MASERU – THE battle for the All Basotho Convention (ABC) took a nasty twist last week when party leader Thomas Thabane expelled four party members who belong to the new executive committee. The expulsions came hard on the heels of a High Court ruling that declared Professor Nqosa Mahao’s faction as the legitimate committee of the ABC. The new committee’s secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, was among those dismissed for allegedly organising rallies without Thabane’s permission. There was also chaos as the factions fought over the control of the party’s offices.
Last night, Hlaele and his team filed an urgent application to force Thabane to reverse his decision. They argue that Thabane is in contempt of court because he has violated an order that confirmed their committee’s election.
Hlaele, who is Thabane’s son-in-law, spoke to thepost last night as the application was being filed.
We started by asking him about the letters.
We believe the dismissals are unlawful in terms of our constitution. He instructed us to respond after three days. I got the letter in the afternoon on Thursday. I intended to count Thursday and exclude weekend. I called an urgent meeting to discuss the letters. We were five and formed a quorum. However Nkaku Kabi (Health Minister), my deputy secretary, said he was in Germany. The treasurer said he would love to come but it was at short notice. He said he will seek permission from the boss. The next day, he texted to say he could not make it because he didn’t get the permission.
At the meeting, we went through the contents of the letters and came to the conclusion that as the national executive committee, we feel strongly that these letters were not aimed at bringing unity to the party structure. Secondly, we felt that they were contemptuous because they were written after the judgement that confirmed us as the rightful committee of the party. Thirdly, he has been telling people that he cannot work with deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao.
He said he learned lessons from Ntsu Mokhele who appointed the person who succeeded him. That was enough to conclude that the leader of the party has disregarded the judgement. We said we will respond collectively. We responded, telling him that in terms of the constitution of the ABC he has those powers to suspend pending endorsement or rejection by the national committee. And as the committee we were not convinced by the reasons.
What are the main charges?
We did not gate-crash those rallies held by the constituencies. The rallies were held in terms of the constitution that says after the elective conference constituencies should receive reports from the delegates. So the rallies were in line with the constitution. It matters not who does the reporting for as long as they are members of the committee. We felt strongly that the charges were misguided because they did not say anything to the constituencies that invited us. The people who were shot at were us, the guests, and not the hosts. We believe that it was selective application of the constitution. We felt that we cannot agree with the leader on this matter. The show cause letters were written on June 13, a day after the judgement.
On June 17 I received letter of expulsion at a time when I was getting ready to submit my response to the show cause letter. The other three had submitted their letters of response to me on Friday and my plan was to submit them to the leader on Monday. Unfortunately, when I was about to go to his office I was called by the deputy leader and the deputy public relations officer who told me they had just received their own expulsion letters. The messenger called to say he wanted to hand over the letter of expulsion. It’s clear that procedure was never followed. My opinion is that only emotions were followed. Now we have responded to the expulsion letters collectively as a committee. We resolved that we have to reject this expulsion.
What is the crux of your court case?
We are saying procedure was never followed. From the beginning the leader has been clear that he will never work with Professor Mahao. He called Professor Mahao a sekatana (rag). He has never accepted him. We are in a democratic country in which no one can dictate to others. The principle is that people should elect their own leader. We don’t want him to be a dictator because only dictators appoint the person they want. We want him to abide by the rules. This organisation is built on values of democracy.
That means freedom of choice and association. Whoever tampers with that has crossed the line. I am not one to assist anyone to cross the line. The leader himself was elected because people chose him. He has no right to choose who he wants to lead with. Absolutely no right. We have attached his statement at the rallies to our court papers to illustrate that his decision was premeditated. He had clearly taken sides in the dispute. To members he has been saying let’s give the courts a chance to decide and respect the ruling but he has done everything contrary to that.
What happened at the party’s offices this week?
There is another army that is wearing black uniform in this country. It’s an army that is perceived to be an ABC army run by former secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele. Ntsekele is reported to have told the owner of the security company at the office that he should remove his guards because the ABC has its own army. Around 5am on Tuesday that army went in heavily armed and overpowered the three guards at the office. They damaged the lock and broke the chain but did not enter because probably they had no time. They were there when I came to the office in the morning. Among them I identified a policeman called Ramahloko. I left and came back in at around ten and they were still there. I don’t know Ramahloko’s role.
Ramahloko was the one whom I was referred to. I reported to the police and his senior said he saw him there but he was not deployed by his immediate supervisor. I asked them to take off their balaclavas and the dark glasses. I told them that you will kill or you will be killed. I said those who kill will go to jail and those who die will leave their children and wives to suffer for the rest of their lives. I told them there is no need for this because we are one people, one nation. I said whoever sent you is still sleeping. I said let’s stop it because there is no need for bloodshed. They left peacefully. The owner of the building called us and the police. He said they requested to meet the leader (Thabane). We are told the leader instructed the police to guard the office until he comes on Monday.
Do you believe that Thabane is still in charge of the party?
He is no more in charge because he has allowed members to take control on their own. He has lost control of the party. Once factions emerge it means he has failed. He failed to bring the factions together at the start. Instead, he was seen to be taking sides. That did not help him to bring the party together. He has failed to unite the party and I don’t think he will manage. I believe there are also people around him who are pushing their own agendas. As a leader, you must have strong characters who push the agenda of the party, not their personal interests. The country should come first because we are in government.
The ABC is coughing and the whole government has caught a cold. We have tried to get everyone with integrity to intervene and tell him to help to provide leadership. He will say this in a rally and then he does a totally different thing the next day. On Sunday, he would instruct those who have filed cases to withdraw but on Monday he will sign an affidavit to support those he has instructed to with-draw the case. He is a man of integrity and he must actually walk the talk. Now he has totally lost it. But let me tell you another thing about him: He is gifted. If he comes to the media tomorrow and say he has been wrong and the leadership elected by the people is the right leadership the people will say this is the leader we have always known. He is good at that. He is loved by the same people he continuously disappoints. He is probably abusing that love.
What do you think will be the end result of these fights?
Talk to me after this application we have just put in. I don’t have an opinion now. I thought after the judgement people will submit and say the courts have spoken and say let’s align with the party and the decisions. I was wrong. Now there is this case. This is the last battle. My plan is to call a special conference for the people to decide on these challenges facing the party. Once that is resolved, anyone unhappy with the resolution has a right to decide what they want. That conference will be during the day and not more than five hours. It is my belief that the court will decide next week.
What do you want the court to do to Thabane?
We want the court to decide that he was contemptuous. We are not looking for a purge or taking him to jail. He has to be reminded that as a leader of the country he has to respect the courts. If people who commit crimes walk the streets after judgement he has no moral authority to tell them to stop.
He won’t censure them. We want the courts to say you erred and please don’t do it again. When you are contemptuous you are usually taken to jail when you resist. Here we are merely asking for the courts to intervene.
Why hasn’t your faction just jumped ship and formed another party?
The timing does not allow us to do that because we still have room to manoeuvre. We still have room to change the furniture in the room. We are not yet against the wall. We have not considered anything like Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili did when he left his party to form another one after a fight with the committee. You only do that when you have been pushed against the wall and there is no way you can go.
At that point you have to decide to submit or jump. Secondly we have a huge following in the party. We had a rally in Lithabaneng and the leader had his in Ha Mabote. And I am talking about Maseru where people walk to places and are not bussed. Compare the two and you see a marked difference. He even complained about the numbers. We have a big following but we will not abuse it because they are after the brand and not me or Mahao. Let’s wait for the case and see what happens.
What would you say is the root cause of these fights?
The problem is power that goes with benefits because you are in government. People have tasted this power. They know when they lose their power in the party they are going to lose the power in government. When we say hunger is the enemy of the people do we really mean that or we are talking about ourselves? The gist of this whole thing is about economic power. If we were not in government we will not be here fighting because there will be no government power.
People believe they have arrived when they get into government and they want to stay there to maintain whatever they are accumulating. We said we will fight corruption and crime. Today the government cannot account for the ordinary Basotho dying in police cells. They cannot account for the tax-payers’ money. They cannot deal with the wool farmers. They cannot deal with the grievances of the teachers. Are we still a government of the people by the people and for the people? This is a discussion we should have as a country.
How do you relate to Thabane as your father-in-law given the current acrimony?
There are two things. He is my father-in-law. He is a politician and I am a politician. He is a member of the ABC in good standing like me. Politics of the family should not be confused with politics of the party. I am not confused by the relationship I have with him as a father-in-law and a fellow politician. I am robust and frank with him. I am not perfect but I am not a hypocrite. I don’t want to be loved but to be constructively criticised. I criticise others, including my father-in-law because that is the only way to build each other.
When did the talks between the Democratic Congress and the ABC start?
The discussions between the DC and ABC started in November last year. They were between Mosisili and Thabane. I was requested to make sure that the leaders meet. In January the discussions continued without me because I am was not the secretary general. After our conference they, as I am told, came back and said they were no longer comfortable to continue discussing this matter with our leader but were be willing to speak to the new committee. We said we are one party and resisted the talks but allowed them to engage MPs. I am informed that the talks are still continuing. I am informed that they did not want a government of national unity. I am told both parties said they will not be happy with dissolution of parliament and would prefer a change in the leadership. This is an allegation because I was not in those meetings. It’s what I hear from individuals.
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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