ABC faults breach of Covid-19 protocols


 But exonerates government after Majoro’s apology


MASERU – Coalition government’s senior partner, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), has condemned state officials’ disregard for and violation of the Public Health (COVID 19) Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures Regulations of 2021 during the January 28 funeral of Major General Metsing Lekhanya.

The state funeral, held at the Khotsong Military Cemetery at Ha Ratjomose Barracks, was held while the country was still under the Red colour code lockdown stage which carries strict restrictions against super spreader activities. Government ministers and members of the security forces attended the funeral in large numbers.

Speaking to this publication following a public outcry, ABC Secretary General, Lebohang Hlaele, said the party found fault in government’s violation of the regulations – which they enacted and urged the public to adhere to. He said as a party, the ABC submits to the Public Health Regulations “which are clear and do not favour anyone according to their status.”

Hlaele, however, told this reporter that the ABC pardons all those who violated the regulations “since Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has admitted the mistake, took responsibility and apologised for it.” “We as ABC align ourselves with the Public Health Regulations. These regulations were violated at Major General Lekhanya’s funeral. Through this, government has defied its own regulations which it expects the public to abide by.

“However, the prime minister has asked for forgiveness for the unfortunate event and we have forgiven him,” Hlaele said. Hlaele’s remarks come after a group of youths; Taeke Tiiso, Sibongile Mapikitla, Maele ’Neko and Moabi Matsepe wrote a letter to Majoro notifying him of the violated regulations and pleading with him to ensure legal action is taken against the offenders.

In their letter, they specified some of the regulations that were violated which include the number of people that are allowed to attend a funeral during the lockdown, and procedures that need to be followed during the burial of the deceased. They further noted that the violation of the regulations by government officials has not only disappointed them but also caused confusion, underlining that the country’s leaders are supposed to lead by example.

Media practitioners Kananelo Boloetse and Motsamai Mokotjo had earlier also reported the matter to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) District Police Commanding Officer Litsietsi Selimo for action. Speaking to Public Eye, Mokotjo revealed that Selimo told them to submit a written statement clarifying their case only to be told later by the same police that the Public Health (COVID19) (Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures) Regulations of 2021 were not violated at Lekhanya’s funeral.

Mokotjo said Selimo told them that after consulting widely he was advised by the LMPS legal office that the regulations purported to have been broken made no reference to state funerals. Mokotjo, however, expressed dissatisfaction over the police findings, insisting they were seeking legal advice as a result. “We are seeking legal advice on the matter and we are even prepared to go to court and seek a court order that will force the police to investigate whether the Public Health Regulations were violated. “Our argument is that police officers have no authority to determine whether laws are violated or not,” Mokotjo said.

During his national address on state television on Tuesday, Prime Minister Majoro stated that he was aware and worried of the violation of safety protocols at Lekhanya’s funeral. According to the Public Health (COVID19) (Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures) Regulations of 2021 (Red color stage) for the outdoor burial of a private family member, a service should be attended by not more than 10 people, with 10 men at the graveyard to help with burial.

The funeral is not supposed to take more than two hours and has to be completed by not later than 10:00hrs. No buffet services are allowed, and only pre-packed meals should be provided. The regulations further state that only five people should collect the corpse from the mortuary on the morning of the burial before ferrying the body directly to the graveyard.

The regulations ban people from paying respects at home and forbid Friday vigils or evening prayer services. Viewing of the corpse is not allowed and only two members of the family are allowed to identify the corpse at the mortuary while the sharing of burial tools is also strictly prohibited.

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