Khomari’s harvest of thorns

Khomari’s harvest of thorns

MASERU – TŠELISO ‘Frisco’ Khomari could have been a millionaire footballer, at least according to his own claims.
Instead, he went for politics. After having his heart broken by his party, the 63-year-old regrets not taking up the footballing offers that came his way earlier in life.
“I regret that I did not take the opportunity,” he says of offers that came from teams abroad.
“I missed an opportunity to make money, a lot of money,” he says with laughter.
Inside, he is raging with anger though. Twice, politics have hurt him.

The first time was when he was cajoled into leaving his teaching job at National University of Lesotho (NUL) with promises of an assistant ministerial post by former Prime Minister Mosisili’s LCD party.
The promise never materialised. He did not ditch the party and soldiered on.
Now he is complaining of being backstabbed by a trusted party colleague.

Khomari stood for elections in Thaba-Phechela constituency, where he lost to the Democratic Congress (DC)’s Mohau Hlalele.
However, his latest source of bitterness is how he sourced money for the party only to be thrown under the bus by a colleague who went on to claim credit for himself.
“I was the principal secretary for the Ministry of Communications and I had a network of contacts who contributed in the LCD campaigns,” Khomari says.

“I managed to raise about M500 000 from my contacts, not for my own benefit but for the benefit of the party, to contribute to the party’s election campaign,” he says.
Khomari says one of his closest allies in the Communications Ministry was a close friend of one of the main sponsors and knew about the fundraising project.
When the funds were about to be released, the colleague rushed to party leader Mothetjoa Metsing and claimed to be the one behind the fundraising.
Nobody in the party believed Khomari was the brains behind the project.

“Imagine how angry and disappointed I was. I had used my own resources, going to Gauteng in South Africa and meeting several people in various places negotiating for funds,” he says.
“I became bitter but continued with my plans to stand for the LCD,” he said.
As if that was not enough, the party leadership started accusing him of deserting the party for the newly formed Alliance of Democrats (AD), led by the current Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki.

“You will not understand how hurting it is when your leader tells you face-to-face that you have joined another party, having reached a conclusion about you and not giving you a chance to hear your side of the story,” he says, the initial laughter replaced by a stern look.
He says others accused him of having defected with former LCD member Selibe Mochoboroane to form the Movement for Economic Change (MEC).
Khomari admits he was close to Mochoboroane because he was the one who helped him find a job as a principal secretary.
“However, I am still a member of the LCD. I have not moved.

“I have not joined Mochoboroane,” he says, adding that he is learning the hard way.
“I never knew that things are done this way in politics.”
Maybe he should have known better, having been “betrayed” before.

Khomari was a lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) when the LCD leadership convinced him to actively join politics, with promises that he would be appointed Sports Assistant Minister.
“The then leader Pakalitha Mosisili had said I would help the then minister ’Mathabiso Lepono. I was happy and I accepted. I was made a senator.”
He was never appointed to the position and remained a senator until 2012 when the nation went for national elections again.
“I had left my job and after that I was no longer employable in the country because I now had a label — the party I was with had lost elections and the incoming government had no space for me,” he says.

Even private companies associated him with politics and were uncomfortable employing him, he says.
Khomari recalls qualifying for a job in one of the government departments only to be told that “we were advised not to hire you”.
He later landed the principal secretary position with the help of Mochoboroane.

“I have learnt a lesson the hard way, that there are back-biters in the party and that the leadership will not always seek to hear your side,” he says.
“Our politicians are self-centred and will not consider you even if you are dedicated to the cause of the party as long as they will not personally gain.”
Politics was not Khomari’s first calling.

A son of Commissioner of Prisons, Molemo Khomari and a mother who was a housewife, his life centred on sports, school and home.
At the age of 13 in late 1960s he was already playing for the country’s elite league, now called Premier League, and says he was the youngest player in the confederacy.
He was playing as a striker for School Boys, a team that was highly rated in those years.
After enrolling at NUL, he joined the university team called Rovers.

Khomari also played for Matlama and Bantu, two teams that down the years have dominated local football.
Khomari was also a national player for tennis and athletes as well as high jump but focussed more on football.
It was because of his excellence that several United Kingdom teams spotted him during intervarsity games held in South America, and they started wooing him to join them, according to Khomari.
But his father would not allow him to leave school for football because in those days Basotho did not see it as a wise career move.
“They (football teams) would write my parents several letters but my father would not let me go.

“He used to say education was a key to success. I agreed with him then, unaware of what I was actually missing,” says Khomari with a tinge of regret.
When Khomari retired from playing, he founded a team called Ambassadors, but “I could not maintain it financially until I agreed when King Letsie III took our status for his Mabeoana FC”.
“That’s how Ambassadors was blotted out of history.”

As a NUL staff member, Khomari was involved in the running of Rovers until he joined football politics at the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA).
He was once a long serving secretary general, and at one time a deputy president.
That was the first time he came face-to-face with politics — football politics.

Khomari says he had found sponsorship from Vodacom — the first M800 000 ever sponsored for football in the country – when the association’s executive committee shocked him.
“I had invited them to a meeting where the Vodacom executive members were to be present and to my shock the LEFA executive did not show up,” he says.
Khomari says he took a referee and one of the staff members of the association and asked them to pretend to be executive members “and the meeting went smoothly”.
This kind of petty politics disappointed him.

He says what also killed his morale was when he drew a five-year development plan but was never supported by the association.
Later, he was accused of stealing money for a football development programme, of which he was overseer.
Yet, Khomari, born in 1954 in Maseru, admits nothing had prepared him for the treachery in the world of national party politics.

Caswell Tlali

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