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Villagers accuse chief of corruption

’Mathapelo Letsepe

MATSEKUOA — The villagers of Motsekuoa and their chief have ganged up against the area chief who they say should step down over allegations of corruption.
The village chief, ’Mafako Bele, says the area chief of Ha Loto, Tšilo Letsie — who controls eight villages including Motsekuoa — should step down. 
Bele, 63, and her people last week accused Letsie of taking bribes from villagers and of neglecting his responsibilities.
They also accused the area chief of illegally allocating land.
The villagers alleged that Letsie was demanding a M50 fee for a passport application form.
In Lesotho, chiefs among other duties, issue passport application forms and recommendation letters to their subjects.
“They (villagers) told me that they pay for passport forms,” Bele told the Sunday Express.
She said her efforts to meet Letsie had failed “because he never wants to admit when he is wrong”.
“There are no good relations between the area chief and villagers,” Bele said.
A teacher at Motsekuoa Primary School said when she requested passport forms for students who wanted to go to South Africa, the chief allegedly demanded money.
“He said he could not give them the forms if they did not give him M50,” said the teacher who refused to be named.
The teacher said the school committee decided to meet Letsie to discuss the issue.
“He looked ashamed and agreed to fill the forms,” she said.
Maseitebatso Litaba, a Motsekuoa villager, said the chief allegedly demanded M50 before he could fill and give out the form for her daughter.
“He said he is the only one authorised to fill the form, and I should therefore pay for that,” Litaba said.
“He told me that if my name was not on the list of people who contributed in building the chief’s office I had to pay.
“I am not ashamed of saying that was bribery.
“It is bribery if you have to pay for services that should be rendered for free.”
Another villager, who refused to be named, said the chief demanded “drinks” for services that he should give for free.  
“We only get services that are supposed to be free by bribing the chief,” she said.
She said when they asked him why he needed money “he says so he can fill the form quickly”. 
“We end up paying because he is our chief,” she said.
The villager said she also paid him M50 because her son desperately needed a passport.
“I had to pay it in order to save my son’s job,” she said.
“My son was just left with a few days before he lost his job and I therefore had to try by all means to find money and pay the chief.”
Bele said she was surprised when she saw people building houses on land which had been earlier allocated to other people.
Bele accused Letsie of selling the same piece of land to two different people.
She said in a recent case one person told her that she had paid M7 000 to the area chief for a piece of land but when she checked she discovered that the plot belonged to someone else.
Bele said she realised that the stamp on the document approving the allocation was old and the signature was of someone who was no longer responsible for land distribution.
“How could he bring strangers to this village without telling me?” she said.
“This proved to me that he is illegally selling land to people.”
Bele said villagers had reported to her that the chief was “giving them hard times”.
She said she and the villagers had decided to take up the issues with the principal chief of Matsieng, Masupha Seeiso, on Monday to seek his mediation.
Bele said Seeiso promised to solve their problems.
However, Letsie said Bele was fighting for chieftainship and had roped in her people to fight in her corner.
“She wants villagers to help her to fight for the chieftainship,” Letsie said.
Letsie, 51, said Bele and her villagers had accused him of illegally selling land, but they had failed to show him a list of people who received Form C forms from him.
“I went to her four times, but she could not give me the list,” he said.
He also said people who were responsible for land allocation were councillors, not the chief.
He said all that had been alleged against him was not true.
“I cannot sell the passport forms. They are free,” he said.
He said he only had to stamp the forms once they were filled.
Letsie said he was the area chief of eight villages, but Motsekuoa was the only village fighting.
He said he would take Bele to court for tarnishing his name.
“She has spoiled my name and I am going to sue her,” he said.

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