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MASERU – AN explosive tape revealing details of what happened during a closed-door meeting between Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana and two prominent businessmen has exposed the rot in the mining sector.

The tape gives a clear picture of how connected people use influence peddling to get ahead in tender processes. It is a window of sorts into the intricate workings of Lesotho’s tender processes which have become patently corrupt.

The tape was recorded at a time when Thotanyana had instructed the Mining Board to start negotiating with Sputnik Limited over the sale of government’s 75 percent stake in Mothae.

The decision has since triggered an investigation by the police who suspect that the minister could have interests in Sputnik.

Trans Hex, the company that lost to Sputnik, seems to have accepted the resulebohang-phooko1lt but its proxies in Lesotho are fighting on.

One of those proxies is Mohapi Khofu who reported the alleged corruption to the police.

As Khofu explained in an interview with thepost, his relationship with Trans Hex was not at shareholder level. Instead, he says, he had negotiated with Trans Hex to be a contractor at Mothae.

He said when Trans Hex failed he talked to Thotanyana about what he called a ‘proposal’ for him to benefit in the Sputnik deal.

Also in that meeting was former Public Works principal secretary Lebohang Phooko. Phooko’s relationship with Trans Hex, he told thepost, “goes as far as the company asking him to fix a meeting” with Thotanyana.

The recording gives an impression of two businessmen demanding a piece of the pie. It starts with Khofu explaining briefly that they had come for the meeting they had talked about.

Thotanyana tries to explain what happened during the tender process.

“The truth of the matter is that a member of the Mining Board (Pusetso Borotho) committed a serious fraud,” the minister says.

“I am aware that the matter is before the police. He has manipulated the report and he is busy going around with a manipulated document, the manipulated results of the sitting (of the board) saying it is legitimate. I can show you the presentations….”

He is referring to Pusetso Borotho, a former member of the Mining Board who had accused the minister of tinkering with the board’s recommendation to ensure that Sputnik gets the deal ahead of Trans Hex.

Borotho has denied this allegation and instead accuses the minister of changing the Mining Board’s recommendations (see interview with Borotho on Page 6).

In response Khofu says he understands what the minister is saying so there is no need to discuss the companies’ presentations.

But Thotanyana insists on giving the background story before they get to the agenda of the meeting.

“This is because the complaint at the police says I changed the recommendations. I didn’t change any recommendations but made my decisions on the basis of the recommendations and…”

Khofu however shoots back: “I know the amendments. Don’t bother to explain the internal processes to me. I know them together with the amendments.”

It is then that the minister reveals that Tutuoane advised him to “make an offer” and “cooperate” with Khofu and his team.

Khofu however interrupted him.

“We can’t make the rule. We understand what is happening. We are aware that you put the things in the main (audio unclear) before the approval. We gave you the list in advance so that you can apply your mind on it, see where it fits.”

The list, seen by this paper, has 12 services Khofu and his team wanted to provide at Mothae.

It is includes supply of earthmoving equipment, drilling and blasting services, engineering consultancy and construction works. According to the list Khofu and his team also wanted to supply fuel, catering and cleaning services, security services and protective clothing.

But perhaps the biggest demand was for a 12.5 percent stake in Mothae and that Sputnik invests in Khofu’s mine.

Thotanyana however seems reluctant to discuss the list.

“When Borotho left the board, he told you that Trans Hex won. Borotho manipulated the documents. He manipulated the people, then went and said I didn’t want (Trans Hex) because Phooko is involved in it,” Thotanyana says.

Khofu however seems to push on.

“We now…we try to consolidate the acceptance of you into us and the results…we have put aside what Tutuoane (Acting Senior Assistant Police Commission Seabata Tutuoane) said (audio unclear). I was with Mokola (Police Minister Monyane Moleleki) last night and I gave him the structure (list) and said this is what we want to talk to Ntate Thotanyana about and see how we can have the stake.”

“We are not fighting against him, we are going to say Ntate Thotanyana we are your children and we are here…”

The confrontation

Thotanyana: What is important is not to say let sleeping dogs lie, you have to understand what is important is to have local content, Basotho should have opportunities. Ntate Moleleki came to me about that.

Khofu: We have agreed with those people about the list. We will tell him that we are from Ntate Thotanyana. At least he is with us.

Thotanyana: You have come to me here. I don’t want to give anybody an impression that you are holding me at gunpoint when you are not. There is no holding me at gunpoint. What is important is to ensure that Basotho will benefit.

Khofu: We wanted the Yellow Plant, 1, 2, 3 is a major. (He is referring to the first three items on the list which are earthmoving equipment, drilling and blasting and engineering services.)

The yellow plant

Thotanyana: You accept that you will not be alone in this.

Khofu: There are big components here. We want to achieve…(audio not clear) You have yellow plant yourself and you will probably…

Thotanyana: My machines will work somewhere else, not here.

Khofu: We can get Ntate Lebona’s machines…

Thotanyana: No, his machines are working somewhere else too.

Khofu: Alright, if we bring in our comrades with yellow plant, as we will be the main contractors…(audio unclear) Ntate Phooko will take number three as an engineer…

The tussle

Thotanyana: Let me go and when I come back we will continue with our meeting. These people you are talking about should be Basotho. These should be reserved for Basotho. For example, this of the yellow plant, could be provided by the Basotho who have come together….(audio not clear) however, let us not say you will be the ones on top. There are skills that are needed in this which you don’t have. Experience is also needed in this.

Khofu: That is what I have a problem with.

Thotanyana: It is Sputnik that is going to hire. There are two principles that should be followed ….(audio unclear). We have to create competition. Monopoly will not be tolerated here. I cannot say it will be you who will be on top. I can’t guarantee that you will be on top….(audio unclear)

Phooko comes in

Phooko: I understand you quite well. What makes me nervous is that this thing can go either way.

Thotanyana: Yes, we understand that Sputnik will not be obliged to work with you. They will not be legally obliged. Legally speaking, that is the case. However, as long as what you want to do is done industry wide, that is not the problem. For me I don’t think if we bring together business people that should be a problem. I don’t want to say it is going to happen only to say it did not succeed at the end. We can’t risk putting the wealth of this country in the hands of a few people. Ntate Phooko, you already have your company, Mafube Consulting Firm?

Phooko: As one with relevant skills there, I’m interested in getting Basotho to get opportunities.

Khofu: We say if we get number 1, 2, 3 we will ensure that the procurement in the mine benefits Basotho.

Thotanyana: This will require financing. It is not easy to get finance. Aren’t you a front of someone?

Khofu: No, we have someone with whom we are going 50/50.

Thotanyana: So, tell me what am I going to do?

The stake

Khofu: Stake in the mine. In Kao Basotho had 12 percent stake, I was told this by the leadership. Khasu transferred it back. Basotho will have to have the 12 percent in here too.

Thotanyana: In Kao, Basotho do not have a 12 percent stake. They had been given the shares before they could buy them properly. They still have to pay for them.

Khofu: There is need to invest in Pipe 200. It is included in the investment (audio unclear) Trans Hex people were interested. They were saying Mothae might be the big one. Can’t you propose that some of the structure from Mothae go to Pipe 200?

Thotanyana: Write a summary of about two pages on this so that when some investors come seeking an opportunity I can sell it to them.

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Lesotho’s own brandy



ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.

Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.

Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.

The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.

His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.

As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.

“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.

“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.

Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!

One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!

“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?

He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.

He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.

Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.

He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.

He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.

But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.

However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.

“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.

Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.

“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

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Ready-to-cook vegetables



ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

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