NEWLY appointed Minister of Social Development Motlohi Maliehe says rapists and killers must get stiffer penalties including the death sentence. In this second part and last part of a recent interview, Mr Maliehe (MM) talks to Lesotho Times (LT) senior reporter Pascalinah Kabi about a raft of measures that he wants to implement in the ministry to strengthen the country’s social protection and also the protection of the elderly from killers, rapists and conmen.
LT: The world is seriously concerned that donor funding intended for the poor and vulnerable communities does not reach the intended communities. What is your strategy to ensure that donations reach the intended communities?
MM: Fortunately for me, you are asking this question immediately after we discussed it at the management meeting this morning (Monday). It has been three weeks since I was appointed to this ministry and I fully trust my management team. It is made up of men and women of integrity. We have decided that we should ensure that donations reach the intended people at all costs.
I indicated to the management that donors are increasingly withdrawing from disbursing funds because of lack of transparency. One of my greatest assignments is to ensure that there is transparency across the board. I will not sit in the office; I will go around the country and investigate what is happening and ensure that we only operate as we should.
I trust that we will work well with my team and ensure that we train our people. It is fortunate for us because this ministry is well represented across the country and UNICEF is keen to assist us in ensuring that all donations reach the targeted communities. UNICEF is currently implementing a World Bank financed programme and they are doing a splendid job.
However, challenges will always arise and a typical example is that of the killings in the Rothe Constituency. The killings that until recently affected men and women in the constituency have now spilled into the children. It is a great challenge. Unfortunately, two children were recently killed and one is critical in hospital.
The two that were killed had been enrolled into a donor-funded programme and they had already started benefiting. Now the Taiwanese funders are threatening to pull out of the programme. I am faced with a serious challenge right now but I hope we would have decisively dealt with this matter by the end of this week. I am involving security agencies in this matter. We must find means of ending these killings. I cannot tolerate this.
I will personally go head on with those going around killing people and later on claim to have rights while neither the rights of the victims nor those of their families are protected. Something must happen; we must stop this criminality and fortunately, the security agencies promised me that this can end only if the government wants them to end it.
But I will ensure that donations reach the targeted communities. I am a lawmaker myself and I have realised that at times donations are given to able bodied individuals while the vulnerable are left behind. I know how we will decisively deal with this one because the management oversees the implementation while staffers in the district directly deal with this issue.
LT: Please elaborate more on the issue of Rothe Constituency, what happened and what is the situation now with the donors?
MM: The World Vision is implementing a programme targeting about 230 000 children countrywide. Donors want to increase this number to a 500 000 maximum in two years. We were called by the World Vision over the weekend, informing us donors want to abandon the programme because some of the children under this programme have been killed. I am told that the donors were in the country when this incident happened.
They were here to assess the programme. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that donors’ interests are protected. I have already tabled this issue before cabinet and we are dealing with it. When I said there will be results by the end of this week, I meant that we would have met with the security agencies by the end of this week and decided how to stop this with immediate effect. This is a painful issue. The killings affecting vulnerable people are scarring off donors. Donors are now threatened. There are many countries with much bigger vulnerability problems than Lesotho. We were just lucky that donors came to assist but they now feel that they are wasting their time and resources by funding people who will be killed the next day. The government would have made a decision by the end of this week. We already have plans that I cannot share with the public.
LT: Let us talk about the killings of elders in the country which all your predecessors bemoaned. Is there any new strategy that the government is putting in place to protect old people from abuse and senseless killings?
MM: I do not know but only cabinet will stop me from this one, only after it has satisfactory assured me of its strategy. Maybe it is time for the nation to know that I am a socialist. I am proud of being a socialist and the manner in which I approach issues may differ from that of my colleague. I do not know their beliefs in the kind of government systems.
But my own understanding is that any boy or man who breaks into the home an old person, rapes and kills them after realising that they have been identified must never live to tell the tale because no secrets remain hidden forever. As a country, we must have a well advanced programme of easily identifying finger prints on the bodies of the deceased and ensure that whoever is identified as a killer must be dealt with.
My own strong conviction is that whoever found to a fapane le pula (must die) because I do not believe that anyone who intentionally plans to kill a person and successfully does so must be compared to a person who accidentally killed another. A person who accidentally killed a fellow human has rights, can successfully repent after counselling but whoever kills another deliberately must not be compared to the former. Those who have killed deliberately have crowded our correctional services and are being fed food bought by the very vulnerable people whose rights they have violated.
This must end come rain or sunshine. The country is drowning in serious criminality and we must take decisive action with immediate effect. I am now old and experienced and I know how this can be dealt with but in my own books, anyone who has killed someone intentionally has no right to live. You will remember that in the first coalition government of 2012, the Prime Minister used to say correctional services must be returned into being prisons to ensure that convicts would never want to go back to prison once released.
What is happening with the correctional services is that once released, a convict engages in criminal activities less than five kilometres away from the correctional facility. They do it purposely to go back to the facility because they are having a nice time there.
Look at the country correctional service budget, it is shockingly higher than that of pensioners– people who are supposed to be leading a good life for raising the nation get a lesser budget than that of criminals. I am sorry to say that because about two percent of them have been wrongly accused… Unless we take certain action, this will never end.
I was recently informed that one of the villages in Rothe had just been electrified but houses have been left empty. People have fled because of these killings and a service that would have been given to other people remains unutilised because of the killings. There are several other communities like Rothe, Sehlaba-sa-Matsieng, Matelile and Ribaneng that are affected and my advice is for the Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency in those areas kulo e lule mothong (people should die).