Matlanyane’s mission to serve

Matlanyane’s mission to serve

MASERU – Growing up in the late 1970s and early 80s, Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane always believed she was destined for great things, thanks to her father who inspired her to dream big academically.
Even as she struggled to comprehend Sesotho grammar, her father would always be by her side, helping her with her school assignments.
It was from her interactions with her father that the young Matlanyane realised that her father wanted her to go as far as possible with her education.

At one time, Matlanyane received a card from her father with a touching message, “Go on through the rain, go on through the storms”.
She realised it was a subtle message to encourage her to pursue her academic dreams and not allow the storms of life to side-track her. And, that is what she did.

While she had a passion for education, Matlanyane says that she never imagined herself working in a bank, let alone head one of the biggest institutions in charge of monetary policy in Lesotho.
It was only after she had enrolled for her Master’s degree that she had a “Damascene moment”, and it dawned on her that she wanted to be a policy maker, driven by a fierce desire to serve and make things better for her country.

“As soon as I was aware of my potential and various opportunities in my field of specialisation, it was clear that I wanted to be in policy-making.”
Matlanyane says she had a “normal childhood” while growing up in Matholeng in Mafeteng district in the early 70s. Her father was a civil servant while her mother worked in the private sector.
Her grandmother was a staunch member of the Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC). In fact, the village chapel is right in the family’s yard and every morning they would, together with the local community, huddle together in the chapel for prayers.

It was no surprise that the young Matlanyane quickly imbibed and embraced the same spiritual values as her grandmother, values that continue to shape her spiritual outlook until today.
She admits that given that background, certain norms stay with you and become your values, identifying who you are as a person.
It is clear from the interview that Matlanyane remains a deeply devout Christian.

There is a generous sprinkling of religious thoughts during the two-hour long interview. For instance, she speaks of a divine providence, a higher power that helped chart her career path.
As a woman and a mother (Matlanyane has two grown-up children aged 23 and 29), the Governor says she is fully aware of the numerous challenges confronting today’s girl child.

While she and her age-mates had to deal with the challenges of early marriages in the past, today’s girl child has to deal with much more sophisticated challenges such as peer pressure, she says.
“I wish we could nurture our girls, empower them to overcome these challenges and see them as enemies that are trying to curtail their lives.”
“They must close the negatives and focus on their lives.”

When she finished high school, Matlanyane had no idea what she was going to study at university until a friend, who was already at tertiary, looked at her results and persuaded her to consider enrolling for a BA in Economics.
“Coming from a village, we did not have the luxury of career guidance. I was only eager to continue with my education.”
“My friend looked at my results and advised that I could actually study Economics. Once I got into the mainstream economics, I quickly realised that it was where I belonged.”
“I enjoy this job. An invisible hand channelled me into the right path,” she says.

“Our paths are crafted from elsewhere, they are crafted from above, contrary to popular belief, we are not on our own.”
It is a job that is keeping her awake at night, sometimes literally. Even when the body is tired and wants to shut down late at night, Matlanyane sometimes finds herself analysing figures in the search for solutions to some of Lesotho’s biggest economic challenges.

It is a job from which she cannot completely switch off after 5pm. The intensity of the job is relentless. The pressure can sometimes be unbearable.
Yet in that pressure-cooker environment, she must keep her cool as she tries to steer the ship through the rough seas.
The current and prospective economic environment is leveraged on interestingly challenging, complex systems and processes.
Concomitant with these developments, both domestically and globally, digitisation and financial integration require that we all exercise increased diligence, prudence and ethical conduct.

As an executive leader of the Central Bank of Lesotho, she says sometimes she has to take unpopular decisions to “ensure that people’s everyday lives go on with integrity”.
And one of the most unpopular decisions we have had to take as CBL over the past four to five years was to embark on a series of campaigns to fight against Ponzi schemes, in all their forms and manifestations, amid howls of protest from Basotho who felt that we were stifling their “businesses”.
In the face of such fierce criticism, Matlanyane says that the bank did not relent because “that is our responsibility”.

On the contrary, we have and continue to intensify efforts, in collaboration with major stakeholders within the financial sector, to empower members of the public on how they could identify and avoid the risk of losing their hard-earned money to some of those scams.
While most people might think the Governor’s assignment is one of the dream jobs in the world, the reality is that this is a very heavy job.

For instance, we operate in a highly integrated and very uncertain environment because the global economy is constantly in a state of flux.
“I am always asking myself about what we can do, of course, in terms of controlling inflation, so that the people can still put food on the table?”
“On a daily basis I am continuously asking myself, ‘How do I protect my country?’” Though her job is quite taxing, Matlanyane still believes this was the biggest honour and privilege she could ever have as a Mosotho woman.

However, Matlanyane realises that she is in the best of positions to offer an incisive analysis of what ails this country and what needs to be done to grow the economy.
“Our major problem is that we are not growing as an economy, we are basically a consumption economy,” she says.
Lesotho produces very little of significant economic value.
“We import the little things we should not be importing.”
Matlanyane says because Lesotho is importing almost everything, “we end up putting pressure on the little resources we have that should have been used to grow jobs locally”.

And, because the economy is limping, one of the obvious repercussions of our ailing economy is massive joblessness among our youths.
Matlanyane believes that if the CBL is delivering on its mandate of achieving and maintaining price and financial stability, it may have an impact on the economy as well. “Currently, we are faced with a number of challenges causing social distress in every sphere of society. Among others, there is massive poverty and destitution and some can’t even afford a single meal a day.”

Lesotho’s problems have also been worsened by the fact that we are highly dependent on imports.
“Because we are not producing enough, we are now fighting to curb ever-rising inflationary pressures that threaten the survival of ordinary Basotho with only the fittest surviving”.
Matlanyane is however optimistic that one day Lesotho shall be able to turn around the nation’s fortunes.

With both the national reforms programme and the development of the National Strategic Development Programme II, she hopes that, as leaders, citizens and residents of this great country, they “shall be able to introspect and point each other in the right direction. I hope we shall be able to prevail and do the right things”.
Despite the challenges, it is a job she has found to be quite fulfilling.

Matlanyane says she sometimes has to take unpopular decisions to “ensure that people’s everyday lives go on with some fair degree of integrity”.
“My position gives me the power to educate and I am not going to back down. I am assertive and when I stand for something that I believe in, I will assert it,” she says.

She says sometimes they have to protect the interests of the poor, marginalised and ill-informed consumers who are often targeted by illegal financial institutions operating in the country.
Matlanyane acknowledges that her assertiveness is sometimes misconstrued as stubbornness.
She remembers how at the beginning of her tenure as Governor she tried to change the culture at the Bank.

“When I assumed my responsibilities as the Governor in 2012, the world had just experienced the global financial crisis in 2008. This means, I had a responsibility and duty to protect the integrity and reputation of the financial sector, to underwrite continuing public trust and confidence in the financial system in Lesotho,” she says.
“We had to allocate resources, financial, human and material, including recruitment and deployment of knowledgeable, skilled and passionate staff.”
She says she had to take the bull by the horns and bring in the necessary reforms to transform the culture within the organisation.

“I had to be authoritative and shared my vision with my team. During the process, I had to push against a crowd and stepped on some people’s toes.”
‘‘But, eventually, we pulled our efforts together and put the Bank where it is now,’’ she says.
“We have invested in our people, systems and processes including risk management infrastructure to meet today’s challenges. Most importantly, we have managed to maintain the peg between the Loti and the South African Rand against all odds.

“Thanks to the support that I have and continue to receive from both past and current employees of the Bank. Without their sacrifices, technical prowess, commitment and belief, my efforts to transform the CBL into a dynamic and efficient institution would have been impossible,” she says.

To recognize her positive role towards the promotion of economic growth and development domestically, regionally and globally, Matlanyane was recently nominated among the 100 most influential African women in 2019 by a Ghanaian Public Relations Firm, Avance Media.
She says that nomination caught her off guard.
“It is really humbling and I wasn’t expecting it. I do things as professionally as I can and I don’t see myself as honourable,” she said.

Staff Reporter

 

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