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Motoho: the humble drink making waves




MASERU – Mabele lumela! (greetings to sorghum!) That’s what Basotho often say before taking the first sip of sorghum beer.
In rural areas, where six in every ten Basotho live, it is usually served in a gourd (mohope), a hollowed out cup made from a calabash or gourd vine.

For centuries Basotho have imbibed drinks made from sorghum: Motoho (non-alcoholic) and Letsina (the intoxicating one).
When Basotho talked of refreshments they had those two drinks in mind.

Letsina was brewed for ritual and recreational purposes. In the beginning it was rarely sold, just a drink for friends to while away time.
With the passage of time though, Letsina money came into the picture. Still there wasn’t much to pay, just a few pennies as token to the brewer.

Today Letsina remains somewhat a semi-commercial beer brewed in the backyards and illegally sold in shebeens in town but openly traded in the rural areas.

It has however locally never made it to the shop shelves.
Of course that probably is because there is already the famous Chibuku, brewed by SAB Miller and its subsidiaries in Africa.
Yet despite being popular in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Chibuku has never really managed to gain currency in Lesotho.
Blame that on Letsina which has kept Chibuku out of the Lesotho market without even having a presence on the shelves.

Motoho however remained largely a home drink. You don’t walk to the next village to buy a cup of motoho. But in recent times some have tried to make motoho succeed where Letsina failed: bottling and selling it in shops.
’Mapaballo Kolobe, 68, is not the first Mosotho to brew motoho for business but she is one of the pioneers of bottling and supplying it in shops.

It’s not a fluke that Kolobe is well known as ’Mamotoho (Mother of Motoho).
Her Motoho oa ’Mankhonthe brand is on the shelves of many shops.
Interestingly, Motoho oa ’Mankhonthe is competing with Seqhaqhabola, a brand Kolobe started together with other women at a local support group.

The idea of selling motoho came after she joined a support group in Sea-Point, a Maseru City ghetto home to many shebeens that sell Letsina and other varieties of traditional brews.

She thought there was a way to get motoho to the people without following the shebeen model. So Seqhaqhabola was started by 14 women whose main motivation was not profit but to raise just enough to help the sick, pay medical bills and hold village meetings to talk about a healthy lifestyle.

“I just thought I like the idea because I knew how to make it and I’m the one who came with this idea,” Kolobe says.
“But as time went by, we did not agree on some issues with my group mates so I quit.”
“I still remember clearly that it was on February 1, 2006.”

“I started this business with my family only. My husband and my son helped a lot. In the beginning we were just using size 14 pots and pour the porridge in some three basins.” Kolobe says within a few months she hired two women to brew motoho while her husband and son packaged and delivered to shops.

She says at first she asked her friend who owns a coffee shop to include her motoho on the menu and within a short time the friend came back saying customers wanted more. “That meant I had to increase my production,” she says.
She stopped using a traditional grinding stone to make the flour after the friend told her that she had to supply much more than she had anticipated.

She made a special arrangement with a local milling company to make the flour.
Kolobe’s Motoho oa ’Mankhonthe now has 14 permanent employees.
“I cannot even be able to count the number of customers I have, every day in the morning countless number of people come and buy my stock,” she says.

“My business has grown so, much that out of it I can pay 14 people and I’m very happy for that because this reduces poverty and helps the poor,”

Kolobe says most of the workers are young men. One of the workers is an orphaned boy who is taking care of his siblings.
“Challenges are forever going along with business, so I’m ready to face challenges that my business will have,” Kolobe says.
She says one of the challenges is that there is no factory making bottles in the country and therefore she has to import bottles from South Africa at a great cost.

She also says although she grows sorghum in the country she still has to import some from South Africa.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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