…Thieves ‘drug’ their victims as they sweep away house…
MASERU – A COUPLE waking up to find the bed it had been sleeping on stolen and the husband in his wife’s underwear. Worse, the wife was now wearing the husband’s underwear and the wife wearing her husband’s undergarments. Welcome to the stranger than fiction tales of victims of theft in Maseru with many now asking: Is juju at play?
The couple from Qoaling woke up to the horror of finding their house empty after all the furniture was stolen while they were fast asleep.
With the bed they were sleeping on also gone, the woman was on top of her husband.
The woman, who asked for anonymity out of embarrassment, says “it was surreal waking up to this ordeal”.
One minute they were resting for the next day’s duties and the next they could not explain the shame they woke up to. They told the area Chief ’Mataelo Matsoso and neighbours that they did not know what happened.
In another case, a prominent official living in the same village says she woke up to missing money, furniture, food, gadgets and a broken window.
The official too, asked for anonymity, because she too is embarrassed by the incident.
“I heard nothing, not the window breaking nor did I hear them step on to the bed and jump over me,” she says.
The thieves took what they wanted and fled.
She says she suspected her office assistant of committing the crime because she knew the official was in possession of the village burial stokvel’s money amounting to M25 000.
She says her traditional doctor told her that the thieves had burnt the fur of a hyena, which is believed to possess magical sleep-inducing powers.
“I believe this is true because the traditional doctors have confirmed it to me,” she says.
About five kilometres away, in Ha-Thetsane, prominent politician and former minister Motlohi Maliehe suffered the same fate in 2005.
Maliehe, a former All Basotho Convention (ABC) chairman, was robbed while sleeping in his house in Ha-Thetsane.
Maliehe says he was already in bed when his late son was studying in another room.
The son decided to go and wash dishes after reading and while doing the dishes he was suddenly attacked by a spell of an unusually heavy sleep.
He left the dishes half done to go to sleep.
Maliehe says they were woken up by heavy banging on the door by a neighbour.
“I have never slept so deep in my life. No one in the house was awake,” Maliehe says.
When he finally woke up, he found his neighbours outside the house and they told him he had just been robbed of his furniture.
He checked and found that it was only the bedroom that had not been broken into.
He says a day before the break in, one of his neighbours had his furniture wiped out by the robbers and “I jokingly laughed at him saying he was not man enough”.
The robbers had even cooked and ate in his house without him hearing anything.
“I laughed at him so much that I actually cried. I didn’t know that my turn would come too,” Maliehe says.
Luckily for Maliehe, one of the neighbours had seen a truck that was used to steal his furniture and they traced it to a rented house in the city. The robbers were arrested, but not before villagers beat them to a pulp.
They drove the thieves to an open yard by Maliehe’s house where they interrogated and assaulted them.
“Villagers clobbered them thin, when the police arrived we had already got all the answers we needed,” Maliehe says.
When the thieves were asked how they managed to make people sleep they showed the villages a small container with a liquid-like substance to which they utter incantations to make people fall deep into sleep.
According to Maliehe, his house was the 67th to be broken into in this way.
This shows the extent to which this kind of robbery through knockout drugs is rampant in Maseru.
Police say in the past two months, over 30 families have suffered such robberies in the southern part of Maseru that falls under the Lithoteng Police Station.
The Lithoteng Police Station jurisdiction covers Ha-Pita, Masowe 2 & 3, Ha-Abia, Lithabaneng, Masianokeng, Ha-Matala, Ha-’Nnelese.
Such cases are on the rise and have started worrying both community members and the police.
It is not clear how the thieves manage to drug their victims into sleep but most reports received from victims point to an unexplainable sense of overwhelming exhaustion.
They then go straight to bed before the robbers pounce.
When morning comes, they wake up to a house cleaned out of appliances and all electronic gadgets and groceries too.
Speculation is rife that the thieves use black magic.
There are other suggestions that the victims inhale the “devil’s breath”, a drug called scopolamine, made from the seeds of the borrachero tree.
The drug is said to be mainly produced in Colombia.
The Sun, a newspaper in the UK, describes the devil’s breath as a fine white powder which is blown into the victim’s face and renders people helpless within minutes.
It then disappears from the bloodstream within around four hours, meaning it often becomes untraceable before a victim has had time to be tested.
It is an ordourless and tasteless drug that can affect someone in moments.
It has a reputation for turning people into zombies, wiping victims’ memories and enforcing a lack of free will.
In high doses, it can be lethal.
The Sun says victims have reported feeling drowsy. Other symptoms include clouded vision, incoherent speech and even frightening hallucinations.
After recovery, they claim to have no memory of what happened.
The Maseru police have not had the chance or opportunity to prove any of these theories but to them it is clear that something is used to drug people.
“We cannot confirm what it is because there are no traces of ash or any evidence that can be used to affirm that some sort of drug was used,” senior
Inspector Mosito Mokhethi, who is in charge of Lithoteng Police station, says.
Mokhethi says this is not a new phenomenon as it has been happening over the past 15 years.
“But now cases are on the rise, we even have cases of police officers being robbed with their guns on the headstand,” Mokhethi says.
Ha-Thetsane, Ha-Tsolo, Lesia, Masowe 2 & 3, Likotsi, Lithoteng, Ha-Abia and Qoaling are said to be the most affected areas.
Mokhethi says it is difficult to track suspects because they leave little or no trace at all at the scene.
He says, however, they receive leads from whistle-blowers of people who are selling electronics without proof of receipt.
“The electronics or appliances obtained from such people are then held in the custody of the police until they are identified by the owner,” Mokhethi says.
Mokhethi says they have received information that plasma TVs are mostly targeted because apparently the powder in them is sold to drug dealers to be used in a drug cocktail.
Mokhethi says some TVs when found are in a dismantled state and the said powder retrieved.
According to IOL News, the powder is used in a cocktail to create nyaope, a mixture of antiretroviral drugs and other substances.
The chairman of Nasaret Against Drug Abuse (NADA), Morgan Bruiners, told a South African newspaper, The Observer, that “the powder is white powder resembling Tik, found just behind the TV’s glass screen”.
Mokhethi says the thieves “do not steal these plasma TVs to sell but to extract the powder”.
He says police are working tirelessly to find the syndicate in order to prove that indeed plasma TVs are used in a drug cartel.
Mokhethi says people should be cautious of their environment and up their security systems.
“Burglar proofs are no longer for decoration and for old fashioned houses. If it has proven to be so easy to pull out an aluminium window frame apart as a point of entry then people should rethink what it means being smart and safety.”
He also advises that neighbours should watch out for each other.
“We advise that people should police one another, we (police), as much as we would love to, cannot be in all places at all times,” he says.
Mokhethi says there is need for community members to invest in Crime Prevention Committees.
“It is not about being part of it, if you have airtime to give every member of the committee, blankets or cell phones please do so to keep them motivated and to ease their work,” he says.
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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