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Motoho: the humble drink making waves

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MASERU – Mabele lumela! (greetings to sorghum!) That’s what Basotho often say before taking the first sip of sorghum beer.
In rural areas, where six in every ten Basotho live, it is usually served in a gourd (mohope), a hollowed out cup made from a calabash or gourd vine.

For centuries Basotho have imbibed drinks made from sorghum: Motoho (non-alcoholic) and Letsina (the intoxicating one).
When Basotho talked of refreshments they had those two drinks in mind.

Letsina was brewed for ritual and recreational purposes. In the beginning it was rarely sold, just a drink for friends to while away time.
With the passage of time though, Letsina money came into the picture. Still there wasn’t much to pay, just a few pennies as token to the brewer.

Today Letsina remains somewhat a semi-commercial beer brewed in the backyards and illegally sold in shebeens in town but openly traded in the rural areas.

It has however locally never made it to the shop shelves.
Of course that probably is because there is already the famous Chibuku, brewed by SAB Miller and its subsidiaries in Africa.
Yet despite being popular in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Chibuku has never really managed to gain currency in Lesotho.
Blame that on Letsina which has kept Chibuku out of the Lesotho market without even having a presence on the shelves.

Motoho however remained largely a home drink. You don’t walk to the next village to buy a cup of motoho. But in recent times some have tried to make motoho succeed where Letsina failed: bottling and selling it in shops.
’Mapaballo Kolobe, 68, is not the first Mosotho to brew motoho for business but she is one of the pioneers of bottling and supplying it in shops.

It’s not a fluke that Kolobe is well known as ’Mamotoho (Mother of Motoho).
Her Motoho oa ’Mankhonthe brand is on the shelves of many shops.
Interestingly, Motoho oa ’Mankhonthe is competing with Seqhaqhabola, a brand Kolobe started together with other women at a local support group.

The idea of selling motoho came after she joined a support group in Sea-Point, a Maseru City ghetto home to many shebeens that sell Letsina and other varieties of traditional brews.

She thought there was a way to get motoho to the people without following the shebeen model. So Seqhaqhabola was started by 14 women whose main motivation was not profit but to raise just enough to help the sick, pay medical bills and hold village meetings to talk about a healthy lifestyle.

“I just thought I like the idea because I knew how to make it and I’m the one who came with this idea,” Kolobe says.
“But as time went by, we did not agree on some issues with my group mates so I quit.”
“I still remember clearly that it was on February 1, 2006.”

“I started this business with my family only. My husband and my son helped a lot. In the beginning we were just using size 14 pots and pour the porridge in some three basins.” Kolobe says within a few months she hired two women to brew motoho while her husband and son packaged and delivered to shops.

She says at first she asked her friend who owns a coffee shop to include her motoho on the menu and within a short time the friend came back saying customers wanted more. “That meant I had to increase my production,” she says.
She stopped using a traditional grinding stone to make the flour after the friend told her that she had to supply much more than she had anticipated.

She made a special arrangement with a local milling company to make the flour.
Kolobe’s Motoho oa ’Mankhonthe now has 14 permanent employees.
“I cannot even be able to count the number of customers I have, every day in the morning countless number of people come and buy my stock,” she says.

“My business has grown so, much that out of it I can pay 14 people and I’m very happy for that because this reduces poverty and helps the poor,”

Kolobe says most of the workers are young men. One of the workers is an orphaned boy who is taking care of his siblings.
“Challenges are forever going along with business, so I’m ready to face challenges that my business will have,” Kolobe says.
She says one of the challenges is that there is no factory making bottles in the country and therefore she has to import bottles from South Africa at a great cost.

She also says although she grows sorghum in the country she still has to import some from South Africa.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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Short courses for ex-mineworkers

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THE Lesotho Diamond Academy has introduced mining short courses, particularly to ex-mineworkers, to help them re-enter the mining sector.
The Essential Introductory Courses, which will run for two weeks, will start from June this year. The courses are meant particularly for people who worked in mines in South Africa.

The Academy’s CEO, Relebohile Molefe, unveiled the new courses during the graduation of 18 students last week, four of whom are now armed with Cutting and Polishing certificates while 14 graduated with Rough Diamond Evaluation certificates.

The new courses include the Essential Certificate in Diamond Grading and the Essential Certificate in Diamond Evaluation.

“The decision to offer these courses aligns with the Academy’s dedication to bridge the gap and ensure that individuals with valuable experience can seamlessly reintegrate into the diamond and jewelry industry,” Molefe said.

“By providing short courses, the academy does not only impart essential skills but also contributes to the sector’s growth by reactivating experienced individuals who had lost access to the industry due to no formal documents showing their experience in the industry,’’ she said.

During the graduation celebration, Molefe also unveiled a new sponsorship programme for various courses.

One outstanding student previously sponsored, who demonstrated exceptional proficiency in Rough Diamond Evaluation, was granted a fully funded bursary to further his studies into Advanced Certificate in Round Diamond Brilliantering.

In pursuit of its multifaceted objectives, one of which is to serve as a catalyst for employers in the diamond and jewelry sector to devise skills development strategies, the Academy is set to sponsor four additional students in the upcoming intake starting from February 15.

Two of these bursaries will afford a 30 percent discount on overall fees for two students progressing from Cutting and Polishing to advanced studies in Rough Diamond Evaluation.

Two will be fully funded bursaries to study for a Certificate in Diamond Cutting and Polishing.

Additionally, the institution will extend two fully funded bursaries to the public, fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities.

The Academy says it plans to announce the search for two deserving Basotho individuals on its social media pages and website.

“Importantly, the bursary programme bears no age restrictions, reflecting a commitment to fairness and inclusiveness, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all, irrespective of age,” it says in a statement.

The Academy says it seeks “to be a dynamic force in shaping the industry, not just within national borders, but also on regional and international platforms”.

“The emphasis on competitiveness within these markets underscores the institution’s commitment to producing graduates who are not only proficient but also globally competitive,” the statement reads.

“The recent graduation ceremony symbolises a milestone in the Academy’s journey. The success of its students is a testament to the quality of education and the foresight embedded in the curriculum.”

The Academy says its decision to sponsor further education for outstanding performers reflects a belief in nurturing talent and contributing to the continuous improvement of the diamond industry.

The Lesotho Diamond Academy was founded by the late Mpalipali Molefe, a prominent educator, diamond trader and an MP, who recognised the imperative to elevate professionalism in the diamond industry.

Staff Reporter

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Bank hands over uniforms to students

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THE Lesotho Post Bank donated uniforms to students at Leqele High School worth a staggering M60 000 as part of its Back-To-School campaign.
The bank said it did this “to keep needy children in school and to promote their education”.

A teacher at the school, Tšepo Semethe, said the uniforms will likely motivate the students to work harder in their studies.

Semethe insisted on giving the bank the names of the students so that it could check their performance at the end of the year.

“At Leqele High School, we work very hard because what we want is excellence above all. To us, hard work pays,” he said.

The bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Molefi Khama, said they are getting old, they will soon retire and Lesotho Post Bank will be in the hands of these children.

He pleaded with the students to work harder.

“This is why we decided to come here to support the students in their education so that when coming to school, they should be confident,” Khama said.

“We are watching you and waiting on you,” he said.

The school’s head prefect, Tholoana Monatsi, said from now on, “no student will be identified by what they wear”.

“(Lesotho) Post Bank made us one and we thank them for that because what we wear cannot stand before our education. We indeed thank you and forever you will hold special places in our hearts,” she said.

A parent, ’Marorisang Latela, said they were very grateful for the gift from Lesotho Post Bank adding that they must also donate to other schools.

Minister of Trade, Mokethi Shelile, promised to go back to the school to discuss how the children could learn in comfortable surroundings.

Relebohile Tšepe

 

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Mamello School of Special Needs wins prize

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MAMELLO School of Special Needs is the first-place winner of Standard Lesotho Bank’s Scaled-Up Pitching Den held at Maseru Avani on Tuesday.
The school has secured a grand prize for an all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya to participate as a finalist representing Lesotho at the Standard Bank Africa Awards.

The school, pioneered in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic through Zoom classes, deals with children who live with conditions such as autism, attachment disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) dyslexia, Down syndrome and slow learners.


STKTM Solutions claimed the second-place spot, receiving a commendable M10 000, while Masia Farms secured third place and a M5 000 prize.


Pheello Masia of Masia Farms, thanked Standard Lesotho Bank for backing their vision and that of other Basotho entrepreneurs.


He acknowledged that the bank’s faith in their endeavours serves as a source of inspiration, propelling them to work harder and foster growth within the community.


The event, aimed at fortifying support and fostering regional integration for Basotho entrepreneurs across the African continent, showcased the bank’s commitment to driving the growth of Lesotho.


Malatola Phothane, Head of Enterprise Banking at Standard Lesotho Bank, set the tone in his welcoming remarks.


“As Standard Lesotho Bank, through business and commercial banking, we strive to turn possibilities into opportunities,” Phothane said.


“Lesotho is our home, and we drive her growth,” he said.


His words resonated with the bank’s dedication to nurturing local talent and fostering economic development.


Phothane acknowledged the eight finalists, commending them for their resilience and passion for their businesses.


He emphasised how each entrepreneur had stood their ground, displaying knowledge and unwavering commitment.


The recognition not only highlighted the achievements of the finalists but also underscored the bank’s role in recognising and uplifting the entrepreneurial spirit within the community.


Aliciah Motšoane, founder of Prestige Furnitures and Sentebale Gap Funeral Services, played a significant role at the event as a motivational speaker, sharing her entrepreneurial journey filled with challenges and triumphs.


She recounted her humble beginnings when she was selling bread in high school, leading to the establishment of Prestige Furnitures in 1998.


Despite facing a significant setback after her shop was burnt down during the riots and incurring a loss of M5 million, Motšoane never gave up.


She said business is always a demanding endeavour adding that it needs hard work and a unique mindset.


She urged entrepreneurs to embrace their roots, seek inspiration, and persevere through challenges.


The keynote speaker, the bank’s Head of Business and Commercial Clients, Keketso Makara, said the bank is committed to foster a thriving business environment, highlighting the pivotal role of youth collaboration across diverse economic sectors.


Makara said their mandate aims to empower youths in steering the private sector towards growth, contributing to economic diversification.


Makara urged the eight finalists to actively involve bankers in refining their proposals for maximum impact on economic stimulation and sustainable development.


The bank said the Scaled-Up Pitching Den not only served as a stage for entrepreneurs to present their ventures but also acted as a driving force for networking, collaboration, and collective empowerment.

Staff Reporter

 

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