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Mokhotlong farmers open lodge



MOKHOTLONG – WOOL and mohair farmers in Mokhotlong are slowly moving to the tourism industry after the government disrupted their business through policy mishaps in the last five years.

Under the government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the farmers were forced to sell their produce to the Thaba-Bosiu Wool Centre that was run by a by a Chinese businessman, Stone Shi.

It was a move that was to soon infuriate farmers countrywide as Shi failed to pay.

Five years after that controversial policy, the Mokhotlong’s wool and mohair district’s committee, which consists of 17 shearing centres, have now joined hands to build the Wool and Mohair Lodge to provide accommodation for tourists.

The lodge, although not yet fully fledged, is operational on a self-catering basis.

It opened its doors in 2019, shortly after the government intensified the crusade to force everyone to sell their wool and mohair to Shi.

The All Basotho Convention (ABC)-led government had created a wool trade monopoly for Shi, who collected a lot of wool and mohair from the farmers countrywide and later failed to pay.

The crusade to force farmers to channel their produce to Shi was led by Tefo Mapesela, who was the then Trade Minister, and Chalane Phori who was the Minister of Small Business Development.

Mapesela was the ABC spokesman while Phori was, and still is, the party’s deputy chairman.

Mapesela, then the Mokhotlong MP, has since defected from the ABC to found his Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP) which lost last Friday’s election dismally.

Farmers say they starved and sank deeper into poverty after the government failed to pay them.

Some farmers could no longer afford to take their children to school while others were left by their shepherds to seek employment in South Africa.

Other farmers are still owed while others were underpaid, they claimed.

“The situation was unbearable,” Aaron Moketa, Chairman of Moremoholo stud, said.

“Some had strokes while others died of heart attacks,” he said.

“We struggled a lot with the problems we had with the government,” he said, adding that “it had always been our forefathers’ plan and wish to have this”.

Moketa said they were extremely happy to have implemented this project, at long last. If things go south, Moketa said they would have “something to fall back on”.

These farmers invested a staggering M2 million to build a 20-roomed lodge comprising bedrooms, dining hall, kitchen and a hall.

Each centre contributed M50 000 annually. It took the farmers a year and four months to build the lodge. Moketa said they are going to use this project to help them navigate their way out of poverty.

At the beginning, only 17 centres were involved and now the figure has risen to 19. Moketa said their journey has not been an easy one.

He said they had toiled to make the project a success. He said the project became a success through strong leadership. One of the recent achievements is that they drilled boreholes at the lodge.

“We want to develop the place in order for it to be sustainable. It is through developments that we could achieve that,” he said.

Moketa said their aspiration is that the incoming government lead them to greener pastures and not meddle in the affairs of wool and mohair farmers.

What happened in the past, Moketa said, “should only remain in history books”.

Their wish is to see the government fishing around for investors to develop farmers and not the brokers because they have learnt the hard way.

Moketa said the Basotho National Party (BNP) through the leadership of the late Chief Leabua Jonathan built the shearing centres and allowed farmers to run them.

And since then all things were operating well for the farmers under successive governments.

For him, all hell broke loose under the coalition government led by the ABC.

Other parties in the coalition were the Basotho National Party (BNP), the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) which all performed dismally last Friday.

“They handled our wool and mohair with cruelty and we have forgiven them because now we are the same,” Moketa said.

“We are all going to wear the gumboots and head to the fields,” he said.

The Thaba-Ntšo Shearing Centre Chairman, Tieho Maqhama, said the major problem that they faced was to see the previous government violating their rights as farmers.

Maqhama said the ABC-led government robbed them of their livelihood. Worst of all, they were left unpaid after their produce was taken to Shi.

“This led to a major setback for us because we got divided as farmers,” he said.

He said it took time for them to come together and work collaboratively again. Another problem that they faced was that of climate change especially when there was snowfall.

Maqhama said although the snowfall occurs regularly, they never get used to it as it affects them badly as they have to keep their sheep and goats in safer places some days.

The chairman of Senqu Shearing Centre, Pheello Moloi, shared the same sentiments about climate change citing that they would have snowfall in winter only. But now they also have it in summer.

“These days, he said, due to climate change, snowfall could happen in October, something that did not happen in the past,” he added.

Moloi further said in the case of climate change, sometimes there is no rain due to drought and this affects their animals because they have nowhere to graze.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic affected farmers because the prices of medicines and products went up and the borders were also closed. This therefore frustrated their movement.

Through their collaboration as farmers in the district, they have secured a market internationally. Moloi said they are also known by lots of buyers because of this collaboration.

And it is easier to get donors because of their partnership. This association was established in 1972.

’Mapule Motsopa

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Why invest for the future



AN investment plan forms a critical pillar of a financial plan, says Tokiso Nthebe, a local author and financial services adviser.

Nthebe, the founder of TKO Financial Wellness and Advisory, says when people invest, they can use their money to buy assets that will increase in value over the long term.
He says these assets can help them build wealth.

“When you invest, your money starts to work for you by providing returns that will beat inflation,’’ Nthebe says.

Nthebe says there is a huge difference between saving and investing.

He says investing requires that you take some level of risk in exchange for an expected return or growth.

Nthebe says Basotho should consider many factors before they decide to start investing.

“It is important to have a clear strategy that guides your investment decisions and to work with qualified professionals,” he says.

Nthebe says one should consider their growth mind-set, investment goals, and their risk tolerance.

In addition, one should consider what kind of growth or return they expect.

He says one should find out whether the institution they invest in is licensed or regulated and how long one should invest.

Nthebe says one should further consider what risks are associated with the investment option and whether there are any associated costs.

He says it is also important to remember that investments take time.

“There are no short cuts to building wealth. Do not fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes,” he says.

Moreover, Nthebe says the investment landscape comprises commercial banks, asset management companies, and insurance companies.

He says each provides different financial products and services.

Nthebe says the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) also offers investment solutions such as treasury bills and treasury bonds that Basotho can consider.

Depending on your investment goals, he says financial service providers have a wide range of investment solutions to choose from that cater for short, medium, and long-term goals.

“I encourage Basotho to do thorough research and seek professional advice before making financial decisions,” he says.

Vince Shorb, the United States National Financial Educators Council CEO, writes that “many of the financial problems people face today started when they were young and making their first financial decisions”.

Shorb further says taking on too much debt, not investing early, and failing to plan can take one decades to recover from such.

However, it takes financial literacy to make good decisions, he says.

Financial literacy has been perceived as a tool that gives you the opportunity to be confident and empowered to live the quality of life you have worked hard for.

Shorb says one of the wisest decisions one can make to prepare for the future is to invest.

Investment has been defined as the commitment of funds with a view to minimising risk and safeguarding capital while earning a return.

Refiloe Mpobole

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When Covid-19 hit and the government shut down all gatherings in April 2020, there seemed no way out for ICONICS (Pty) Ltd, a budding events management company based in Leribe district.

They had two options: shut down or innovate to keep the business going.
They chose the latter.

Three years down the line, ICONICS (Pty) Ltd has completely transformed itself from an events management and public relations company into a manufacturing company that is now the envy of Lesotho.
“The closing of events translated into the closing of our business,” Rapitso Mosebetsi, one of the co-founders of ICONICS (Pty) Ltd told thepost this week.
Mosebetsi established ICONICS in partnership with Tumo Mahapa.

Faced with collapse, Mosebetsi say they began buying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as surgical gowns, disposal coveralls and safety apparel for resale.
Eventually they decided to manufacture the PPEs and safety clothing. That was the turning point.
But since the company was already down, Mosebetsi says diversification was a hard nut to crack.

“It became quite a long journey (for us),” he says. “We had to come up with something new for the industry.”
He says they had to overcome stiff competition from giant companies and come up with something unique that would set them apart.
“That was how thermal heating apparel was born,” he says.

“We are the first company to produce thermal heating apparel,” he says.
The company manufactures thermal clothing, which is electric clothing, using power banks of five voltages.
“The voltage is so low to electrocute a person,” he says.
The clothing also has a power button to turn it on and off.

Mosebetsi says the thermal heating apparel is on corporate clothing as well as high-visibility clothing.
Mosebetsi says they started the journey with the support of several organisations, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO), to build their capacity.
Mosebetsi says they also got mentorship support from organisations such as the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The results of years of hard work are now all out for everyone to see.

In 2022, ICONICS won the M100 000 Business Plan Competition hosted by BEDCO.
This grant enabled them to acquire land and buy five more industrial machines.
This did not only enable the company to increase their production to 100 worksuits a week, but it further created permanent jobs for five people as well as three temporary workers.

Last year, the company took part in the Exporter of the Year event hosted by the LNDC in partnership with the Lesotho Post Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mosebetsi says they won the award for Lesotho’s most innovative and versatile exporter.
He says this did not only put them in the spotlight, but it further encouraged them to do more.
ICONICS was announced as the best exporter of the year at an event hosted by the LNDC earlier this month.
Mosebetsi says this made them proud, as the award is aligned with their vision.

The award further gives the company an opportunity to participate in the regional competition.
He says this opportunity will further give the company a competitive edge in terms of production locally and globally.
“It will be an honour if we can win the regional competition,” he says.

In terms of markets, Mosebetsi says the company has had the opportunity to list their products in the African Trade Market since 2020 with the support of USAID.
This is an e-commerce platform that opens up the market for African countries to list their products.
Mosebetsi says the company did not only get publicity, but the client database also increased.
He says they moved from supplying individuals only to big companies, different organisations, and different government departments such as those involved in mining and health.

Considering the decline of the Lesotho textile industry, Mosebetsi says their secret to success has been their being innovative.
“Our sustainability is matched with innovation,” he says.
Mosebetsi says it also requires patience coupled with lots of investment in terms of time.
“Rome was not built in one day,” he says.

He says working as a team also plays a critical role.
Despite their achievements, Mosebetsi says the market for innovative industries is one of the hardest nuts to crack.
He says the company is in the process of not only making their products known but also educating people about their safety.
Mosebetsi says the other challenge is the decline of the South African Rand as compared to the US Dollar.

He says some of their materials are sourced from China.
Therefore, it is more expensive to buy such materials.
ICONICS is not only seeking to make their brand well known globally, but Mosebetsi says they are also seeking to create more jobs for our youths.

Own Correspondent

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LetsGo and Win!



LETSHEGO Financial Service has launched the LetsGo and Win loan consolidation campaign where customers win weekly and monthly cash prizes of up to M150 000.
The campaign, which was launched yesterday, will end on November 8.
The LetsGo and Win campaign rewards customers for consolidating their loans.
It is aligned with Letshego Lesotho’s version to offer competitive products that cater for the evolving needs of its customers.

The financial services company operates in Lesotho, Botswana, ESwatini, and Zambia.
The Marketing Manager and Business Partner, Tšotetsi Seema, said Letshego Lesotho is committed to delivering increasing value and options to customers.
Seema said this programme is a testament to that commitment.

“The campaign invites customers to consolidate their loans into one low and easy repayment with reduced rates and they stand to win weekly and monthly prizes,” Seema said.

“The weekly cash prizes will be won by lucky customers randomly selected and notified through Letshego Radio shows,” he said.

Additionally, he said two lucky customers will be randomly selected each month and given a chance to spin the wheel of fortune with a chance to receive a maximum of M20 000 each.

“The loans consolidation campaign makes it easier for customers to choose Letshego Lesotho as their preferred financial services partner.”

He said this innovative campaign aims to help individuals streamline their debt payment while benefiting from reduced interest rates.

“Debt consolidation can help customers get a lower monthly payment, pay off their debt sooner, increase their credit score and simplify their life.”

Letshego Lesotho’s Head of Sales, Distribution and Marketing, Motebang Moeketsi, said managing multiple loans can often be overwhelming with varying interest loans due dates and terms.

“The campaign addresses this challenge by combining multiple loans into a single, easy to manage repayment plan,” Moeketsi said.

He added that this simplification not only eases the financial burden on borrowers but also potentially leads to significant savings over time.
Moreover the new consolidation campaign invites customers to take advantage of their best-in-class financial services provided through Letshego Lesotho branch network and digital platforms.

“Letshego Lesotho is committed to increasing financial inclusion through its efforts to serve underbanked communities, promoting financial literacy and delivering positive social impacts for its customers and communities.”

Alice Samuel

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