Connect with us

News

From destitution to the boardroom

Published

on

MASERU – Abandoned and disowned by his father at a young age, life seemed headed for the doldrums for Advocate Makhetha Motšoari.

The Sesotho adage “mohale o tsoa maroleng” fits well into the successful lawyer’s narrative.

Despite the childhood hardships, he has grown to become a top lawyer and businessman, running a travel and tourism venture, family counselling business and is a farmer of reckon.

“For a person to shine, he has to experience some pain,” says Advocate Motšoari, who is also the Chairperson of the Police Compliance Authority (CPA) and Chairperson of Lesotho Council of Tourism.

“At first I saw nothing wrong that my father was rarely at home and my mother was doing odd jobs to make ends meet because I was too young to understand,” Advocate Motšoari says.

The 42-year-old lawyer says he learned to mend shoes because his mother could not afford to buy him new ones when he was in primary school.

“When the shoes became worn out beyond repair I started going to school wearing gumboots and when they became torn I learned how to patch them. This lessened my mother’s burden because now all she had to concentrate on was to bring food in the house,” he recalls.

It was at this time the young Motšoari started a small commercial farming business, growing vegetables from the family’s small garden and selling the produce in his rural Matelile village, in Mafeteng district.

“My mother never told us about what was happening with our father. We were six siblings. He would come home after a while and we would see him at a distance and happily run to meet him, jumping around him as we helped carry his luggage,” he says.

He remembers having no money to pay school fees after passing Standard Seven.

The school principal facilitated for the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) to pay for his fees from Form A to Form C.

It was after he passed Form C and was going to another school when he discovered why his father was behaving errantly.

“My mother did not tell me that there was a problem between the two of them, but told me to go to my father’s workplace to ask for money,” he recalls.

His father worked in the mines in Welkom, Free State, at the time.

“This time things were really tough that my mother could not put a cent on the table hence she sent me to South Africa to meet my father,” he reminisces.

When he arrived at the mine, things took a dark turn.

“I was told that my father lived in the mine compound but to my surprise I didn’t see him until the next morning,” he says.

Advocate Motšoari remembers standing by the mine gate hoping to see his father when he checked in or out but that didn’t happen.

Mine workers asked him what he was doing there at the gate and he told them that he was looking for his father.

“My father had changed his name hence I struggled to find him and his location.”

He says he learnt this from a mineworker from the same area of Matelile who took him to spend the night at his quarters, helping him to find his father the next day.

“That man gave me bread in the morning and told me to wait at the gate as my father would arrive anytime soon.”

Advocate Motšoari’s father eventually arrived.

“Instead of being pleased to see me, he angrily shouted at me and asked what I was doing there, saying I was going to humiliate him.”

His father ordered him to return to Lesotho.

“It was a horrible day for me. I cannot even recall if he gave me the money my mother had asked for.”

The father then took him on a long drive to a place where he was staying: a squatter camp full of corrugated iron shacks.

“Boom! What a bomb! He had another family there.”

“As we entered the house, he introduced me to a lady in that house that this is Makhetha and told me to meet my other family.”

He was ordered to sleep on a couch.

It was a nightmare for him. He could not sleep peacefully trying to connect all the dots and it started to make sense why his father had abandoned them.

Come morning, he was sent back home where he asked his mother why she had not told him the situation.

“My mother did not answer me, but I believed she wanted me to see for myself, which I did.”

At the end of the year, his father came home to take all his children with him leaving his wife behind.

Advocate Motšoari says he chose to stay behind with his mother.

“I told him that he could take my other siblings but not me, I told him I would stay with my mother.”

It was at that moment when he lost his father for good.

“My father told me that if I stayed I should consider him dead as he would not support me in any form. He said he would not give me money as he had disowned me.”

Advocate Motšoari says he never thought his father was serious about it.

“But I discovered that he was serious. For two years, he didn’t come home and didn’t send us any money.”

He proceeded to the new school for senior high school after the principal facilitated government sponsorship for him.

His results were not good enough to earn him a university place.

Advocate Motšoari decided to go to South Africa to plead with his father to help him further his education.

“He was disinterested.”

“Although he allowed me to live with him, he only gave me M150 when a private school I had approached to supplement required M900.”

Advocate Motšoari says he told the principal about his problem. The principal paid the tuition fee from his own pocket.

Advocate Motšoari gave the principal M100 and started a small business with the remaining M50.

“I bought cigarettes and some vegetables to sell on the streets so that I would be able to have transport to and from school,” he says. “It became a habit as my siblings were also interested and started to assist me.”

He says he would leave the business in the hands of his siblings when he went to school. His father had not enrolled his siblings at school despite education being free in South Africa.

After some time, when he was about to complete his high school studies, Advocate Motšoari’s father fell terminally ill. His father’s deathbed words further riled Advocate Motšoari.

“His last words to me were that there was R1 000 which he had kept in the house. My siblings and I should take it as transport money back home in Lesotho because he could see that he was going to die,” he recalls.

The father, says Advocate Motšoari, told him they should not claim anything from the family in Welkom, the M1 000 was all there was for them.

After his father’s burial in Lesotho, Advocate Motšoari went back to South Africa to sit for exams, which he passed.

He applied to study law at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

His mother went from house to house in the village borrowing money for his transport to the university in Roma as well as his upkeep pending the NMDS paying his stipend.

“My mother was in tears as she helped me.”

He says that was when their life changed as a family.

With his first stipend, he made sure that his family changed for the better.

“I was now the bread winner of the family, with my student money I took my siblings to school, took care of my mother and everything,” he says.

He credits Professor Kananelo Mosito for taking him in and guiding him as a young lawyer during his internship and after graduation.

“He motivated me to be who I am today. He shaped and groomed me until I had my own law firm.”

The difficult childhood made Advocate Motšoari vow that he was going to help other people.

He started with his family, helping his mother rear cattle and sheep.

She is now a livestock farmer and is in the national committee of wool producers.

“I told my mother that she would never suffer like she used to,” he says.

“She played her role as a mother. I told her I would not give her money but I would create projects which she would run and make a living for herself.”

To help other young, struggling lawyers, Advocate Motšoari makes sure that his law firm always has at least five to nine of them.

He also has a vibrant tourism business called Boqate Leisure Park in Ha-Leqele, about 10 kilometres south-east of Maseru city.

Advocate Motšoari tried his hand in politics under the All Basotho Convention (ABC), with the hope that he would be voted to parliament.

He failed twice in his Matelile constituency.

Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane then appointed him to be the Cabinet Administrator Compliance and Assurance Specialist where he worked until he was appointed chairperson of Police

Compliance Authority, a position he is still holding.

Advocate Motšoari says he is working hard to create jobs through tourism because he has realised that Lesotho has a lot of sites that can attract tourists.

’Malimpho Majoro

Advertisement

News

A night of horror

Published

on

THE police arrived in Ha-Rammeleke, a Mokhotlong village, in the middle of the night.
They stormed one house and found a couple sleeping.

They then dragged the man out and ordered him to follow their instructions if he didn’t want to be killed. Their order was that he should scream while announcing to his neighbours that his wife was gravely ill. The villagers who responded to the man’s plea for help didn’t know that they were walking into a trap.

The police rounded them up as they arrived at the man’s house.

Their night of horror has just begun.

Dozens of men and women were frog-marched to the edge of the village.

The police assaulted the men with sticks and whips. They kicked others.

In the crowd was Tebalo Lesita, a 48-year-old Rastafarian with dreadlocks.

He was called to the front and ordered to act like a Rastafarian.

First, they said he should sing Reggae while shaking his head so that his dreadlocks would wave from side to side. He did and they laughed.

“They also ordered me to mimic Lucky Dube.”

Lesita says he only shouted like he was singing because, due to fear, all Lucky Dube’s songs he knew had slipped out of his mind.

“I just mumbled some words as if I was singing. I have never experienced such torment before.”

“I only kept saying ‘Ye ye ye!’”, he says.

They laughed again.

Meanwhile, the police were hurling insults at him.

“I was told that I was smelling rubbish in the mouth.”

Lesita says the police then instructed him to act as if he was having sex.

And when he said he was tired of the act the police ordered him to act as if he was ejaculating.

He did and his tormentors roared with laughter.

The police, Lesita says, wanted him and other villagers to confess that they knew men who had shot and killed a man earlier in the village.

Lesita says after the ordeal that lasted nearly an hour the police ordered him to pray. He claims his body is full of bruises, especially on the buttocks.

“My body is aching all over.”

Lesita says he wants to sue the police but doesn’t know where to start.

“I understand that my human rights have been grossly violated but I do not know which legal steps to follow,” he says.

A week after the assault, he still hasn’t sought medical help.

Nor has he opened a case against the police.

“I find it impossible to open the case against them. I will have to go to the police station to open a case,” he says.

“How can I open the case against the police at the police station?”

As a sheep farmer, Lesita says he cannot afford the taxi fare to travel to Mapholaneng to report a case at Tlokoeng Police Station.

Lesita says he cut his dreadlocks a day after the incident “because they have put me into serious problems”.

“I rue the day that I started growing those dreadlocks,” he says.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, confirmed that there was a police operation in Mokhotlong but said he didn’t know how it unfolded.

Incidents of the police terrorising villagers under the guise of fighting or investigating crimes are common in Lesotho.

It is rare for police officers involved in such incidents to be arrested or prosecuted.

Majara Molupe

Continue Reading

News

Anger over Chinese businesses

Published

on

FORMER Mining Minister, Lebohang Thotanyana, says Lesotho is shooting itself in the foot by allowing Chinese companies that win major construction tenders to import everything from China.

Thotanyana was speaking at the Basotho Business Empowerment Forum on Tuesday.

The forum was organised by the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Association.

Thotanyana told the forum that of all the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries, Lesotho is the one benefitting the least from hiring Chinese-owned companies for major infrastructure projects. 

 

Thotanyana said Chinese companies tend to “import everything save menial labour” in every government job they win.

 

“We only benefit minimally with the labour force,” Thotanyana said, adding that “more money goes back to the countries that have brought their own machinery”.

 

“This is exactly what is happening at the Polihali Dam which is under construction.” 

 

“There should be a value chain so that the economy grows.”

 

Tempers flared at the forum as local business owners accused the government of failing to protect them against Chinese businesses. 

 

The forum revealed the growing frustration among local business owners who feel the government is not doing enough to protect them against Chinese business muscling them out of sectors reserved for them. 

 

The local business owners criticised the government for failing to implement the Business Licensing and Registration Act 2019 that reserves certain businesses for indigenous Basotho. 

 

They told the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Thabo Moleko, together with a handful of MPs in attendance, that their patience had worn out.

 

“We want our business from the Chinese and Indians,” Thobei Motlere, the president of the MSME Association said.

 

“We are not afraid of these Chinese,” he added, adding that they could approach them head-on.

 

“We want to see the Act implemented now, not tomorrow or any other time. We want to push them out of the business peacefully. We want peace.”

 

Motlere said they have been pushed out of business by the Chinese yet there is a law to protect them “against unfair competition”.

 

“We have elected you as MPs but you are doing nothing to save us from the competition yet there is a law in place,” Motlere said.

 

The MPs tried to respond to some of the issues people but they were booed and heckled. 

 

“This is not the right place to answer. You should address this in parliament, not here,” said one woman in the crowd. 

 

Some MPs walked out of the forum in protest but were eventually coaxed to return to their chairs. 

 

’Maremi ’Mabathoana, a street vendor, said the Chinese sell almost every item.

 

“We buy from their shops so that we can sell small items. But the Chinese also sell small items,” ’Mabathoana said.

 

“When we sell a sweet for M1, they sell it for 50c,” she yelled.

 

“When we sell apples for M4, the Chinese sell them for M2. This is unfair.”

 

Moeketsi Motšoane, the Mafeteng MP who is the chairman of the parliament’s Natural Resources committee, said he is also facing similar challenges in his home district.

 

Trying to calm the irked traders, Motšoane said he could bet that some people were being used by the Chinese to kick Basotho out of business.

 

“There are such people amongst you who are being used by the Chinese to knock Basotho out of business,” Motšoane said.

 

He told the Ministry of Trade to move swiftly to implement the Act.

 

“If you do not implement the Act, we will drag you before the committee to account,” he said.

 

 Moleko, the principal secretary of Trade,  promised to implement the law. 

Majara Molupe

Continue Reading

News

Labour unions in nasty fight

Published

on

TWO trade unions representing workers at Polihali Dam construction site have turned on each other.
Instead of fighting for better pay and conditions for members, the Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers (CMQ) and the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA) are locked in a nasty battle that could be linked to a fight over membership.

CMQ alleges that LEWA officials intimidated its members who wanted to vote for a proposed strike against companies working at Polihali Dam.

CMQ also accuses LEWA’s secretary general, Hlalefang Seoaholimo, of conflict of interest which it says renders him unable to effectively represent workers in their battles against employers in Polihali.

CMQ says Seoaholimo is working as a union leader and an employer at the same time. This, CMQ says, is because Seoaholimo’s company, Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd, has been subcontracted by some companies working at Polihali Dam.

The allegations of intimidation and conflict of interest are part of the letter that CMQ’s secretary general, Robert Mokhahlane, has written to the Registrar of Trade Unions.

In that letter, seen by thepost, Mokhahlane pleads with the Registrar of Trade Unions to deregister LEWA over the alleged intimidation and Seoaholimo’s conflict of interest.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that because of Seoaholimo’s shareholding in Domino Blasting, LEWA has “characteristics of a company, not a trade union”.

“At Polihali Dam construction, there (were) workers who were employed by Domino Blasting Services at various projects,” Mokhahlane alleges.

“They (Domino Blasting) have a long list of projects that have references and include some companies involved in the construction of Polihali Dam.”

Seoaholimo is one of Domino Blasting’s four directors and holds 300 of the 1000 shares in the company.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that Seoaholimo cannot claim to be independently fighting for workers’ rights when his company is working with the same companies accused of unfair labour practices in Polihali.

He also accuses Domino Blasting’s human resource officer, Mpho Kanono, of being conflicted because she is also an official of the United Textile Employees (UNITE).

“Both the two officials (Seoaholimo and Kanono) are workers’ representatives within the Wages Advisory Board whereby Hlalefang Seoaholimo is the spokesperson of the workers,” Mokhahlane says.

Mokhahlane also accuses Seoaholimo of “intimidating workers who will be balloting for a strike action by encouraging LEWA members to observe and identify workers” who would participate.

He claims that Seoaholimo mocked a CMQ official who was mobilising workers for the strike at the construction site.

The Labour Code, which the registrar has been asked to invoke, says a union or employers’ organisation may be cancelled by the Labour Court on the registrar’s application.

Seoaholimo has however vehemently refuted allegations that his company is working at Polihali Dam. He told thepost that CMQ is in a campaign to tarnish his name and that of LEWA because “they are aware that workers do not want to join their union”.

He admits that he is a shareholder in Domino Blasting but insists that “as we speak now Domino Blasting does not have a job anywhere in Lesotho”.

“CMQ has to provide evidence that a company called Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd is working and has any employees in Polihali,” Seoaholimo said.

“Domino Blasting does not even have an office anywhere in the country because it is not working anymore.”

“They should identify the people hired by Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd among workers in Polihali.”

He said the company has not operated in Lesotho since 2016 when it completed a project. Seoaholimo, however, says he is aware of a South African company with a similar name working in Polihali.

“I as a person have nothing to do with that company,” Seoaholimo said.

He said it is true that Mpho Kanono used to work for Domino Blasting back in 2016 when it still had contracts but she has since left because “the company stopped working”.

“Mpho Kanono is an official of UNITE and has nothing to do with Domino Blasting at present moment.”

Staff Reporter

Continue Reading
Advertisement

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending