MASERU – FOR Professor Francis Kopano Makoa Lesotho’s constant bouts of political instability emanate from deep structural flaws in the institutions of governance.
The structural flaws impede the full realisation of democracy, he argues.
Makoa, one of Lesotho’s eminent political scientists, says Lesotho’s political parties, across the entire spectrum, have not been “vehicles of democracy” in organising people to enjoy political freedoms.
He says political parties have only served to mobilise people “for purposes of getting into Parliament” without giving priority to teaching voters about their individual and political rights.
Makoa argues political parties have not taken the time to educate their people on issues that will ensure good governance in Lesotho, issues of rule of law, accountability and transparency.
“They have failed to empower people so that they can assume ownership of this democratic dispensation,” he says.
“Politicians focus on grabbing power rather than empowering the people.”
The result, Makoa argues, is that people are powerless to hold politicians to account with the institutions designed to monitor politicians having been rendered impotent.
One such institution that has suffered as a result of these systemic flaws is parliament, he says.
Instead of overseeing policy issues, Parliament has been rendered virtually ineffective as MPs are subordinated to their parties instead of being independent overseers of government.
“MPs have lost the power to challenge the government,” he says.
Laws that would have been drafted by the government are not up for discussion but are simply passed, he says.
With Parliament having been rendered impotent, Makoa argues the result has been that the government has morphed into an all-powerful structure.
“The government has become stronger; it is not being held accountable and is not amenable to public opinion and now have audacity to dismiss public opinion,” he says.
Makoa says “the very organisation of the government is not conducive to the practice of democracy”.
But how do we deal with these complex challenges?
Makoa argues the solution lies in reforming the entire system to make it responsive to the needs of the people.
He says as part of the political reforms being touted by the government to advance democracy in Lesotho he would propose a complete “separation of powers”.
Parliament must be separated from the government, he says.
“This will free Parliament from government control and domination.”
If that is done, MPs will also finally find their voice to hold the government accountable, he says.
The current practice of selecting government ministers from Parliament must also be replaced with the Prime Minister picking his ministers from technocrats in various fields.
This will free MPs to perform their duties with diligence, free from political party manipulation but because they are seeking political office as ministers, they cannot criticize the man who appoints ministers.
Makoa bemoaned the current status within Lesotho’s political parties.
“We have a highly politicised society but with the majority disenfranchised because they don’t have any leverage they can exercise over the party.”
He says the lack of democracy within parties is a direct result of how they are structured.
“They are all controlled from the top,” he says.
“All of them do not have space for their people to exercise their own democratic rights.”
But when everything has been said and done, Makoa argues the key to resolving Lesotho’s challenges requires a return to constitutionalism.
“We must be guided and be ready to live by the values embodied in the Constitution. The Constitution should not just be a document, it must be everything that we hallow,” he says.
Makoa says “democracy can be enjoyed if we have a strong system of accountability”.
“You must establish a system of accountability and you will have the rule of law.”
Makoa feels that at present Lesotho has “a Constitution without constitutionalism”.
Makoa admits that Lesotho is at present deeply polarised.
But to address the current political impasse and take the country forward, he says the current administration must “improve its internal governance”.
“There are serious systemic problems and one of which is governance. The government must do its job and must be impartial in discharging its duties.”
“It must apply the law fairly,” he says.
“They must espouse constitutionalism as an ideology and address issues of governance, and once that is done unruly soldiers will no longer be there and the police will not encourage corruption.”
Makoa was born on March 11, 1945 at Lifajaneng in Mohale’s Hoek to parents who were peasant farmers. When the harvest was poor, his father would travel to work in the gold mines in South Africa.
When he completed his Junior Certificate at St Thomas Secondary School in Mafeteng, the young Makoa could not proceed further because the family had run out of money.
That proved a telling blow to Makoa’s ambitions.
In August 1964, Makoa eventually joined the Police Mobile Unit (PMU), a unit that was reserved for riot control in anticipation of general elections that took place in 1966.
He says having been forced to drop out of school, the decision to join the police “was a terrible choice”.
In January 1969, Makoa left the PMU and joined the regular police service at the Maseru Central Charge Office. He doubled up as a police clerk and driver.
But even when he appeared down and out, Makoa still had a thirst for education.
“That feeling never disappeared; I always felt it was a mistake not to be educated up to Ordinary Level. That desire was never extinguished.”
And so later in 1969, Makoa began studying for his O-Levels through distance learning after he enrolled with the International Correspondence School (ICS) based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Three years after he began his studies, Makoa passed his Cambridge O-Level exams.
In 1972, Makoa was promoted to a Police Sergeant.
Armed with his O-level certificate Makoa still wanted to further his studies but his immediate boss then was not impressed.
When his boss realised Makoa was on the verge of securing a scholarship to study at the NUL, he slapped him with an immediate transfer to some rural outpost in Ha-Ramabanta.
He felt he was being punished and an opportunity to further his studies was lost.
Makoa says educated people found it extremely hard to work within the police those days.
For the next four years, Makoa worked at the Police Training College as an instructor for new recruits.
He left in 1975 when he was transferred to the Ministry of Labour as a district labour officer.
In 1979, Makoa attended a four-month course in industrial relations at the British Ministry of Labour in England, which he says was a labour college meant for the working class in Britain. He later that year proceeded to do a two-year diploma in industrial relations at Ruskin College, Oxford.
His thesis was on industrial relations and racism within banks in Lesotho.
He later enrolled with the National University of Lesotho to complete his Political Science and Public Administration degree programme.
Makoa says his stint at Ruskins helped shape his political consciousness as the community there was very active politically, hence his decision to pursue political science.
“I thought studying Political Science and understanding politics would contribute to my development and give me the skills I required to respond to political phenomena and solve political problems at home,” he says.
That made sense given the complex political problems Lesotho was going through in the early 1980s which culminated in a military coup in 1986 that toppled then Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan.
Yet, in spite of the tense political atmosphere in Lesotho then, Makoa says students at the NUL enjoyed academic freedom with very little interference from the government.
He attributes the vibrant political culture to the decolonisation process that was underway in southern Africa that saw thousands of exiled students from South Africa and Namibia studying at the NUL.
“We had a diversity of people and experiences at the university who were radical in their own assessment,” he says.
Makoa holds a Masters in Political Science from Kansas University in the United States. He also holds a Doctorate from the University of Liverpool in the UK. His doctoral thesis was titled, Lesotho: The Politics of Development.
He retired from the NUL in 2010 when he turned 65 but was invited back on a year-on-year contract until 2014.
Quizzed about the alleged repression and human rights violations in the 1970s and 80’s, Makoa says it would be inaccurate to point at casualties as having come from one side.
“There were casualties on both sides of the political spectrum with a few policemen being killed during the clashes,” he says.
He says the new democratic government after the re-introduction of democracy in 1993 should have set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate what really happened during the troubled years after 1970.
“If you declare a state of emergency you expect resistance and the regime (of Chief Leabua Jonathan) had to respond by violent means to stay in power.”
“We thought the first action the new government would do after the 1993 elections would have been to open up those documents and study what happened. You cannot have stability if you allow crime to continue.”
Francis Kopano Makoa Fact File
- Born March 11, 1945
- Member of Police Mobile Unit 1964-1969
- Member of the Lesotho police force 1969-1975; Worked at the Maseru Training College
- 1975-84: Department of Labour
- Doctoral thesis title: Lesotho: The Politics of Development
- Studied at Ruskin College in Oxford for an Industrial Relations diploma
- Masters in Political Science: 1987
- PhD from University of Liverpool, UK: 1994
- 1985-2010: Lecturer in Political Science at the NUL
“We must be guided by the Constitution and we must be ready to live by values embodied in the Constitution.”
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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