The two concerned youths sought the law intervention to take the Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu and other ministers who attended the funeral of the late former army commander Major-General Metsing Lekhanya last weekend.
The two youth activists, Motsamai Mokotjo and Kananelo Boloetse wrote to the Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro asking him to take decisive action against the law offenders who contravened the Public Health Regulations.
Talking to this paper, Mokotjo said after learning about the incident which was broadcast live on the Lesotho National Broadcast Services (LNBS), they reported the incident at Thetsane Police Station.
“We watched a live video of Lekhanya’s funeral where there was a massive attendance including the ministers and government officials. We went to Thetsane Police Station to report it because of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which states that every person above 18 years must report a crime when they see one,” Mokotjo said.
“We were told to take the case to the Maseru Central charge office as it was termed a high profile case, we did as told, but instead received an answer on Wednesday from Central charge office this week that they will not open a case or investigate the matter because that was a state funeral.
“We will not stop, we are currently seeking legal advice to take the matter to court, the police will not stop us and we are adamant to our course, they are not the court and only the court of law will decide,” he said.
The Gazetted regulations under the Public Health (Covid-19) Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures 2021 stipulate that an outdoor burial service of not more than 50 people, with 10 men at the graveyard to help with burial at a time, is to not take more than two hours and to be completed no later than 10 am, and the deceased to be buried within seven days.
The regulations further provide for funeral attendants to always wear their face masks, and no one be allowed to pay respects. Only five speakers at the service plus church service, no night vigil or Friday evening prayer service, no viewing of corpses, only five members of the family should identify corpses at mortuary. Only five people should collect the corpse, no slaughtering of animals and serving of meals.
“It is amazing how the Prime Minister said the incident was just a mistake. There were many people and it was over 20 people who attended the funeral according to the video that we watched.
“This creates a culture of vigilantism because the regulations don’t talk about state funerals. It is as if laws are made for certain people and that the country has become an animal farm.
“The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) is part of security agency that have to protect the regulations; we wonder why they allowed those people to go there in numbers. How will they enforce the regulations to the nation when they allow other people to break such guidelines?
“The officials were not members of the family; it is stated that only 10 members are allowed to attend the funeral.
“It was not actually triggered by the event where we protested against the government where we were told that we have contravened the regulations although we were protesting for our rights and unemployment,” he said.
“If the honourables are unable to comply with the regulations it is disappointing. We want Prime Minister to take decisive action to discipline those officials.
“He took a vow to abide by the law of this country and he has the powers to do that, he must discipline those delinquent officers,” he said.
Meanwhile in the letter addressed to the Premier Dr Moeketsi Majoro, the youths express their grave concern.
“Honourable Prime Minister, as the youth we are deeply troubled and concerned about the contravention of Public Health Regulations 2021 meant to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) by the Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, Ministers and heads of security agencies at the funeral of Major General Metsing Lekhanya which took place on January 28, 2021 at Ha Ratjomose barracks.
“The Public Health regulations state categorically that during the period of the lockdown, “a person is prohibited to move beyond his place of residence or workplace except as set out in the regulations.
“We watched the funeral of Major General Lekhanya on the Facebook page of Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) and saw Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers attending the funeral,” the letter read.
“On the face of it, Deputy Prime Minister and the Ministers broke the law because the regulations state clearly that funeral attendance is permitted for a maximum limit of twenty people outdoor only, ten of whom should be family members and ten people for the purpose of assisting with the burial.
“There is no reason to believe that Deputy Prime Minister and those Ministers who accompanied him are members of the Lekhanya family.
“This brings attention of us as citizens as to who we have to follow the stipulated regulations when our own Ministers do not show the right way by action, surely Lesotho cannot be classified as an Animal Farm type of country where “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
“Many people in this country are not able to bury their loved ones because of the lockdown regulations, yet the members of cabinet were able to attend a funeral of the people they barely even know.
“We must bring to the attention of the Honourable Prime Minister that in that very same week Major General Lekhanya was buried, it was the burial of OMI Gabriel Masooane Tlaba; a very significant person in the Catholic Church, non-governmental organisations and the entire nation.
“It was the will of all people who knew him to stand near his coffin and pay their last tribute to him but as to obey the lockdown regulations set by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus, they did not attend the funeral.
“We are all equal in the face of the law and governors should set a good example for the governed.
“What the Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers did has left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths, and their lack of example setting is something that must be nipped in the bud immediately and decisively.
“In this regard, we call on the Right Honourable Prime Minister to show leadership now and do what is right as a matter of law within seven days: take disciplinary actions against the Deputy Prime Minister and fellow Ministers for violating Public Health Regulations and thereby breaking their oath of office.
“Failure to do so will make the right Honourable Prime Minister an accomplice.
“Prime Minister should also instruct the Minister of Police to ensure that police investigate this matter and take legal action against all those who violated government’s lockdown regulations.
“In case of inaction by Honourable Prime Minister to the above concern, we as youths will take the further steps to hold the Deputy Prime Minister and fellow Ministers accountable for violating the Lockdown rules.
“The steps we will take include going to the High Court to seek an order instructing the Honourable Prime Minister to act against his delinquent ministers” the letter read.
Meanwhile, this paper could not reach the police information office at the time of going to press last night.
The state funeral of the late Major-General Lekhanya together with his wife was held just a day after the Prime-Minister’s announcement of a further seven days of hard lockdown.