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When a gangster dies



MASERU – WHEN a soldier dies the funeral is a sombre and formal affair. Covered in a national flag, the coffin is lowered to the sound of a 21 gun salute.
When a Catholic church member dies mourners sing along to serene songs of lament.
Mournful hymns like ‘I am Your Child’ and ‘I will come to you O Mary’ would help soothe and heal bereaved families.

In a country where 90 percent of the population is Christian and half of that is Catholic, this was the typical Basotho way of mourning.
It is the same with funerals of other Christians, although the tempo of funeral hymns has lately shifted and became danceable tunes.

But even as Christianity and some of its rituals have deepened their roots in communities, some people remain loyal to their traditional way of mourning.
It is not uncommon for men to sing a mokorotlo (grumbling) at dawn as they take the dead to the graveyard. With the mokorotlo, Basotho men were calling upon their ancestors to welcome the dead in the spirit realm while imploring them to protect their village against other possible deaths.
But when a famo gangster dies there is chaos at the funeral.

There is nothing overly unusual with gun battles at a famo gangster’s funeral.
At such funerals the mokorotlo has been replaced by makhele (self-praise songs of violence).
Depending on which gang one belongs to, the party goers (who are supposed to be mourners) engage in mock fights, sometimes ending up in serious injuries.
Women gangsters ululate while men lift the coffin into the air and run with it singing makhele songs.

With slight variations, those were the scene at the funeral of popular famo singer, Mokhathi Malefane, in the outskirts of Thabana Morena two weeks ago.
Malefane was shot dead in February in what is suspected to be a famo gang-related killing.
Known in famo circles as Roba Mohoke (the aggressor who breaks bones), Malefane was a member of the Seakhi gang which is identified by its letlama blanket, durable brands like Brentwood pair of trousers and Florsheim or Crocket & Jones shoes.

His funeral was therefore a typical gangster’s send-off despite efforts by a joint force of the police and the military to subdue it. The joint force mounted road blocks on all roads leading to the funeral. They confiscated guns, sticks and knives.

They also seized blankets and jerseys they suspected to be associated with famo gangs.
Mourners who tried to resist were beaten and made to roll in the mud for hours.
Yet even the intervention of the army and the police could not deter the gangsters from burying their comrade the way they wanted.

The gangsters insisted on moving Malefane’s body into another casket they had brought.
Their argument was that the casket bought by the family was too cheap and therefore ill-fitted for a man of Malefane’s stature in the famo hierarchy.
There was no mock fighting but mabetlela (wooden fighting sticks) and spades were hoisted around the coffin while women ululated.

Police barred mourners from wearing the gang’s trademark blankets.
Such dramatic scenes have become typical of funerals of famo music dons and prominent supporters.
Often, a convoy of cars snakes for more than a kilometre accompanying the body from the mortuary to home where it should lay before burial.

They take over the roads, zig-zagging, blowing horns and flashing vehicle lights. Others sit atop moving sedans or hang precariously on car windows singing makhele.
Whistles and vuvuzelas and gang identity blankets are all part of the action. There are two major famo gangs in the country, the Seakhi and Terene although smaller groups are sprouting up and they are all identifiable by the colour of the blankets they wear.

To give other motorists any chance of using the roads on such days, police usually deploy in large numbers on the streets.
Police have also put a stop to the culture of firing gunshots in the air at such funerals and routinely search mourners for weapons.
If there is a night vigil for the deceased, mourners spend the night singing praises to the dead but most drama is usually reserved for the burial day.

Fully dressed in their gang’s attire, famo supporters descend on the deceased’s home in droves. They come from all parts of the country while others make the long journey from their bases outside the country.
The casket is usually an expensive one.
Famo gangsters pay a subscription fee as a form of insurance.
During the funerals the money is used, amongst others things, to buy some items that could help bury the deceased according to the gang’s tradition.
Part of that tradition involves various groups of supporters lifting the coffin and moving around the homestead with it while singing on top of their voices in intervals.
When the coffin is in the air, group members beat it with mabetlela while one man would be singing “tlake se solle re epela motho, motho oa marumo h’a epeloe hae (Let vultures not hover around for we are burying a person, a person died of spears is not buried at home)”.

The journey to the cemetery is equally dramatic. Supporters carrying the coffin dash ahead of everyone else, leaving other mourners behind.
At one funeral, a man rode on the coffin as if it were a bicycle.
If the deceased used to drink beer, different brands of alcohol would be poured on his grave.
After the burial, the supporters would run helter-skelter because they believe they have accomplished their mission.
The singing would still continue on the way back to the deceased’s home.
These gangsters usually live in South Africa illegally working in some closed mines and they carry stashes of cash to funerals of their colleagues.

Roba Mohoke, a famo artist gunned down by unknown men who are still at large, was a member of the Seakhi group.
There was drama at his funeral when police tried to stop the group from performing some rituals.
When Ngaka ‘Spenzo’ Mahao was buried two months ago at his home in Ha-Rannakoe, his supporters also tried to perform rituals but were stopped by the police. Mahao was a supporter of Terene, a rival of the Seakhi gang.
The drama usually lasts for hours and some women, non-gangsters, would not accompany the corpse to the cemetery for fear of their safety.
The police, who are part of the action in many instances looking out for any signs of trouble are not only banning rituals but have developed a universal torturing practice where the ‘offenders’ are usually made to roll several times on the ground.
Police say the rituals trigger violence.

Famo gangs are common in Mafeteng district but they have now spread to other parts of the country.
The previous government banned the wearing of attire associated with famo gangs to try and bring down cases of violence. But deaths related to famo gangs have not dropped.
When Thulo Motau was buried last Sunday at his home in Ha-Khojane, some mourners tried to sing makhele but the police stopped them.

Of late, the army and the police are deployed to stop any bloodshed that could take place at the burials of famo gangsters or supporters.
The security agents are usually on alert armed to the teeth with rifles, but whether these heavy-handed tactics will wear down the new forms of worship – only time will tell.

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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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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