We at the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNNCIJ) are saddened to announce that while in pursuit of our mandate — holding those in power accountable and exposing wrongdoing — we recently received shocking notifications that there were attempts to hack into our emails.

The security alert shows that our passwords were used in an attempt to access our email account — mnncij.lesotho@gmail.com – without authorisation, but the attempt was blocked by security layers put in place to secure our emails.

The same attempts were made a few days later on an email address— mokhethiss@gmail.com – used by our Managing Director, Sechaba Mokhethi, and such an unauthorised move was also blocked by the security layers put in place.

While MNNCIJ swiftly moved to secure the organisation’s communications platforms to ensure that all our communication remains confidential, we categorically condemn these acts. They amount to a cowardly bullying tactic employed by those threatened by our investigative work.

We are currently conducting investigations on this security breach attempt and we are not suggesting that certain individuals or organisations are behind this attack.

However, we wish to mention that the attempt to gain unauthorised access to our emails comes after pushback was noted to the following stories:

1.     https://lescij.org/2022/02/25/ngo-boss-accused-of-diverting-projects-funds-to-form-a-party/ the story covered accusations against Mabusetsa Lenka Thamae, the national coordinator for the non-profit Survivors of Lesotho Dams (SOLD), who is alleged to have exploited the organisation’s funds to form a political party that he is now leading. Two weeks after we published this story, Thamae came to our offices threatening to sue us if we did not publish a retraction within a week.

2. https://lescij.org/2022/02/03/trc-boss-sent-home-pending-corruption-probe/, https://lescij.org/2022/02/26/credibility-of-trc-chairperson-questioned/ and https://lescij.org/2022/03/05/trc-board-member-resignsas-peshoane-is-cleared/ the first story was about letter of grievances sent by staff of the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) to their board. This letter was “accidentally shared” into MNN’s WhatsApp network group by the TRC director, Tsikoane Peshoane. After we published this story, Peshoane called our managing director complaining about a litany of issues. Key among those was that he was not expecting the MNN to put him “in the same bracket with politicians” when it delivers its key mandate to expose corruption and wrongdoing to promote accountability and transparency. He expected special treatment. It is worth noting that MNN is a tenant to the TRC, renting one of its office spaces.

At the height of the investigations on Peshoane, the TRC staff members accused the board chairperson of underhand tactics to clear Peshoane – the subject matter of our second story. The last article was published after the board cleared Peshoane on all the charges followed by an immediate resignation of a board member. We also worked with NewsDay Newspaper in the production of some of its stories on the TRC.

The Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) also weighed in with a statement on “circumstances facing TRC”, mainly condemning how the media had reported on TRC. Prior to its statement, the council convened a meeting of one of its committees in which its attendees took turns to castigate MNN and other media houses, claiming our reporting was an attack on the entire civil society.  

3.     https://lescij.org/2022/01/28/how-corruption-politics-led-lesotho-into-jumping-china-debt/ and https://lescij.org/2022/02/10/working-for-chinese-where-sexual-harassment-is-part-of-the-job/ In this story, we exposed former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s desperate bid to win the 2017 elections, when he ordered the Ministry of Finance to disregard due procedure and swiftly take a M1.3-billion Chinese loan that would see a 91km road built in his home constituency, Tsoelike, which he also represents in parliament. The second piece was on massive human rights violations by the same project under the Chinese contractor. Our journalist and founding member, Billy Ntaote, was subsequently harassed, cyberbullied and threatened with death for publishing his interview with Mosisili.

We take this opportunity to assure Our Partners, Our Sources and Readers that communicating with us remains confidential and secure.

Our mnncij.lesotho@gmail, mokhethiss@gmail.com and all other email accounts of our staff members remain our trusted means of communication that is confidential and secure.

Who we are: MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNN) is a non-profit company registered under the companies’ laws of Lesotho in March 2016. We work towards strengthening the fourth estate in Lesotho, fostering transparency and accountability by deploying investigative journalism and providing training and fellowships to journalists.
What we do: We strive to hold those in authority accountable through our investigative stories. Our stories are mainly about exposing corruption, cronyism, nepotism, the abuse of power and public funds, human rights abuses and misgovernment in Lesotho.