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A shoe brand with style



MASERU – FALL down seven times, rise up eight. This Japanese adage sums up Masibo Mohlakola’s journey in the treacherous world of business.

Growing up in the rural, mountainous area of Semonkong, about 80 kilometres south-east of Maseru, Mohlakola experienced poverty that nearly robbed him of an opportunity to pursue education.

The 30-year-old wriggled out of poverty and is now leading a business, the first of its kind in Lesotho, which is rapidly making an impact in the market.

His innovation, honed through the many falls he experienced, led him to think of how the Basotho traditional attire and the country’s geographic features could be turned into a viable business venture.

Mohlakola and his partner, Pusetso Solane, have come up with a shoe brand that they have blended with Lesotho’s mokorotlo hat, which itself is a depiction of the Qiloane Mountain.

Both the hat and the mountain are national symbols that also feature on Lesotho’s banknotes.

So much has been taken for granted about the evolution of the dress over time and the symbolic meanings that have been attached to different dress practices.

“We felt a need to bring one of our Basotho clothing symbols into our modern lifestyle so that it can be forever remembered,” said Mohlakola.

He calls his brand “Be Nice Authentically” or BNA, which has now become the talk of the town. It is also making waves on social media.

He said the BNA is the first trainer-shoe brand in Lesotho to join the Basotho culture and a modern lifestyle.

The trainers have the Mokorotlo symbol all over them. The uniquely styled trainers come in different colours and a unique style.

According to an article by Andrew Knapp on The Design Train for Clarens Butterfly Beds, Mokorotlo is said to depict the mountaintop of Mount Qiloane that sits beside the Thaba-Bosiu plateau.

Mokorotlo is the object which was used to cast rulings in customary courts, similar to the symbolism of a gavel which is seen in western societies.

Mohlakola said after trying several businesses which ended up failing, they thought of coming up with their own shoe brand.

The hardships of his growing up, however, are the ones that have molded Mohlakola into the man he is today.

Mohlakola grew up in a family of four siblings and he is the youngest.

“I was forced to enter into business at an early stage when I was still in high school.

“My father was unemployed and as a result there were times when payment for my school fees was delayed,” he said.

He recalls how he used to joke about his frequent expulsion from school due to failure to pay school fees as a means to cover up his embarrassment.

This affected him academically and emotionally.

“I had to repeat Form C,” he said.

His financial problems took a huge toll on him.

“It reached a point where it was a struggle to get proper uniform. This was affecting my confidence, hence my poor class performance,” recalled Mohlakola, who had to forego playing with friends after school and during weekends to take part-time jobs.

He said he was introduced to carpentry which gave him some income to buy school uniforms and help pay household bills.

“As much as I had to grow up at an early age, this instilled in me an entrepreneurial mindset,’’ he said.

He said the wage of M60 each week for part-time jobs made a difference.

“A pair of school trousers was around M70 then.”

However, he had to learn the hard way how to balance school and work.

“I did not have time to read so I had to vigorously participate in class so that I could grasp the concepts,” he said.

Mohlakola said after completing Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) “with poor results I was now expected to work full time as an adult.”

While he was still working, Mohlakola says he engaged in so many advocacy community programmes. However, he said he got “too much pressure” from his friends who were pursuing tertiary education and this forced him to rewrite exams in 2012.

“I did not have time to study and I failed again. I wanted so badly to have at least a qualification,” he said.

Due to his interaction with various people, Mohlakola got the chance to work in South Africa as a horse caretaker for three months. He returned home with about M7 000, which he had planned to use to supplement his COSC.

However, he says he found his family in deep financial distress and he used the money to ease the situation. Mohlakola had to swallow his pride and ask for help.

He opened up about his problems and plans to some ladies who were working in the area as Peace Corps while he was participating in one of Semonkong tourism projects.

Peace Corps is an independent agency and programme of the United States government that trains and deploys volunteers to provide international development assistance.

The two women contributed to pay the fees that he owed, providing him with a chance to return to school.

“However, the challenge was on how I would finance my daily school needs.”

He talked to one woman who was working remotely from Semonkong to give him a job as a house helper. After passing his COSC examinations, he enrolled with the National University of Lesotho under the Social Work programme in 2019.

He said since the passion of entrepreneurship “was flowing in my blood”, he thought of what he could do to increase his income streams.

“With my first Manpower (the government’s scholarship agency) lump sum, I bought carpentry equipment. I would make student tables on weekends and in my spare time,” he recalls.

That was where he met Solane, who was also studying social work and doing photography in his spare time.

“We started a clothing brand called Dynamites. However, the business failed.”

Nonetheless, he said they felt a business idea around what they had been trying could be viable.

“We could not let it go just like that.”

The duo spent some nights discussing business ideas.

“We then thought that the Basotho culture was on the wane. We thought about what we could do about it. We were seeking to merge culture with entrepreneurship,” he said.

That is how the idea of the BNA brand was born. Mohlakola said they approached one of South Africa’s shoe manufacturing companies, presented their style and the quality they wanted.

He said after the design was complete, they had to go through testing. He said they then scored a durability test result of over 75 percent from China.

He said since all the processes were financed through their pockets, there was a bit of delay. But the feedback has been “amazing” since the product was introduced into the market, said Mohlakola.

“Many people are proud to see our cultural symbol on a modern sneaker.”

“Last month we received about 15 orders for cash. We have received more orders of around 50,” he said.

Despite the positive response, Mohlakola says some people associate them with scams since the business is still new in the market.

“This makes it hard for interested people to place orders and process payment online.

“We also have faced challenges related to financial constraints which limit us from producing more shoes of various sizes and colours on the go. We still produce on orders placed,” he said.

Looking ahead, Mohlakola says they want to open up a big manufacturing firm in Lesotho which would create more jobs for Basotho.

He says they also want their brand to reach international markets where the brand will become a representation of the Basotho culture.

“We want our culture to be known globally while accommodating everyone. This is not only our brand, but it’s the country’s brand,” he says.

Refiloe Mpobole


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Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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