August 29, 2014 – The then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fires Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli from the command of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
August 30, 2014 – Under Kamoli’s command, the army attacks police stations and the State House. Thabane, who claims the attack was an attempted coup, flees the country.
September 2014 – The home of new LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao is attacked; three of his cars were riddled with bullets
September 2014 – SADC envoy Cyril Ramaphosa sends Kamoli, Mahao, and the police boss Khothatso Tšooana outside the country as he tries to resolve Lesotho’s security crisis.
December 2014 – The media reports that Kamoli was still held up in South Africa
March 2015 – Kamoli returns home from South Africa, before Mahao and Tšooana, after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili wins the general election, ousting Thabane from power
May 2015: Thabane, the Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ’Maseribane and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s Keketso Rantšo skip the country saying their lives were in danger.
June 2015: Prime Minister Mosisili reinstates Kamoli to his position as LDF commander but backdates it to August 29, 2014 when Thabane fired him.
June 25, 2015: Mahao is killed; the LDF says he died during an operation to arrest him to answer charges of mutiny
September 2015: SADC Commission of Inquiry investigating Mahao’s death invites Kamoli and other senior army officers to testify but they refuse to say anything related to Mahao’s death arguing they did not wish to implicate any soldiers who were on that operation
October 2015: SADC Commission chairman, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, recommends that Kamoli should be fired and that all soldiers implicated in criminal activities should be investigated and prosecuted.
November 2015 – November 2016: International pressure piles on Mosisili to fire Kamoli whom he describes as “a loyal and competent soldier”.
February 2016: Prime Minister Mosisili tells Parliament the government is negotiating a smooth exit for Kamoli
November 2016: The government announces it has concluded exit talks with Kamoli and that the LDF commander will leave office on December 1.
THE outgoing army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli is a man of few words.
In fact he has never granted a detailed interview to any newspaper.
Even after the stormy events of August 2014 — with international and local pressure mounting — he remained mum, leaving the rumourmill to go into overdrive.
But when he walked into the Phumaphi Commission in September last year, the general had little room to manoeuvre.
No longer would he just refuse to comment issues.
And even when he tried to retreat into his shell the commissioners kept probing.
The results were somewhat measured but equally illuminating statements about what happened during his dismissal, his relationship with former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and why he refused to go.
As he prepares to leave office we remind you of some of the things he told the commission:
Did he refuse to leave office?
Your Lordship, I never received any document.
In legal terms, it is called the show-cause notice, showing cause why my principal felt I was no longer suitable for the position.
I did not receive that.
Apart from that, I never received an instrument operationalising the legal notice seeking to remove me, as I did receive when I was appointed commander.
I heard here and there, this issue of Lt Gen Kamoli refusing to vacate office.
The fact that I had not reached my compulsory retirement age, one would think if one is removed from office, one would receive, in the first place, a show-cause notice why one should vacate office, and a letter thereof to operationalise the legal notice.
Did he see the gazette announcing his removal?
Yes, I did see it (gazette announcing his removal) at a later stage.
But still, the instrument that operationalised that gazette did not come to me.
In that case, I had no document to approach the court with if I had issues about being removed or expelled from office.
Things were happening very fast during those days.
And when this information came, it was on a Saturday when the courts were closed.
Then because there was a SADC Facilitation Mission already on the ground, we had various meetings with them, resulting in the Maseru Security Accord (MSA), through which security leaders were sent on leave-of-absence outside the country.
What happened on August 30, 2014 regarding his dismissal?
My Lordship, sometime after midday on 30 August (a Saturday), there was a delegation of the SADC Organ comprising mainly of South Africans.
They called saying they wanted to see me. I said yes, come and see me.
They came to my office and found me. They told me that my Prime Minister then, had left the country saying I was toppling the government.
I asked which Prime Minister were they talking about because behind my desk in my office, there were still three portraits there: those of the King, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and myself.
I asked them, do you know him?
They said yes.
I asked them again, who is this person in the photo on the wall behind me?
They said Dr Thabane. Then I said, he’s still in charge.
They then went their way and I had my lunch.
Then when I was still having lunch, my military assistant told me they had heard over one of the radio stations, one man who is confusing this country, saying that I was no more the commander.
It was on a Saturday.
Then after the meal, one of the visitors who had come earlier and I had exchanged numbers with, called to tell me she had also heard over the radio that I had been removed from office.
I said yes, you are the second person to give me this information.
Then she asked, what are you going to do? I then I asked her, what if it were you?
In actual fact, in South Africa, how are people removed from office, over radios?
Then she said no and I said OK.
Did he disobey the King?
My Lord, there’s also this issue, of Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli disobeying the orders of the Commander-in-Chief (His Majesty King Letsie III).
I think I should give some clarity on that issue.
In 2014, I was directly answerable to the Minister of Defence, Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, the then prime minister.
The issue that I refused to obey the orders of the Commander-in-Chief is false.
There’s nowhere in our statutes where you will find that.
It’s unlike South Africa where the laws state clearly that the Commander-in-Chief is the President of the country. It is not the case in this country.
I don’t report to His Majesty the King. I report to the Prime Minister.
But I could hear some time when you were asking some of the witnesses here, getting so hard on them that this commander defied the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, as if there was a day that I was sitting one-on-one with him, discussing military issues. That is not the case in this country.
Was there bad blood between him and Thabane?
If he were to enter this room right now, he would come to me and give me a hug.
Even today, I can assure you that if he were to enter this place today, he would just come straight to me and hug me.
I am telling this Commission the truth, my Lord, I am not joking.
I told this to (SA) Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa when he was facilitating here in Lesotho.
I told him that if the former PM was to come here alone, you would see a different man from what you have been told.
Fortunately on October 24, 2014 when we were signing the Maseru Security Accord at the Lesotho Sun Hotel, it was I, the late Brigadier Mahao, Commissioner Tšooana and Deputy Prime Minister Metsing.
Deputy President Ramaphosa came through the door with PM Thabane.
The former PM came straight to me and I saluted him.
And he said to me “Hey, General! Don’t hide so long”.
Then even before responding to what he had said, I looked at Deputy President Ramaphosa.
He said: “Ah, Basotho! I told you, this country of yours is very small. I knew you’d come together!”
Even now, if he were to come here now, you would see a different story from what you have been told or what he has been made to say.
Because when he’s alone, he cannot say those things that he has been made to say.
I respect him, he is my father. He was my PM, I respect the elderly.
Was there a fallout between him and Thabane?
No, there wasn’t (a fallout with Thabane), not even on a single day.
You know, whenever I was in his office, he would say to me, “General, I am so lucky to have a general like you. Fortunately I served almost every government that Lesotho has ever had, from the English, Dr Leabua Jonathan who was scared of the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA), so he was not that comfortable.
“Then it was Major General Metsing Lekhanya, who somewhere somehow got disturbed by his own army.
“Then it was Ramaema and then Dr Mokhehle and later Dr Pakalitha Mosisili.
“He was also disturbed by terrorists since 2007 up until he was nearly killed at his home in 2009.
“But as for me, Motsoahae Thabane, I’m very comfortable to have a commander like you.”
He was always giving me a hundred-percent plus.
Why does he think Thabane fears him?
My Honourable Commissioner, this kind of question (on why Thabane feared him so much) is very difficult.
But I can tell you that the media here is very polarised.
They report things that are not factual. I don’t know why the former PM has to be scared of me like that, when we have never fallen-out.
The former PM himself does not fear me. There are people around him who fear me because they know what they have done.
So they have just made him a face: an international face that they present to the outside world, that the former PM is being persecuted by Kamoli.
The old man, with due respect, doesn’t have that.
He’s being told what to say by people who use him as their international face.
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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