The wealthy socialist revolutionary

The wealthy socialist revolutionary

LADYBRAND – A WEALTHY “socialist”, Teboho Mojapela is a politician full of brag and a sharp tongue.
An aluminium remote-controlled gate mounted with several CCTV cameras opens to a yard sprawling with a fabulous car collection: a Porsche stands next to a BMW that is parked next to a Jaguar and a Mercedes Benz C Class. And this is just half the collection of a man who leads a party that swears to socialism.

Inside Teboho Mojapela’s house, most of the furniture is gold-plated.
Glass stairs lead to a bedroom adorned with a bar decked out with expensive alcoholic beverages that he says he rarely drinks.
Mojapela is stupendously rich and he does not shy from saying it.

“I am not bragging. I am merely stating the facts,” he says to thepost during an interview held in a gym room.
Across the border, the leader of Lesotho’s newest political party lives large in a South African town 18km from Maseru and he has no intention of coming back to settle home – until and unless Basotho elect him to lead them as their president.

“I cannot live in Lesotho,” he tells thepost from his grey double storey mansion in Ladybrand, a small South African farming town where his residence dwarfs the modest houses in a suburb reserved for whites during the apartheid era.

Sporting a T-shirt in his party’s orange colours, Mojapela talks down Lesotho’s current and past leaders, casting himself as the man with the solutions.
He claims he saved senior All Basotho Convention (ABC) politicians from trouble before leaving the party.
“Almost all top people in the ABC party were targeted by the Mosisili-led regime,” he says.

He also claims he was instrumental in the prevention of bloodshed in 2008 when disgruntled ABC supporters, led by the late businessman Jessie Ramakatane and Makotoko Lerotholi (also known as Mashai) were spoiling for a fight with the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
“I, Teboho Mojapela, stopped them from killing the soldiers,” he says, adding that he did not understand why the Pakalitha Mosisili-led government regarded him as an enemy “after doing such a good thing”.

“I am straight, neutral and honest,” Mojapela says.
Born to parents who were staunch supporters of the Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) who gave refuge to BCP combatants against the Leabua Jonathan regime, Mojapela says he has “always” followed politics.

In 1983 soldiers attacked his family’s home in search of the BCP guerrillas.
He joined the ABC at its formation in 2006 after “realising that the then ruling elites were only interested in looting the public funds”.
Mojapela is now the leader of the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR), a breakaway of the ruling ABC party.

He accuses the ABC leadership of being “self-centred individuals who are interested only in filling their stomachs and lining their pockets with public funds”.
“I did not decide to be a politician but circumstances forced me. I could not tolerate the bad behaviour of Mosisili and Thabane,” he says.
“Lesotho needs to be changed for the better. This country longs for peace and stability. That is why I decided to form a party.”
And he is not in it for money because he has more than enough, at least according to him.

His moneylending company, JP Finance, has 30 branches and 140 employees in Lesotho.
In South Africa the company has 60 branches and 250 employees, he says.

Born in 1969 in Mokhotlong, Liraoheleng, he attended primary school at Molumong LEC Primary before proceeding to St. James Primary in 1983.
A football player during high school days at Thabeng in Morija, he gained the nickname “JP” or Jay Phiri.
“At first it was Jay Phiri but later JP which has thus far stood the test of time,” he says.
In 1989 he enrolled at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) for a Labour Law (LLB) programme that he later abandoned for the gold mines of South Africa.

“I thought it was about time I stopped depending on my parents but on my own pocket. I did not want to depend on anybody. My parents had done enough for me,” he says.

He worked in the mines for only two and a half years “because it was during the apartheid era and I could not see eye to an eye with the Boers”.
He started JP Finance at the mine in 1992 when he lent someone M50 and charged interest on it.
“When people wanted money, they would be referred to me and from that time I noticed that I could make a business through money lending,” Mojapela says.

When he resigned from the mines he worked at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
While there he continued with the money lending business but on a smaller scale.
In 1994 Mojapela went back to NUL to pursue law studies with the little money he earned from JP Finance.

While still at school the business was not performing well as he had to put more focus on his studies.
It later collapsed.
He withdrew from the university to rebuild his business.

In 2000 he went back to NUL to complete his studies.
“I could not sit down and read books but during the lectures I listened very attentively and I definitely passed,” he says.
“I am a hard worker and not a domkop (slow learner),” he says.
He graduated in 2002 with an LLB degree.

Mojapela says he opened a law firm with his two other classmates but he left them within a week because he wanted quick cash.
He re-started JP Finance in 2005 and established offices in all of Lesotho’s 10 districts.
Later in 2007 he enrolled with the University of Free State for LLM, a master of Law degree.

In 2012 Mojapela fled the country after the people he refers to them as soldiers of Mosisili’s government shot him.
He went to Port Elizabeth and lived there for a while before relocating to Ladybrand.

“Almost all top people in the ABC party were targeted by the Mosisili-led regime,” he says before delving into scripture.
The Bible keeps him going, Mojapela says, although those verses on humility seem to have skipped him.

At almost all his rallies, Mojapela does not end without referring to fellow politicians as likatana a vernacular reference to worthless people.
And so it was in this interview with thepost. “They are rags,” he says, referring to his political opponents back home.

Tokase Mphutlane

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