A call to serve

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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