Connect with us

Local News

Feeling sober again



THABA BOSIU – EACH of the testimonies from the 28 patients begins with a gospel hymn from the small crowd that has packed the hall at Blue Cross, Lesotho’s only drugs rehabilitation centre.  Khotso stands up to a song about resilience.
“We should never give up/ Never, never, never give up/ My brother, never give up/ My sister never give up/ We should never give up.”
Slowly he walks to the centre of the room, a cap in hand.

On the wall behind him is Manila paper poster that says ‘I am sober and I can feel it’.
Four relatives join him.  Khotso had always known from the day he entered the centre, three months ago, that he would have to stand before a crowd to tell his story. Yet when that moment arrived last Thursday he could not find the words. It seems even watching the other 20-something patients telling their stories over the past four hours has not helped calm his nerves.

As if sensing that he is drowning in emotions the crowd starts singing again. Tears are streaming down his cheeks as he tries to compose himself.
Eventually the crowd stops singing and Khotso takes one step forward to begin his testimony.

“I am confident that the future looks bright. I am leaving Blue Cross rehabilitation centre a better man,” he says to cheers.
“I came here a broken man. I have never seen people as good as those who have worked with me here during by struggle.”
He ends his testimony with a few words of gratitude to the relatives, staff at the centre and fellow patients.

The group of patients graduating today is a mishmash of the rich, the poor, the educated and the illiterate. Khotso is a well off and educated man. That much is clear from his designer jeans and shoes. An SUV will take him home at the end of the farewell party when other patients are crammed into a bus.

Yet what brought him here is the same thing that brought the other people: addiction.
For three months they were there battling addiction together.
They were sad when two fellow patients pulled out of the programme and one was expelled for theft.
All tell stories of how drugs almost ruined their lives, careers and families.

Today Khotso, 27, cannot finish his story because the organisers have said time is running out. thepost however started talking to him four weeks after he checked into the centre in September. Over hours of interviews he paints a picture of a man who grew up in a rich but broken family. His father, he says, was an alcoholic who abused his mother and crashed several family cars. When he was a teenager his parents divorced.

Khotso and his little sister moved in with their mother. “That was the beginning of my problem,” he says.  He was shipped off to a boarding school in South Africa where both father and mother pampered him with lots of pocket money.
By Grade 8 he was dabbling in alcohol and glue, a habit he says started because of peer pressure. Within a year he was smoking as much as 20 cigarettes a day.

“On weekends we would smoke all day long,” he recalls.
It took the school management three years to lose patience with him.
“They caught me drunk for the umpteenth time and kicked me out.”

He landed in a Christian boarding school famous for its ‘no nonsense’ attitude towards delinquency. His mother had been assured by relatives and friends that this was the school that would keep her son on the straight and narrow.
But within a few weeks Khotso had learned that where there is a will there is always a way. The school’s strict rules could be easily breached. With other boys they would sneak out to buy alcohol and drugs from a nearby township.

The trick, he says, was to come back before the morning roll call.
“But I was not that free to do as I pleased. There were rules that I could break here and there but still I was under some control that helped me slow down on drugs and alcohol,” he says.

That modicum of control ended when he enrolled at the University of Free State to study law. For the first time in his life Khotso was living alone and managing his own budget. A friend from Cape Town introduced him to cocaine.
“Within a few months I was hooked.” His mum, who had now moved back to Lesotho, was the source of the money.
He would manipulate her to give out more money. “Money was never really a problem for me.”

By the second year Khotso was missing classes and his grades were tumbling.
“By that time I was always high. I dropped out of university.”
Pleas to his mother earned him a second chance when she agreed to pay for his IT Diploma in Pretoria in 2012. He was now an addict who could do anything to get high.

“Beer would do the trick when I was low on cash but cocaine was what I really liked. It’s not a cheap ‘high’ because sometimes I would spend as much as M1 000 a day”. He however ‘staggered’ through the diploma and got a job but by the second month he was missing work and was fired.
“I was always too drunk to report for duty.”  Within three years he had lost three jobs.

“My use of drugs had escalated. I was using everything from dagga to cocaine. All I wanted to was to get high.”
As his career suffered so did his marriage which crumbled within a year. Khotso says after just a few counselling sessions at the centre he had realised how terribly he treated his wife and child.

He says as his addiction worsened he began to spend more money to support his drug habit instead of his family.
“I would beat my wife. By mid-2015 she had left with my child.”
It’s been more than a year since he spoke to her or saw their child. Still angry, the wife refuses to let him see his son.

He says although the separation made him realise that his life was a mess he did not think it was necessary to seek professional help.
“I thought I could just clean up myself and things would be fine. I thought I had the willpower to beat the addiction.”
The Damascene moment came in late 2016. After months of searching he had found what he describes as a dream job in Maseru. He had however barely settled in the job when he was fired after crashing a company vehicle. He was drunk.

Finally, he told his mother about his addiction.

“She took it badly because she thought I was becoming like my father who was a heavy drinker. To her it was as if I was following in his footsteps.”
“He was an abusive man who spent all his money on alcohol.”
What really triggered the decision to get help, though, was a conversation he had with his sister who is still in high school. She had flunked her examination for the third time when Khotso decided he could play a brother’s role to advise her.

What the sister said shocked him, he said. “She said she cannot concentrate because she is always worried about me. She said she worries that one day something terrible will happen when I am drunk.”

“I realised the extent to which my addiction had affected not only my wife and children but also the people who are my closest relatives.”
He told his mother that he wanted to go into rehab. She is the one who paid the fees and is the only relative who visits him. Three months on Khotso is packing his bag to leave the centre.

“I feel good,” he tells thepost as he pulls his bag to the car.
“I want to move back with my mum, get a job and maybe start a business.”

He doesn’t think the marriage can be saved but he thinks he can still have a chance to be a better father to his son.
“I know that it will not be easy. The temptation starts today because I will be helping with a catering contract at a local club. I have to be strong for the sake of my future.”

l Thabo, whose story was published last week, was expelled three weeks before the graduation for theft.

l The story is part of the Lesotho’s Drug Scourge series thepost will publish over the next few months.

Shakeman Mugari &
Rose Moremoholo

Continue Reading

Local News

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

Continue Reading

Local News

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

Continue Reading

Local News

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

Continue Reading