Radio (4 October 1999); Harvest Radio (30 May 2003); Thaha Khube Radio (1 October 2003); and Fill the Gap Radio (27 June 2005). The list provided is, however, not complete, because it omits such stations as DoPE Radio which is run by the Department of Physics and Electronics at the National University of Lesotho at Roma.

The answer to the question revealed that government was aware of the absence of proper broadcasting legislation, something which would be remedied in due course. back to top

Minister of Finance and Development Planning Reports on Operation of Pension Scheme

The Minister of Finance & Development Planning, Dr T. Thahane (as reported in Hansard) addressed the National Assembly on Thursday 19 October 2006 on the operation of the pension scheme in Lesotho. He said that he was doing this in response to many questions which had been raised recently by MPs on the operation of the scheme.

He recalled that pensions were first paid in November 2005, and when the scheme began, the number of registered elderly people was 64 171. Pensions were paid out through 135 post offices and postal agencies, and amongst difficulties which arose were a shortage of vehicles to deliver the money to some post offices; shortages of staff; long queues which developed; old people who registered at one payment point but expected to be paid out at another; delays in paying out back pensions to people who had not been able to collect their pensions in the first month; failure to meet the needs of those standing in queues for a long time, even to the extent of providing seats and toilet and other facilities; the problem of people who deliberately registered twice for pensions under different names; the problem of people who were already receiving army pensions (these were apparently about 672 in number) but also registered for old age pensions; the problem of chiefs who certified that certain people were still alive when in fact they were dead; and chiefs who certified that people had reached the age of 70 when they had not.

The minister went on to say that the number of people receiving pensions at the end of September 2006 had risen to 76 048, and 3 933 people had been removed from the list because they had died in the interim. The Pensions Office together with the Department of Posts had travelled round the districts and had meetings with chiefs, elected representatives, district administrators and members of the police and army to eliminate anomalies and to facilitate the working of the pension scheme. Also the Pensions Office had come to an agreement with the postal authorities about improving facilities at places of payment, including protection from the weather, provision of toilets, and expanding the number of places of payment in each district.

There were 10 597 people entitled to pensions who had not been paid. Of these some 5 700 had been paid before the end of March, and it was hoped that the rest would be paid before Christmas.
Although the number of payment points had now been increased to 209, it was apparent that more were needed, and the Ministry would investigate the possibility of expanding the numbers with school managers, churches and government departments.

It was also apparent from the investigations of his Department that there were people who had deliberately broken the law by changing their date of birth, even to the extent of obtaining new passports showing revised dates of birth.

Members of Parliament posed a number of questions after the statement including whether the payment of pensions could not be undertaken by local government structures. The reply was that to improve the system, local government members at the lowest structural level would need to be involved, ones which were in close proximity to where old people lived, and that such structures were still being developed after the recent local government elections.

The present pension is M150 per month for persons 70 or over only, and amongst the problems, although not mentioned by the Minister, has also been the problem of armed robbery of cash while it is being delivered to the places of payment at post offices. Armed guards have had to be deployed to protect post offices, which hitherto did not normally have large amounts of cash on the premises.back to top

Oblate Brother and Robber Die and Two Brothers Injured in Shootout at Mazend

On the night of Tuesday 24 October 2006, three armed robbers attacked the Mazenod Mission14 km south-east of Maseru. The incident, with different details, was reported in Lesotho Today of 26 October 2006, Moeletsi oa Basotho of 29 October 2006 and in the Mosotho supplement to Public Eye of 10 November 2006.

Apparently the robbers first entered the room of Brother Mabilikoe Mahao demanding money, and when they found none he was shot dead. They then entered the room of Brother Mosoeu Setsomi through the window, where they also demanded money, but were dissatisfied when they only found M50. He led them to the room of another brother, Brother Thabiso Sephamola, which he managed to enter and the two brothers then barricaded it against the robbers. However, they shot through the door and managed to break in and in the ensuing affray both brothers were injured. The noise finally alerted the mission’s security guards who shot dead one of the robbers while the other two robbers escaped. The dead robber is Seabata Motja of the village of Ha Takalimane, about 3 km from the mission. His accomplices were not immediately arrested.

The two injured brothers were taken to hospitals in Maseru, where one was shortly afterwards discharged, but Brother Sephamola was admitted with six gunshot wounds.

Police investigations, as reported in the Catholic newspaper, Moeletsi oa Basotho of 19 November 2006, later indicated that they suspected Lehlohonolo Possa of Thota-Moli near Mazenod to have been one of the attackers. His house at Upper Thamae in Maseru was searched and the murder weapon discovered in the possession of his brother who was taken into custody for having an unlicensed weapon and bullets. They also learned that Lehlohonolo had been wounded in the left hand and head but had nevertheless escaped and was believed to have crossed into South Africa. However in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 3 December 2006, it was reported that the police had found the body of Lehlohonolo Possa on 24 November in a donga near the abattoir beyond Khubetsoana, north-east of Maseru. He had a bullet wound in his stomach and had apparently been killed by an unknown assailant. The newspaper quoted from the Bible: ‘Those who kill with the sword shall die by the sword’.back to top

Report on Human Rights in Textile Industry Published

Human rights and environmental issues report is an undated publication which was released to the press late in July 2006. It is produced by the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (LCN) in conjunction with the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union. It is the result of factory inspections and interviews with 20 workers in each of six textile factories located in either Maseru or Maputsoe. It estimates that the total number of textile workers is about 45 000, and the vast majority of these are women.

The report refers to the legal rights of workers under the Constitution and under legislation such as the Labour Code Order 1992. Of those interviewed, 22% stated they had observed unfair discrimination in factories, citing cases where Basotho workers were subjected to disciplinary procedures and dismissed, whereas this did not happen to Chinese workers. On the matter of strikes, even though 40% of employees were members of trade unions, in practice there were no strikes, employees no doubt fearing that they might be dismissed en masse if they took strike action.

On the matter of sick leave, it is noted under the Labour Code that employees are only entitled to paid sick leave after six months of employment, and that paid sick leave is limited to twelve days in the second six months. It was found that in quite a number of cases these rules were not being adhered to, and deductions from salaries were being made even when medical certificates were being supplied.

On safety, 63% of workers reported that some safety precautions were being taken by employers. However, it was observed that even when protective masks were supplied, many workers were not using them and they were hanging loose round their necks.

On maternity leave, it seems that employers are observing the requirements of the Labour Code, namely allowing 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave, and in fact they had improved on this by allowing women to be paid for the first two weeks of maternity leave.

On hours of work, the survey found that almost all workers were exceeding the maximum 45 hours of work during the week. Moreover, many reported that they did not get the full 1 hour break they were entitled to during the working day. It was found that some workers were working as many as 10 to 11 hours per day.

There was a general finding that workers were not aware of their rights. On wages, a parallel survey, As you sew, by the Federation of Women Lawyers is quoted, showing that on average, workers in the textile industry earn only M713.80 per month. Many women complement their low wages by acting as sex workers. Although details specific to textile workers are not available, it is estimated that about a third of the work force, 15 000 women, are infected with HIV/AIDS.

Although the report includes ‘environmental issues’ in its title, it does in fact have very little to say about these. It refers briefly to research at the Lerotholi Polytechnic on the ‘Blue River’, a stream of effluent at the Thetsane Industrial Estate which is well known to travellers along the Maseru by-pass road which crosses this stream. The Blue River is said to contain carcinogenic heavy metals and to be dangerous to human and animal health. The report includes a photograph of a pig drinking water at the Blue River.

The report contains a number of recommendations, some of them obvious but some of them costly. Some are, however, clearly impractical on a large scale, such as decentralising the industry to the highlands of Lesotho. This is seen as helping to unite families and to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is also recommended that textile workers be trained so that they can continue with their work and not be left destitute when factories are closed.

Public Eye  in its issue of 28 July 2006 had profiled the report under the headline ‘Inhuman and Unbearable!’ In its issue of 11 August 2006, it interviewed the Secretary of the Lesotho Textile Exporters Association (LTEA), Thabo Mohaleroe, and the Association’s Chairperson, Jennifer Chen. However, both said that although they had seen the Public Eye  report, they had not seen the report itself. They disagreed with the findings reported in Public Eye , and disputed the information given about working hours, because overtime was permitted under the law. On the minimum wage it was noted that this stands at M686 per month, but some employers paid more. The textile sector was competing against countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia, where wages were only about US$40 (M272) per month. It was also having to take account of and to conform to codes of conduct prescribed by some of its main US purchasers such as Wal-Mart, Levi’s and Gap. Lesotho’s Labour Department had upgraded its factory inspection unit, and LTEA was also developing its own code of conduct in association with the Lesotho National Development Corporation. The LTEA representatives noted that the largest union, the Factory Workers Union (FAWU) had distanced itself from the report. back to top

Dual Citizenship Motion moved in the National Assembly

A Basotho National Party proportional representation Member of Parliament, Joseph Seabata Thabisi, on 25 October 2006 moved in the National Assembly:

That time is now opportune for this Honourable House to consider amending Section 41(2)(a) & (b) of the Constitution to provide for dual citizenship (Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa) now many Basotho already hold Lesotho passports and RSA identity cards.

The matter was subjected to considerable debate and the eventual outcome on Friday 10 November 2006 was a resolution as follows:

That time is now opportune for this Honourable House to consider amending Section 41(2)(a) & (b) of the Constitution to provide for dual citizenship ‘and that the matter be subsequently [? consequently] referred to a relevant Portfolio Committee for in-depth study and report to the whole House’.

South Africa allows dual citizenship, but it is forbidden in Lesotho. However, like a number of Lesotho laws, this one is very frequently disregarded, especially by the large numbers of Basotho in South Africa who can only regularize their employment status by obtaining South African IDs, and thereby effectively acquiring dual citizenship.

It appears that under Section 85 of the Constitution of Lesotho, Section 41 is not an entrenched Section, and could be amended by a simple majority vote in the National Assembly and Senate.back to top

Prime Minister Inaugurates New University Buildings

On Wednesday 25 October 2006, the Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, travelled to the National University at Roma (where he had once been a student and also a lecturer) to inaugurate two new government-funded buildings. These are the M15.5 million extension to the Thomas Mofolo Library and a new M14.4 million student residence which can accommodate some 300 students. This is the 14th student residence, although two of the earlier student residences, Moshoeshoe Hall and the Old Monastery have now been taken over as office accommodation. The oldest of the residences still in use is Guilbeault Hall, which was built in 1959, and its construction was followed by Khama Hall, Mswati Hall, Chancellor Hall, Machabeng House, Africa Hall, Murtala Muhammed Hall, Canada Hall, Khotso Hall, Tšepo Hall and Tšepo Extension. At the time of its inauguration, the new hall had yet to receive an official name.. back to top

Accident on Maseru Bypass Demolishes Pedestrian Overbridge

Amongst significant improvements for pedestrians in peri-urban Maseru in the past ten years has been the construction of traffic calming bumps and chicanes at pedestrian crossings, while at the busiest spots, pedestrian overbridges have been provided. Seven such bridges have been constructed in Maseru: at Orpen Road on the Inner Relief Road; at Cathedral Circle over Moshoeshoe Road; next to St James’ High School on the Main South Road; on the road to the Maseru Bridge Border post, and at three points on the Maseru Bypass, before, at, and beyond the Thetsane Industrial Estate.

There are however now only six such bridges. On Thursday 26 October 2006, a lorry carrying an excavator with a high extension arm collided with the bridge on the bypass near Ha Tsolo. In a spectacular accident the bridge, which was not high enough to allow the load on the lorry to pass, collapsed onto the lorry cutting into half. Amazingly it seems no one was injured, but the debris completely blocked the bypass for several days, and a diversion road had to be used.back to top

ABC Leader Interviewed in South Africa

The Mail & Guardian of 27 October 2006 reported an interview with Tom Thabane, the leader of the new All Basotho Convention (ABC) Party. The interview, in South Africa, was with Fikile Ntsikelelo Moya.

Tom Thabane, born in 1939, has served every government since independence, namely those of Leabua Jonathan (where he was Permanent Secretary for Health); the Military Government (from which he eventually fell from favour and spent three years in South Africa during which he acquired a flat in Sandton); and eventually the Basutoland Congress Party (where he was brought in to try to help sort out major conflicts with the military after the restoration of democracy). He helped Ntsu Mokhehle survive by devising the newly formed Lesotho Congress for Democracy in June 1997. At the time of his resignation early in October 2006 he had been Minister of Communications, Science and Technology.

When asked what was wrong with the present government, Tom Thabane said that the health system had completely broken down. It could not even deal with a car accident. Moreover water was mismanaged. It was being sold to South Africa but often was not available in the capital Maseru. When it was available, the water bills were so high that for many unemployed people, water was unaffordable. Moreover, amongst the many unemployed were many university graduates with skills the country could use, but they were crossing over to work in South Africa.

Tom Thabane was asked for his views on the incorporation of Lesotho into South Africa, and he rejected this totally, referring to his belief that King Moshoeshoe’s kingdom had formerly extended as far as the Vaal river and that the Treaty of Aliwal North had given away the whole of the Orange Free State. It was as irrational to think of South Africa swallowing Lesotho, as for some European country swallowing Belgium which is the same size as Lesotho, or swallowing Switzerland which is even smaller than Lesotho. [Tom Thabane, if reported correctly, erred in some of his historical and geographical facts. Although Belgium (30528 km2) is very close in area to Lesotho (30355 km2), Switzerland is actually considerably larger (41284 km2).]

As the campaign hotted up, the new Acting Minister of Communications, Mpho Malie, annoyed that two well-known popular musicians, Lephatšoa ‘Selomo’ Lebajoa and Mokete ‘Mosotho’ Chakela, had appeared at ABC rallies, decided that their music could no longer be played on Radio Lesotho or Lesotho TV. However, this did not stop gospel singer Tšepo ‘Village Pope’ Tšola and jazz singer Bhudaza ‘Buddha’ Mapefane also appearing at ABC rallies. At the end of the year they had not, however, been bannedback to top

New Chief of Thaba-Tšoeu Installed

TLesotho has 22 Principal Chiefs under whom other area chiefs and subchiefs fall in a well-established hierarchy. There are however two exceptions. These are the so-called ‘Independent Chiefs’ of Likoeneng and Thaba-Tšoeu (both in Mohale’s Hoek District) who have long aspired to be Principal Chiefs, but in practice have an equivocal status. For example, they do not have the right to be ex officio Members of the Senate, although, in recent years, they have been amongst the 11 nominated members of the Senate.

These two Independent Chiefs are both descendants of King Moshoeshoe’s younger brother, Mohale, and while his senior son, Molomo, founded a dynasty of Principal Chiefs, the younger sons, Nkhahle and Potsane, who were from other wives of Mohale, had to be content with lesser status. However their descendants in the male line sought over several generations to increase their status by marriages to daughters of the senior wives of the Paramount Chiefs.

Coming to the present time, on the death of Nkhahle Phakiso Qajela Lebona Nkhahle, great-great-grandson of the founder of the Thaba-Tšoeu chieftainship, his widow ’Maqajela took over as Senator and Chieftainess. After she died in 1999, Qajela de facto succeeded her, and was also a nominated member of Senate. However, he had never been formally installed in front of his people. This was rectified on Friday 27 October 2006 when a formal installation by King Letsie III took place in the presence of other Principal Chiefs and government ministers. Chief Qajela Lebona, as he is known, is Chief of Thaba-Tšoeu, Ntjepeleng, Ketane & Ketanyane, comprising a relatively small area of the Lowlands and Foothills, together with a very remote detached area in the Maloti.back to top

ABC Maseru Rally Attracts Thousands of Supporters

The newly formed All Basotho Convention (ABC) Party, as reported by Mopheme of 1 November 2006, held its first major public rally in Maseru on 29 October 2006. Party colours were much in evidence and consisted of gold, orange and green, the gold and orange also appearing as a sun with its rays, the new party emblem. The party cry is La chaba letsatsi! ‘the sun is rising’ (or usually simply La chaba!), and the party gesture, reinforced by the ideophone toala, is an opening hand at arm’s length in which the palm signifies the sun, and the fingers represent the rays of the sun. The Sesotho name of the party is Kobo-tata ea Basotho, ‘the blanket covering the Basotho’.

Speaking at the rally, the party leader, Tom Thabane, recalled that he had been Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2002, and afterwards Minister of Home Affairs, in which position he found the elimination of crime his biggest challenge. However ‘crime continues to soar and the government is still bumbling along’. He listed a number of other government failures ‘because of lack of political will’.

Also invited to speak at the rally were Moeketse Vincent Malebo MP, of the Marematlou Freedom Party, speaking on behalf of a number of opposition parties; and Macaefa Billy MP, speaking on behalf of trade unions and textile workers.

A question arose about the Mercedes Benz vehicle which had been acquired at next to nothing from Imperial Fleet Services as a result of a scheme by which cabinet ministers and principal secretaries were sold relatively new vehicles at 1% of their original price, something which was described at the rally as a ‘crooked government scheme’. Tom Thabane asked the crowd to decide and the decision was that it should be returned to IFS. Thabane called his wife up onto the podium and they both washed their hands there in public, reportedly like Pontius Pilate (although perhaps that was not a good analogy) to protest their innocence of the scheme. Thabane then said ‘I want this car out of my home’ to roars of deafening approval from the crowd.

There was a sequel to this on the following Friday. Accompanied by supporters in party colours and the press (the event had been publicised ahead of time) the Mercedes Benz E240, registration AB 036, was driven to the Imperial Fleet Services gate. The car was bedecked in ABC party colours, with a bright yellow and orange sun on green cloth covering the bonnet. However, it was not admitted, and a letter from IFS was made available to the media saying that the car had been sold to the Government Car Ownership Scheme by IFS and had become the property of the Lesotho Government after which Thabane had acquired the car by opting to pay the settlement amount, and had done so on 12 May 2006. Thabane was therefore the owner and IFS did not want to buy it back.

A few days later there was an attempt to return the Mercedes Benz to the Government, and it was driven to the Qhobosheaneng Office complex. It was refused by the Government Secretary, Tlohang Sekhamane, and after it had been abandoned at the complex, the police took it over, drove it and parked it outside the gate at Thabane’s home.back to top

Fifth Annual Prisons Day Celebrated in Maseru

Appalling conditions in Lesotho’s prisons have in recent years been revealed by reports from the White Commission (tabled before Parliament as recently as 24 February 2004) and more recently from the Ombudsman.

However, there are signs that there has recently been an improvement, if speeches made on the Fifth Annual Prisons Day in late October are any indication. As reported by Hape Nthongoa in Mopheme of 1 November 2006, a prisoner’s representative, Mtimkulu Thobela, was invited to speak and he said that there had been improvement after the change in name from the Lesotho Prisons Service to the Lesotho Correctional Service. ‘We are now eating a balance diet, taught on HIV/AIDS, able to go for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), and have healthy talks about prevention and care for people living with HIV, and voting rights.’

However, Thobela added that despite the improvements there were many other needs including refurbished prison buildings, flush sanitation, warm water, proper beds and warm blankets. There was also need for training in skills such as auto mechanics, welding, and chicken, cattle and rabbit rearing. Also needed were recreational facilities for prisoners and competitions between prisons at district level. Prisoners would also appreciate having radio and television sets and Bibles.

A number of awards were presented at Prisons Day. The Butha-Buthe Correctional Institution received an award for four years without an escape, and also an award in the arts category. Maseru Central Institution received an award for soccer, and one of its inmates, Teboho Khoaeane, also received a cash prize from the Morija Arts and Cultural Festival for being the best morabaraba player.back to top

State of Mokhotlong Road becomes Senate Concern

A motion proposed in Senate by the Principal Chief of Mokhotlong, Chief Mathealira Seeiso, occupied considerable debating time in early November. It drew attention to the state of the Oxbow to Mokhotlong road, which had deteriorated badly as a result of the formation of potholes and needed urgent rehabilitation.

Work began on the Mokhotlong road in 1993 and it was completed in 1998, but whether through inexperience or poor design (or both), the tarred road as completed by the contractor did not stand up to the harsh weather conditions across the summit plateau (the road rises to 3270 m). As a result, the road soon afterwards developed potholes throughout, and as the debaters agreed, potholes in a tarred road are much more serious and damaging to vehicles than potholes in a gravel road. It was noted that because the road was essential for access, the Letšeng Diamond Mine had been for the past 18 months filling potholes with waste from its spoil heaps and that it was incurring in this way a cost of M60 000 per month. However, these were temporary repairs and no substitute for proper rehabilitation.

At the end of the debate on Thursday 9 November 2006, Senate unanimously agreed that:

With the ever-worsening condition of the Oxbow - Mokhotlong road, the Honourable Senate urges the Government of Lesotho to consider:
       (a) the urgent need for the rehabilitation of this portion of the Butha-Buthe - Mokhotlong road as an emergency deserving to be addressed during the current Parliament, as waiting beyond now will only perpetuate the inconvenience of the general public, business community and the Letšeng Diamond Mine who depend on this road for delivery of services;  

       b) placing maintenance crew camps strategically along the road to service this road regularly and in time to check its deterioration.

Senate’s prayer was answered possibly sooner than it could have reasonably expected. As reported in Mopheme of 22 November 2006, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Timothy Thahane had just signed a M171.6 million agreement with the Lesotho World Bank country director, Ritva Reinikka, acting on behalf of the International Development Association, one of the four institutions which make up the World Bank. Of this money M89.7 million is an outright grant and M81.7 million is a credit on favourable terms.

One portion will be used on the Oxbow to Mokhotlong road which had deteriorated rapidly ‘due to frost susceptible material in the base course’. Another portion would go towards the multi-donor funded road from Roma to Qacha’s Nek via Semonkong and Sekake, reducing the distance to Qacha’s Nek by 140 km. In relation to this road the money would be used for the two most expensive elements, the bridges across the Senqunyane and Senqu rivers. A third project was to upgrade the road from Mantšonyane to Lesobeng in Thaba-Tseka District. Finally, there was the project to build an 8 km feeder road from Lintša to Likotopong. The exact location of this last road was not stated, but Likotopong is on the east bank of the Makhaleng and presumably the feeder road completes a road route from Ha Khanyetsi to link with the Semonkong road near Ramabanta.back to top

Three Oppossion 'Parties' form an Alliance

At a meeting held at Maseru Club on Monday 6 November, the leaders of three ‘congress’ parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding and agreed to work as an Alliance of Congress Parties. The parties involved in the Alliance are the Basutoland African Congress led by Dr Deborah Khauhelo Raditapole; the Lesotho People’s Congress led by Advocate Kelebone Maope; and the Basutoland Congress Party whose former leader, Ntsukunyane Mphanya, had convened the meeting. The Alliance still does not have a constitution but an Interim Governing Council was appointed. Moreover, the Alliance would stand for elections under one symbol, a picture of the late Dr Ntsu Mokhehle, holding knobkerrie in one hand and raising a thumb (the old BCP salute) on the other.

It transpired after the meeting that Mphanya was not representing the BCP, but himself, or as he himself said, a  rather nebulous organization called Mahatammoho a Poelano le Kopano (Congress for Reconciliation and Union). A letter was sent to the Director of Elections by M. Noko, Secretary-General of the BCP, indicating that the BCP was not part of the Alliance and objecting to its party symbol, a knobkerrie, being used by the Alliance as part of its proposed symbol. back to top

Accusations of Witchcraft and Mob Action follow Death of St Mary's Teacher

A religious studies teacher at St Mary’s High School, Roma, Mookho Mpoko, died late in October 2006. She lived at Mafikeng, not far from her place of work, and died after complaining of headache and stomach pains.

Mookho’s relatives, even before she was buried, began to believe that her death was not natural. This was reinforced by the discovery of an anonymous SMS on her mobile phone which contained a grossly insulting message. This was reported to the police who were able to trace the message as coming from one ’Mamolula Mosotho also known as ’Mamolula Khoete. When they telephoned her number, she replied, but said she was in Mokhotlong. However, when they went to her house at Thoteng, Roma, they found that she was there.

It was common knowledge in the village that both Mookho and ’Mamolula had a relationship with the same married man in Roma, as a result of which they were bitter rivals. The family of Mookho immediately attributed her death to witchcraft, organised by a third woman, a traditional doctor living in Mafikeng named ’Mantsoaki Thoola.

Matters came to a head when crowds of villagers threatened to take matters into their own hands, the police not having made any arrest. So the keeping of the peace and the meting out of justice reverted to traditional authorities and traditional methods rather than the police and the judicial system.

The traditional authority in this case was Chieftainess ’Mamohale Seeiso, the daughter-in-law of the late Chief Maama Mafefoane Maama. Her area of jurisdiction covered the residences of the three ladies, one now deceased, involved in the dispute. A pitso (village meeting) was called at Ha Mafefoane on 18 November 2006 and the two surviving ladies, ’Mamolula and ’Mantsoaki, were required to be present. However, according to a report in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 26 November 2006, the daughter of the traditional healer, ’Mantsoaki, went to Chieftainess ’Mamohale to report that her mother could not be present because she had gone to South Africa. She also said that she knew that ’Mamolula had visited her mother to seek help to win the disputed man.

A large and noisy crowd escorted ’Mamolula to the pitso, so that she could not fail to be there. At the pitso, after discussion, it was decided that both women should be required to leave Roma within 24 hours. After the pitso, it was necessary for ’Mamolula to be escorted back to her house by the police because of threats from people that she should be treated more severely.

As has been seen, ’Mantsoaki had already left Roma, but ’Mamolula decided to appeal to the Principal Chief of Ha Maama, Chieftainess Mabela Seeiso Maama. This resulted in her summoning everyone concerned as well as local residents to a major pitso to be held at her official seat at Boinyatso (St Michael’s) on Thursday 23 November 2006.

A large number of people assembled at Boinyatso, and ’Mamolula was present, accompanied by her relatives. However, Chieftainess Mabela was not there when the crowd assembled, and it was believed by many that there was likely to be some difficulty because ’Mamolula and Chieftainess Mabela were related to each other.

’Mamolula from the beginning was under threat from the hostile crowd, no doubt frustrated because of the lack of activity. Together with her relatives she took refuge in the Principal Chief’s office, but the crowd broke in and assaulted her with sticks and stones at the same time causing damage to the office and its equipment. Her relatives meanwhile were urgently summoning the police by mobile phone, police whom one might have thought should have in any case been at the gathering to keep the peace. The police did arrive in time to save ’Mamolula’s life, and she was then taken under police escort to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru. (The nearest hospital, St Joseph’s at Roma, was regarded as insufficiently secure, given its proximity to the homes of the angry crowd.) ’Mamolula was stated to have been admitted to hospital severely injured, but likely to survive.

Meanwhile, another group of villagers had gone to ’Mamolula’s house at Thoteng the same morning as the pitso at Boinyatso. They attempted to destroy her house by fire. Considerable damage was done to one room before the university fire engine arrived and extinguished the fire.back to top

Patrick Duncan's Sotho Laws and Customs Reprinted

A book much used by lawyers in Lesotho, but long out-of-print, was reprinted by the Morija Museum & Archives in November 2006. It is Patrick Duncan’s Sotho laws and customs and represents a distillation of customary law as determined by decisions in the Judicial Commissioner’s Court. It was in this Court that Patrick Duncan himself sat as Judicial Commissioner, assisted by two Assessors chosen for their knowledge of customary law. The book, first published by Oxford University Press in 1960, also includes a reprint of the English version of the Laws of Lerotholi, a codification of customary law first passed by the Basutoland National Council in 1903, and subsequently amended several times.

The book includes a foreword by Justice W. C. M. Maqutu, referring to the author’s preface in which Patrick Duncan said of the book: ‘It is the first thing of its kind in Basutoland; I regard it as the first brick on which others will build’. Maqutu then refers to those who have laid other bricks through later legal works, the list including himself.

It is a pity that the reprinting of the book was not used as an opportunity for including an introduction with a sketch of Patrick Duncan’s own most unusual life. The book by C. J. Driver, Patrick Duncan, South African and Pan-African (1980) provides much detail and the following is partly based on this book.

Patrick Duncan was born in Johannesburg in 1918, and educated at first in South Africa, then at Winchester College (an English public school renowned for its academic prowess), and finally Balliol College, Oxford. His father, born in Scotland, had also been educated at Balliol, had been brought to South Africa by Lord Milner in 1901, and became both a lawyer and a politician who eventually rose to become, as Sir Patrick Duncan, Governor General of South Africa (1937-43).

Patrick Duncan junior was disabled from the age of 11 after an injury from a cricket ball, and he walked with difficulty for the rest of his life. His association with Lesotho began in 1941, when he joined the colonial administration, rising to the post of Judicial Commissioner in 1950. He resigned in 1952 to enter South African politics and in 1952 also published a polemical and prophetic pamphlet about South Africa, Three centuries of wrong (it was the tercentenary of Van Riebeeck’s arrival), in which he wrote that ‘change is inevitable, totally and absolutely’. He also asked in the pamphlet: ‘How can mines dug by underpaid Basuto shaftsinkers belong alone to the Whites?’

During the period 1952-8, the Duncan family was based at Riverside Farm, across the Mohokare from Maseru, and Patrick Duncan acted at different times as Registrar of the Anglican Diocese of Basutoland (creating a stir by supporting equal stipends for black and white clergy in 1952); as adviser to Ntsu Mokhehle and Leabua Jonathan; and also as adviser to Denis Cowen (his sister’s husband, who became special constitutional adviser to the Basotho after a general public rejection of the reactionary Moore Report of 1954). The first issue of the political newssheet Mohlabani was also printed at Riverside in 1954. Also at Riverside, Patrick Duncan ran a successful farm and dairy and also managed an Africana bookshop.

During the period 1958-62, Patrick Duncan was editing the Liberal Party newspaper Contact in Cape Town. He also printed Mohlabani on the same press after the colonial administration tried to suppress it. The period was marked by increasing unrest and repression in South Africa, and during this period Patrick Duncan’s belief in non-violence as the appropriate weapon against apartheid changed. Banned in South Africa, he moved to Lesotho, joined the Pan-African Congress, and purchased trading stores at Kubung and Mohlakoana’s in Quthing District, apparently as part of a scheme to set up PAC training bases in a remote part of Lesotho inaccessible by road. On 4 June 1963, while in London, he was declared a prohibited immigrant, and was unable to return to Lesotho.

Duncan then acted as PAC representative in Algiers 1964-5, and died in 1967 while working on a book (published posthumously in 1975 as Man and the Earth), in which he propounded an ethical system called ‘Geism’, ‘a new morality based on the totality of the planet’. This work was the culmination of ideas first expressed in print in 1943 in a Morija-printed pamphlet about soil erosion, The Enemy, which Duncan wrote as ‘Melanchthon’, an appropriate if scholarly pseudonym, because in Greek it means ‘black earth’, but it is also a translation into Greek of his Scots name ‘Duncan’. As an environmentalist, he was an original thinker living a generation before such views began to be widely propounded by others. back to top

National Education Dialogue Held

TFor the second time in Lesotho’s post-Independence history, a National Education Dialogue was held on 8 -10 November 2006. The venue was the ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru, and there were invited speakers and participants not only from stakeholders in Lesotho but also from Botswana, Ireland, the African Development Bank and the World Bank.

Major themes were access, relevance and quality within the educational system at all levels including pre-school (‘early childhood care and development’). During the opening ceremony, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Lesao Lehohla (himself a former teacher), referred to Lesotho having one of the highest proportional allocations to education in the world, 12% of the Gross National Product and 25% of the national recurrent budget. The Minister of Education and Training, Mr Mohlabi Tsekoa, referred to the UNESCO vision of Education for All, with all children receiving basic primary education by 2020. However, in the Maloti, there were still herdboys who did not go to school, while in the Lowlands girls, rather than complete primary education, leave to work in factories or as domestic workers.

A number of recommendations emerged, some of the more significant of which were the localization of the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate, and the need to revise the admissions policy at the National University of Lesotho so that English ceases to be a barrier for potential science students.

It may be of interest to recall what happened at and following the previous National Education Dialogue. It was prompted by a UNICEF initiative, and was undertaken in 1977-8, with recommendations being formulated after a series of lipitso countrywide. These public meetings, announced on the radio and by a press release, were eventually held at 49 locations covering all of Lesotho’s districts in the period October 1977 to March 1978. They were followed by a National Seminar in May 1978, although the initiative lost some momentum because the report covering both the National Dialogue and Seminar was not published until considerably later. The consolidated recommendations deriving from this process were later refined into Educational policy guidelines (1981), which provided a framework for the activities of a 14-person Educational Task Force to lay down broad objectives and strategies for the educational system in Lesotho to the year 2000. The Task Force contained representatives of the churches, the Ministry of Education and the University and was supported by outside expertise provided by UNESCO which provided documentation in the form of an extensive survey of technical, vocational and technician training; and also some insights into defects in the examinations system.

As a description of the problems and challenges facing the educational system in 1982, the Task Force Report became an important document. Its recommendations were adopted by the Lesotho Government in 1983 as a policy guideline and the United States supported Basic and Non-Formal Educational Systems (BANFES) Project in part derived its terms of reference from the report. A particularly useful spin-off from the Task Force Report was a volume of annexes, which contained some detailed descriptions of the organisation and financing of the educational system at the time. These threw some light on a period otherwise not easily documented because the Ministry of Education failed, as so often has been the case, to produce regular annual reports. The sequence of annual reports which had continued unbroken from 1929 to 1975 (although latterly sometimes with two or three years combined) ceased with the report for the two years 1974 & 1975, and did not resume again until 1986, but subsequently lapsed. The Task Force Report ought to have been a blueprint for educational reform, but despite the increasing number of professional staff in the Ministry of Education, the pace of implementation was slow.

The change of government in January 1986 brought in a new Minister of Education (M. M. Tiheli, who had been a member of the Task Force) and a new Principal Secretary (M. K. Tsekoa, who had been Director of the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre and is now the Minister of Education & Training). They commissioned seven separate task forces to look into progress in subsectors of the educational system and report to a seminar at which a diverse group of educators and leaders from outside the Ministry would be represented. The seminar was held in September 1987 and the report noted amongst its general concerns that ‘There is an apparent lack of will, determination or desire to implement recommendations and decisions to enforce policies, regulations and standards’. Whilst there had been progress in some areas, in secondary education it was said that despite recommendations of the Task Force being reasonable, appropriate, pertinent and timely, there was no discernible change and ‘the situation has actually deteriorated in some respects’. This was no doubt a reference in part to the uncontrolled growth in secondary school numbers, which rose from 63 schools in 1978 to 133 in 1984. That the Ministry had exercised no control in this area was in part due to there having been only one secondary education inspector. However, there has been very little subsequent control and the number of secondary schools is now around twice the 1984 figure.

The 1987 seminar came up with its own recommendations, but with earlier recommendations unimplemented, few people (as the seminar evaluation indicated) were confident that they were any more likely to be implemented than earlier ones.

In effect, after ten years not very much had been achieved following the earlier National Education Dialogue, but it had the disadvantage of being held in a period when democracy in Lesotho had been suspended. We now have democratic institutions, and it will be interesting to see to what extent the new National Education Dialogue is implemented. The first stage, however, will be for the proceedings to be published, and a strategy devised. back to top

Death of Veteran Journalist C.S. Maboloka

The death was reported in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 12 November 2006 of Clement Setlae (‘C. S.’) Maboloka, a veteran journalist and editor. He died at the age of 86 on 7 October after a lengthy illness and his son Joseph Maboloka aged 54 died one day later. They were buried together at Villa Maria, Quthing on 21 October 2006.

Born in a village near Semonkong, ‘C. S.’ trained as a teacher, but from 1966 to 1986 worked in the government of Chief Leabua Jonathan both in the Department of Information and Communications and the Department of the Interior, where his work included translating laws into Sesotho. He later worked as a journalist for Moeletsi oa Basotho and many articles in the late 1980s and later were signed by him. With the restoration of democracy and the creation of the BNP party newspaper, Mohlanka, he became its editor, working from an office in the mansion of the party leader, E. R. Sekhonyana (today a B & B known as Mpilo Lodge). He was an inveterate smoker and ruled the office so that he treated with disdain the No Smoking notice placed on the wall by his unfortunate secretary, who actually computer typeset the pages of the newspaper.

C. S.’ had 10 children (7 surviving), together with 16 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.back to top

Lesotho Likely to Receive over M2 billion from Millenium Challenge Corporation

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a United States initiative designed to reward countries which score well on a series of indicators including civil liberties, political rights, accountability, government effectiveness, control of corruption and control of inflation. Lesotho scored well, and indeed was one of the best performing nations in Africa. As a result, as reported at a press conference by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning on 16 November 2006, if all goes well, after acceptance of a revised proposal to the MCC, Lesotho hopes to sign an agreement in mid-2007 after which some M2 billion may be released.
The Minister said that the money would be used on health sector improvement, urban and rural water supply through the Metolong Dam project, and private sector development. All of these have potential to stimulate sustainable development and to reduce poverty, which are amongst the major goals of the MCC. back to top

64 Unclaimed Corpses  Buried

As reported in Moafrika of 17 November 2006, 64 unclaimed corpses were buried in Maseru on 16 November 2006. Burial was at the graveyard for unclaimed corpses near to the old police stables. A service was held at the grave side by Rev. Mavis Mochochoko of the Ministry of Insured Salvation. Most of the corpses had been collected by the police at different locations. It was noted that despite the proliferation of mortuaries, they are reluctant to accept corpses unless an amount is paid equal to the minimum charge for a coffin, which normally costs at least M800. Few of the families of those who had died had the resources to pay for a funeral.back to top

New Periodical Ka Paramenteng Appears

A new quarterly periodical, Ka Paramenteng (‘In Parliament’) appeared early in November 2006. Although it has a Sesotho title, it is in English but it is said that subsequent copies will be in both Sesotho and English. Ka Paramenteng, a 12-page A4 colour production, is published by the Lesotho Parliament and edited by Rabele Mokiti. In a foreword, the Speaker, Hon. Ntlhoi Motsamai emphasizes that there is a need for elected people to account for their actions and for people to be supplied with information that empowers them to make informed choices. Reference is made to current parliamentary reforms with the purpose of taking Parliament back to the people.

The first issue includes a history of Parliament from early draft plans in 1889-90 to the first meeting of the Basutoland National Council in July 1903, and the subsequent evolution (but also disruption by non-democratic interventions) to the present Sixth Parliament since Independence. There is also information about the five newly established portfolio committees (although this article breaks off tantalizingly incomplete in mid-paragraph). The decorum expected by visitors to Parliament is also outlined: men are expected to wear jackets, and, although not stated, it is known that women must also not wear trousers. Parliament now has its own website, to top

Parliament Dissolved; General Election to be held on 17 February

At the end of the 17 November sitting of the National Assembly, the 13th Meeting of the First Session of the Sixth Parliament was adjourned sine die. There had been only one Session in the Sixth Parliament since the official opening of parliament on Friday 12 July 2002, so, with no prorogation in the interim (which would have led to a Second Session), there had not been a Speech from the Throne since 12 July 2002. It is in this speech that the King traditionally outlines the policy of the government.

It turned out also to be the last sitting of the Sixth Parliament, in which the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party now had only a precarious majority in the National Assembly. On Friday 24 November, on the advice of the Prime Minister and in terms of Section 83 of the Constitution, Parliament was dissolved by the King. This required a General Election to be held.

The election timetable was published by K. Ralitsie, Director of Elections, as Legal Notice No. 209 of 2006 (Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary no. 59 of 2006 (1 December 2006)). The information was also communicated by sending out SMSs to those with mobile phones. The period 1 December to 8 December was set aside for registration of electors and in particular 17 year olds who will be 18 by the time of the election. Political parties who had not done so must register before 8 December 2006. The provisional list of electors would be available from 25 December (it seems the office is working overtime over Christmas), and the final list on 16 January 2007. Party lists for proportional representation have to be submitted in the period 18-19 January 2007, and the nomination day for candidates in constituency elections is Friday 19 January 2007. Tuesday 13 February day is the polling day for advance electors (those such as election officials whose duties prevent them voting on polling day) and Polling Day is Saturday 17 February 2007. Election results will be published over the period Monday 19 February to Monday 26 February 2007.back to top

Thuathe Meteorite Find is Largest Recorded

The meteorite fall on the afternoon of 21 July 2002 was accompanied by a loud noise heard over much of western Lesotho, and more dramatically for those in the strewn field by over a thousand recorded stones which fell from the sky in the space of a few seconds. Those who attempted to pick up the larger ones found that they were still hot.

The event attracted considerable interest internationally and resulted in a number of scientific and popular articles. Stones had fallen over nine villages and the escarpments, fields and waste land between. The sale of the stones to meteorite dealers who arrived from Tucson, Arizona (the centre of the world meteorite trade) not only brought in local income but provided a surplus used for a number of projects, including a new building at the Boqate Lesotho Evangelical Church Primary School. The pupils at that school had collected many of the smaller stones.

The meteorite fall was in daylight and in winter, when, as a result of the lack of rain, the ground was so hard that most of the stones were subsequently found on the surface. The map made of the strewn field reproduced here was thought at the time to encompass the places where the stones fell. They apparently fell within an ellipse some 7.8 km from east to west and 1.9 km north to south. It could be worked out from the eccentricity of the ellipse that the meteorite came in at a low angle travelling east to west. This was reinforced by the distribution of the sizes of the stones, which were found to increase in size from east to west, the largest, some of mass more than a kilogram, being in Zone A on top of the Thuathe Plateau.

This was thought to be the end of the story until Sunday 19 November 2006. On that day, Tšeliso Mofoka of the village Baruting was a tractor driver ploughing fields on the Thuathe Plateau. The soil there is rich without rocks or stones. However, the ploughshare to his surprise twice appeared to hit a rock, and the second time he noticed the rock on the surface as he returned to plough furrows in the opposite direction. He stopped his tractor beside the rock, and when he examined the blades of the plough, found one of them was bent and moreover that the force of the impact had broken one of the connecting pins. He took the rock home as evidence of what had happened. (The site where the meteorite was found is shown on the map.)

Others in his family knew something about meteorites because they had collected them after the 2002 fall, and the rock he had found did indeed turn out to be a meteorite. It weighed in at 5864 g, nearly 6 kg, and turned out to be by far the largest meteoritic stone to be recovered from the fall. It now seems that what must have happened was that while most stones were recovered lying on the ground, the very largest stones beyond the western end of the mapped strewn field became embedded at some depth in the soil, and were not noticed at the time, very likely because the disturbances in the soil where they were completely buried were hidden amongst the stubble from the previous year’s maize crop. From what Tšeliso Mofoka says, his plough hit at least one other stone, presumably also a large one, but that one is still in the field, and currently has maize growing on top of it. The strewn field is now documented to extend some 700 metres farther west than previously thought.

The event has changed Tšeliso’s way of life. Although a skilled tractor driver, he had never been to school, but with a lump sum arriving equal to 20 months’ wages, he is learning to operate a Post Bank account ... and then of course when he ploughs the field next year and hits the other stone again, he might be even better off.back to top

Lesotho's Vetebrate Biodiversity Updatred

As reported in the National University of Lesotho’s periodical, Information Flash of 24 November 2006, biodiversity has become a buzzword and indeed the importance of its preservation has attracted funds from bodies such as the Global Environment Facility, which is a collective partnership of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank. GEF funded work led to the book Biological diversity in Lesotho, published by the National Environment Secretariat in 2000. This was a book to which several National University of Lesotho staff contributed as authors and/or editors. A particular problem encountered was to establish quantitatively the number of plant and animal species in Lesotho. The findings in relation to vertebrates appear in the following table:

Since 2000, considerable work has been undertaken to refine the original assessment of Lesotho’s biodiversity, and five updated volumes on vertebrates have been published as House 9 Publications at the National University of Lesotho. These are: Amphibians (3rd ed., November 2004), iv + 44pp.; Birds (2nd ed., March 2005), iv + 242pp.; Mammals (2nd ed., May 2006), iv + 90pp.; Fish (2nd ed., June 2006), iv + 74pp.; and Reptiles (3rd ed., August 2006), iv + 52pp. As a result of this the previous table has been updated as follows:

The various categories Abundant, Common etc are defined in the publications, and some of the changes between 2000 and 2006 are because of new assessments of the numbers of individuals of particular species. For example, Abundant in the case of Birds means a population of over 100 000. At the other end of the scale, Historical means that there are authenticated past records, but all records of the particular species are from before 1950. In the case of mammals, the historical species include lion, cheetah, aardwolf and many different antelopes. Four historical species have been added because of new archaeological records. In the case of Birds, the historical species include the Ostrich and several species of Vultures, Crakes and Coursers. On the other hand, partly because of the increase in wooded areas and water bodies in Lesotho, birds have shown the largest number of new species, and certain species such as the Fork-tailed Drongo and Lesser Flamingo, previously regarded as only historical, have reappeared. The increase in reptile species results from the two new species of snakes recorded by Johann van As in the Mohale catchment as part of the NUL-CONSULS contract for biological resource monitoring. Van As collected 5:R of blood from his lizards and snakes, and his report (surely a work of supererogation) describes various reptile diseases including lizard malaria. Amphibians have not undergone change in status, and the two additional fish are species of carp which are introduced species but are now known to be well-established in certain water bodies.back to top

Southern Ground-Hornbill Makes Surprise Lesotho Appearance

Lesotho’s vertebrate total has now risen from 515 to 516! On 21 November 2006, a local ornithologist, David Maphisa, was driving between Maseru and Teyateyaneng, when to his astonishment a bird flew over the road near Ha Souru which he recognized as a Southern Ground-Hornbill. He brought his vehicle to an abrupt halt despite the heavy traffic, and was able to photograph clearly a pair of the birds, a first record for Lesotho.

Until recently known simply as the Ground Hornbill, the Southern Ground-Hornbill has been renamed to avoid confusion with the Northern Ground-Hornbill, formerly known as the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. The SGH is a spectacular bird, the size of a turkey and weighing as much as a Black Eagle. The drawing reproduced here is by S. MacLarty and is from The atlas of southern African birds (1997). Overall the SGH appears black except for a red face and throat patch, but when it flies, the hidden underwing primary coverts are seen to be white. SGHs can apparently live for 30 to 40 years.

How did the birds come to be in Lesotho? Their normal range is from the east of the Eastern Cape through KwaZulu-Natal where they are nowhere particularly common to eventually the Kruger Park where they are a common and familiar sight, being tall enough (although the practice is discouraged) to accept titbits from car windows. In the Free State, there are a few scattered records from near Harrismith from past years, but not from elsewhere until a few months ago, when a pair was reported on farmland close to the Lesotho border near Ladybrand. It seems to be this pair which has now crossed into Lesotho.back to top

Police Dispear

Missing persons are often reported to the police for them to help to find them, but in the police newspaper, Leseli ka Sepolesa of 24 November 2006, the situation is reversed. The newspaper carries the pictures of four policemen who have disappeared in the period September to November 2006, and asks members of the public to report to the nearest police station if they see any of the missing policemen.back to top

Dutch Aid Worker Killed in Attack at House of Minister Mpho Malie

Late at night of Friday 24 November, gunmen opened fire on a taxi which had stopped so that passengers could disembark at the house at Hillsview, Maseru, of the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mpho Malie. The taxi driver was severely injured and one of his passengers was killed. She was Samuella Jacobina (‘Ellen’) Verweij, aged 36, a Dutch national working for the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Support Project. She had been staying at a guesthouse in the grounds of the Minister’s house.

There were no immediate arrests and the motive for the killing was not clear. There was speculation that the attack might have been aimed at Malie himself, because the taxi happened to have similar colouring to his personal car. Malie was in fact away from Maseru that night.

A reward of M200 000 has been offered by the government for information leading to the arrest and sentencing of those responsible for the murder.back to top

93 Long-Term Residents Become New Lesotho Citizens

As reported in Lentsoe la Basotho of 7 December 2006, on Wednesday 30 November, at a ceremony at the Bambatha Tšita Stadium, 93 persons who were already long-term residents of Lesotho were formally accepted as Lesotho citizens. Speaking at the ceremony, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Lesao Lehohla, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs and Public Security, welcomed the new citizens. As new Basotho, they were joining a nation with a culture of tolerance and peace. The new citizens were expected to observe tradition, partake in national events, learn about the history and development of Lesotho, and above all to learn the language. The new citizens include men, women and children, and their countries of origin are mainly in Asia or other parts of Africa.back to top

New NUL Vice-Chancellor Assumes Office

.The new Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho assumed office on Monday 4 December 2006. He is Professor Adelani (Ade) F. Ogunrinade, by profession a veterinary parasitologist, whose most recent appointment was five years spent as Associate Vice-President in the University of Technology in Jamaica. Prior to that he was a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of the Witwatersrand and before that Dean of the Postgraduate School at the University of Ibadan in his home country, Nigeria. Earlier in his career, he undertook postdoctoral studies at the School of Public Health, Harvard University.

Professor Ogunrinade is the seventh substantive Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho and the first scientist to head the institution. Indeed, tertiary education has not been headed by a scientist at Roma since the days of Father F. Banim, the biologist who was the last Rector of Pius XII College in the years 1962-3.

With the assumption of office of the new Vice-Chancellor, the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mafa Sejanamane, who had been a candidate for the Vice-Chancellorship, tendered his resignation not only from the Pro-Vice-Chancellorship to which he would normally have reverted, but also from the University as a whole. The Council announced that it had appointed Professor E. Molapi Sebatane to be the new Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor with effect from 1 January 2007. Professor Sebatane of the Institute of Education has been a staff member of the University for some 30 years, and will provide the valuable institutional knowledge necessary, given that it is ‘all change at the top’back to top

Major Bribery Trial Proceeds; British Firm Implicated

The trial is proceeding in the High Court of Reatile Mochebelele, Lesotho’s senior representative on the Highlands Water Commission (formerly known as the Joint Project Technical Commission). Mochebelele is being charged with receiving bribes along with Letlafuoa Molapo who has been a Lesotho representative on the Commission since 1986. Lahmeyer International, Germany’s largest engineering company, was originally also accused of bribery (and was fined M10 million), but it is now giving evidence for the prosecution. As reported in Business Report of 10 December 2006, evidence which has recently emerged at the trial is that the British firm Mott Macdonald is also allegedly implicated in bribery. A forensic audit submitted on behalf of the prosecution had indicated that Mott Macdonald paid the two accused £283 000 (M3.96 million) through Lahmeyer.back to top

Three Sentenced to Death for Murder of Factory Manager

In the Lesotho High Court on Thursday 7 December 2006, as reported by Mopheme of 13 December 2006, Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane sentenced three men, Thabiso Mothobi, Bokang Molongoane and Kutoane Kori to death after finding them to have murdered Mr Peter Mokheseng, Regional Manager of the Precious Garments factory in Maseru. Three accomplices who were found guilty of murder with extenuating circumstances were sentenced to periods of imprisonment of 20, 15 and 10 years. Three accomplices who had turned state witnesses escaped prosecution. Nokoli Hloloane, who received the 10 year sentence, was found guilty as an accessory after the fact because she took the accused persons to a traditional healer at Maputsoe, with the purpose of seeking help to conceal the crime. Lesaoana Molomo who received the 15 year sentence was said to have been always in the company of the accused and his mobile phone was used to pass messages immediately after the murder. Mosoaboli Molai, who received a 20 year sentence, was the owner of the car used in the murder, and knew about what had happened even though he did not take part in the attack.

Although the evidence given in mitigation was that the men had families, some with minor children, and they had already spent two years in gaol ‘under terrible conditions’, the judge was seemingly not impressed. She stated that the accused did not show any remorse, and had been disrespectful to the court during the hearing by keeping on smiling and laughing while they were in the dock.

Mokheseng died from a fusillade of bullets after his car was ambushed in the Maseru suburb of Qoaling on 26 March 2004. Two of those who have been sentenced to death, Kutoane Kori and Thabiso Mothobi, are former policemen, and their pictures were displayed on the front page of the newspaper, Leseli ka Sepolesa of 8 December 2006.back to top

New Parties Emerge but Not All Will Fight Election

As reported in Moeletsi oa Basotho of 10 December 2006, the split in the Basotho National Party has now been formalized. A new party, the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) (in Sesotho Mokha oa Manashenale a Puso ea Sechaba ka Sechaba) was announced on 30 November 2006, led by Thabang Nyeoe. Its election symbol will be a portrait of former Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan.

As is well known, there has also been fissiparity in the Congress parties. The BCP has its dissident group led by Ntsukunyane Mphanya who calls his party Mahatammoho a Poelano le Kopano (Congress for Reconciliation and Union). The Basutoland African Congress has also split into factions led by Khauhelo Raditapole and Molapo Qhobela. The latter is now called the Basutoland African National Congress (BANC), but it seems that it failed to register as a new party in time to fight the forthcoming General Election.back to top

Four Die and Six Injured as Out of Control Lorry Crashes into Maseru Border Post

A horrific accident occurred on the South African side of the Maseru Bridge at about 8 p.m. on Sunday 10 December 2006. The brakes failed on a lorry descending the steep hill from the Ladybrand side and the lorry careered through the entry side of the border post killing three people instantly, while a fourth died later in hospital. Six people were injured, some of them critically. The lorry driver was amongst those critically injured. The lorry, which was carrying fruit, hit parts of the border post and several cars before finally crashing through the fence onto the pedestrian entry pathway. Two of those who died were women hawkers from Zimbabwe, who were on their way back home through South Africa.

By pure chance the accident took place on a Sunday evening, a very quiet time at the border post. If it had occurred on a weekday morning the number of casualties might have been very much larger. It is not the first accident of its kind. For example, on Friday 24 July 1998 a minibus taxi carrying Lesotho miners from Kloof Mine went out of control on the same slope approaching the border post. It hit another taxi and women vendors who were selling fruit by the roadside. Five people were killed, most of them passengers in the minibus taxi. More than 20 people were injured.

Given the steep hill on the South African side of the border, and the large numbers of people who, at least during the daytime, are queuing to have their documents processed or six months concession passes issued, the border post at the bottom of the hill is becoming a very dangerous place. The danger has obviously increased as large numbers of heavy lorries now pass through, although many such lorries are also parked for long periods on the hill itself facing downhill (another dangerous practice, should their brakes fail). It would seem that, in the interests of safety, escape lanes should be provided and clearly marked on the steep hill, so that vehicles out of control have an option other than crashing into the border post. There is space for such escape lanes and they could be relatively easily constructed leading off on the left hand side of the road with deep sand barriers or rises onto waste ground which would slow any out of control vehicle harmlessly.back to top

New UNICEF and WFP Representatives Appointed

As reported in Lesotho Today of 14 December 2006, a new UNICEF Representative has been appointed to Lesotho. She is Ms Aichatou Diawara-Flambert, a native of Mali, and she replaces the former representative, Mr Bertrand Desmoulins whose term of office has expired. There is also a new World Food Programme representative in Lesotho. He is Mr Bhim Udas who assumed office on 31 October 2006, taking over from Mr Techeste Zergaber.back to top

Local Film Premiered at Kingsway Cinema

As reported in Mopheme of 20 December 2006, a new film called Untitled had its premiere at the Kingsway Cinema on Friday 15 December 2006. It is apparently the story of a young man trapped in a world of poverty, unemployment and corruption, but whose life is temporarily given new meaning by a girl who engages him on the deeper meaning of life and death.

The filmmaker, Kaizer Matsumunyane, had his story chosen from 16 different scripts which were submitted to a SADC short story competition, and he was given 12 000 to develop and shoot the story. It is apparently the first such film ever to have been wholly produced in Lesotho.back to top

Liyan Envoy to Lesotho Expelled

Libya calls its diplomatic mission in Maseru the ‘People’s Bureau of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Jamahiriya’. The head of the mission is styled Secretary of the Libyan People’s Bureau, and he is accompanied in Maseru by his wife, while there are five other Libyan staff at the People’s Bureau including a Deputy Secretary and Consular Attachés.

However, recently all has not been well with the Secretary of the People’s Bureau to the extent that he was ordered to leave the country within 72 hours, at the expiry of which he was taken via Maseru Bridge border post to Bloemfontein to begin the flight back to Tripoli. A press release dated Friday 15 December 2006 stated that ‘Due to persistent abuse of diplomatic privilege and flagrant violation of municipal and international law, the Government of Lesotho no longer finds Libya’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho, His Excellency Mr Mohamed Algamudi, acceptable as a person holding a diplomatic immunity appointment in this country.’

Public Eye of 22 December 2006 reported an interview on the matter with the Acting Foreign Minister, Ms Lebohang Ntšinyi. When asked whether the Ambassador was being booted out because he was supporting the ABC Party, she said she was hearing this for the first time. Instead she referred to Algamudi ill-treating local staff at the Libyan Embassy. Her ministry had been asked to intervene on several occasions when Mr Algamudi had had problems with his local staff. Algamudi’s expulsion would not affect relations between Lesotho and Libya, as discussions had already taken place on the matter between the foreign ministers of the two countries.

Lesotho has a similarly sized mission in Libya, with an Ambassador, First Secretary, Third Secretary and Administrative Attaché stationed in Tripoli, together with the wives of the Ambassador and First Secretary. back to top

Inflation Remains in the 6% to 7% Band, but recent Figures Unavailable

The Lesotho inflation rate rose steeply in May 2006 from 5.1% to 6.7% because of the impact of oil price increases and particularly the impact of tariff increases implemented in the new financial year. In the past these had lagged behind inflation, but were now necessary in large steps (for example 18% in electricity tariffs) to make parastatals profitable ahead of proposed privatization. After the sharp rise, the rate stabilized at 6.6% a month later, dropped to 6.4% in July but was up to 6.8% in August 2006, the highest rate since September 2003 when it stood at 6.9%.

Enquiries at the Bureau of Statistics about the September, October and November 2006 inflation rates (which would normally be published by the end of December) revealed that they had not in fact yet been computed. The staff who normally had this responsibility were out on fieldwork relating to the census, and would not be able to prepare the figures until the new year.Quite why it was still necessary to have fieldwork for the census eight months after it had been officially completed was not clear. Normally a preliminary figure for Lesotho’s population might have been expected by late in the same year as the census, but it was still not available at the end of December. back to top

Summary of Events in Lesotho is a quarterly publication compiled by David Ambrose
at the National University of Lesotho, P. O: Roma 180, Lesotho

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