MASERU – “We need to deliver for all the people we represent. That includes those who won’t see the press conferences; who won’t read the newspapers; who don’t have a TV. We need to deliver real success for them — and that means delivering something which will improve their livelihoods.”
Those were the words of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevêdo while setting the stage at the 1oth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2015.
In a nutshell, Azevêdo’s statement aptly captures Nkopane Monyane’s true feelings towards service to his people.
Monyane recently completed his three-year mission as Lesotho’s Ambassador to Switzerland where he was also Lesotho’s permanent representative at the WTO, the United Nations and other international organisations.
For the three years since 2013 when King Letsie III commissioned him to Geneva, Monyane has been coordinator of the African Group Ambassadors in WTO and represented the continent.
“The assignment was very challenging, its scope was very broad,” Monyane says.
“We have country to country bilateral relations, all UN organisations and other international organisations in Geneva and you have the duty to represent your people in all of them,” he says.
“Geneva is where the UN work is done, where all the decisions are made. Geneva is a kitchen, New York is a dining room.”
There are over 26 UN offices in Geneva, some other international agencies and the most demanding is the WTO, he says.
The WTO “has a lot of bearing on our livelihood in Lesotho”.
For example, the collapse of factories in Lesotho in 2005 was the direct result of the decisions that were made at the WTO when it lifted quota and other trade barriers to the world’s big markets.
“On ascension of China to the WTO, one of the conditions was the lifting of quotas on garments and textiles, which became very abrasive to Lesotho’s competitiveness in the market, hence the closure of some firms leaving thousands of Basotho jobless,” he says.
“An ongoing call for duty free and quota free access to the international markets for the Least Developed Countries is not good for small countries like Lesotho and would be harmful to the African competitiveness and economic integration.”
Monyane says during his time in Geneva that call came to a stop because “as you can see we were merely fighting for Bangladesh to gain access to the US market at our own peril”.
“It is not a secret that America has issues with Bangladesh because of the poor labour practices in that country. So, the opening of markets for it like that would mean that we as Lesotho and many other small African countries would be squeezed out of the market,” he says.
Monyane says Bangladesh’s production capacity and its poor labour standards would be distortionary and “it is logical that we do not fight its wars to gain access to the markets at our peril”.
“It does not matter whether we have AGOA or not. The moment Bangladesh gains quota free and duty free access to the US markets we will be out of the market,” he says.
“If our ambassador in Geneva sleeps on duty, we will be out of the market.”
Well over 80 percent of Lesotho’s textile export is destined to the US market.
The textile sector is the second largest employer in Lesotho after the government, with close to 40 000 direct jobs.
Monyane says he has always been passionate about the development of Basotho as individuals and as a nation.
This was demonstrated when he was the CEO of Lesotho Bank, which is now in liquidation, between 1991 and 1999 when the government privatised the bank.
Monyane says he spearheaded the bank’s privatisation after realising that there was difficulty for the goverment to meet the “requisite shareholding ratio out of public funds”.
“It was necessary to privatise the bank, in fact I started the privatisation process but mine was intended to make the privatisation process end with the public in Lesotho having the majority of the shareholding,” he says.
“We were loking at issuing a stake to some of the global financial institutions so that the operations of the bank could be truly global and competitive.”
“Shareholding would be in the hands of the public, not the government. This was precisely why such a clause was inserted in the Lesotho Bank Amendment Order of April 1993.”
Monyane says the strategy was for the public to gradually replace the goverment as shareholders.
The bank was bought by Standard Bank in 1999, with that process concluded in the Vesting Act of 2000 (CHECK).
A non-existent business “Lesotho Bank” was surprisingly placed under liquidation in 2002, three years after it ceased to exist.
“Ask any accountant or any lawyer who is worth his salt what liquidation is. They will tell you that liquidation is a process whereby you turn assets of a business into cash so that you can pay creditors where the business is unable to pay creditors,” he says.
There must be existing creditors, the business, creditors and proof that the business is unable to pay. That process comes to an end with the liquidators paying those creditors who have proved their claims.
“The liquidation is a sham that was proved so in the High Court case of Monyane & three others vs Lesotho Bank in Liquidation.”
Monyane is a son of a Mokema farmer, Isaac Pholo Monyane, an agricultural demonstrator who originally came from Thabana-Morena in Mafeteng and later moved to Mokema.
At some point in 1961 to 1963 he was a teacher at Basutoland Training College in Morija.
“I was raised by the lowly and humble parents who did all they could to develop the people,” Monyane says, adding: “I think they have passed this mental attitude to me.”
Monyane was born in Roma in April 1951 to a family of financially struggling civil servants, the last among two brothers and two sisters.
“What I observed from that very early stage in my family was that my father was struggling to get us an education. Perhaps struggling is not the right word but I remember that he was working hard,” he says.
“He was moving around the country as a demonstrator and that made it diffuclt for us to progress in a particular school and we had to go to boarding schools.”
He says because of that all the siblings were in different schools in the country, depending on where the family was when the child was registered at a school.
After completing Standard Three, Monyane made a personal decision to go to a Catholic school, better known as a seminary, where the church would pay for his education.
“I knew that I would not pay fees and my decision was to relievemy father and I went to Samaria for primary school from Standard Four up to Standard Six,” he says.
When he was about to go to a secondary school at St Theresa’s, the Samaria principal saw through him that his aim was not to become a cleric and refused to sign papers for him.
After completing his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) from Sacred Heart High School in 1968, Monyane’s first job was at a factory that produced arguably all building materials in Maseru, Clifford & Fourie Manufacturers, where he was a clerk.
He worked there until March 1969 when he landed a job at the British Barclays Bank Dominion Colonial and Overseas (DCO) where he also worked as a clerk.
Monyane was one of the top two who had passed COSC and was seeking sponsorship to further his studies but without success.
He learnt later that some government officers who were working in the Department of Education that was organising scholarships were not processing his applications because of some agendas against his family.
He alleges that in April 1970 they unscrupulously parcelled him to Lusaka, Zambia, under false pretenses that they had secured a Zambian scholarship for him to study at the University of Zambia.
Not only was this false but “nobody was taking responsibility”.
A Mosotho student who was in Zambia helped him to register illegally at the Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce as if he was a Zambian citizen, studying accountancy, but his conscience troubled him and he came back home the following year.
“I was raised by parents who wouldn’t live a lie even under the hardest of circumstances.”
Once back in Lesotho, the government promised him a scholarship to go to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS), now NUL but that never materialised.
His pensioned father paid for him for the first year from farm earnings.
On the second semester, the varsity’s official managed to net him a scholarship from the Inter Africa University Fund.
He graduated with a major in Economics and Sociology.
On completion of his studies at UBLS in 1974, Monyane got a job at Lesotho Bank.
In 1976 he went to New York to study for a Masters in Banking at the Adelphi University.
Again, the government had promised him a scholarship and he had been told to go to New York only to find upon arrival that there was no scholarship for him.
He was preparing to come back home when Lesotho Bank offered to pay for his studies.
When he came back he worked at the bank until he became the Assistant Manager, third in the bank’s hierarchy in Maseru, and later ended up managing the northern districts.
He resigned from Lesotho Bank in 1985 when he became General Manager for the Lesotho Building Finance Corporation.
He left in 1990 when he became the General Manager at the Central Bank of Lesotho.
That ran from from early 1990 to July 1991 when the Lesotho Bank CEO died and Monyane was invited to take the position.
After the bank was privatised, Monyane’s contract was terminated and he joined the textile sector where he was involved in managing Lesotho’s largest knitwear firm, Precious Garments Company.
An addicted athlete, he has completed 17 successive 90 kilometre Comrade Marathons.
Monyane only started running at the age of 46.
In other sports, he captained junior football team at Sacred Heart and was for many years in the management of Matlama FC up to the level of president.
He was also in the management of Lesotho Lawn Tennis Association and lately a founding member and president of the People’s Runners Club.
Asked how he wants to be remembered 20 years from now, he says it does not really matter to him because he will be dead, but more seriously he says: “I hope that the Creator may say: ‘You have wronged and failed but I pardon you because of the impact you have left on others’”.
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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