Fried with love

Fried with love

…‘Street restaurant’ in midst of Maseru thrives..

MASERU – WHEN his father trekked to South Africa never to return home, the future for Lefanyane Maputsoe seemed bleak. He soon dropped out of school and began to herd cattle. But where others waited for that “light at the end of the tunnel”, the semi-literate Maputsoe took the initiative to light the torch and move on.

Today, he is reaping the rewards of his tenacity and runs a popular catering service in the heart of the capital, Maseru. And, even though formal school was not one of his strongest points, Maputsoe has used part of his money to ensure that his children and grandchildren get an education. A primary school drop-out, Maputsoe fought against all odds to ensure that his mother and three siblings and later his wife, children and grandchildren enjoy a decent life he never had growing up. The 53-year-old self-made businessman horned his entrepreneurship skills by selling fruits in the streets of Maseru. Before that, he was a herd boy. His life journey is one of sheer determination, showing how one can still make it despite a disadvantaged background.

Born in the rural village of Mphaki, Quthing, in 1966, Maputsoe is the second born in a family of two boys and two girls. Maputsoe grew up in a poor family where his mother was the breadwinner while their father went to South Africa and never came back. At the tender age of 13, he had to drop out of school and work as a herd boy because his mother could not afford to pay his fees. Because of the family’s impoverished circumstances, none of his siblings was able to complete primary school. While this could mean dire consequences for many in such a situation, for Maputsoe it became a driving force. Herding cattle for several families, he began helping put food on the table.

“As a Mosotho boy, you always feel responsible for providing for your family especially when you have the younger siblings. So being a herd boy is the only thing I knew when I was growing up,” Maputsoe says. “I wouldn’t really complain about running up and down after other people’s cattle then because during my time, it was normal for boys of my age to be herd boys,” he says. “In my village education was never really considered to be essential especially for boys. It was more like a culture that once a boy grew up, the only thing he did was to run after the cattle. Even my brother did that too, so we helped each other to support our mother and sisters.”

Life was to take a brighter turn after marrying his sweetheart – “an ordinary girl” from his village who, like him, was semi-literate. Initially, this meant working harder to provide for her without forsaking his mother and siblings so he started working as a labourer for building construction companies. At times, employers would not pay for his labour but he kept pushing until his wife nudged him into a new direction.

“My wife came up with the idea of selling apples and I ran with it. We moved to Maseru and started selling on the road-side of Mafafa and we worked as a team,” he says. “Our family of three children, two boys and a girl, survived on that and our first born son would always stop by and help a little most of the days before and after school.”

After selling fruits for about a decade, he ventured into catering at the Mafafa market enclosure (Ka sakeng) along Kingsway in 2001. His business is one of the most thriving in the area. Maputsoe says moving from selling fruits to catering was never an easy transition because cooking came with big responsibilities and expenses. However, he managed to pull it off because he has always been enthusiastic about the business. Maputsoe has created full time jobs for three people who get paid weekly and the business operates from 7am to 6pm on a daily basis. His loyal patrons include civil servants from nearby offices who queue every working day at his stall for his delicious dishes.

Like every businessperson, Maputsoe has his own share of challenges but he does not let them pull him down. “It was very difficult when I started but I always knew that perseverance is the mother of success. I never gave up because I knew my family would starve so I kept pushing,” he says, as he carried on frying pork while one of his employees chopped vegetables. Other employees were busy with people’s orders. Providing for the family from a very young age instilled a sense of responsibility in Maputsoe and today he is a reliable bread winner of his family.

From his small business, Maputsoe managed to build a home for his family, which now include his wife, three children, daughter-in-law and six grandchildren in Ha-Leqele on the southern outskirts of Maseru. Maputsoe also paid school fees for all of his children for the entire secondary education except for his daughter who married while still doing Form C.

And it seems the streak for catering is now running in the family. His first born son dropped out of Lerotholi Polytechnic and started running a similar business nearby. Maputsoe proudly says his son must have learnt all the business techniques from his inseparable parents. Two of his employees are his daughter-in-law and his other son. His daughter sometimes lends them a helping hand, virtually turning the venture into a family business. He now pays school fees for his grandchildren and some attend multiracial English medium schools, a luxury preserved for children from well-to-do families.

After a decade in a catering business he bought a van which he views as one of his biggest accomplishments. “The van is really useful because it makes it easy to run my business errands without any hindrance,” he says. Competition, he says, is stiff. “The business area is too congested so much that I sometimes fail to reach my daily target,” he tells thepost.  He says his competitors most of the time sell food for lesser prices and his business suffers but he always hopes tomorrow becomes better. “It’s not easy because most of my competitors tout customers to their businesses and they usually succeed mostly with the first time customers,” he says. “But sometimes God leads them straight to me without my making any effort.”

To beat competition, Maputsoe says he provides an excellent service to his customers so that they may recommend his place to their families and friends. The variety of food from fried pork, fried beef, fried chicken, beef stew and tripe makes his business extra-ordinary. “Some out of desperation sell food for lesser prices and it affects my business very badly but I ensure that once a customer eats my food, they leave the place satisfied so that they want to come again and that trick works for me,” he says.

Other environmental factors are out of his control. “The shelter lacks lights. We sometimes run out of water, and it is really cold and those are some challenges that we feel the municipality is neglecting our needs,” he says. Given these circumstances he plans on moving to a place where he will run a small restaurant and expand his menu. “And I see that happening soon because there’s nothing impossible with God,” he says.

’Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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