LERIBE – A murder case about to go to trial in the Leribe Magistrates’ Court is likely shock the country.
And that is not because of the alleged murder’s gory details but the suspect’s motive, at least according to what she has already told the police.
It’s a bizarre case likely to prod the nation’s collective conscience.
When she eventually has her day in court Botlebosele Liaho, a 25-year-old-woman from Maputsoe, will tell the magistrate she threw her week-old-baby into a sewage pond because she could not feed her.
Poverty, she has told the police, pushed her to commit this heinous crime. The new baby came when Liaho who is unemployed was already struggling to feed her two-year-old toddler.
Liaho’s dilemma was on deciding which one of the babies to feed, the new born or the toddler.
Despite her neighbours’ efforts to bring her food Liaho decided to kill the baby.
According to the police’s spokeswoman Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki, Liaho said she does not think she will be able to feed the new baby.
Motseki says Liaho explained to her neighbour that she had thrown the baby in a sewage dam.
The neighbours called the village chief and the police.
There is no indication that Liaho made any efforts to seek foster family for her baby.
Motseki says Liaho will face a murder case in the High Court in Maseru.
This is not the first case that the Leribe Magistrates Court has handled in which the mother committed a serious crime against her own baby because of extreme poverty.
Earlier this year the court heard a case in which Nthabiseng Nyelimane, a 21-year-old woman of Peka Ha-Mohlokaqala, allegedly sold her baby for food.
Nyelimane, a married woman whose husband’s whereabouts thepost failed to trace, appeared before the Leribe magistrate’s court in April together with a woman she gave her baby.
Nyelimane and Motšeoa Mabea of Senqu in Mokhotlong who allegedly bought the baby with food, were charged with violating the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011.
Denied bail, the two women now await trial in remand prison.
The case is pending in the magistrate’s court.
The police allege that Nyelimane gave her three-month old baby to Mabea on condition that Mabea would provide food for her and the baby.
According to the police Mabea who is 21 years old was once pregnant but aborted the baby and later told her family that she was still expecting.
She left her home for some time and later made an arrangement with Nyelimane to give her the baby with the promise that she would buy her food.
Mabea allegedly also promised to take good care of the baby by buying food, diapers and taking it to a doctor for medical care – all of which the real mother could not afford.
The president of Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo, an association of Basotho traditionalists that turned into a political party in 2012, Malefetsane Liau, says this is a sign of abject poverty that prompted a parent to give her child to another family so that the child could be taken care of.
Liau, who is also a traditional doctor, says it is common in the Basotho culture for poor families to give up children they cannot feed.
“For hundreds of years Basotho have always used this way to save children from being malnourished or starve to death,” Liau says.
“Children from poor families were given to those that can provide them with food and they were never told who their real parents were.”
“This was never a crime.”
The police did not investigate whether Nyelimane and Mabea did this deal in a customary way or whether Nyelimane was so poor that she opted to give her baby to Mabea in a customary way.
“That is not the role of the police,” they say.
Their concern, the say, is if the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 has been violated.
Section 10 of the Act says a “child has a right to live with his parents and grow up in a caring and peaceful environment unless it is proved in court that living with his parents shall lead to significant harm to the child…or not be in the best interests of the child”.
Section 47 says where a person takes a child into his care or guardianship he shall, together with a person under whose care the child was at the time of the taking of the child, notify the chief or the Department of Social Welfare.
The department shall then investigate the circumstances and the reasons for taking the child and the suitability of the person who has taken the child into his care or guardianship.
The Act gives the department power to refuse or grant such taking of the child into care or guardianship other than by the parents’.
This means that even if the parents are so poor that they cannot afford to take care of their children, they cannot take them into foster care without following the stated procedures in the Act.
Failure to do so attracts criminal liability on conviction.
These two cases display the extent to which poverty has affected families both in the rural and urban areas, in stark contrast to many studies that depict the rural areas as the ones affected by poverty.
Maputsoe, where Liaho lives, is considered an urban area because of trade activities brought by textile factories that have hired at least 25 000 workers.
There is also a lot of traffic because of the busy border between Lesotho and South Africa.
Maputsoe is the second biggest town after the capital, Maseru.
So, Liaho’s case shows that urban dwellers are also affected by poverty in exactly the same way it affects the people in the rural areas.
Basotho, irrespective of whether they are living in the rural or urban areas, are experiencing abject poverty.
According to the February 2016 article on El Nino-Related drought, published by the UNDP’s office of the Resident Coordinator for Lesotho, the current drought cannot only be seen as a food security crisis.
“It is impacting different sectors including food security and agriculture, water, health and nutrition as well as migration and protection,” the article reads.
“The historic delays in rains attributed to El Niño are expected to have a severe impact on the food security of the Basotho in 2016 and 2017, and many areas are already suffering from water shortages,” it reads.
It also shows that this year’s poor harvest is a compounded issue which originated with the poor rainfall during the 2014/2015 agricultural season and has persisted during the 2015/2016 agricultural season.
According to the recent Lesotho Drought Impact Assessment done at the end of January 2016 and published on February 8, 2016, the current number of people assessed to be at risk of food insecurity and not able to meet their survival needs until the next harvest is 534 502 people, which is over 25 percent of the total population.
The UNDP’s economic forecast was that “incomes are likely to further deteriorate, the harvest is going to be very low and food prices are expected to further rise”.
In comparison 2012 a year with more favourable conditions than those currently being experienced left 725 000 Basotho food insecure.
“As the drought worsens, peri-urban and urban regions will also be increasingly affected, mainly due to increases of food prices and water shortages,” the UNDP article reads.
The studies reveal that due to the low levels of rainfall, up to 70 percent of communities report not having planted their crops.
The stresses of both the cumulative impacts of this agricultural season along with the previous two poor harvests have meant that many communities and households are reliant on government assistance to purchase food at high prices at local markets.
Livelihoods have been negatively impacted due to loss of livestock due to drought related hunger, thirst and disease, including resulting in poorer feeding/water sources and increased animal morbidity, says the UNDP.
“Resulting food insecurity from loss of crops and livestock is exacerbated by the increase of food prices, compounded by the weak South Africa Rand,” it reads.
The Drought Assessment of Jan/Feb 2016 revealed that poor and very poor households in Lesotho are only able to meet 69 percent of their survival needs – a deficit of 31 percent.
“This can be seen to be a result of decline in both crop production as well as all types of employment,” the article reads.
The UNDP says the household food and income basket when compared to the reference year 2009/10 has declined by over 44 percent.
“The deficit is expected to increase throughout the second half of 2016 and into 2017.”
The Lesotho government’s 2016/2017 budget for the Ministry of Social Development is M253 million, after realising that people cannot graduate out of poverty by getting grants, but they should be assisted with projects to raise money for basic needs and other economic activities to push them out of poverty.
“The intention is to train people in the communities regarding income generating projects and to provide start-up capital,” Finance Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla said during her budget speech.
“As a result the ministry has developed a Community Development model which will assist in implementing income generating projects,” she said.
Agriculture, which is the main source of employment and income in rural areas of Lesotho, was allocated M429.1 million as an indication that the government is committed to “subsidising agriculture until such time that local farmers are adequately developed, and local food reserves are stocked with sufficient grain crops”.
Khaketla said however there are factors which constrain agricultural growth and these range from a decline in income due to unfavourable weather and soil infertility.
“Agricultural methods need to be improved to help farmers to migrate from subsistence farming to commercial farming,” Khaketla said.
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.”
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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!
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
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