Molefe: the reluctant politician

Molefe: the reluctant politician

MASERU – As a young man, Mpalipali Molefe used to herd cattle, play soccer and charm girls. Now he is charming his way into the hearts of the electorate and dribbling past political opponents. Growing up, politics was the last thing on Molefe’s mind. Going to school and herding cattle, his passion lay elsewhere and for a while he pursued interests in teaching, accounting and business. At one time he had also set his sights on becoming a priest. That was until 2006 when his friend Thomas Thabane formed the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

He says when Prime Minister Thabane visited his area to canvass for votes for his ABC, he bought into his idea and decided to join ABC as the MP for Maliepetsane constituency. He joined all the ABC and today the 67-year-old is Member of Parliament for Maliepetsane constituency. “The Prime Minister was my friend. I have at least known him for a couple of years,” Molefe says, adding it was Thabane’s political philosophy of changing people’s lives for the better that encouraged him to join the rough and tumble world of politics.

Molefe says he wanted to represent his people in parliament because he fully understands the concerns of his constituency. Born in a family of seven children, Molefe says he was fortunate to enroll at Sebelekoane Primary School in 1956 and proceeded to Holy Names Secondary School in Bela-Bela in Berea district at a time when many families could not afford to put their children through school. “I was herding cattle at the same time,” he says.
He did not last long at Holy Name after he was expelled.

“I was always after girls during those days. I used to be a charmer. I had a good body,” he says. He also made a name as a soccer player. After being booted from Holy Names, Molefe says he headed to Masentle High School in his home district in 1974 before enrolling with the then National Teachers Training College which is now called the Lesotho College of Education in 1975. Supported by father who was a teacher by profession, Molefe said he had an insatiable desire to become one of the most educated people not only in his village but in the country. He says he was attached to Mabathoana High School, where he produced good results in Commerce.

After graduation, he says he went to Nazareth High School, which was later renamed Morapeli High School where he became a head master. Always fearless to test unchartered waters, Molefe left teaching to work as an Assistant Accountant at the Lesotho Mohair. He later moved to Lets’eng Diamond Mine, where he worked as a senior technician. “That is where my love for diamonds was born,” Molefe says, who claims to be the first Member of Parliament to become a licensed diamond dealer. Alongside his work as the MP of Maliepetsane, Molefe is still working in the diamond sector.

Molefe says he also got involved in the Labour Construction Unit where he saw himself working as a contractor and then started Molefe Civil and Building Construction Company in 1986 which built schools and roads in some parts of the country. “I was one of the best contractors in the country at that time,” he recalls. He says some of his buildings include Sefika High School and LIFE High school in the district of Maseru. Tackling challenges facing his constituency such as crime are taking much of his time these days. Crime is on the rise in his constituency, he says.

He says famo killings are the most common crimes in his area. “Killing of people is the order of the day. As we speak, we are going to bury four men who were killed in famo related violence in South Africa,” he laments. Molefe says he believes high levels of crime can only be curbed if the two governments of Lesotho and South Africa join hands to fight the killings. He says this seems to be a bit insurmountable because Basotho kill each other even on South African soil. He says roads, good sanitation and electricity are some of the major challenges besetting his constituency. So far, he has succeeded in ensuring that people in his constituency get telecommunications network so that they could easily use phones to communicate.

He says some roads were built in the area to ease movement of cars and people. “We haven’t arrived where we want to go because of limited resources,” he says. Creating employment is another huge challenge, which he says can help bring down levels of crime. Government departments should help with resources for youths to engage in income generating projects, he says. Such projects could help keep youths from crossing the border into South Africa where they find themselves joining rival famo groups. Molefe says he has also made a positive step of ensuring that some homes are electrified.

The chairperson of the parliament portfolio committee on natural resources, Molefe believes that Lesotho can pull out of poverty if the country can use its untapped natural resources to create jobs for her people. “We have enough arable land that we could cultivate to produce food,” he says. The MP says Lesotho could also extensively engage in wool and mohair production to create jobs. According to him, it makes no sense that the country exports wool and mohair and imports its finished projects which are usually expensive. With just water and diamonds alone, Molefe is adamant that Lesotho’s economy could be placed in a trajectory for growth.

“It is difficult to understand why a country of just two million people is unable to contain its people and create sustainable jobs for them,” says the business-minded MP who insists that he will not run again after the 2022 elections “to give others a chance”. “Politics stops me from doing my businesses to the fullest. They consume a lot of my time,” he says. Commenting on the Southern African Development Community reforms, Molefe says he hopes the reforms will usher an era of peace and stability if wholeheartedly implemented.

Molefe believes it is time Lesotho develops a strong internal conflict management mechanisms instead of relying on outsiders to solve its problems. He wants the King to “be given enough power to mediate if there are any problems affecting the country”. “It would be a positive step so that Lesotho stops bothering international communities about its political instability,” he said. The country has to craft a roadmap to take it out of political chaos, although the country should tread carefully regarding reconciliation and a general amnesty for those arrested for rights violation, he says.

“It is the most complicated issue that the country has to treat with utmost care. If indeed the country adopts reconciliation to bury the hatchet, it should indeed be a serious reconciliation,” he says. This involves balancing the demands for justice and the fears of perpetrators. “I just cannot commit myself on this one,” Molefe says holding back his breath. He doesn’t rule out ambitions of becoming Prime Minister one day. For now, his focus is on getting youths to work again.

“I think I would be happy to see youth unemployment being curtailed. That is my strongest wish,” he says. Apart from raising his three children, Molefe has 37 dependents.

Majara Molupe

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