MASERU — Members of a support group that provides home-based care to the chronically ill and orphans are fighting over the criteria used to select recipients of gifts from donor agencies.
Phomolong Support Group in Ha-Tsosane, Maseru, has been torn apart as senior members bicker over how gifts received from donors should be allocated to villagers.
The support group was formed in 2003 to assist the chronically sick, orphans, the aged and children in need.
It is currently supporting vulnerable people with food packages, agricultural equipment and inputs as well as school fees.
The support group pays school fees for 30 students at Cenez Secondary School near Koalabata.
It has also helped dozens of underprivileged pupils in other schools around the area.
At least 15 students who received aid from the group are now studying at tertiary level — 10 are in vocational colleges and five are currently at the National University of Lesotho, according to data found at the support group’s offices.
Aid from Skillshare International, World Food Programme and Global Fund has helped sustain the group.
Dissatisfied members, however, say the support group did not discuss the selection criteria for aid recipients.
The lack of consultation, the disgruntled members say, saw aid being allocated to undeserving recipients while people who urgently needed help were left out.
They have accused the chairperson and founder of the group, ’Mathuso Moroeng, “of turning a blind eye to the problem”.
’Maberente Limo who was the group’s treasurer but has since stopped participating in its initiatives told this paper that she had repeatedly warned Moroeng about the impact of the unfair selection criteria but he had refused to deal with the problem.
Limo said at least 15 senior members have since stopped participating in the group’s activities in protest.
“I have stopped attending the group’s meetings because I was pained to see real orphans and needy people sidelined while children who still had parents received food,” Limo said.
“The primary purpose of this support group is to help orphans, especially those who are really in need, and chronically ill people but now those people have been left out.”
Limo said the chairperson refused to listen when they raised the issues “and she would make sure that such things are not discussed in our meetings”.
He said attempts to persuade donors to investigate the matter hit a brick wall in January.
“Our local councillor and I, together with the constituency Member of Parliament, approached some of the international donor agencies that often distribute food packages and other forms of aid through this support group,” she said.
“We told them of the problem but to our dismay they refused to take our concerns seriously.”
’Maqabile Sephoso is another disgruntled member who has since withdrawn from actively participating in the support group.
The local councillor, ’Malefulesele Nthako, who says she has also stopped taking part in the support group’s activities said Moroeng was unco-operative with other members “especially those who had doubts about the manner in which she did things”.
“As a councillor I know families that are raising orphans in Ha-Tsosane but to my shock some of them were not invited to register to receive food packages,” Nthako said.
“I know many families that were overlooked when agricultural implements were allocated to parents who raised orphans but some who had no orphans in their homes lined-up to be given the tools.”
The donor agency, Skillshare International, which allocated some of the donations it received to Phomolong Support Group, said it did not have influence in compiling the list of beneficiaries.
The country programme officer, ’Mapaballo ’Mile, said they gave aid to the support group based on the list provided.
“The lists were submitted to us first and we gave out the relief aid based on the provided lists,” ’Mile said.
“This support group had big clashes between members but we have not given up working with it. We tried to intervene but we have not succeeded.”
Global Fund deputy national co-ordinator Mokhothu Makhalanyane said when the clashes between the group members were reported, they advised the warring sides to resolve their differences in peace.
Makhalanyane said independent consultants have been engaged to assess the situation.
Moroeng said she could not comment because their consultants were dealing with the matter.
“You will know of the outcome and perhaps take my pictures when I am driven to the central prison,” she said.
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