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Armed to the teeth

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…Controversial teacher takes gun to class…

MASERU – LIVESTOCK theft allegations, gun controversies, absenteeism and even handcuffed in school premises by the police: School teacher Matsoai Koneshe often finds himself in more trouble than the naughty students he teaches.

At school, Koneshe’s relations with his principal are strained over his “wayward” behaviour. The police are often after him and, in class he allegedly places a gun on the table while conducting lessons, leaving students in a state of shock.
Such a legend he is that his name made it all the way from a small village in Thaba-Tseka district to Parliament, where the Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa announced the teacher had been sacked.
Matsoai Koneshe is not your everyday teacher. His life story – and the allegations against him – sound like the work of a village thug. Yet, he takes it all in his stride.

“I am entitled to self-defence,” he said assertively when thepost asked him about the allegations that he has been dismissed because he carried a gun in class.
Koneshe said he carried the gun to protect himself after he was attacked by a sword-wielding villager last year (See related story below).
Asked why he took the gun to school, Koneshe said he felt unsafe because he reported his attempted murder by a villager to the police, the village chief and the district’s department of education “but no action was taken”.
While Koneshe was in hospital, the villager’s family was attacked by yet to be identified assailants resulting in the death of his father and brother.

On his part, Koneshe’s dismissal is one angle to a life of trouble.
Earlier he was beaten up by a mob and later by the police on suspicion that he had stolen some sheep and cattle. It was later established there was no evidence linking him to the theft – at least according to Koneshe.
“They searched among my flock of sheep and they could not find even a single stolen sheep. Even those that I had slaughtered were inspected and all of them bore my marks,” he said.
The complainant for the stolen cattle was the constituency MP, Moakhi Nto.

Another accusation then was that the teacher possessed an unlicensed gun. He said he did not possess any gun at the time and the case was part of a plot to taint him.
The police allegedly tortured him until one officer advised him, when they were alone, to confess and call someone in his village with a gun to surrender the firearm to the village chief on the pretext that it belonged to Koneshe.
The local chief would later hand the gun to the police.
“I did this only because the police officer told me it was a matter of life and death. When the gun was handed in it could not be used against me because the owner of the gun was known and that the same gun was not found in my possession,” he said.

“I was released that same day but under a lot of pain,” he said.
“I learned later that the plan to call police on me was the principal’s plan to have me charged so that I could have a criminal record, which would make it easy to fire me.”
The principal, Makhaola, dismissed the allegations. Makhaola said Konashe claimed his life was in danger and should be allowed to carry his licensed gun to school.
“He was then given a blessing by the chief to do so,” Makhaola said.

Makhaola said Koneshe indeed came with a gun to school on a daily basis but only stopped after a teachers’ strike that took place earlier this year.
He said in 2016 police were investigating Koneshe on suspicions of stealing livestock.
“On several occasions he was handcuffed in the school yard.”
Makhaola said it is false that he was conspiring to kill Koneshe.
“The owner of the flock’s son ambushed him on his way from school and he sustained severe injuries,” said Makhaola.
But Koneshe insisted the headmaster was after him.

“I identified him (the attacker) and realised it was the same person who was at the principal’s office earlier that day. He had gone to fetch the sword that every staff member knew belonged to the principal as it was always in his office,” Koneshe said.
“I identified the sword and the attacker,” Koneshe said. “It is the sword that used to be in the principal’s office,” he told thepost.

Makhaola dismissed the claims by Koneshe that the weapon originated from his office.
He said Koneshe’s attacker had earlier visited the principal’s office to drop off some money for his sister.
“I suspect he came to inspect if Koneshe was at school or not that day. After he gave me that M100 he left,” he said.
Makhaola said the school board would not allow Koneshe to keep a weapon in his office.
He said because of Koneshe’s “criminal activities” they ended up with conflicts after he tried to talk the teacher into changing his lifestyle.

“He does not like the fact that I condemn his mistakes. Relations are ruined between us,” he said.
’Mamphutlane Lebina, a parent and a board member at the school, said relations between the principal and teachers “are generally not good”.
Lebina said Koneshe and Makhaola’s relations have been strained “for quite some time”.
“Their relationship has affected the running of the school tremendously. The school results are at their worst right now because there is an internal fight that doesn’t seem to end,” Lebina said.
Lebina said she knows of the gun that Koneshe carries.

She said the principal reported that Koneshe carried a gun to school and that he has been missing school a lot.
Lebina said students were shocked when Koneshe brought his gun to school.
“They told us that he sometimes places it on his desk while teaching,” she said.
Chairman of the school board, Ntja Molatuoa, said he was told that Koneshe was carrying the weapon to school to protect himself.

“I was told the gun is even licensed but I didn’t know he puts it on the table sometimes,” Molatuoa said.
He said Koneshe’s frequent run-ins with the police are tarnishing the image of the school.
However, Koneshe has his own sympathisers, not least the local chief.
The village chief, Machabe Lintlhokoane, said Koneshe had told him his life was at stake.
Chief Lintlhokoane said Koneshe was attacked with a sword and therefore should be allowed to go to school with his firearm.

“He said he reported to both the police and Ministry of Education about the issue,” the Chief said.
Chief Lintlhokoane confirmed that Koneshe has been on the police radar.
He said he also heard that teachers have seen the sword in Makhaola’s office.
Professor Rapapa told Parliament last week that he was aware of the misconduct by Koneshe and the ministry, together with the police and school management, tried to normalise the situation at the school.
Professor Rapapa addressed the issue after an MP asked him how soon the situation at the school would be brought back to normal.

“It is not acceptable that during board sittings a teacher places a gun on the table,” Professor Rapapa said.
“The police were also involved together with the board and the teacher was dismissed,” he said.
Yet, even in the so-called dismissal, Koneshe remains controversial.
While the minister says Koneshe has been dismissed, school board members and the principal insist he is still at work saying they had not been informed of the dismissal.

Rose Moremoholo & Nkheli Liphoto

 

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Lesotho’s own brandy

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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.”

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Ready-to-cook vegetables

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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

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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?
Nope!

“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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