The Moerane factor in Matekane’s success

The Moerane factor in Matekane’s success

When Sam Matekane, the chairperson of MGC, received an award known as the Forbes Best of Africa Award for 2021, nothing was said about the late Mofelehetsi Moerane’s local economic empowerment policies. It is important to get to know the man behind Matekane because the award is given to business personalities with a record of creating and building great global businesses that have made far-reaching contributions to the development of Africa. This week I want us to consider the Moerane factor in Matekane’s success.

In 2002, former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili appointed an illiterate man from Koro-Koro, Mofelehetsi Moerane, as Minister of Public Works and Transportation. When he was appointed in that ministry, South African companies were dominating the construction industry. Competition was very tough for the few Basotho who were trying to venture into this industry. These South African companies were winning every tender because Basotho companies could not match them when it came to expertise, experience and financial muscle. Most of the local companies had no strengthened capacities and were becoming more vulnerable to global interconnectedness and resulting competition.

Moerane was uncomfortable with the ministry giving all these big tenders to South African companies. One day he questioned these decisions in the management meeting and they told him that Basotho do not have the capacity to do these jobs. He then asked a very important question, “Can Basotho be given this capacity?” And the answer was yes.
Moerane then focused on identifying the local level crises and protecting the local level opportunities through local capacity building. South African companies had dominated and gained from our economy while local companies were the losers. He embarked on local economic empowerment programmes. He took it to cabinet and the local economic empowerment programme was accepted as a strategy to strengthen weaker local companies against South African companies.

A Mosotho man who had no formal education could understand that open and free trade markets have threatening consequences for smaller and economically vulnerable local companies absorbed into the globalised economic system. He introduced the local economic empowerment and implemented it. This was an offset against South African giants to create self-sustaining local companies with competitive advantages in the global system.

Today, the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) is able to compete for tenders outside Lesotho. Moerane created value for local businesses and did not even benefit from that. In today’s world people talk about quid pro quo. These days government tenders are awarded on modern philosophy of a “favour for a favour”, “give and take”, “tit for tat”, “you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours”, and “one hand washes the other”. But on the Friday when the late Moerane’s body arrived at his home, it will interest you to know that his coffin could not fit through the door. He died poor though he made so many rich.

Matekane started with Matekane Transport and Plant Hire. Moerane gave him an opportunity to create the most road-works with a single truck. Moerane gave him the capacity. Currently the company has become one of the most successful in Lesotho. His company now incorporates new sectors within the company which include MGC Properties, MGC Mining, MGC Aviation, MGC Farming and Mpilo Boutique Hotel. I have always wondered what motivated Moerane. I am sure today that doing good made him feel good. He was committed to doing his best. He economically empowered local businesses without expecting favours in return. His reward was knowing he did what was right. He treated others as he would want to be treated. His legacy lives through those he empowered.

The lesson we should learn from the late Moerane is that we should do the right thing for the right reasons. Do what you do because of why it matters or how it makes a difference. How often have you done something thinking you will get recognition and the recognition does not materialise? If you do what you do because it is the right thing to do, the reward or recognition may eventually come, but you definitely get the reward of knowing you did it for the right reason.
The government ministers can play a critical role in fostering local economic empowerment. Their role is to direct the government departments and agencies to focus on the problem local businesses encounter and develop effective policies.

Lesotho needs a minister who has a good understanding of what local economic empowerment is and how it can help local businesses. Ministers need to be deliberate about empowerment of their own people without expecting any favours. Our people will make mistakes in the process but we must always remember that we are building capacity.
Matekane was given an opportunity to construct the Lekhalaneng to Ha Pita road twice. His first efforts were terrible and within a short time the road was destroyed because it did not have sufficient water drainages. Today as you travel on the same road you will not believe that it was developed by the same company. It is great. Moerane was building capacity and his policy has been very effective.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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