A SOMBRE atmosphere briefly engulfed the state house this week when the Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki recounted his successful battle to overcome an aggressive form of tonsil cancer.
Mr Moleleki briefly recounted his health struggles while addressing a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and the First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane for guests who are attending the 12th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancers in Africa Conference (SCCA).
The conference which was held under the theme, ‘Making a difference in women, men and children’s lives’, began on Sunday and ended yesterday.
Speaking at the dinner that was held at the state house, Mr Moleleki called on the delegates to work with Lesotho in the fight against different cancers which have become major killers of women, men and children.
“The people of Lesotho are waiting for you and we are ready to accept the contributions of the international community to fight, combat and stop breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer and any other cancer.
“Mine (cancer) which I survived, thank goodness, was tonsillar cancer. It is a very challenging cancer and it (the cancer) was right here,” Mr Moleleki said while pointing at his throat.
According to the United States’ National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database, about 3, 5 percent of all oral cancers develop in the tonsils or the oropharynx—the back part of the throat.
The Cedars Sinai Medical Center’s website states that men are four times more likely to contract tonsil cancer than women.
“People are generally diagnosed at age 50 or older but it (tonsil cancer) can develop at any age. The most significant risk factors for tonsil cancers are tobacco and alcohol use, including smokeless tobacco (snuff and betel nut).
“Other potential causes include people with certain infections or decreased immunity, such as the Human papilloma virus (HPV) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),” the website further states.
Some of the symptoms of tonsil cancer are a sore in the back of the mouth that will not heal, blood in the saliva, mouth pain, a persistent sore throat, pain when swallowing and a lump or pain in the neck.
Mr Moleleki’s revelations come against the background of intense speculation about his state of health.
Only a fortnight ago, the Deputy Prime Minister was forced to speak out against rumours that his health was failing.
Some sources had told the Lesotho Times that the Alliance of Democrats leader had been advised by his doctors to scale down on his work commitments to avoid aggravating the situation.
“Ntate Moleleki is sick and his doctors have advised him to slow down,” said one source who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
“He (Mr Moleleki) is taking the doctors’ advice. He is cautious of what he does these days and he is keen to ensure that he does not overwork himself,” the source said.
Another source said the 67-year-old deputy premier has scaled down on his political assignments as he was suffering from the same “debility disease” that afflicted him in 2014 and forced the courts to postpone his corruption trial that same year.
“He (Mr Moleleki) is suffering from the same debility disease that affected him in 2014. He trusts his doctors’ advice and he is taking things slowly as instructed,” the source said.
However, in an interview with the Lesotho Times a fortnight ago, Mr Moleleki said he was aware of the “baseless rumours” about his ill-health. He said the rumours were spread by people who do not believe that his decision not to seek re-election in future parliamentary elections was motivated by the desire to give others a chance.
Mr Moleleki announced last October that he would not seek re-election after having been re-elected legislator for the Machache constituency six times in a row including in the last elections that were held on 3 June 2017. He however, said he would go to parliament as a proportional representation (PR) legislator.
Mr Moleleki’s cancer illness was first reported in 2014 during his corruption trial for allegedly abusing his office as the then Natural Resources Minister. He was accused of facilitating the issuance of diamond prospecting licences to a Mafeteng firm, Refela Holdings. The case was dismissed last year because of a missing docket.
Mr Moleleki subsequently granted an interview to the Lesotho Times’ sister Sunday Express publication in October 2014 where he said that he was “virtually dead” before he “underwent procedures for cancer-treatment and all have devastating side-effects”.
“I have suffered all the devastating chemotherapy side-effects: nausea, hair coming off, fatigue you have never experienced in your life and lack of appetite.
“I have undergone three long months of radiotherapy. It is nuclear laser power. When they introduce it on one side of your neck, it comes out the other side. And the people who treat you run out of the treatment room as soon as they tie you to the table. They run for dear life and stand behind thick walls made of steel and they leave you there for the cancer cells to burn.
“Look at how thin I am now. And if I could take off my shirt, you would be in tears. Yet I’m a much better than I was three months ago,” Mr Moleleki said at the time.