A true servant of the people

A true servant of the people

Caswell Tlali

MASERU – “We need to deliver for all the people we represent. That includes those who won’t see the press conferences; who won’t read the newspapers; who don’t have a TV. We need to deliver real success for them — and that means delivering something which will improve their livelihoods.”

Those were the words of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevêdo while setting the stage at the 1oth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2015.

In a nutshell, Azevêdo’s statement aptly captures Nkopane Monyane’s true feelings towards service to his people.

Monyane recently completed his three-year mission as Lesotho’s Ambassador to Switzerland where he was also Lesotho’s permanent representative at the WTO, the United Nations and other international organisations.

For the three years since 2013 when King Letsie III commissioned him to Geneva, Monyane has been coordinator of the African Group Ambassadors in WTO and represented the continent.

“The assignment was very challenging, its scope was very broad,” Monyane says.

“We have country to country bilateral relations, all UN organisations and other international organisations in Geneva and you have the duty to represent your people in all of them,” he says.

“Geneva is where the UN work is done, where all the decisions are made. Geneva is a kitchen, New York is a dining room.”

There are over 26 UN offices in Geneva, some other international agencies and the most demanding is the WTO, he says.

The WTO “has a lot of bearing on our livelihood in Lesotho”.

For example, the collapse of factories in Lesotho in 2005 was the direct result of the decisions that were made at the WTO when it lifted quota and other trade barriers to the world’s big markets.

“On ascension of China to the WTO, one of the conditions was the lifting of quotas on garments and textiles, which became very abrasive to Lesotho’s competitiveness in the market, hence the closure of some firms leaving thousands of Basotho jobless,” he says.

“An ongoing call for duty free and quota free access to the international markets for the Least Developed Countries is not good for small countries like Lesotho and would be harmful to the African competitiveness and economic integration.”

Monyane says during his time in Geneva that call came to a stop because “as you can see we were merely fighting for Bangladesh to gain access to the US market at our own peril”.

“It is not a secret that America has issues with Bangladesh because of the poor labour practices in that country. So, the opening of markets for it like that would mean that we as Lesotho and many other small African countries would be squeezed out of the market,” he says.

Monyane says Bangladesh’s production capacity and its poor labour standards would be distortionary and “it is logical that we do not fight its wars to gain access to the markets at our peril”.

“It does not matter whether we have AGOA or not. The moment Bangladesh gains quota free and duty free access to the US markets we will be out of the market,” he says.

“If our ambassador in Geneva sleeps on duty, we will be out of the market.”

Well over 80 percent of Lesotho’s textile export is destined to the US market.

The textile sector is the second largest employer in Lesotho after the government, with close to 40 000 direct jobs.

Monyane says he has always been passionate about the development of Basotho as individuals and as a nation.

This was demonstrated when he was the CEO of Lesotho Bank, which is now in liquidation, between 1991 and 1999 when the government privatised the bank.

Monyane says he spearheaded the bank’s privatisation after realising that there was difficulty for the goverment to meet the “requisite shareholding ratio out of public funds”.

“It was necessary to privatise the bank, in fact I started the privatisation process but mine was intended to make the privatisation process end with the public in Lesotho having the majority of the shareholding,” he says.

“We were loking at issuing a stake to some of the global financial institutions so that the operations of the bank could be truly global and competitive.”

“Shareholding would be in the hands of the public, not the government. This was precisely why such a clause was inserted in the Lesotho Bank Amendment Order of April 1993.”

Monyane says the strategy was for the public to gradually replace the goverment as shareholders.

The bank was bought by Standard Bank in 1999, with that process concluded in the Vesting Act of 2000 (CHECK).

A non-existent business “Lesotho Bank” was surprisingly placed under liquidation in 2002, three years after it ceased to exist.

“Ask any accountant or any lawyer who is worth his salt what liquidation is. They will tell you that liquidation is a process whereby you turn assets of a business into cash so that you can pay creditors where the business is unable to pay creditors,” he says.

There must be existing creditors, the business, creditors and proof that the business is unable to pay. That process comes to an end with the liquidators paying those creditors who have proved their claims.

“The liquidation is a sham that was proved so in the High Court case of Monyane & three others vs Lesotho Bank in Liquidation.”

Monyane is a son of a Mokema farmer, Isaac Pholo Monyane, an agricultural demonstrator who originally came from Thabana-Morena in Mafeteng and later moved to Mokema.

At some point in 1961 to 1963 he was a teacher at Basutoland Training College in Morija.

“I was raised by the lowly and humble parents who did all they could to develop the people,” Monyane says, adding: “I think they have passed this mental attitude to me.”

Monyane was born in Roma in April 1951 to a family of financially struggling civil servants, the last among two brothers and two sisters.

“What I observed from that very early stage in my family was that my father was struggling to get us an education. Perhaps struggling is not the right word but I remember that he was working hard,” he says.

“He was moving around the country as a demonstrator and that made it diffuclt for us to progress in a particular school and we had to go to boarding schools.”

He says because of that all the siblings were in different schools in the country, depending on where the family was when the child was registered at a school.

After completing Standard Three, Monyane made a personal decision to go to a Catholic school, better known as a seminary, where the church would pay for his education.

“I knew that I would not pay fees and my decision was to relievemy father and I went to Samaria for primary school from Standard Four up to Standard Six,” he says.

When he was about to go to a secondary school at St Theresa’s, the Samaria principal saw through him that his aim was not to become a cleric and refused to sign papers for him.

After completing his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) from Sacred Heart High School in 1968, Monyane’s first job was at a factory that produced arguably all building materials in Maseru, Clifford & Fourie Manufacturers, where he was a clerk.

He worked there until March 1969 when he landed a job at the British Barclays Bank Dominion Colonial and Overseas (DCO) where he also worked as a clerk.

Monyane was one of the top two who had passed COSC and was seeking sponsorship to further his studies but without success.

He learnt later that some government officers who were working in the Department of Education that was organising scholarships were not processing his applications because of some agendas against his family.

He alleges that in April 1970 they unscrupulously parcelled him to Lusaka, Zambia, under false pretenses that they had secured a Zambian scholarship for him to study at the University of Zambia.

Not only was this false but “nobody was taking responsibility”.

A Mosotho student who was in Zambia helped him to register illegally at the Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce as if he was a Zambian citizen, studying accountancy, but his conscience troubled him and he came back home the following year.

“I was raised by parents who wouldn’t live a lie even under the hardest of circumstances.”

Once back in Lesotho, the government promised him a scholarship to go to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS), now NUL but that never materialised.

His pensioned father paid for him for the first year from farm earnings.

On the second semester, the varsity’s official managed to net him a scholarship from the Inter Africa University Fund.

He graduated with a major in Economics and Sociology.

On completion of his studies at UBLS in 1974, Monyane got a job at Lesotho Bank.

In 1976 he went to New York to study for a Masters in Banking at the Adelphi University.

Again, the government had promised him a scholarship and he had been told to go to New York only to find upon arrival that there was no scholarship for him.

He was preparing to come back home when Lesotho Bank offered to pay for his studies.

When he came back he worked at the bank until he became the Assistant Manager, third in the bank’s hierarchy in Maseru, and later ended up managing the northern districts.

He resigned from Lesotho Bank in 1985 when he became General Manager for the Lesotho Building Finance Corporation.

He left in 1990 when he became the General Manager at the Central Bank of Lesotho.

That ran from from early 1990 to July 1991 when the Lesotho Bank CEO died and Monyane was invited to take the position.

After the bank was privatised, Monyane’s contract was terminated and he joined the textile sector where he was involved in managing Lesotho’s largest knitwear firm, Precious Garments Company.

An addicted athlete, he has completed 17 successive 90 kilometre Comrade Marathons.

Monyane only started running at the age of 46.

In other sports, he captained junior football team at Sacred Heart and was for many years in the management of Matlama FC up to the level of president.

He was also in the management of Lesotho Lawn Tennis Association and lately a founding member and president of the People’s Runners Club.

Asked how he wants to be remembered 20 years from now, he says it does not really matter to him because he will be dead, but more seriously he says: “I hope that the Creator may say: ‘You have wronged and failed but I pardon you because of the impact you have left on others’”.

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