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Lesotho’s diplomatic boob



MASERU – A diplomatic storm has erupted after Lesotho abruptly broke ranks with SADC and the African Union (AU) by backing Morocco in its dispute with Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR/ Sahrawi ).
The AU supports Sahrawi’s struggle for independence from Morocco.
Also known as Western Sahara, Sahrawi has been occupied by Morocco since 1976 after it annexed the territory after Spain left in 1975.

Morocco has clung on to nearly three quarters of Sahrawi’s territory despite the United Nations insisting that the people of Sahrawi have a right to self-determination and independence.
SADC too has supported Sahrawi’s quest for independence.
Lesotho has toed this line since it recognised Sahrawi in 1985 and has consistently backed Sahrawi’s freedom.

But last week the government abruptly changed this position of more than three decades by seemingly taking sides with Morocco.
On October 4 Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi told Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita that Lesotho has decided to “suspend all statements and decisions related to the status of Western Sahara and SADR pending the outcome of the United Nations process”.
“This constructive neutrality will be observed from now on all sub-regional, regional and international meetings,” Makgothi said in the letter.

In diplomatic parlance this means Lesotho is withdrawing its support for Sahrawi’s independence and sovereignty.
The “constructive neutrality” that Makgothi mentions in the letter to Bourita amounts to abandoning Sahrawi.
It is a major victory for Morocco which has aggressively pushed to persuade countries to withdraw their support for Sahrawi and legitimise its occupation of the country.

The Moroccan media was this week gloating about Lesotho’s decision, describing it as a result of Morocco’s “proactive” and “constructive” diplomacy.
One newspaper said “Lesotho’s move comes amidst a perceived pro-Morocco momentum in the UN-led political process to broker lasting peace in Western Sahara”.

It said the decision was a result of recent conversations between Makgothi and Morocco’s Bourita.
But the broader implications of Lesotho’s decision are not lost on countries like South Africa, Algeria, Angola and Mozambique which are demanding an explanation from the coalition government.
The AU and SADC are said to be peeved that Lesotho made a decision that contradicts their position.

Professor Mafa Sejanamane, Lesotho’s Ambassador to the AU, is said to be under immense pressure from diplomats at the AU to explain the decision.
Sejanamane finds himself in a quagmire because it doesn’t seem that he was consulted or officially informed of the decision.
He is alleged to have told Makgothi, in a strong letter that he is in a difficult position because he doesn’t know what to tell other African countries about the decision.

Although thepost has not seen the letter sources say Sejanamane warned the minister about the potential diplomatic fallout.
Sources said he advised Makgothi that the decision should be reversed to reassure Sahrawi of Lesotho’s support.
A source said Sejanamane told the minister that the decision could send a wrong signal that Lesotho does not consider itself bound by the positions of the SADC and the AU.

Lesotho’s ambassadors this week told thepost that they are being inundated with calls from their counterparts who want them to explain Lesotho’s policy-change.
“It’s a complete mess. They want to know why Lesotho has changed its position and gone against the AU and SADC. This is unprecedented,” said one ambassador.
“I am getting call after call from development partners demanding answers but I cannot tell them anything because the government has not told us anything.”

What makes the decision surprising and curious is that it comes hard on the heels of SADC’s calls for Sahrawi’s independence.
In March, Lesotho was part of the SADC Solidarity Conference on Sahrawi held in South Africa.

A declaration from that conference reiterated SADC’s support for Sahrawi.
It said SADC pledged its “continued solidarity with the people of Western Sahara in their struggle for self-determination, and undertake to raise the question of Western Sahara at all multilateral fora as well bilateral engagements with international partners”.
In August SADC repeated the same sentiments at its Summit of Heads of States and Government in Tanzania.

A communiqué of that summit called on SADC countries to implement the resolutions of the solidarity conference.
Lesotho’s decision is a marked departure from what Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said about Sahrawi at the UN General Assembly last month.
In his speech Thabane said the UN had an obligation to assist Sahrawi, which remains the only colony in Africa.

“Our United Nations should be an organisation that protects the sovereignty of its member states and prevents interference in the affairs of other states,” Thabane said.
“It should be the United Nations that is not indifferent to the people of Western Sahara who have yearned for independence for scores of years but to no avail.”
He has said the same in all his four previous speeches at the General Assembly (see sidebar for Thabane’s statements at the General Assembly).
Minister Makgothi referred questions to Communications Minister Thesele ’Maseribane.

The decision however seems to have spooked some of the coalition partners, especially the Basotho National Party (BNP). It was the BNP government that recognised Sahrawi and set the foundation for Lesotho’s position on the issue.

This week Joang Molapo, the BNP’s deputy leader, took to Facebook to explain the party’s position on the issue.
While his post is not the party’s official response, it indicates that there is discord in the government over the issue.
Molapo, who is Minister of Tourism, said the BNP has “consistently supported” the principles of self-determination, anti-colonialism and democracy.

“These principles have informed our policies from 1959 when the party was formed until today. This party will never abandon the aspirations of the African people for liberation and self-determination,” Molapo said.
“It is what guided our understanding on the liberation struggles in Mozambique (Frelimo), Zimbabwe (ZANU), Namibia (SWAPO), South Africa (ANC) and many other countries across the world.”
“Our relationship with Western Sahara and the Polisario Front is based on this same understanding. As such the party cannot support any policy that moves Lesotho away from the current position of SADC or the African Union. These are positions which Lesotho was central to formulating.”

“BNP has seen many struggles for independence from one corner of Africa to the next. Even in 2019 we stand firm, we are not in the business of abandoning our friends or their struggles for independence,” Molapo said.
But BNP spokesperson Machesetsa Mofomobe was forthright.
The BNP’s position, Mofomobe said, is that Morocco should immediately end its occupation of Sahrawi.
He said the BNP will now try to cajole its leader, ’Maseribane, to ask the government to reconsider its position.

Mofomobe said the party remains guided by its founder and Lesotho’s first prime minister, Chief Leabua Jonathan, who was vehemently opposed to colonialism.
Mofomobe said Chief Leabua fought for liberation of South Africa during the apartheid era.
“It is for this reason that we had South African dead bodies in Lesotho,” he said.

He said their former leader worked collectively with other African leaders such as Namibia’s Samuel Nujoma, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to ensure that African countries remain on their soils.
Mofomobe said the BNP worked hard to push South Africa out of Namibia.
And he also helped counties like Zimbabwe that it regained her independence from the British rule.
“Chief Jonathan also fought hard that Ian Smith left Zimbabwe,” he said.

Staff Reporter









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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

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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

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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

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