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The songs that won the struggle

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MASERU – SEBILI Sebili is more than a singer. He is a teller of fortunes of some sort too, especially for those in the roller coaster called politics.
Life is a rolling wheel, you are currently on top and the next time you will be crushed under it, he sings. It’s a popular melody with a profound warning.

This is how Sebili, a popular All Basotho Convention (ABC) political singer, warns political elites against being “full of themselves”.
Many in his ABC party love the song, Phelo bona kelebili, but only a few seem take to heed the message conveyed – the rapid change of fortunes in politics.

An underdog today can be tomorrow’s Prime Minister. Next, they are down again.
“If you listen to this song thoughtfully, not just dance to the tune, you will not behave like you will be in power forever,” Sebili says.
“They should keep in mind that tomorrow they will be the ruled,” he says.

Although Sebili composed the song as a reminder to then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili while the ABC was still in opposition, current Prime Minister Thomas Thabane should know better than ignore those lyrics. Thabane and then fellow opposition leaders Thesele ’Maseribane of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s Keketso Rantšo had fled the country claiming their lives were in danger when Sebili composed the song in 2015.

The three leaders blamed Mosisili for their troubles, claiming he was using the army to persecute them and they were afraid that they would be murdered. It was during this time that many ABC, BNP and RCL members took solace in Sebili’s song.
The song, a re-composition of a Catholic Church hymn about a troubled wanderer turning to God for comfort and guidance, was like a joint anthem for the parties.

Father, as I wander far away from my home, help me to say it is alright, it is alright. During Thabane’s exile in 2015, Sebili composed a song calling on God to conceal him atop a mountain fortress, far away from his enemies. He sung Mpateqhobosheaneng as if he was the one calling for his own personal protection yet the song was actually composed for Thabane, whom he felt should be kept away from those baying for his blood.
The song became a hit even among members of the then ruling parties.

It is the song that Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, leader of the Alliance of Democrats (AD), asked ABC members to sing for him when he joined forces with Thabane to push for Mosisili’s ouster last year. Sebili says time has come for Mosisili and former government officials he led to feel the pinch.

He however says as the wheel keeps rolling forward, the incumbent government should either find means to remain on top or prepare to be crushed under. “The short message of this song is that the rulers should make peace with the ruled because tomorrow the ruled will be the rulers,” he says.
Sebili, a gifted singer with a huge following within and outside the ABC, says his 20 years of active participation in politics through song has given him enough knowledge to be cautious when dealing with political opponents.

Today’s enemy can be tomorrow’s ally. “One must be sensitive enough not to make anybody an arch-enemy. They are just political opponents,” he says. Sebili entered active politics in 1996 when he joined Setlamo Band, which was led by Chaltin Tsatsanyane in the then ruling Basutoland Congress Party (BCP).

It was two years after then Deputy Prime Minister Selometsi Baholo was assassinated by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) soldiers and senior members of the party were pointing fingers at each other. The party was at the brink of a split, which it finally did in 1997 when the leader Ntsu Mokhehle formed the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) in parliament and took over government, with the BCP becoming the opposition.

The root cause of the BCP’s fall was that its leaders had turned their backs on the people who sacrificed their freedoms to take up arms against Leabua Jonathan’s government, which had suspended the constitution and banished Mokhehle and other party leaders.
Sebili and the band felt that those who crossed to the LCD were not necessarily loved by the people but were just lucky to be near Prime Minister Mokhehle who had a massive following.

They composed a song referring to party bigwigs who crossed the floor to form the LCD as lazy hunters. Sebili says the song is still relevant today. He says his song Ntate Thabane hopola baitseki, hopola mekopa-kopa, advises that the premier should look back over his shoulder and see men and women who struggled together with him for the sake of the party.

“He must feel pity for them and stretch his hand to pull them closer to him or else when he needs them most they will be far away from him because he will have left them behind, far away behind,” he says. He says these are the people who sacrificed their comforts and toiled for the party, resulting in many of them becoming jobless.

“These are the people who gave him power,” he says. “As a politician he should not forget his past,” he says.
In another, he sings Ntate Thabane, u hate ka bohlale, mona ke majoeng. He is figuratively saying Thabane is in a journey on foot and he should tread carefully because the path is full of loose stones that can cause a fall.
“The path we are referring to here is the government,” he says.

Sebili, with a husky voice that adds emotion to his intense political songs, was born in 1968 in Qobong, Phamong, in Mohale’sHoek.
His father, Thabo, was a well-known lead singer during a special initiation school ceremony (lelingoana) and he was also famous for his mohobelo traditional dances.

Sebili delayed going to initiation school, where his mates were the late popular famo musician Mosia and Abiel Hatlane in 2011, because he was not directly raised by his father. He says his parents separated when he was a small boy and his mother, ’Mathapelo, took him to his maternal uncle Nako Lekoetje, who was also a good singer at the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Although his father and uncle were good singers, Sebili says his childhood music mentor was his mother, who was a lead singer at the Zion Apostolic Church. “She allowed me to beat the drums at church and soon I was the admired drummer and a vocalist,” he says.
“I grew up in noise, in song.”

When he joined Tsatsanyane’s Setlamo Band, he was introduced to a music accompanied by accordion, guitars and more advanced drums.
Now he was singing with a renowned band throughout the country, moving BCP members into action.
It was in this band that Tsatsanyane noticed his potential when they sang Siloe, a mournful song about BCP members who were killed during the BNP and military regimes.

Sebili’s rough voice leads the song, Moeklesia (Ecclesiastes) – to everything there is a time – composed during the 1998 political upheavals.
It has become like an anthem song for all political parties. They sing it when their opponents fall so that when they too fall it will be sung for them.
Sebili is expected to release a new song today – a tribute to slain Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.

Caswell Tlali

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Lesotho’s own brandy

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ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.


Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.


Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.


The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.


His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.


As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.


“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.


“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.


Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!


One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!


“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?


He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.


He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.


Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.


He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.


He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.


But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.


However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.


“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.


Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.


“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

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Ready-to-cook vegetables

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ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store

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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?
Nope!

“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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