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Building a legacy on the land



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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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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