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‘We want short, sharp and quick reforms’



Staff Reporter



THE SADC Double Troika Summit last week has drawn mixed reactions from the opposition, the government, analysts and the civil society. There have been varied views on what the summit’s decisions mean for Lesotho. The government seems to view the outcome of the summit as a victory. The opposition is yet to crystallise its opinion on the summit (a statement is expected this week). thepost however managed to discuss the summit with Basotho National Party deputy leader, Joang Molapo. In the interview, held as the opposition was preparing its statement, we started by asking his verdict on the summit?


We are busy preparing a press statement that will sum up our position on the outcome of the summit. Before the summit Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili issued a statement in Parliament acknowledging that Lesotho will implement SADC’s decisions. In our meeting with the Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa he set out a strategy on how they will make Lesotho (accountable). We have seen the summit’s communiqué and the record of proceedings. As the opposition we are happy with the outcome. We understand why SADC leaders have toned down on their adversarial attitude towards Lesotho. The reason for this is that Lesotho has agreed that SADC decisions will be implemented. The meeting was very clear on the implementation of those decisions.


Are you confident that the opposition leaders will come back to Lesotho before the end of August?


Yes, because Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli will be gone by then. SADC has clearly said it wants reforms implemented. It wants to see the reform process underway. They said all role players should be here when that process starts. We, as opposition, have a lot to gain from a legitimate and credible reform process. SADC has already said it will partake in that process and we are happy that they will be here. As far as I can see there is no reason for the opposition leaders to refuse to participate in a process that will take this country forward. So the answer to your question is that the leaders will certainly be here as SADC has said.


You are generally considered to be a moderate in the opposition. How sure are you that the hawks will not prevail and throw spanners into the works?


Let me say that in our circle and in my own analysis I consider myself to be more of a hawk. But I understand that negotiations are a give and take thing. My position is that the opposition leaders want to come back home soonest. To achieve this they are willing to consider reasonable concessions from the government regarding their security when they are back home. They understand that there are sacrifices that have to be made. They will take a principled position but that does not mean they will take a hard-line stance that will stop them from coming back home to be part of the reform process. The government should however not make the mistake of thinking that the opposition leaders will give in on everything. We have seen that taking a principled position on things pays off. Look at the General Kamoli issue. We will make reasonable concessions.


What does “reasonable concessions” mean?


The leaders are already on their front foot back home. What they only need to cross the border are reasonable guarantees on their security. The only issue is that General Kamoli remains in charge of the army. This is the same army that raided police stations. In other words he already had an operation against the police on his CV. You will remember that there were talks between us (opposition) and the government to bring the leaders back home. In those meetings we accepted that the government has agreed to give police protection to the opposition leaders. We said we were fine with that arrangement. We however asked the government what mechanisms they have put in place so that the army does not have another operation against the police. The government could not answer that question so the talks failed. We said if you as government cannot answer this question than how do you expect us the opposition to answer it?


You said the opposition leaders know that sacrifices have to be made. What sacrifices are those?


Let me be clear that the opposition leaders are not going to give up on anything. They have no reason to give up on anything. Our position is that they are coming to participate genuinely in the reform process. They are willing to put their faith in whatever arrangement is made for their security, as long as it is reasonable. A reasonable arrangement means those tasked to protect them can operate and do not live in fear of the army.


Where do you derive the confidence that General Kamoli would have left the army command by the time the leaders are back home?


The summit communiqué calls for the total implementation of SADC decisions. We know that SADC has made the undertaking to see those decisions implemented. I am absolutely confident that he is going to move. I have no doubt about that. We are certain that he is going. I cannot say who has told us that he is going for sure but that source is reliable. We know that General Kamoli is now past tense.


Let’s talk about the reform process. What, in your opinion, is the priority issue?


The fundamental issue is the timeframe for the reforms. We are looking at a maximum of 18 months while the government is looking at five years. We are not interested in a long process. We want a reform process that will be quick and fast. We understand that some reforms might take more time but we believe that five years is a lazy target, deliberately designed to allow the government to remain in power.


What major change are you looking for?


I am very much in favour of adding to the King’s powers. We need to create space for His Majesty to participate better in the administration of power. We had had trouble for a long time and in all those times the King has proven that he is the only neutral person. When people fail to get what they want they resort to badmouthing the monarchy. The King has shown, time and again, that he doesn’t take sides. We have shown that as politicians we need a referee. Why not give the King the platform to do the job all kings do in the world?


What is likely to derail the reform process?


I don’t think there is anything that will make the reform process collapse. I think everybody is committed to making the process work. All role players understand the importance of this process. They all want this process to succeed for the good of the country. We will work together. As far as I can see we are at the very end of this crisis. Remember these reforms are not like talks between government and the opposition. They are a process.


What kind of a Lesotho do you want to emerge from the reform process?


I want to see a country that respects the rule of law. I want to see a less polarised country. I should admit that there have been mistakes on both sides. Now is the time for us to be at peace with each other. We have to be a country that is not politically divided. We have to be more tolerant. It would be great if the reforms are going to create a country that is politically tolerant. I want to see a professional army that does not involve itself in the politics of the country. I want an army that is firmly under civilian control. After the reforms there should be a clear distinction between the roles of the police and those of the army. We will see the police taking a more prominent role.


With hindsight, what do you think the opposition could have done better in this crisis?


We could have been stronger in Parliament. I am however happy that our influence outside Parliament and in shaping the public perception has been excellent. We have achieved all that we set out to achieve. We could have been stronger in Parliament. We could have been more vocal on issues. We could have debated issues more but we were a lot weaker. But we have learnt a lot from that episode.


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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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