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A call to serve



Mohale’s Hoek – When Dr Pinkie Manamolela returned home from Zambia in 1993, she was to find a society ravaged by the HIV pandemic.
Lesotho was at the epicenter of an HIV crisis that saw at least one in every four people carrying the deadly virus, according to United Nations aid agencies.

And here she was, fresh from training in Zambia where she had qualified as a medical doctor, trying to take on and tame a major disease.
At a time when anti-retroviral medicines were not yet readily available, doctors were rendered almost impotent.

And so they would watch helplessly as their patients battled illness and eventually succumb to other opportunistic infections such as Tuberculosis.
The sheer pain of watching her patients die one by one proved too much for the young Dr Manomolela and her equally young husband, Dr Mohale Charles Makhube.


“We were losing patients, friends, relatives and colleagues. At one stage I was wondering whether I was not in the wrong place. We were fighting a losing battle and wanted to quit,” she says.
“I just couldn’t take it. People were dying like flies and we could not help them. It was so traumatic.”

A teary Dr Manamolela says she used to “cry a lot” when she felt she had hit a brick-wall in her efforts to help her community.
“I cried a number of times as we saw people being wiped out.”
“We felt that the government was not doing enough at that time to make a difference.”
She says her husband, a medical doctor in his own right, just could not stand the pain of seeing patients suffer and eventually die.
But thanks to some advances within the medical fraternity, effective medicines to keep HIV at bay were eventually developed.
The problem however was that such medicines were very expensive and proved beyond the reach of the common Mosotho at that time.
“It was something that we could not sustain or one could wipe away all the family’s resources.”

Eventually, ARVs became freely available in Lesotho, thanks to the combined efforts of international relief agencies and the government of Lesotho.
And what a roaring success story it has been over the years.
Dr Manamolela says there are many success stories that she remembers with a deep sense of satisfaction and fondness.
She cites the case of one young man who was carried on the back of his mother into her state-of-the-art clinic in Mohale’s Hoek. He was literally on his deathbed.

But thanks to ARV treatment, he was slowly nursed back to health and is now gainfully employed.
It is these success stories that have made Dr Manamolela stronger.
It was also those moving success stories that still provide the inspiration to drag herself out of bed every morning to go to work – to make a difference in people’s lives.
That is the fulfilment of a big dream that began when Dr Manamolela was barely in her teens.
When she fell sick with a terrible fever as a young girl in Qacha’s Nek in the early 1960s, she could not stop thanking the “white doctors” who had treated her and saved her life.

It was at that moment that a seed was planted – a seed that would germinate when she would enroll for a medical degree at the University of Zambia Medical School in Lusaka in 1984.
“By the time I was in Form One, I knew I wanted to study medicine.”
Dr Manamolela served as Minister of Health under Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in the first coalition government that ran from 2012 to 2015.
It was an experience that proved a key learning curve for her on how the government works.

While she says she generally enjoyed her stint as minister, she also came to appreciate how difficult it is to get things done quickly in such a large structure without antagonising colleagues.
“It was very good experience. But the bureaucracy was quite frustrating,” she says. “But I did my best under the circumstances.”

Barely a year into office, rumours began swirling that Dr Manamolela would be booted out of Cabinet. That took a toll on her health.
“There was so much negative energy that was being expended,” she says.
And so when Prime Minister Thabane exercised his prerogative not to reappoint her into Cabinet in 2017, Dr Manamolela says she was “so relieved, so happy”.
“I said, ‘it’s OK because there had been so much negativity.”

Two years down the line, Dr Manamolela feels her All Basotho Convention (ABC) party has drifted off the rails. The party, under Thabane, she argues, has “lost direction” and moved further away from its original ideals.
She says although she remains a full card-carrying member of the ABC she finds it difficult to defend some of the things the party has been up to.
Dr Manamolela was equally scathing over the recent Cabinet reshuffle that saw some party cadres being appointed as ministers.
Some analysts have said the reshuffle represented a mere change of chairs in a sinking Titanic.
“They are joining the same team that has lost direction,” she says.

She says the ABC was elected into office on the back of grandiose promises to improve the lives of the poor but had dismally failed to deliver.
“Where are the jobs that we promised our people? Where is the anti-corruption (unit) that my boss used to talk fondly about? What is the government doing about hunger? We are not happy with what is happening in the country.”

She feels the ABC, which is the biggest partner in the coalition government, needs an urgent recalibration if it is to deliver the jobs that it promised when it was elected into power in 2017.
This must be done urgently if we are to rescue Basotho from the clutches of incompetence and mis-governance, she says.

“A lot of businesses have collapsed. Businesses are not being paid. What type of government is that?”
She says in the event of a fresh election, she will have a torrid time convincing people to vote for the party. That is precisely because it would appear that we sold them a dummy last time out, she says.
“How do I go back to them and tell them the same story?”
“It looks like we lied to the people and we have not given them what we promised. I’m even ashamed and I look like a liar. We are done.”

Dr Manamolela says the manner in which the government handled the wool and mohair fiasco had seriously damaged the standing of the ABC in the eyes of voters.
“The other faction (Thabane camp) has not been loyal to the people.”
“We need to fix the ABC which is a powerful party.”
By fixing the ABC, Dr Manamolela seems to imply a major shake-up of those controlling the levers of power within the party.

It comes as no surprise when she reveals that she has thrown her weight behind Professor Nqosa Mahao who was elected ABC deputy leader at a stormy elective conference in February.
Thabane has however rejected Mahao’s election contemptuously dismissing the former National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor as a “Johnny-come-lately” who is out to hijack the party from its owners.
Mahao says that is nonsense arguing he won the elections for deputy leader fair and square in a transparent, democratic process.

Dr Manamolela insists that the ABC under Thabane has lost its soul.
But what would she tell Thabane if she had a chance to meet the Prime Minister on a one-to-one basis?
“I would open up and tell him that this is not the ABC that we formed. I would remind him why Mosisili (former Prime Minister Pakalitha) was kicked out of office.

“I would also remind him that the ABC was formed to fight hunger, create jobs and bring the nation together irrespective of education, religion or gender.”
She says she finds it difficult to come to terms with how Thabane has dealt with issues over the last two years.

Dr Manamolela says Thabane not only suffered but worked hard to make the ABC a strong brand.
“He would sleep here tonight and tomorrow he would be on the road. But it looks like he has now forgotten everything.”
As a mother of two grown-up children, Dr Manamolela admits that they were not always available when their children were growing up.

They were caught up in a tussle between the pressures of motherhood and pursuing a professional career.
“When they were growing up it was very hard. Sometimes we would just leave them in the house. Most of the times we were not with them, we were busy looking after other people’s children,” she says with a chuckle.

At a time when other doctors were moving out of Lesotho for greener pastures elsewhere, Dr Manamolela and her husband never thought of leaving.
“We remained here because we felt there was a huge need.”
And so when she served as minister, there was an aggressive push to get Basotho medical doctors in the diaspora to come back home. The programme had limited success.
“We told them that their country needed them and after a long time we had bana baBasotho coming back to serve their own people.”

Dr Manamolela speaks fondly of the immense role played by her maternal grandmother in shaping her formative years.
A successful businesswoman who ran a grocery shop and a small butchery in Qacha’s Nek, her grandmother, a very strict woman, planted the seed in young Manamolela to pursue her education.
“She wouldn’t allow me to have boyfriends and I was a very obedient girl who was also smart in school,” she says. “She was a very hard-working woman who loved education and she always told me to go to school.”

’Mamakhooa Rapolaki


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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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