MASERU – Having defied a debilitating motor neuron disease that left him unable to walk or talk without aid to emerge as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists in history, Stephen Hawking would later write: “Disability is not an obstacle to success.”
The wheelchair-bound British physicist, who died in 2018, was an outstanding achiever. But when he penned those words in the World Disability Report of 2011, he was not referring to himself alone but to all those that have refused to let mental or physical disability define who or what they are.
Or to bring it closer home, Hawking was talking about the likes of ’Matemo Kolo, the Harvest FM presenter who defied a congenital disability – in which she was born with only two fingers on each hand and shorter arms than normal – and is now regarded as a rising star of local broadcasting.
Growing up, her condition meant Kolo or Stymo, as she is popularly known, was the butt of cruel jokes at the school playground where other kids would often tease and mock her, likening her two fingers to the cloven hoof of a pig.
Her thumb-less hands mean Kolo cannot enjoy some of the simpler and yet immensely satisfying things of life such as clicking or snapping the fingers while dancing along to a good tune. Neither can she show affection to a loved one by holding them tight in a good old hug because her arms are not long enough to give the full embrace.
But you would be totally mistaken to think that you will ever find Kolo wallowing in self-pity because of her condition.
In words that should inspire anyone living with disability, Kolo told thepost in an interview this week that the secret to her success was the realisation that her happiness and progress in life did not require two able hands. It only required that she used the hands that God gave her well.
“The only thing that I cannot do is that which my arms cannot reach,” she says, confidently smiling.
To see what Kolo means come visit her at her house where you will find her cooking, washing and doing the other household chores just as any other able-bodied person would.
Or to get a clearer demonstration of the truth in the old adage, disability does not mean inability, come pay her a visit at the radio studios and see how confident and adept she is with the gadgetry, the computers and keyboards as she does her thing on air.
You might notice the notes she jotted down by hand and you could never tell the writer uses only two fingers with no thumb.
There is no need to belabour the point that Kolo has excelled on radio. She has gained popularity with her youth-focused show ‘Bacha ba matla’ (the power of youth) that is on streaming from 4pm to 6pm every Monday to Thursday.
She also presents the popular Retataise Moqhobi (Direct us Oh Driver) programme during weekdays from 10am to 11:55am. She also does ‘Lenaneo la Maqheku’ show for the elderly every Monday from 2pm to 2:55pm.
As the overused cliché goes; only the sky is the limit for the talented presenter.
But it was not always like this. Back in the village of Ha-Rakolo in Kolonyama, Leribe, where she was born and where other children used to liken her hands to pigs’ feet, Kolo says things were hard.
At the receiving end of all kinds of jokes because of her disability, this is how Kolo remembers her time in the village.
“In the community it was really hard because other children would laugh at me and tease me about my hands … I would get hurt and cry,” she says.
One particularly hurtful experience she still remembers to this day was when she and other children from her school were visiting another school in the area, St Monica’s Primary School.
Upon seeing her hands one of the older boys from St Monica’s called out to his friends to come and witness what he was seeing, a girl with a pair of strange and scary hands.
“He said come see how scary this girl’s hands are, they look like pig’s feet,” she says, recounting the old insult.
“That got to me really hard and I am never going to be able to forget it, even now,” she says, in tones that seem to suggest this is still very much a fresh wound.
Such bullying and abuse as Kolo experienced can do irreparable damage to a child’s sense of self-worthiness that they might never be able to recover from even in adulthood.
But Kolo was always a fighter and a survivor. The added advantage of a loving and supportive mother standing by her side all the time meant that all the abuse and other negative factors that could have done her serious psychological harm never had that much impact.
She was, after taking everything into account, a normal girl who like any other had dreams about the future. Hers was to become a traffic cop.
However, she would soon drop the idea, she says after, “I figured they use their hands a lot on the road, so I asked myself: how am I going to cope without hands?”
Asked how she ended up on radio, Kolo traces the beginnings of her love for the airwaves and television back in the years growing up watching Lesotho Television’s Motšeo programme that at the time was presented by Lucy Borotho.
She would imagine herself on screen imitating Borotho doing interviews with her schoolmates posing as the interviewees.
But the first real steps to becoming Stymo begin much later when she was already a Form C student at Abia Star English Medium school.
It all started with the youth show Bacha ba Matla, the one that she now presents. The show’s then presenter, Marake Lechesa aka ‘Cheeseman’, would invite some of his listeners to come to the studio where they would be a given a chance to go on air and imitate any presenter they liked.
After listening to someone accurately imitating some radio presenters, Kolo placed a call through to Lechesa asking to be also given an opportunity on air. Lechesa obliged.
“I got in the studio and I was given five minutes to do my thing, as I was presenting, I saw in Cheeseman’s eyes that I had what it took,” Kolo says.
“The listeners responded positively, and the radio dream started burning non-stop.”
But she was still in school and after enjoying her five minutes of fame it was soon time to go back to class to carry on with her Form D studies.
But the fires lit during that brief time on air would continue to burn. Kolo started to basically teach herself how to present radio shows, using one phone to record her “broadcasts” and the other to play music.
Her friends would once again step in as mock interviewees and listeners from whom she would pretend to take calls. She kept the recordings of her fake broadcasts.
On completing Form D, she headed for Harvest FM looking for an opportunity to work on radio. She took along her “treasure trove” of amateur recordings.
It’s not hard to see why the radio’s Managing Director, ’Malichaba Lekhoaba, asked her to come work with them during the December holidays. Such commitment as Kolo showed ought to be rewarded.
After the brief stint at the station she went back to school to do Form E after which she returned to the radio station again. But the Kolo who was returning this time was a woman on a mission.
This is how she puts it: “I told God that, I’m going to Harvest FM to take up my job. I went and I was told that the station is not doing well so they won’t be able to pay me, but I was given an opportunity”.
The station took her on but not on a fulltime basis. Kolo says she was getting paid M1 500 per month for her labours, which she says was enough to keep the proverbial wolf off the door.
However, after six months she got a pleasant surprise when she was offered a fulltime contract and as the old saying goes – the rest is history.
Kolo, who describes her boss, ’Mè ’Malichaba, as an inspiration and role model, attributes all she has achieved as a presenter so far to the support of her colleagues.
And her final word to young people, including the disabled like herself: “invite God in all you do, work hard with everything that you have in order to reach your destiny.”
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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