THABA-BOSIU — About 50 kilometres south of the capital Maseru lies a small orphanage named Lesiba Children’s Home.
The orphanage is located in Ha-Ranye, in Maseru’s rural district.
Outside on the wire rail are worn out face towels and soiled children’s underwear.
Inside the yard are three houses, two decent block houses and a hut.
This is the orphanage that has been at the centre of a fierce court dispute involving former natural resources minister Monyane Moleleki.
The orphanage is currently home to about 48 children aged between six and 14.
As we enter the complex we are met with two women who are sitting on a wooden bench, preparing a meal.
In the kitchen on a custom-built gas stove are boiling pots as they prepare a big meal for lunch.
There is also a table with a pile of plastic plates and other basic kitchen utensils.
We are welcomed inside the home.
Our visit is however suddenly cut short after we mentioned who we are and our purpose.
With all the controversy surrounding the orphanage and the freezing of the orphanage’s bank accounts, we thought it best to hear from the officials manning the complex about their challenges.
Maseru magistrate ’Makopano Taole two weeks ago ordered that four First National Bank (FNB) accounts belonging to Moleleki be frozen to allow investigations by the Police Counter Crime Unit.
Lebeoana Letsie, the crown director of litigation, said the accounts had M38 000, over M40 000, M500 000 and M2.8 million.
The account holding M500 000 was unblocked after Moleleki filed an application that the accounts be unfrozen so he could take care of the orphans.
“We cannot talk to you about that,” answers a visibly annoyed woman who had a few minutes earlier welcomed us inside the kitchen.
“Why don’t you want to talk to us,” we ask as the article would be a positive one for the orphanage.
That question however seemed to provoke more anger in her, judging by the tone of her voice.
“That is a personal question,” she says.
Sensing that we are no longer welcome we bid farewell and quickly leave.
Although our visit was short-lived it was enough to deduce a few things about the orphanage.
First, that the orphanage was an ordinary home for children.
Second that it is a far cry from what its founder had imagined as portrayed on the orphanage’s colourful website.
The Monyane Moleleki Foundation website, www.molelekifoundation.org.ls had big dreams for the children.
“By September 2011 a young girl at the Lesiba Children’s Home will be learning how to play the alto saxophone, or the violin, or the piano; or the double base; or the clarinet; or the cello . . . Our little boys will be doing the same. Boys will also be learning how to play the “lesiba” Look carefully: “lesiba” is a Sesotho word for “quill”,” reads the site that promises a better life for Machache orphans and destitute children.
“Here in Lesotho before independence “lesiba” was used to denote “pen”. That is on the one hand. On the other hand “lesiba” is also a traditional musical instrument of Lesotho.
So the name “Lesiba Children’s Home” is a play on these two meanings of the word “lesiba”.
“It means that at the Home the children will learn how to read and write (as you would do with the quill), as well as to musically learn the national traditional instrument, the “lesiba” and, of course, all the other instruments of Lesotho like no other person in Lesotho.
They will learn even how to tune to the classical musical instruments and play it as part of the western type classical orchestra! Fun? You bet! “Great fun!” says the website.
But according villagers who spoke to the Lesotho Times yesterday there seem to be little fun at the orphanage.
“The children might have a roof over their head and might not worry about what they will eat but there is nothing exciting about their lives,” ‘Malefu Lesia said.
“Yes they have school uniforms and shoes but they still go to the same schools as the other children.”
She adds that the orphanage is yet to assist orphans from the village of Ha-Ranye where it is situated.
“There are orphans here who desperately need help. Yet they have not been taken in at the orphanage. Most of the children who are living there now are not well known to most of us because they are from outer villages,” she says.
But the orphanage appears to have great plans for the orphans, if the promises on the website are to be believed.
“Later the orphanage will have a full primary school of its own. This school will be a model school for Lesotho. It will offer all normal subjects. It is planned to be an English Medium Primary School. But, over and above that, it will specialise in the teaching of Classical Music.
“Of course our children are all Basotho children. Needless to say their school will also teach them all traditional dances and the playing of all the normal traditional musical instruments. Chief among the traditional instruments that will be
taught at this school is the “lesiba”.”
Thabo Lesuoa says until the orphanage takes poor children from their village they will not be happy.
“We still have children who are very poor and need help in the village. We have heard that they had promised to take them but they haven’t.
“Until those children are taken in we will not know its relevance for us,” Lesuoa says.
Several attempts to get Moleleki to comment were unsuccessful yesterday.