Maseru – The Lesotho rugby team enjoyed a successful year in 2016. Likatola, as the side is known, won two international matches on foreign soil and they are set to make further history by playing two Test matches in Asia next year.
It is all part of the rapid rise local rugby has revelled in since the Federation of Lesotho Rugby (FLR) was formed in 2012.
Not resting on its laurels, FLR is hard at work to ensure rugby becomes a mainstream sport in Lesotho despite the challenges the association faces.
This week thepost sat down with FLR president Fetang Selialia to reflect on Lesotho rugby’s encouraging successes and its prospects going forward.
thepost: Lesotho rugby has flourished since FLR was formed in 2012. What has been the secret to your success?
Selialia: We worked together as the members of the (FLR) executive. When we started we had a guy from the United Kingdom, Dan Aylward. He was our first (FLR) president. He was more focused on development. However, other members thought it was better to work on the national team because we thought if the national team is doing well it will attract people, and we did it.
It is through the national team that people started to have an interest and then we started having people come in.
What are your short-term and long-term targets as FLR?
We want to have facilities; we need rugby facilities. We are playing rugby at football grounds and the main thing is to get a rugby ground, a field that only belongs to rugby so that we can take care of the turf the way we want to. You will be aware that our soccer clubs destroy the grass on pitches; we want a specific ground that belongs to us.
Right now we have a sort of agreement with Maseru City Council regarding the ground in Katlehong. What we are doing now is to source some funds and when we get funds then we will make it our own ground, what we can call a National Rugby Centre.
Our plan is to have offices, a club house, spectator stands, change rooms and floodlights so that people can train at night or even play if need to be. It is our long-term goal but it is achievable within a short time, as long as there is money.
In terms of teams we have a lot of high school teams playing in the league. We want them, especially schools like Lesia (High School) that are remote, we want to help such schools establish senior teams.
The challenge is who do we send there to help them? We need a lot of rugby clubs and we need to create them around those high schools. That’s our plan. If you look at our clubs, most of them are built around high schools. Another thing is to hold rugby courses; we did Level 1 (coaching course) now, (and) we are still looking for someone to do Level 2 so that our coaches can be qualified.
One negative this year was the dispute with Giants Rugby in February. What happened? What is the latest between FLR and Giants Rugby?
There was a press release and they thought our league was not up to scratch according to their standards and as the management we had to take action. There had to be repercussions. You cannot, as a club, tell us, ‘I want to go because your things are not up to standard’.
You are insulting us, and we had to take action and we did that.
(Giants) is a club, they wanted to behave like a union. They wanted to control us and we had to show them that we are in charge, that we can survive without them. They thought because they were making up the bulk of the national team (at the time) they could hold us at ransom and we showed them we can do well without them.
We went to Malawi without them and we won. We went to Rwanda, we won. Not that we no longer need them, we still do. We gave them a two-year ban and maybe if they can make certain structural changes within their club we will accept them back because there were certain characters that were using the club, manipulating the players.
The status now is they have been put out for two years but they haven’t served even a year. They still do come and talk to us in passing as individuals but they have to apologise as a club (because) they failed us. They failed us by withdrawing from our league. They disrespected us and we punished them. Now they want to come back but they are unable to apologise.
King Letsie III recently said he wants to see Lesotho compete in the Rugby Sevens at the Olympics in future. Is this possible? What has to happen for this to become a reality?
First of all, rugby unlike other sports is governed by a regime called Rugby Africa. It has categories, first division and second division. First division has three categories and so far they still rate us in the second division.
But we want to play with the big boys. The first step is to make it to the first division not with the 7’s team but with our 15’s team. It has to perform well so that we can get into the league. If we are there then we have a chance. It would be a matter of getting a good coach and other things. We need to be in Rugby Africa’s first division and then we can compete with the big boys. We need expertise in terms of coaching because most of our coaches are not rugby 7’s coaches. What is FLR doing to boost grassroots development of the game?
We are doing coaching at schools especially here in Maseru. It’s true we have not reached all of them because coaches need to be paid. We did the same in Teyateyaneng. We still need to go back and see how they are doing and hold tournaments for them.
We have also been to Leribe around town and also in Quthing and we still need to do it again in Mohale’s Hoek. Now it is a little bit difficult because we were using our own cars, and even this association’s car is not in good condition. These are some of the challenges we are facing. What we need now is a car for development. We really need a vehicle; we need to move, to transport the coaches and so on.
Rugby is growing but still lags behind football and athletics, for example, in terms of popularity. Do you feel rugby can become a mainstream sport in Lesotho? And, why?
It has potential to grow. You are comparing us with sports that have been around for a very long time but we only started in 2012. We only have four years and if you are comparing us with such sporting codes it means we are doing something right; there is somewhere we are going.
Let’s start with our national rugby team Likatola. As much as rugby is not yet popular, but believe me, people know Likatola. They know it is the national rugby team. The fact they know the Likatola brand from Qacha’s Nek to Mokhotlong means people have interest.
Are you satisfied with support for rugby in terms of sponsorship from the business sector? What are you doing to attract sponsors?
I will never be happy until we find a ground; I think it will help us. The sponsorship is coming but there is still a challenge that our big league, the Lesotho Rugby Championship, does not have a sponsor. It means I am not happy. But in terms of development Econet (Lesotho) is doing really well. Even Likatola gets sponsors every time there is a game, but it can never be enough. We want to reach a level where our players can enjoy the freedom that they are playing rugby and earning something. Right now we are volunteering.
When we go to international games we don’t get anything, just pocket money for the players. To take rugby players to another country is very expensive, unlike athletics where you may send two or three athletes. We need help because for us to reach the top we have to play against the best. But we thank the government of Lesotho and Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC). Mainly because of the government we are now being recognised internationally.
What are your overall thoughts on rugby in 2016? What do you make of the year you have had?
It has its highs and lows. The lows were Giants Rugby leaving our league. Some people think we were happy but no, it hurt us badly. But leaders make decisions. As the association you cannot be controlled by a club. It is a lesson for the clubs, when they have a problem with the association they need come and sit down and talk.
Giants Rugby wrote a letter which was diminishing, disrespecting the association and took it to the media to tarnish our reputation. They were acting like victims but we are the victims. Another disappointment was we did not get a sponsor for our league. We could really do with sponsorship.
The highs were the successful campaign in the phase one; we are now in phase two. We have a very good high school league of which the finals are going to be played soon. We had two away international wins in Rwanda and Malawi, those are the best moments. I really enjoyed winning in a foreign country. It is not something which is common here (in Lesotho). We have made history in our four years, the nation was happy.
What can rugby fans look forward to in 2017?
We are going to Asia. The dream is China, Indonesia and the Philippines. We are not saying we want to play them all because we have financial problems, but any of those. This time around we are going abroad; we want to conquer beyond Africa, that is the plan. As for Giants, you never know, we might have them back, if they do right by asking for forgiveness.
Personally, I still want them to come back but we want them to get rid of certain characters in their team. If not, it’s going to be really difficult.
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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