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MASERU – AS a bright 15-year-old in 1973, Motlohi Maliehe had won a primary school scholarship to further his education for excelling in Mathematics.

But his name was quickly dropped because his family were not supporters of the then ruling Basotho National Party (BNP).

The decision to deny him a scholarship for his secondary school education infuriated the young Motlohi setting him on a long career in politics first as a member of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP).

It was that event that awakened his political consciousness.

While he was grappling with his personal issues, the government led by Chief Leabua Jonathan was cracking down on opposition leaders after it declared a state of emergency.

Jonathan had rejected the 1970 general election results when it became clear that he was losing power to the BCP’s Ntsu Mokhehle.

That decision to deny him a scholarship formed his basis for affiliating with the BCP.

Maliehe recalls that one day in 1976 after he passed his Junior Certificate at St James Secondary School, he found the government’s village self-help project implements that included picks and shovels in his father’s kraal and he angrily threw them out onto the street.

The following day the villagers were gathering at his home preparing to undertake some development project and when he saw them he decided to insult one of the cows saying it was big-headed and stubborn like a BNP member.

During those days the government had trained some villagers as anti-crime agents but many had become notorious political extremists who terrorised BCP members in villages across the country.

So, when Maliehe insulted the BNP members as big-headed and stubborn he had directly declared both him and his family as BCP members worthy of being persecuted.

He says a day after the event he was advised by family friends to flee because the village anti-crime agents, who were called Lebotho la Khotso (Army of Peace), were looking for him.

“It was said I was going to be taken during that night and I had to run away to Butha-Buthe,” Maliehe says.

Maliehe says in 1978 after he passed his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate at Butha-Buthe High School, his hideout was discovered.

But a friend helped him to register at the mineworkers’ recruitment agency, the Employment Bureau of Africa Limited, and he went to the mines in South Africa.

He says at that time he was a regular reader of the Rand Daily Mail and he was very conscious of his political needs and he was impressed by the history of the State of Israel during its formation in the 1940s.

Maliehe says he wanted to study politics at university but when he had fled to work in the mines his dream of going to university also got lost.

“I dedicated my entire self to the cause of the BCP,” he says.

“I wanted to join the party’s military wing, the LLA (Lesotho Liberation Army) but unfortunately I did not have a connection and so I did not make it,” he says.

“I remember vividly that on that day, in 1978, I had R5.50 and I wondered if it would take me to Botswana where the BCP members had fled,” he says.

Maliehe says when he arrived at the mine in South Africa where he was going to work, he started searching for the BCP office.

He however soon learnt that at least 12 BCP members at Secunda had been fired by the manager who was sympathetic to the BNP. That saw the BCP’s office being shut down as well.

“I started organising for the party from that day and later reopened the BCP office,” he says.

Maliehe says he raised funds for exiled members in Botswana.

He says he was later appointed a BCP branch secretary and later the provincial secretary of the BCP in exile.

“I spent the next 16 years without coming home because I was wanted, this time not by the village Lebotho la Khotso, but by the state security agents,” he says.

He says he went on many secret trips to Botswana where he met the party’s leadership, especially the late Shakhane Mokhehle, who was the secretary general.

Maliehe says crossing into Botswana during that period was a dangerous undertaking because both the Lesotho and South African border authorities monitored his movements.

He says he would cut leaves from his passport that showed that he had crossed into Botswana but the problem was getting another passport from Lesotho.

He says he could not contain his happiness when in 1993 the BCP won all constituencies and became government.

In 1996 the party held an elective conference where he was elected the party’s spokesman “and I could see a bright future in my political career”.

A year later he broke away from the BCP with Mokhehle to form the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) which was later led by Pakalitha Mosisili, the current Prime Minister.

Maliehe says his happiness in the party soon dwindled when during the 1998 election campaign he experienced yet another political persecution, this time from his comrades in the LCD.

“I was nearly murdered in 1998 when the people in my constituency wanted me to represent them in parliament but the party’s national executive committee wanted another person,” he says.

“I was attacked and nearly killed. I gave in and let the committee do things according to its liking because I did not want to cause confusion in the party.”

When the party split in 2002 and the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) was established, “that man who was favoured by the national executive committee crossed the floor”.

“It was in 2002 when I stood for the party in Butha-Buthe constituency and since then the people have always put their trust in me to represent them in parliament,” he says.

He says following yet another misunderstanding within the party, he and another LCD stalwart, “Lehlohonolo Tšehlana of Mokhotlong questioned this bad behaviour by the committee”.

Tšehlana was fired from the party and Maliehe was suspended and they began plotting with other LCD MPs to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC), a mission they completed in 2006 when Thomas Thabane resigned from his ministerial position to lead the ABC.

Today, Maliehe is the ABC chairman and still is the Butha-Buthe MP for the fourth time since 2002.

Maliehe says in his political history he has learnt that political party leaders cause poverty with the sole purpose to go to the public during election campaigns to convince them that they can eradicate it.

“Politicians are cruel and they have realised that they cannot control the minds of a self-sufficient society and so they purposely starve the people so that they can control them,” he says.

He says the people should be given political education so that they can differentiate between their own political needs and what their minds are continually fed by their leaders.

Maliehe says it is sad that people are made to think that their political parties or their leaders are more valuable than them as individuals.

He says a political party is made up of people who have a common goal to achieve a kind of governance that will better their lives both as individuals and collectively not what the leaders want them to be.

“Proper political education can put a permanent stop to this tendency of leaders to create problems so that they can promise the people to solve them,” he says.


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

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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

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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

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