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UN trip to blow M5m



MASERU – THE Lesotho government will next week send a huge entourage of 28 officials to the United Nations General Assembly in New York at a cost of more than M5 million to the taxpayer, thepost can reveal.
This is happening at a time when the government is so broke that it cannot pay suppliers and pensioners on time. Some projects have stalled as the government pleads poverty in the face of dwindling revenues from SACU and donor fatigue.

Ministries and departments are running on a shoestring as the cash-strapped government tries to trim costs.
Yet next week the government that claims to be implementing austerity measures will shell out more than M5 million, money enough to build two rural schools, on an entourage that will spend more than a week in the United States.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s team will have government secretary Moahloli Mphaka, a bodyguard, a press officer, a personal assistant and a protocol officer.
The First Lady will travel with a bodyguard, spokesperson, protocol officer and a personal aide.

Curiously, she will also be accompanied by an official described as a ‘social worker’ but whose role in the team is not clear.
The inclusion of a protocol officer in her team is also peculiar because the standard practice is that only the Prime Minister and His Majesty have such services on international trips. In sum, the First Lady will travel with five people who will be at her service.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi is also expected to travel with six other officials from his ministry.
In his team will be the principal secretary, two directors, an adviser, a legal officer and a personal assistant. Health Minister Nkaku Kabi will travel with his principal secretary and a director.
The Minister of Development Planning, Tlohelang Aumane, will take along a director.

There will also be two officials from the Ministry of Communications whose role is likely to cover the event for the government’s media platforms.
But even their inclusion might look odd given that the Prime Minister’s spokesperson Thabo Thakalekoala, an experienced journalist of repute, will be there. So too will be the First Lady’s spokesperson, Silas Monyatsi, a TV and film production specialist.

thepost has been told that the entourage will include two wives of senior officials. This is legal because the officials are entitled to travel with their partner or spouse on one international trip per year.
What might be questioned is the timing, given the government’s delicate financial situation.

The biggest cost of the entourage is likely to be air tickets. Based on estimates the air tickets will cost the government a staggering M3.5 million to fly the 28 people from Maseru to New York.
The Maseru to Johannesburg route alone is likely to cost M153 000.
Who will travel in what class is not yet clear but it is likely that bookings will be made according to what Finance Minister Dr Moekesti Majoro instructed in his budget speech this year.

Dr Majoro said to cut costs all senior government officials, except the Prime Minister and ministers, will travel business class. That means the Prime Minister and the three ministers will travel First Class.
The First Lady is also likely to travel First Class.
The average price of a First Class ticket is around M150 000. That is some M750 000 for the officials.

To put that into perspective, that is enough money to cover the annual tuition for nearly 50 students at the National University of Lesotho which is already battling to keep its doors open because its subvention has been drastically reduced.

The ten senior officials who are likely to travel Business Class for the Johannesburg to New York leg will cost the government about M1.4 million. The average price of a Business Class ticket is around M140 000.
For the same leg the 13 junior and middle ranking officials who are likely to travel in Economy Class will cost the state about M1 million.

It is however important to note that the airfares could be much more because the government makes bookings through travel agencies that charge commission and routinely jerk up prices when the state is paying.
And based on previous trips, there is no guarantee that the junior officials will travel Economy Class.

Accommodation costs could run into hundreds of thousands of Maloti. Prices at five-star hotels in areas near the UN headquarters range from M4 000 to M10 000 per night.
But they could spike to as much as M15 000 for premium rooms because of high demand during UN meetings. Generally, hotels closer to the venue of a major event cost more.

Most delegates are likely to be scrambling for rooms in nearby hotels for logistical purposes. The government will also have to fork out hundreds of thousands of Maloti in per diems. There is also the cost of ferrying the entourage around the city for meetings, errands and even shopping trips.
The 74th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 74) will open on September 17 and end on September 30.

Government officials who spoke to thepost are questioning why Lesotho needs such a huge entourage.
The main assembly itself will be attended by the Prime Minister and probably ministers.

A country is allowed only five delegates in the meeting.
There will also be high level meetings from September 23 to 27 but these can be attended by ministers or Lesotho’s two ambassadors in the United States.
It is unclear who will attend the Climate Action Summit on September 23 because there are no officials from the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology. The team from the Ministry of Health will be there for the high level meeting on Universal Health Coverage on the same day.

Minister Aumane and his director will be there for the high level Political Summit on Sustainable Development from 24 to 25 September.
It remains unclear who will attend the dialogue on Financing for Development on September 26 because there are no officials from the Ministry of Finance.

It is however possible that Dr Majoro and his team might still join the entourage. If that happens then the entourage is likely to be much bigger.
But Aumane could still stand in for the Minister of Finance. So too can the Minister of foreign Affairs.
There will also be a high level meeting on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Although crucial, the high level meetings do not require many officials.
One representative from each of the 193 member states will speak for about ten minutes.
Questions have also been raised about the First Lady’s inclusion and her entourage.

Last night her spokesperson, Monyatsi, was adamant that there was nothing unusual about her presence and the size of her team.
Monyatsi said her “entourage will be as it should be”.
“There will be several meetings there and one of the major meetings that she will attend is of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development. There will be a lot of networking,” Monyatsi said.

“As we speak now, I am preparing videos of things we will present while there, of the achievements of our First Lady and the projects she is spearheading. My personal role there will be to cover all the events that she will be involved in.”
Monyatsi also explained why the staff includes a social worker.
“Both her personal aide and the social worker will be at her service and at the service of the Prime Minister,” her said.

“They will be doing chores like ironing clothes for them, sometimes cooking because the Prime Minister may want to be cooked for. As you may know, these services are provided for the VIP people of the status of the First Lady and the Prime Minister. It is like that in all the countries where I have been.”
The government secretary, Mphaka, said he could not comment because he doesn’t deal with entourages.

Staff Reporter

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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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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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