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Come out into the sunshine

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On this beautiful Saturday the 20th of May 2017, I am invited to an exhibition of contemporary arts and crafts exhibition supported by Morija Museum & Archives, The Hub, Maeder House Gallery and Linotšing Art Centre.

It is an experience (that though it is told post-advance) opens up one’s eyes and makes them realise just one fact; we know too little of ourselves and our cultural heritage, and essentially are unaware of our potential that can only be expressed through our talent.
The main concern on my part as a writer is the continuing cry on the part of the artists, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs in our land, and this contained within the phrase, “there is no market for our products . . . ”

And so when institutions take it upon themselves to host a spectacle and an open fair where aficionados and connoisseurs can come to view and buy the works of local artists, the least one can do is to applaud the initiative, and the best one as a writer can do is to contribute to the best of their ability, the message that will help the advancement of the call to recognise the art industry in a manner befitting the efforts of the individual artists and the entrepreneurs that impact every sector of our economy’s development.

MMA and its partner institutions locally and abroad, not only toil to ensure that local arts and crafts are given due recognition, but these institutions also unite the local artists with prospective investors in their ventures.

There are a few core aspects of economic development one as an observer realises about this venture on the day that are salient to the promotion of artistic and entrepreneurial talent at fairs such as this one: i. commitment to promote local arts and crafts industry, ii.
The role and the significance of linking varied sectors in the economy, iii. Lessons on Business Strategy and Youth Development iv.
The venture by MMA and fellow institutions, in actuality acts as a platform through which the merging of the arts and crafts sector with other sectors of the economy is made possible.

Future prospects can only become a reality if institutions realise that the enjoyment of art is not only limited to the arts, the reality is that not all the buyers of art are cognoscente or pretentious arty-farty types: they actually have real appreciation for art and are willing to buy or invest in it.

This is one of the reasons why the day included sumptuous food and beverages, a visit to the MMA which is “the” well of knowledge central and core to our history as a nation under the guidance of its curator Dr. Stephen Gill.

Some of us took tours and hikes to historical and heritage sites as Makeneng with a group of international journalists that include Mr. Bill Hinchberger, who is on a mission to educate local media personnel on election reporting, Mr. Craig Anderson and his daughter Liako, and other international guests to the place where one cannot help but be overcome with emotion at the beauty of the architecture from a past age whose restoration questions MMA and partners are addressing at this moment in time.

Had the opportunity to interview individuals in the arts and crafts, and entrepreneurs at the Maeder House Gallery Exhibition organised by Nazreen Rorke in unity with Teyana Neufeld of Action Lesotho, and the two ladies are also hard at work developing the use of natural dyes for use in woven grass baskets and tapestries in local women development projects.

Beginning with Mr. Marcel Ntee the inspiration behind Martaramputana Design Studio to get the insight on his impressive art designs and wood-etchings, I then went to Thabang Mashapha of Reetzman J. who declares that he ‘seeks to teach the truth as it is to the kidz through art and nature’. Thabo Malefetsane of GYR (Good Young Rasta) designs his bracelets and varied art pieces for a “purpose”.

A talk with Ntate Samuel Chopho reveals how this artist and teacher from Ha-Abia not only creates beautiful ornamental houses, but also carries the spirit of ‘The Green Revolution’ that has helped him found innovative ways to make art from recycled material.
Relebohile Monkhe from Jona Belo Inc. is a spirited figure to whom art is a spiritual journey, the understanding of whose concepts leads to the idea becoming a reality.

\Ms. Boitumelo from Ulu (Wool) Creations makes marvels with wool ranging very wide in terms of design and beauty.
My feet then led me to Mr. Katleho Mthembu whose Bowshoeshoe designs (a community-based, in-house training project he started 2 years ago with Peacecorp teacher Edward Wycliffe) are sold as far as the USA and seen thriving projects started in Mafeteng, Semongkong, and Qacha’s-Nek.

I got a taste of the oven marvels of Mrs. ‘Matebello Nyabela whose Masutsa Bakery aims to supply Lesotho with much needed bread and confectionery of all types.

Rethabile Manare of Fast Food is a young woman whose kebabs and samoosas will leave the palate singing. The mosaic art of Puseletso Qhoai is beautifully different, revealing other perspectives in art.

China-trained potter ‘Me Majack of ‘Majack Pots churns out beautiful ceramics that show one that there is beauty in clay. And Napoleon Makhele of V26 Napoleon Couture has designs that are simply trendsetting haute couture.

I cannot forget the photography of Guga’s Khotso Monyamane, whose hat designs leave one spellbound. As said before, there were lots of individuals one met this day, and I was left twisted into the wire art of Karabo Mohapeloa of Wire Waya whose pieces one can only dream of while he twists them into reality.

And the Wushu master Sobo T. Bernard’s collage of copper designs and masks just exposed the depth to which we have gone into ourselves to express beauty to the world.

Moleboheng Rampou of The Nala Project defines it as an umbrella community market that has for a year now promoted the arts, the food, and acted as a platform of development for varied individuals active in the arts, food and beverages, and entrepreneurship; a commendable committed ‘get up and do it’ initiative.

Litema Designs’ Nkekeletse Molapo-Anderson reveals an endless universe of possibilities, and being a veteran who has traversed the full spectrum of the arts and crafts field, one feels that her novel “upcycling”” (recycling materials for the increase of their value) project is sure to open a door of endless opportunities for the arts, but more than that re-invent the concept of recycling for profit and livelihood.
Above this, the presence of Vodacom Lesotho with their stall brings a spirit of encouragement because I see; the company is indeed committed to improving the business sector and livelihoods of the various entrepreneurs in the country.

This is a day that opened up my eyes to the fact that; the efforts of one are reminiscent to the gentle flapping of a butterfly’s wings whose effect may not be noticed, but will upon maturation result in wealth, needed funds, and the nurturing of the spirit of togetherness we need to garner in unity, and lead us into the future as a connected unit of individuals from different sectors of the Mountain Kingdom’s economy.

To be present at this day’s event is to have the fortune to witness a mushroom blossom, to be part of the testament tomorrow when it becomes a worldwide spectacle.

The stars are bright in the Morija sky as I type in the privacy of the room that once was a master mason’s;  and the possibilities I have seen this day for growth today seem to outnumber the stars . . .

Tšepiso s. Mothibi

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors

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MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue

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LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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