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The ‘vultures’ illegally selling land



MASERU – When he wanted to buy land to build himself a house Mohapi Tšoene*, 37, did what many people often do, approach the local chief for tips about who in their area might be looking to exchange some of their real estate for cash.

The chief from Maseru urban, on the outskirts of the capital Maseru, did not disappoint. Not only was the chief able to hook up Tšoene with a potential seller, but she was also there, bearing witness on the day he paid the full price to conclude the sale.

With the deal sealed, Tšoene quickly went through the formalities, having the land ownership documents reviewed and verified by the Maseru City Council (MCC)’s land allocation committee before he was issued with a lease by the Land Administration Authority (LAA).
“We did not have any impediments and the process went on smoothly,” says Tšoene.

But that was until he dispatched building materials to the site in preparation for construction of his long wished for house when, according to Tšoene, all hell broke loose.
From nowhere, says Tšoene, another man came claiming ownership of the same piece of land.

“Someone came out furiously claiming the land … belonged to him,” Tšoene told thepost in an interview this week.
The matter ended at the local chief’s court. But Tšoene’s rival had just as strong a claim to the land as he had. For one, he had genuine lease papers from the LAA, just as Tšoene had.

For sure, it must have been a most shocking discovery for Tšoene who forked out M50 000 to pay for the property.
But it was certainly nothing unfamiliar to many a would-be land buyer who has fallen victim to this scam that has in recent years become so rampant on Lesotho’s private land market.

Only the details may vary but the storyline is the same – an unscrupulous landlord flogs the same piece of land to more than one person, pockets the money and when asked to refund the buyers he/she suddenly pleads bankruptcy or can simply not be found.
In other instances, it’s some crook pretending to own a piece of land, proceeds to collect money from some unsuspecting buyer before vanishing into thin air.

It is the second version of the scam that another Maseru resident Pakiso Motsamai fell victim to.
Looking for land to buy, he thought himself very fortunate when a ‘land owner’ in Lithoteng told him all he needed to do was to pay part of the asking price as deposit and the property could be his. The balance could come later.
“I did pay the money. But later when I needed the documents, the man was nowhere to be seen,” Motsamai says.

Not only that, there was also someone else who was claiming the same piece of land having paid for it much the same way Motsamai had.
A rising wave of cases of fraudulent land sales is threatening to choke Lesotho’s already overburdened justice system with aggrieved parties suing and countersuing each other to recover money or enforce their disputes to land.

Since its establishment in 2014, the country’s Land Court has been called in to adjudicate more than 70 disputes over land ownership or sales gone wrong.
It is the clearest illustration of how rampant the crime has become that 36 of the cases lodged with the court in its six years of existence were filed last year alone.

A whole range of people have been accused of driving the scam, local chiefs and their aides selling land without the knowledge of usually absent owners, or private title holders deliberately selling their property to multiple buyers.
Then there is the random fraudster selling what does not belong to them.
But the proverbial elephant in the room on this sad subject is why and how are many of those to whom land is sold fraudulently are able to acquire legitimate LAA lease or title documents to the property in question.

The LAA does not allocate land. That is the responsibility of local government councils throughout the country.
But it is the LAA that has power to confirm a person’s right to land by registering their title. That it appears so easy for multiple individuals to obtain title documents to the same single piece of land seems to suggest incompetence or corruption on the part of — not the LAA as a whole – but certainly some elements within the institution.

A case that quickly comes to mind is that of Madoda Ramalefane against two politicians, Leseteli Malefane and Mothetjoa Metsing and others which was heard in the Court of Appeal last year.
Malefane is a former minister and official of the ruling Basotho National Party (BNP), while Metsing is the former deputy prime minister and the current leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

The court found that a top LAA official helped arrange a fraudulent lease document in favour of the two politicians so that one of them could possess Ramajoana’s residential plot in Moshoeshoe II, in Maseru.
This after a forensic investigation proved that the official had illegally caused Ramajoana’s plot to be transferred to the ownership of Metsing.

The investigation also found that the same official had on several other occasions abused his authority to help himself and close relatives acquire prime pieces of land, with his mother as a key beneficiary of the fraudulent land transfers.

But the days of crooks wantonly selling land that does not belong to them or collecting money from as many people as they can for the same plot seem to be over, with both the Maseru City Council (MCC) and LAA saying they are moving to enforce existing regulations and newly introduced ones to ensure lawful sales and orderly transfers in case of deceased estates.

According to MCC information officer, Lintle Mosala, among measures to be enforced is a requirement that in the case of deceased estate for one to be granted title it shall be required that they produce signed documentary evidence showing consent from at least three members of their family.

The documents will be verified by the MCC’s Land Allocation Committee after which an advert will be placed in newspapers announcing the proposed land transfer.
The advert will run for six weeks during which anyone with a valid reason to do so can object to the intended transfer.

It is hoped that enforcing this process will help prevent many disputes as deceased estates have been a major source of cases that end up in court as family members fail to agree on who should inherit a piece of land or simply transfer the property to themselves without consent of others.

On its part the LAA said among steps it is implementing, is computerising its records system which is expected to greatly reduce fraud and illegal transfers as these can be easily spotted on an electronic system than a manual one.
“We are continuing to capture files electronically,” says ’Mataeli Makhele-Sekhantšo, the LAA Director General.

It is welcome that the authorities are finally moving to protect prospective land buyers from the many vultures ready to reap where they did not sow.
However, the likes of Tšoene and Motsamai will probably be wishing this had happened much earlier.

*Not real name

Majara Molupe


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Lesotho’s own brandy



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Own Correspondent

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Local News

Ready-to-cook vegetables



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

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