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Building a legacy on the land

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QACHA’s NEK –WHEN Relebohile Monethi dropped out of university shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, she thought her world had crumbled.

Today she is a joyous advocate for “agripreneurship” as a strategy to pluck thousands of rural Basotho out of poverty – thanks to her bold decision to venture into agriculture.

Monethi is a rural farmer running multiple businesses in the agricultural industry committed to change the description of rural people from poor to rich.

She is the brains behind the Morali’a Monethi Holdings brand.

Morali’a Monethi Holdings started as an agribusiness focusing on rearing chickens and slaughtering them for retail. After dropping out of university, she decided to also venture in catering and hospitality instead of leaving her rural home of Qeme, Ha-Mpo to seek a job in town.

She has now expanded the business to selling health products and training people on nutrition and how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Despite that Covid-19 forced her to halt the business for a year, Monethi does her utmost to ensure that her business does not go under.

“Many businesses are arising under various names that Morali’a Monethi Holdings will hold a controlling interest in,” Monethi said.

“This has been a tedious process more so with the debt incurred during Covid-19. To start again has been challenging but I believe the structure this time is solid.”

Monethi said the 2020/2021 farming year was “incredibly difficult” for her financially.

“There were debts and losses,” she said.

But she has soldiered on.

“I have lost count of the number of times I have saved my business from falling. The stories are many but I advise all entrepreneurs and business owners to study, read and listen to audios about their craft, not forgetting enrolling in online courses to better their skills-set.”

Monethi says her failure to acquire a university degree was painful but she has found joy and fulfillment in agriculture.

“The smell of the soil in the morning, watching a day-old chick grow from day one to full maturity, planting a seedling and harvesting good, fresh produce; that is my passion to date.”

Monethi says her goal is to export organically produced and processed products from her Morali’a Monethi Farms.

“We have a good product line that just needs further financial backing to solidify in terms of being export ready,” she said, adding that her dream is to leave a lasting legacy for her son.

“Being in business is about securing profits, yes, but building a legacy is about those profits as well as touching lives and making sure one’s child can point at your life and say ‘may I be like my mother’.”

“I am passionate about sharing financial literacy tips and rules with women in and out of the entrepreneurial space. Women carry so much burdens, mothers often suffer the most as the financial and emotional load lies heavily on them,” said Monethi.

In another part of the country, some 200 kilometres south of Maseru in Qacha’s Nek, a 34-year-old woman is relying on agriculture to put daily bread on her table.

Khauhelo Ranthamaha who grew up as an orphan after her mother died when she was only three-months-old, says she loathed agriculture as a child.

She hated seeing her widowed grandmother, the only guardian she knew and adored, labouring in the fields.

“I regarded her as a miserable old woman. I would see her in the fields from morning till late in the afternoon every day,” recalled Ranthamaha.

“My grandmother loved farming because that was where she got money and food. Although farming was our way of life, I did not like it because I saw my grandmother suffering because of it. I never thought that one day I would be happy to be a farmer.”

The grandmother was however a mere subsistence farmer. It is because of this that Ranthamaha saw no real value in agriculture because she never had new Christmas clothes like other children in December.

When schools opened every year she would be given second hand uniforms and shoes. Problems deepened after her grandmother died in 2011.

Nobody had registered her for social grants and she relied on her grandmother’s friend for food until a Good Samaritan found her a job at the nearby Mohale’s Hoek district’s Farmers Training Centre (FTC) where she looked after livestock.

“That is where my love for agriculture was ignited. I was hired to look after cattle and I also had to milk them,” she said.

After some years she left the job at the FTC and started her own small farm.

“I love animals and I have my own and now people are calling me Farm Lady and I am proud to be called that,” said Ranthamaha who boasts of milk cow, 15 rabbits and two pigs. Her five sheep were recently stolen.

“I have a site for a farm I am planning to own. I want to own a large flock of sheep for wool and many goats and cows for milk.”

She is also committed to crop farming for commercial purposes.

“All I need now is a greenhouse for the crops,” she said.

The two women’s forays into farming epitomise the way thousands of Basotho women are making ends meet in the rural areas of Lesotho, where males are often absent looking for scarce jobs in the mines and construction sites in and outside the country.

A 2018 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report states that rural women in several African nations, including Lesotho, engage in 60 percent of family farming operations and have the additional burden of providing nutritious meals for their families.

A study published by the National University of Lesotho (NUL) last year said “the participation of women (in Lesotho) is mainly for subsistence farming, and has been regarded as one of their poverty alleviation strategies in the rural areas”.

The World Bank classifies Lesotho as a lower-middle-income country.

The Voluntary National Review of 2022 says more than 65 percent of communities are rural and poor and derive their livelihoods from the exploitation of natural resources.

The Country Strategic Opportunities Programme 2020 – 2025 says while Lesotho has made significant progress in poverty reduction and economic growth in recent decades, pockets of deep poverty remain in rural areas along with continuing inequality.

“The contribution of agriculture to Lesotho’s GDP, which was in decline, stabilised at between five and six percent over the past decade,” it says.

In spite of this decline, agriculture remains the primary source of income for approximately 38 percent of the population and contributes to the livelihoods of 70 percent of the rural population, according to the report.

The Government’s second National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II) 2018/19-2022/23 sets out a vision to shift from a government-led to a private sector-led growth model, which includes a focus on agriculture and tourism.

The theory of change is premised on the understanding that deep and pervasive rural poverty cannot be overcome only through a focus on increasing the poorest and most vulnerable households’ agricultural productivity.

Rather, the development and growth of a more inclusive rural economy requires a mix of interventions, which includes differentiated support to different categories of household producers, according to their resources and asset base.

“This will include support for emerging small-scale commercial farming and the development of off-farm employment opportunities for households with limited productive opportunities,” states the NSDP II.

Aligned with the NSDP II objectives, and based on extensive consultations with the government and the United Nations Country Team, the goals and strategic objectives include contributing to the transformation of rural Lesotho towards a more resilient and economically productive environment. Such an environment will allow people to sustain their livelihoods and overcome poverty and malnutrition.

The first strategic objective is inclusive commercialisation of the rural economy.

The second strategic objective is to strengthen an enabling natural and business environment for sustainable and resilient rural transformation.

In collaboration with the government and other partners, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide support through a mix of interventions including loan-financed rural investment projects, grant-financed analysis and capacity-building, and country-level policy engagement and formulation.

Tholoana Lesenya & Thooe Ramolibeli

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Suspension was malicious, says Nko

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MASERU – A gunshot wound and an attempted murder charge have not stopped Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko from starting a new fight.

The suspended Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) boss is rolling up his sleeves for what promises to be an epic legal battle to be reinstated.

In an application filed in the High Court this week, Dr Nko argues that the LTDC’s decision to suspend him had a “glaring element of bad faith and malice”.

He says the suspension was procedurally flawed because there was no complainant to instigate it and he was not granted a hearing.

Dr Nko was suspended after he was involved in a shooting incident with guests at an event at a Hillsview guest house on December 27.

He is alleged to have rushed home to take his gun after an argument with some of the guests. Dr Nko and a guest sustained gunshot wounds in the scuffle that ensued.

Reports say the guests were trying to wrestle the gun from Dr Nko when the shots were fired.

The LTDC’s board suspended him two days later, alleging that he had failed to attend an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the incident.

The suspension letter was written by Nonkululeko Zaly who was the chairperson of the LTDC board by virtue of being the principal secretary in the Ministry of Trade.

Zaly, who has since been fired following corruption investigations, also approached the court to force the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to return the assets confiscated during a raid at her house.

Dr Nko, in his court papers, accuses Zaly of usurping the board’s powers to suspend him. He says there was never a board resolution to suspend him.

The extraordinary meeting, he alleges, was a “prearranged dishonest scheme between certain members of the board and social media personnel which were part of the ruse deliberately designed to compromise” his interests.

Dr Nko says the board called him to the 29 December meeting when he was on sick leave and then suspended him without hearing his reasons for failing to attend.

He complains that Zaly wrote his suspension letter on the basis of mere allegations even though she had remained principal secretary and chairperson of the board when the corruption investigations against her were in full swing.

He queries why he was being suspended when Zaly was allowed to hold on to her job.

Zaly appears to have been belligerent when Dr Nko’s lawyers contacted her to query the suspension.

She told the lawyers, in a letter, that their queries were based on misinformation. She also dismissed the lawyer’s request for a record of the board meeting that decided to suspend Dr Nko.

“We are therefore not going to honour any of your demands and if your client is not satisfied, he is free to approach any appropriate forums to pursue these baseless issues,” Zaly said in her letter.

The lawyers say that response shows that Zaly was hell-bent on suspending their client.

Dr Nko wants the High Court to order the LTDC board to reverse the suspension, stop his imminent disciplinary proceedings and release the records of its December 29 meeting.

He also says the board is already conducting investigations on the incident to use as evidence against him in the disciplinary hearing.

Staff Reporter

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thepost columnist wins award

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Maseru – Two scholars associated with the National University of Lesotho have been awarded the 2022 Thomas Pringle prize for the best literary article published the previous year.

Chris Dunton, who is a columnist for thepost, and Lerato Masiea have won the prize, which is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa, for their article “Between rocks and hard places: the controversial career of A.S. Mopeli-Paulus,” which was published by thepost.

Dunton was previously Professor and Dean of Humanities at the NUL and for some years cwrote a column for this newspaper titled “Left Side Story.” Masiea is a lecturer in the NUL’s Department of English and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of the Free State.

Their prize-winning article was published in the journal English in Africa (vol.48 no.3, 2021, pp47-64). In it the authors explore the writings and life of the South African Mosotho author Mopeli-Paulus.

As their title indicates, their subject was a controversial figure, who degenerated from being an opponent of the apartheid regime (he was, notably, one of the leaders of the Witzieshoek Cattle Rebellion, for which role he was incarcerated in the Pretoria Central Prison) to being a high-ranking accomplice in the Bantustan system.

He was a prolific writer in both English and Sesotho (at one point he referred to the compulsive desire to write as a kind of madness!), his best-known works being the poetry-collection Ho tsamaea ke he bona (from time to time a set-text in Lesotho schools), the novel Blanket Boy’s Moon and the autobiography The World and the Cattle.

Dunton and Masiea’s article covers all his writing, published and unpublished (his papers are freely accessible at the William Cullen Library, Wits University) and is especially concerned with the question of cross-border identity.

Mopeli-Paulus was born in Monontsa, South Africa, in the lost territories—much in the news recently—and remained a South African citizen all his life. The dust-jacket for his first novel, Blanket

Boy’s Moon — which was an international best-seller — carries his name with the tag “Chieftain of Basutoland”, but this was a mistake.

Nonetheless, Mopeli-Paulus identified very strongly with Lesotho and has much to say — some of it fanciful, even spurious — on concepts of Sotho identity.

Dunton and Masiea explore this issue in detail, as it remains a topic of crucial importance even today.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane to boot out PS

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MASERU – THE Sam Matekane government is getting ready to get rid of Principal Secretaries appointed by the previous administration.

First to be axed is Nonkululeko Zaly who Matekane fired as a PS for the Ministry of Trade on January 11.

Zaly, who is challenging the decision, suffered a blow yesterday when the High Court refused to hear her case on an urgent basis.

Her case will now have to join the long queue of hundreds of others pending in the High Court.

Lefu Manyokole has been replaced as the PS of the local government ministry.

The axe is also likely to fall on government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, and Foreign Affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko.

The four have been the subject of a graft investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

Their homes and offices have been raided and properties seized as the anti-corruption unit investigates allegations that they received millions in bribes from contractors. The four are likely to be the first to be shown the door.

Indications are however that Matekane could be readying to purge the government of principal secretaries inherited from the previous government. Matekane hints at that impending clean up in his dismissal letter to Zaly.

“You will agree with me that as a Principal Secretary, yours was a political appointment,” Matekane said in the letter that Zaly claimed not to have received in her court papers.

“It follows therefore that the working relationship between yourself and the person appointing you, the Prime Minister in this case, is mainly based on utmost trust and confidence.”

“The trust and confidence components become even more important under the obtaining circumstances where the new government, of which I am the head, has just been installed.”

Matekane told Zaly that his government came with new ideas and policies at the top of which is to fight corruption.

He said he was aware that the DCEO had seized certain documents in Zaly’s possession “evidencing a commission of crime and that you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your possession of those documents”.

“This has eroded all the trust and confidence I had in you as the Principal Secretary and there is no way I can continue with you at the helm of any government ministry,” Matekane said.

Highly placed sources in the government have told thepost that Zaly’s exit is just the beginning of a shake-up that will continue for the next three months as Matekane seeks to bring in new people he trusts and share his vision with.

Meanwhile, Moahloli Mphaka, the government’s special adviser in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission this week told the High Court that there is a plan to fire him and two other senior officials.

Mphaka made the allegations in an urgent application to force the commission to pay his salary and that of Thabang Thite, and Bahlakoana Manyanye who are also part of the lawsuit. Thite and Manyanye are assistant advisers in the commission.

Mphaka told the court in an affidavit that on December 22 last year, the Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko told them that his superiors had instructed him to terminate their contracts.

The reason, Mphaka said, is the fact that they are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) members hired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. He said the government’s delay to pay their December salary was meant to frustrate them into resigning.

Nkheli Liphoto

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