As officials prepare athletics line-up for Region 5 Youth Games
MASERU – Serious claims of age cheating have hit Team Lesotho ahead of the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games scheduled for next month here in Maseru. At the centre of the age scandal is Lesotho’s AUSC Region 5 Youth Games medal hopeful, Kamohelo Mofolo. Mofolo will represent Lesotho in the boys’ 1 500 metres race at the upcoming youth regional competition.
Lesotho selected its athletics team last month for the competition meant for the Under-18 athletes. In previous years, the Games were meant for Under-20 competitors. Public Eye investigations have established that Mofolo is now 20 years old and not 16, as it appears on his passport. “Mofolo was born in 2001 and not in 2005, meaning he is now 20 years old and not 16,” one source told this publication.
The source continued that “his age was fraudulently reduced by the help of his teachers at Joel Primary School in Mafeteng and some of the local athletics officials in order for him (Mofolo) to qualify for one of the recent international youth competitions which was held outside the country.” The source further said even Mofolo himself, his parents and school teachers confessed that he was born in 2001, not in 2005.
Mofolo, who is currently a member of the Maseru Athletics Academy, was formerly a member of the Mafeteng Athletics. The Mafeteng District Athletics Association’s Vice President, ’Mamokhele Mokhele, confirmed that Mofolo’s age appearing in his passport was fabricated. “When he joined us his new age was already made-up and we were not aware of that at the time until he himself said the age on his passport was not his real age,” she continued. Mokhele said Mofolo was a student who was not affiliated to any athletics formation at that time.
“He was just a student who had never affiliated to any club when he joined us, and we had to rely on the information on his passport, unaware that his age had been falsified.” Mokhele said they were surprised to hear from Mofolo himself while at a police station that his birth date is not the one appearing on his passport.
However, Mokhele said management at Joel Primary School had since distanced itself from the fraudulent act. She said: “The school said it had only provided money for the boy to be able to get the passport and nothing else, adding that they had facilitated Mofolo’s acquisition of a passport because he came from a poor family.”
Further probe into the matter led this publication to Police Constable Mohale Mokhantšo, from the Mafeteng Police Station, who also confirmed the Mofolo’s age scandal. “That case was before me and I can confirm that there was a lot of incorrect information regarding his age,” said Mokhantšo. “I called his parents and teachers to verify his age and I found out that indeed there was fabrication of facts about his age.”
But Mokhantšo said because the main case was not about Mofolo’s age but about “his unproven kidnapping”, he advised both the Mafeteng District Athletics Association and the Maseru Athletics Academy to go back and deal the issue themselves as athletics officials. Mokhantšo said: “I asked them to go and deal with the issue and give me feedback when they are done, but until today they have not given me anything on how the matter was addressed.”
Mofolo’s purported kidnapping, sources said, was lodged as a result of acrimony between his former club and the current club, of which the police found no evidence leading to the claim. However, Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL)’ Secretary General, Makara Thibinyane, said they were surprised to hear about this issue as they began preparations for the Region 5 Youth Games.
Thibinyane said as the local athletics mother body, they had initially received details of Mofolo’s age from the same people who are now complaining about his real age. “When we first knew about his age, we were given details by the same people who are now saying he is cheating while he was all along competing using the same age under their guidance,” said Thibinyane in an interview with Public Eye.
Thibinyane said Mofolo started competing either in 2017 or 2018, using the same age appearing on his passport, indicating he was born in 2005. “When we first registered him in our system he was already using the same documents. So, there is no other document that we have. The only document we know is the one which shows that he was born in 2005, so why should we drop him from the team?” Thibinyane asked.
Thibinyane said anybody who claimed that Mofolo was over age must prove otherwise. Attempts to get comment from Team Lesotho’s Chef de Mission for the AUSC Region 5 Youth Games, Caswell Moru, proved fruitless yesterday as his cellphone rang unanswered until going to print.