POLICE on Tuesday morning raided the home of a Maseru businesswoman, a day after she applied for a High Court order to block the police from awarding a multimillion maloti uniform contract.
Leonia Mosothoane woke up on Tuesday to find her home in Lithabaneng surrounded by armed police officers. Her security guard told her the police had arrived at the house around 3am.
The previous day her company Smally Trading Company (Pty) Ltd had sued to block the police from awarding two uniform tenders worth M7 million to two companies Mosothoane claims are not qualified.
The contracts are for police shirts, jerseys, suits, boots, badges and caps. They were awarded to Cubana Shells Holdings and Naledi Outdoor Advertising, companies also cited in Smally Trading’s lawsuit.
In court papers Mosothoane says Cubana Shells Holdings is not legally registered and Naledi Outdoor Advertising does not have the experience in textile as required by the police’s tender documents.
The companies were awarded the contracts through selective tender on March 18 after the police abruptly cancelled the initial open tender.
Mosothoane told thepostthe policemen who came to her house said they had received a tipoff that she had uniforms and guns. She claimed the police had threatened to shoot her security guard if he refused to open the gate.
The police, she said, then rummaged through her house and took uniforms from her bedroom.
Smally Trading won the previous tender to supply police uniform in 2008.
Mosothoane said from the house the police went to a shipment container in the yard. “When my husband said he did not have the keys to the container the police used a cutting torch to open it,” Mosothoane said.
thepost witnessed the police opening the container which had building materials.
Before the search Mosothoane had told the police she could not allow them into the house unless they produce the warrant.
“But one senior officer said because of his rank he did not need a search warrant.”
As an argument ensued Mosothoane told the officers she needed someone to be present during the search because she was not sure of their intentions. She called her brother, a former soldier.
Mosothoane said she believed the raid was an intimidation tactic to stop her from fighting the police over the tender she alleged was awarded “unlawfully and corruptly”. “I am not going to back down on this one. On this one I will fight,” she said.
“I am tired of people playing tricks with tenders. It is not right that tenders are awarded to politically connected companies that are not qualified.”
“I think this is their way of telling me to shut up”.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Clifford Molefe confirmed the raid but said it had nothing to do with the court case. “We went to her home to raid because we had received a tip off that there were weapons at her home. It was also alleged that she had kept police uniform in her house unlawfully,” Molefe said.
“Yes, we received the court order but a long time after we started our operation at her house. We started the raid at around 5 a.m. and we were served with the court order towards 9 o’clock in the morning.”
“Put in mind that the issue of our investigating a crime at the lady’s house and the case involving the police uniform tender are two separate things. They are not related at all.”
No law bars the police from investigating a criminal case against anybody who has a civil case against them, Molefe said.
In papers filed on Monday Mosothoane wanted a High Court order interdicting the police and the Ministry of Police and Public Safety from releasing monies to Cubana Shells Holdings and Naledi Outdoor Advertising.
She claims Cubana Shells Holdings is owned by one Lekhotla Mats’aba whom she alleges has political links with one of the ruling parties.
She wants the awarding of the tender declared null and void “for non-compliance with the Public Procurement Act”.
She also wants the police to reinstate the tender to the submission stage and the Registrar of Companies to issue a report explaining the status of Cubana Shells Holdings. In October 2015 the Ministry of Police invited tenders for the police uniforms.
The mandatory requirement and evaluation criterion was that “suppliers must submit performance appraisal from the previous supply not preceding two (2) years.”
It said previous performance with other government ministry will carry 60 percent of the score.
Mosothoane says on November 13, the due date for the submission, an official by the name of Seamatha informed the bidders that they should not submit their tender documents because there were some mistakes in the specifications.
She claims in December she met a lady who was also bidding for the same contracts who told her that that the uniform tender was no longer preceding.
A while later she met Seamatha who told her that the allegation that the tender had been cancelled were false.
In January Mosothoane saw a newspaper advert announcing the cancellation of the tender. On January 27 she wrote to the procurement manager of the Ministry of Police asking why the tender had been cancelled.
The manager responded on February 5, telling her the tender had been cancelled for security reasons. Mosothoane responded with another letter on February 19 further querying the security reasons the manager had stated.
She says on April 7 she met Deputy Principal Secretary Senti who is the also Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police.
Also in the meeting were Research Officer Shata Mothae and Senior Procurement Officer Nyatso Maleke, Mosothoane says.
Senti told her that the contracts had been awarded through selective tender, all procedures had been followed and the contracts have been signed.
“I should say, he (Senti) never gave me reasons for the withdrawal of the said Tender as he kept saying he will not for security reasons.”
She says she told Senti of a rumour that the tender was going to be awarded to some people “who are politically affiliated to one of the ruling parties”.
She alleges Senti said she should withdraw the statement because it was a serious allegation. Mosothoane agreed to withdraw the statement but said it must be reflected in the meeting’s minutes.
She says after the meeting shedid her own investigations to find out who had been given the contracts. She discovered that a M3 342 302 contract for boots and badges had been awarded Cubana Shells.
She claims that at the Ministry of Trade she discovered that Mats’aba had tried to register Cubana Shells as a Sole Trader on March 21, some four days after the contract had been awarded.
She says Cubana was “not fully registered and is still pending up to now”.
Mosothoane claims after failing to register Cubana Shells as a Sole Trader Mats’aba tried to register Cubana Shells Holdings on April 5 but did not complete the process.
“Further investigations revealed that indeed the said Respondents (Cubana Shells and Mats’aba) had strong affiliations with one of the ruling parties”.
This, she alleges, means that the tender was awarded to an unregistered entity (and/or to a person who had not provided financial or bank statement to ascertain his suitability for conducting such a big job for the government of Lesotho”.
“Most importantly I have learnt that the said purported company and or people have not furnished any samples for what they are going to supply the Ministry.”
She says she discovered that Naleli Outdoor Advertising, registered in 2013, had been awarded a M3 657 450 contract to supply police suits.
Her investigation, she says, revealed that the company had nothing to do with protective clothing and textiles. Instead she found out that a day before getting the contract Naleli Outdoor Advertising had amended its main objectives to including textile clothing and footwear.
“In the same vein the police uniform tender worth huge sums of money was awarded to a company and/or person who has never had any ‘performance with other ministries’ especially in line of the supply of textiles, let alone the supply of protective clothing”.
Naleli Outdoor Advertising had neither the performance appraisal nor the samples, Mosothoane says.
Mosothoane implores the court to hear the case urgently because she says she has learnt that the Ministry of Police is “moving swiftly in order” conclude the transaction.
She says she want the court to stop “this illicit corruption and show that this country (is) under the Rule of Law”.
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.”
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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!
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
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