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Abel Chapatarongo

MASERU – WHEN Dr Mohlalefi Sefika swapped the lecture theatre for business in 2002 he immediately realised that he had been hardly prepared for the challenges of running a successful business venture.

Armed with a PhD in Information Technology from the University of Illinois in the United States, Sefika had assumed the switch from the world of academia to business would be seamless.

It soon dawned on him that he was utterly wrong.
University education had not prepared him adequately to deal with the challenges of running a successful enterprise.

The chasm between what he thought he knew and how business operates was huge. He had to learn “on the run” to bridge that gap.
Sefika says immediately after setting up the business in 1998 he was soon to realise that he was “a computer scientist but not a businessman”.
“I was the technical guy with no business sense,” he says.
After setting up Computer Business Solutions (CBS) , Sefika and his partner, Lebina Ts’epe, had to learn how to drive the project forward while at the same time learning how business functions.

He says he had to learn how to manage people and at the same complying with Lesotho’s tax and labour laws.
That was no simple task, he says.
“I had to read and learn at the speed of light. I read a lot of books on business management,” he says.
Sefika says he will be forever grateful to two business management giants, Jack Welch and Jim Collins, for his “fast-track” education in business management.
Welch is the author of a celebrated book, Straight from the gut, while Collins penned the book, From Good to Great.

“These two business management books really changed my life. I realised there were gaps in my knowledge in the fields of business and managing people.”
Knowledge puffs up, says the Bible.
And it is not too often that you find individuals who have passed through the “cathedrals of knowledge” in universities acknowledging their inadequacies.
Yet, for Sefika, the realisation that he did not know it all, must have been a humbling experience.

Sefika says he realised that while “a PhD will make you a professional in a technical field, business was completely something else”.
The fact that you know how to make a plane doesn’t mean you will succeed in the airline business, he says.

Having realised there were things he did not know, Sefika says they tried to fill-in the gaps by recruiting the best brains available in IT and business, initially recruiting his former students.
They also sought to forge alliances with other people in business locally, regionally and internationally.
“We had to consult from the best through and through,” he says.
Even as they were trying to find their feet, Sefika says they had to battle against negative perceptions from the market.

“People did not think that someone with a PhD would go into business. The thinking was that we are not practical and down-to-earth,” he says.
He had to work hard to smash such negativity and win the people’s trust.
Sefika says when they set up the business in 1998, the IT sector in Lesotho was not a very active industry.

To compound the situation, the nascent IT sector was characterized by lack of trust with educated people trying to get into business.

Banks were also not prepared to extend lines of credit to emerging businesses.
Yet, in spite of all these challenges, Sefika says they were determined to “deliver software solutions that were appropriate for the Lesotho market”.
He says while there were some companies that were providing IT services, they realised such companies “were not developing software”.
“There was a market demand for software that was affordable and customised to the needs of customers.”

Having identified that niche market, Sefika and his partner swiftly moved in.
And for the past 18 years, CBS (Pty) Ltd has become a household name in the IT sector providing cutting edge solutions to business needs.
In the next five years, Sefika says they hope to reach new heights in service delivery and market coverage.

“New technologies such as cell phones are opening up unimagined channels for innovation. We want to continue to drive appropriate solutions for the Lesotho market.”
The country’s hostile terrain means there is room to explore new ventures such as tele-medicines and health management through cell phones.
“Too many applications that were considered impossible 10 years ago are now possible. There is a huge niche for Lesotho.”

With 18 years’ experience in business, Sefika tells young Basotho aspiring to get into business to dare to dream and not allow anything to stand in their way.
“It is not easy to succeed in business. There will be moments of self-doubt. But when you want to quit you should just keep punching harder.”
He says youths endevouring to get into business must also be prepared “to work extremely hard”.

“They should not be too afraid to fail. They should not listen to people who say they can’t do it. They should break the rules.”
That may sound maverick but it works, according to Sefika, as long as one’s business idea is really good and one is passionate about it.

“I would advise the youths to pick a really good idea that they are passionate about and go for it. The idea must differentiate you from your competitors. It must be distinct.”
He says even when he left the National University of Lesotho (NUL) to join his business fulltime in 2002, he had to deal with such negative individuals who tried to discourage him.
“They said I would come back and teach but that did not happen.”
Computer Business Solutions (Pty) Ltd currently has 48 full-time staff and eight temporary employees.

It is a large company by Lesotho standards.
The danger is that such big companies often become slow and unwieldly. Everyone could easily get lost somewhere in the maze of unaccountability.
With such a structure, how does Sefika make decisions?
He says while he believes in the wisdom of consultation, he prefers to take swift decisions to get things done.

“I seek advice from subject specialists, assess the quality of the advice and tests it. I believe in the motto: trust but verify. This means I do research where I am not satisfied.”
Yet even while he is consulting, Sefika says he does not “value decisions that are delayed too much because the value is often lost in the paralysis”.
With many young Basotho entering business, they have often complained they receive very little structural support from the government.

Their small businesses, battling to establish themselves, are often nudged out of the way by larger corporations. This reality has given rise to the call for a deliberate programme to empower locals in business through affirmative action.
But Sefika says he only supports affirmative action for Basotho businesses “only to the extent that it would help build local capacity and create a vibrant economy that would deliver jobs to the people”.

“In the IT industry when big projects are awarded to the total exclusion of locals, we would miss an opportunity for job creation and wealth creation for Basotho. They must be allowed to participate in the economy of their country.”

He however adds that any Basotho companies awarded contracts on the basis of affirmative action “must deliver quality and respect project conditions for timely delivery”.
Sefika admits that the crop of graduates from IT schools in Lesotho “are not industry ready” adding there is need to align the curriculum from such institutions to the needs of industry.
“We need closer collaboration between universities and industry to deliver students that are market ready. Universities must change and adapt to close that gap in a win-win situation.”
For Sefika, the IT field was not his first love. Medicine was.
Like every young Mosotho boy growing up in the early 1970’s, Sefika dream was to be a medical doctor.

“My intention was to be a medical practitioner but I realised that Biology was not suited for me because it required too much memorising and reading,” he says.
“I preferred problem-solving and decided to swing completely to Mathematics with a little bit of computer programming.”

Between 1985 and 1989, Sefika studied Mathematics at the NUL. But a year after he graduated from the NUL, he went to the University of Illinois in the United States where he studied Computer Science. He was admitted into the PhD programme at the university based on his strong passes at undergraduate level.
He says he went into IT which he saw “as a good, fashionable field which also had huge commercial prospects”.

He also obtained a Masters degree in Computer Science with the same university in the US.
Sefika completed his PhD in 1996.

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The beauty queen of Lesotho



MASERU – WHILE many children her age were still adapting to the early years of school after kindergarten, Reatile Molefe was already plotting her life goals. Barely 10-years-old, Molefe already knew exactly what she wanted to do in life.

“I was already geared towards being a model at that early age. I was already portraying fancy and modest moves linked to modelling,” said the beauty queen, now aged 22.

It didn’t take time for her mother to identify the potential and found a need to sharpen it further.

“My journey in beauty pageantry started at the age of eight in 2009. The reason my mom thought I should hop into pageantry was because I was active and smart. I also had role models from the industry by then. I mean, I had an ambition of every little girl’s dream of being a star or being dressed in cute ball gowns so I also had a strong desire to be like that,” she said.

“I started my cat walking lessons at Little Miss Lesotho Companies but didn’t win. Not winning gave me motivation to work more towards my craft, it pushed me into wanting more as I couldn’t settle for less,” she said.

Molefe now boasts of 14 tittles to her name. She has donned the beauty pageant crowns in all stages of her life.

“I was crowned Queen in my two previous schools. I was Miss New Millennium High School in 2012 and Miss Lesotho High School in 2017. The 14th title I scooped made me believe in myself even more as I got to gain experience competing with people from different countries,” said Molefe, who has also made a bold statement by competing at the international level.

Molefe attributes her prowess to her high levels of confidence.

“Pageants create a bonding experience where women lift each other up, but what gives me an upper hand is being comfortable, secure with myself and being me throughout,” said Molefe, adding that her favourite category during pageantry competitions is when models are asked to strut the ramp in evening wear.

“That’s when the audience and the judges get to see the creativity, the poise and eloquence of the queens,” said Molefe, who believes that the audience’s response can destroy or build a contestant’s confidence.

“The audience can play either of the two roles during a contest. They may make a positive impact on females taking part because they teach them how to be resilient thus prepare them for real world situations. On the other hand, the audience may also make a negative impact and lead to a whole host of mental issues among participants who may be worried about their image and appearance. This can lead to harmful side-effects,” stated Molefe.

Like other women in the modelling industry, Molefe has come across some challenges.

“An example is trying to get enough support from the general public on my first international contest,” she said.

Another was the cost of competing in beauty pageants as well as evolving body changes, she said.

“Being a beauty queen is not a walk in the park, especially when being judged by the community. And, yes, pageants do help women grow in confidence but without proper mental health support, they can also create insecurities. But through all the struggles, I am thankful to my family and friends. They are my biggest supporters. I may have gone through it all but their unbending support has kept me going,” she said.

Molefe says she considers being crowned second runner up in the Miss Culture International competition held in Johannesburg in 2021 as her most outstanding achievement. She was also crowned Miss Culture Lesotho in 2018.

“What was intriguing to me about this contest was the fact that I was the youngest among the contestants. It proved to be a learning experience for me and it deepened my knowledge about what the modelling world really entails.

“I never doubted myself but I thought I wouldn’t make it as I was the youngest. I got to compete with people of different races, which got me even more motivated. I learned a lot in participating in a multi-racial event,” she said.

Pageantry isn’t just about looks, according to Molefe.

“There is to more to it, like being able to embrace glamour. Beauty is subjective and it can be interpreted in different ways according to the perception of individual viewers. I consider being beautiful as an inside and out perception but the golden rule is to brim with confidence to make it in pageantry,” said Molefe, urging parents to enroll their children in pageantry schools at an early age “even as early as three-years-old”.

“This gives them ample time to develop because the young ones are able to easily learn from others to improve their skills and boost their self-confidence,” said Molefe, who dreams of a day when a beauty queen is considered a legendary woman in Lesotho.

One of her goals is to assist in educating the youth, especially young women, about menstrual health and other sexual and reproductive health issues.

Her target group is mainly girls that live in rural areas and small towns.

“Pageants promote goal setting, encourage us to value personal achievement and community involvement,” she said.

Calvin Motekase

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The stock-theft menace



MASERU – IF you recently enjoyed a nice beef stew at a restaurant in Lesotho there is a high possibility that the slaughtered cow might have been stolen from a farm in South Africa.

If you are in South Africa, it is equally possible that the cow was stolen from a cattle post in Mokhotlong or any other mountainous region of Lesotho.

That is because cross-border stock-theft is on the increase between the two countries. In fact, it has become a thorn in the flesh for farmers on both sides of the border.

Since 1990, 85 percent of livestock owners on the border villages of Lesotho have lost animals to thieves as compared with 49 percentage from non-border villages, according to a study published by Wilfrid Laurier University.

Earlier this month, this problem came into sharp focus when four Basotho men were picked up by the police in Thaba-Nchu in the Free State.

These men, aged between 24-51 years old, were travelling in a car bearing Lesotho number plates. They were transporting cattle that did not have documents.

The SAPS informed their counterparts in Lesotho who rushed to the place to repatriate the suspects.

Maseru Urban Commanding Officer Senior Superintendent Rantoane Motsoela said their investigations uncovered that the cattle crossed into South Africa at Ha Tsolo through the Mohokare River.

Then they were transported from the border into South Africa.

S/Supt Motsoela said they have found that the cattle already had tattoo marks from one farmer in Ficksburg.

But the suspects had no documents to prove that the animals belonged to them.

Both the cattle and the car are still in the hands of the SAPS while investigations are continuing.

S/Supt Motsoela said the suspects are assisting the police with investigations.

In another incident police recovered five cattle of a Mosotho man in Qwa-Qwa, still in the Free State Province.

These cattle were reported stolen in Tšehlanyane in Leribe at the beginning of this month.

Police under their sting operation “Zero Tolerance to Stock Theft” launched their investigations that led to the discovery of the cattle.

The Leribe District police commanding officer Senior Superintendent Samuel Thamae said they were able to recover the animals with the help of the community who tipped them off.

S/Supt Thamae said they stormed Qwa-Qwa with their counterparts in South Africa to identify the stolen animals.

After convincing the SAPS that the cattle belonged to the concerned farmer, they were released to him.

The Mokhotlong District Administrator (DA) Serame Linake says they have been battling cross border stock theft for years.

He says Basotho in Lesotho would go to South Africa to steal the animals that they sell back to South Africa in Vanderbijlparkl after getting fraudulent documents.

Linake says these animals, cattle and sheep, are sold at an auction in Vanderbijlpark.

He says the South Africans on the other hand sometimes also cross the border into Lesotho to steal the animals.

To fight this theft, they have formed good relations with the SAPS, chiefs and councillors.

Linake says when animals are stolen from South Africa into Lesotho, their counterparts simply inform them on this side so that they could waylay them.

“Stolen animals are strictly sold in Vanderbijlpark in South Africa,” he says.

He says in his district animals are not sold in the butcheries like is the case in Maseru and other lowlands districts.

Linake says they are now struggling to control theft that takes place between the northern district and Qwa-Qwa because the perpetrators are Basotho who have now migrated to South Africa.

He says these perpetrators have lived in Lesotho and know all the corridors that they could use to come and steal animals in Lesotho and go back to South Africa.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says stock-theft is a grave problem in the country.

He says they have formed a special team that is going to reinforce the team that is already dealing with stock-theft in the country.

When there is an alarm that some animals have been stolen, this new team is informed so that it can lend a helping hand.

S/Supt Mopeli says the theft happens within the country’s borders and between Lesotho and South Africa.

S/Supt Mopeli says they are managing to deal with the theft because they arrest the perpetrators and bring them before the courts of law.

He says the public should alert the police when they see animals being stolen so that they can be saved from the hands of thieves.

Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola says they have registered big successes in curbing cross-border theft especially after having a post in Mokota-Koti in Maputsoe.

He says they usually hold frequent patrols at the borders to fight this crime.

“We also hold frequent crossings with the South African army to share information regarding cross-border theft,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Lt Col Lekola says they sometimes use air patrols as another way to fight stock-theft.

He says they usually erect camps along the borders so that they can stop animals coming out of Lesotho or vice-versa.

“Last year we had a successful collaboration with South African soldiers where we patrolled the borders from Leribe to Mafeteng. The South African army was on their side and we were also on our side,” he says.

He says they were working together with the police and they reaped good results.

Lt Col Lekola says some herd boys report the theft of livestock long after first trying to track the animals themselves.

He says this gives the cattle rustlers a chance to hide.

He advised the farmers not to erect cattle posts near the borders because they are stolen easily.

“When the South Africans enter Lesotho borders to trace their stolen animals, they make the first encounter with the animals at the cattle posts and drive them away,” Lt Col Lekola says.

He appealled to farmers to work collaboratively with their herders to pay them their dues.

He says some farmers do not pay their herders and those herders usually bounce back to steal the animals in revenge.

“They enter the cattle posts easily because the dogs know them,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Because Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, stock-theft takes place easily between the two countries especially in the provinces of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

The porous borders make it easy for the movement of animals to take place between the two countries.

And the theft between these countries has been happening since time immemorial.

The cross-border menace continues to take place despite patrols that are organised by the security agencies from both countries.

A Transnational History of Stock Theft on the Lesotho–South Africa Border, Nineteenth Century to 1994 Journal states that stock theft has long been a problem along the Lesotho–South Africa border.

It says from Moshoeshoe I’s cattle-raiding in the nineteenth century through to the start of the democratic era in Lesotho (1993) and South Africa (1994), the idea that stock theft is both prevalent and an international problem has been generally accepted by all.

According to Farmer’s Weekly livestock theft has a much more detrimental effect on the economy than previously thought, and is becoming more violent.

It says organised livestock theft feeds into other more serious types of transnational organised crimes such as drug, weapons and human trafficking.

And ultimately this results in the creation of illicit financial flows.

Challenges to safety included no fencing along large stretches, and the lack of a suitable roads to enable South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to conduct border patrols effectively, Farmer’s Weekly says.

In a piece published in November on the International Security Studies (ISS) website, ISS Today, stock theft was on the rise in South Africa, with 29 672 cases recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the 2018/2019 financial year.

This represented an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year.

The ISS said the problem is exacerbated by porous and poorly secured borders, lack of capacity to monitor the border, and mountainous terrain that is difficult to police.

“Such challenges create opportunities and trafficking routes for criminal networks to smuggle livestock, drugs and, at times, firearms across the border.”

The ISS said the transnational livestock theft affects farmers revenue and adds to consumer costs.

It says thousands of animals are stolen and sold through the black market.

And this hurts the economy and goes even further to impact consumers, as these animals could have provided meat.

Majara Molupe

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Matekane to launch microchip project



MAPUTSOE – PRIME Minister Sam Matekane will this Sunday launch a new microchip project designed to combat the rampant stock-theft in Lesotho.

The launch will be held in Peka in Leribe.

Speaking at a rally for his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) in Maputsoe last weekend, Matekane said the government is weary of the rampant stock-theft that impoverished rural farmers in Lesotho for decades.

“When your livestock leaves your kraals your phones will alert you and your families,” Matekane said amid loud cheers.

He asked the people to go to Peka in great numbers to witness the launch and learn from the livestock microchipping experts how the project will work to combat stock-theft in the villages.

The project was first spearheaded by Thomas Thabane when he was the Home Affairs Minister in 2003.

That year, 120 rams were implanted with the microchip identification system in Masianokeng.

The rams belonged to a company called Mahloenyeng Trading Company (Pty) Ltd.

The then police boss, Jonas Malewa, had microchipped 64 horses at the Police Training College (PTC) a year earlier in a pilot project.

The Home Affairs Ministry had contracted a company called Primate Identity Technology ran by a Jewish man, Yehuda Danziger, to carry out the pilot project.

Danziger was also tasked with observing any side-effects the animals could have after the implantation of the microchip.

The government introduced the microchip implantation technology after realising that stock thieves would easily erase the branding and tattoo marks with red hot metal and acid.

The stock thieves also cut off stolen animals’ ears if they bore the owner’s identification marks.

Microchips are tiny electronic devices, about the size of a grain of rice, which could be stored in a capsule and implanted near the animal’s tail to make it easy to identify and trace lost or stolen animals.

The project however never picked up with successive government not showing any political will to carry it through.

Things are now set to change with Matekane launching the project this Sunday.

Tšepang Mapola & Alice Samuel

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