THABA-TSEKA-GIRLS are leaving a school in Thaba-Tseka district “in numbers” for fear of being raped by local herders of livestock, a health official in the area has claimed.
The herd boys sometimes threaten the girls with death, says a nurse at the local health centre.
There are no clear statistics of how many girls left the school in the recent past. The principal was said to be “far away and unreachable” for comment.
But Relebohile Mosehle, a nurse at Mohlanapeng Health Centre, says the herd boys, whom she referred to as lacking a human sense of compassion, used to rape the girls at the privately owned hostels.
The school does not have its own dormitories for students.
Mosehle recalls many of the sad cases associated with the boys in Mohlanapeng that she has handled.
“They were like wild animals and not humans at the time,” Mosehle says.
Mosehle recalls incidents where girls staying in a rented hostel would be raped continuously by the herd-boys who were supposed to be at the cattle post looking after their own herds.
“It was a painful situation and at one point we had to have a public gathering regarding the house breaks and rapes that happened to many of our girls at schools,” Mosehle says.
She says the girls seldom reported the incidents of rape because they received threats from the perpetrators.
Also, the girls did not know how to report when they never got to see their rapists’ faces.
“They would come to the clinic seeking health services and when screening and testing is done we would find that they had STIs (sexually transmitted infections),” she says.
Mosehle says the girls would only tell the nurses that they were raped when they were cornered with questions.
At times, the girls would fall pregnant and were unable to identify the person responsible for the pregnancy.
“They don’t recall the faces. This was heart breaking,” Mosehle says.
Mosehle says it was clear that there was need for civic education on HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive rights and gender based violence.
She says the herdboys, although they knew that they were committing a crime, believed that they had a right to treat a girl or a woman as they pleased.
Mosehle says she has had her own share of ill-treatment from herdboys despite her profession.
“They would just stop in front of me with their dogs on their heels. I felt scared enough to wet my pants but would gain courage from the oddest of places and tell them they would get in trouble if they even tried to harm me,” she says.
“I used my age to frighten them away. Still this was not a good life.”
Mosehle is in her mid-thirties.
Mosehle says herd-boys only go to the health centre when they are in a critical state and this puts their lives in danger.
“Some of them come with dog bites that have gone for months without medical attention.”
She adds that they hardly volunteer for HIV testing or routine health checks at the clinic.
thepost visited Mohlanapeng clinic in mid-March, a time when the cold front begins to build up in the mountainous parts of Lesotho.
Many of the herd-boys, some as young as 10, are still at the cattle posts, their huts pitched on the slopes of the mountains.
As night falls, some of them can be spotted, chit-chatting on the guard rails of the meandering roads that twist and turn round the mountains.
The herd-boys are either locked in serious chatter about mundane things, playing with sticks whilst dressed in their dark blankets and gumboots.
Most of the herd-boys dropped out of school to care for livestock. Very few can read.
Because they have very little formal education, the herd-boys are a marginalised group in Lesotho.
Most have very little appreciation of major societal issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health, labour rights as employees and other basic rights.
Most decisions that affect their lives are made by politicians often without their input as they are often with their livestock far away in the mountains.
Away from society, the herd-boys often grow into a law-unto-themselves. Some resort to violence and crime to secure what they want, often setting themselves on a collision course with society.
That was the story with the herd-boys at Ha-Tšiu in Mohlanapeng.
It took massive efforts by Help Lesotho, a non-governmental organisation that was founded in 2004 by a Canadian, Dr Peg Herbert, to educate them about women’s rights.
Since the programme began, most herd-boys in Ha-Tšiu have changed their behaviour for the better, according to some villagers.
The programme has trained over 600 herd-boys in Thaba-Tseka and over 1 000 in Butha-Buthe.
The training targets herd-boys aged 24 years and younger, according to Help Lesotho’s Grant Implementation and Impact Manager, Sello Matsoso.
Lebohang Tsunyane, a 21-year-old herd-boy, dropped out of school when he was in Standard Five to take care of his father’s sheep and goats.
Tsunyane married his sweetheart last year.
He says he hopes God will bless his marriage so that he can have at least three children.
Tsunyane remembers how he used to harass young girls when they were coming to fetch some water and firewood.
“I and a couple of my friends would draw a line on the ground and we told them that we “loved” them and that if they said no to our proposal they would be in trouble,” Tsunyane says.
“We would take their bundles of firewood by force,” he says.
This was a norm until Tsunyane and some other herd-boys underwent training conducted by Help Lesotho and Sentebale, a non-government organisation led by the Principal Chief of Matsieng, Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso.
Sentebale has a programme for herd-boys that addresses barriers to education.
The NGO worked in closely with the Ministry of Education’s Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC) and the Lesotho Association of Non Formal Education (LANFE).
Sentebale says it wanted to step up its efforts to help herd-boys.
“I am a herd-boy and I know the daily challenges of a herd-boy,” Chief Seeiso says.
“I know of many challenges they face. I warn women in villages to stop promising our young boys milk,” he says, in a statement full of sexual undertones.
In Sesotho culture, when a woman promises a young man milk, it means she will provide sexual services to him.
Chief Seeiso says their programme, together with the one that Help Lesotho offers, is meant to give herd-boys the dignity they deserve.
“Most of these herd boys are treated like slaves in their workplace. Only when they are being treated with decency will they become responsible citizens,” he says.
Chief Seeiso says they are working hard to set up night classes in all districts to ensure that all herd-boys get an education.
“Everyone has a right to be educated,” he says.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)’s country representative, Dr Marc Derveeuw, says the UNFPA will continue to support programmes such as these because they change lives.
“We need to adhere to the requests of the herd-boys because their lives matter too,” he says.
“We will go back and see how we can find more funding for programmes such as this. I am very aware of these challenges that Chief Seeiso is talking about and our call is to reach out to the marginalised.”
Parents who spoke to thepost said they are very happy with the many positive changes their sons had made.
“They now respect girls and women more,” one parent says.
“They are able to communicate their needs with their employers better than before and they are more helpful in community development projects,” another one says.
Another parent says he now realises that he treated herd-boys in an unfair and inhumane manner in the past.
“I now know that it is not right to send a herd-boy to a cattle post with just maize-meal without giving them complementary meals,” he says.
“We didn’t care to buy them protective clothing for winter or gumboots until now. The programme helped herd-boys as well as us.”
Another parent requested that more funds be allocated to the development of football fields for the herd-boys.
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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