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Abel Chapatarongo

MASERU – WHEN Dr Mohlalefi Sefika swapped the lecture theatre for business in 2002 he immediately realised that he had been hardly prepared for the challenges of running a successful business venture.

Armed with a PhD in Information Technology from the University of Illinois in the United States, Sefika had assumed the switch from the world of academia to business would be seamless.

It soon dawned on him that he was utterly wrong.
University education had not prepared him adequately to deal with the challenges of running a successful enterprise.

The chasm between what he thought he knew and how business operates was huge. He had to learn “on the run” to bridge that gap.
Sefika says immediately after setting up the business in 1998 he was soon to realise that he was “a computer scientist but not a businessman”.
“I was the technical guy with no business sense,” he says.
After setting up Computer Business Solutions (CBS) , Sefika and his partner, Lebina Ts’epe, had to learn how to drive the project forward while at the same time learning how business functions.

He says he had to learn how to manage people and at the same complying with Lesotho’s tax and labour laws.
That was no simple task, he says.
“I had to read and learn at the speed of light. I read a lot of books on business management,” he says.
Sefika says he will be forever grateful to two business management giants, Jack Welch and Jim Collins, for his “fast-track” education in business management.
Welch is the author of a celebrated book, Straight from the gut, while Collins penned the book, From Good to Great.

“These two business management books really changed my life. I realised there were gaps in my knowledge in the fields of business and managing people.”
Knowledge puffs up, says the Bible.
And it is not too often that you find individuals who have passed through the “cathedrals of knowledge” in universities acknowledging their inadequacies.
Yet, for Sefika, the realisation that he did not know it all, must have been a humbling experience.

Sefika says he realised that while “a PhD will make you a professional in a technical field, business was completely something else”.
The fact that you know how to make a plane doesn’t mean you will succeed in the airline business, he says.

Having realised there were things he did not know, Sefika says they tried to fill-in the gaps by recruiting the best brains available in IT and business, initially recruiting his former students.
They also sought to forge alliances with other people in business locally, regionally and internationally.
“We had to consult from the best through and through,” he says.
Even as they were trying to find their feet, Sefika says they had to battle against negative perceptions from the market.

“People did not think that someone with a PhD would go into business. The thinking was that we are not practical and down-to-earth,” he says.
He had to work hard to smash such negativity and win the people’s trust.
Sefika says when they set up the business in 1998, the IT sector in Lesotho was not a very active industry.

To compound the situation, the nascent IT sector was characterized by lack of trust with educated people trying to get into business.

Banks were also not prepared to extend lines of credit to emerging businesses.
Yet, in spite of all these challenges, Sefika says they were determined to “deliver software solutions that were appropriate for the Lesotho market”.
He says while there were some companies that were providing IT services, they realised such companies “were not developing software”.
“There was a market demand for software that was affordable and customised to the needs of customers.”

Having identified that niche market, Sefika and his partner swiftly moved in.
And for the past 18 years, CBS (Pty) Ltd has become a household name in the IT sector providing cutting edge solutions to business needs.
In the next five years, Sefika says they hope to reach new heights in service delivery and market coverage.

“New technologies such as cell phones are opening up unimagined channels for innovation. We want to continue to drive appropriate solutions for the Lesotho market.”
The country’s hostile terrain means there is room to explore new ventures such as tele-medicines and health management through cell phones.
“Too many applications that were considered impossible 10 years ago are now possible. There is a huge niche for Lesotho.”

With 18 years’ experience in business, Sefika tells young Basotho aspiring to get into business to dare to dream and not allow anything to stand in their way.
“It is not easy to succeed in business. There will be moments of self-doubt. But when you want to quit you should just keep punching harder.”
He says youths endevouring to get into business must also be prepared “to work extremely hard”.

“They should not be too afraid to fail. They should not listen to people who say they can’t do it. They should break the rules.”
That may sound maverick but it works, according to Sefika, as long as one’s business idea is really good and one is passionate about it.

“I would advise the youths to pick a really good idea that they are passionate about and go for it. The idea must differentiate you from your competitors. It must be distinct.”
He says even when he left the National University of Lesotho (NUL) to join his business fulltime in 2002, he had to deal with such negative individuals who tried to discourage him.
“They said I would come back and teach but that did not happen.”
Computer Business Solutions (Pty) Ltd currently has 48 full-time staff and eight temporary employees.

It is a large company by Lesotho standards.
The danger is that such big companies often become slow and unwieldly. Everyone could easily get lost somewhere in the maze of unaccountability.
With such a structure, how does Sefika make decisions?
He says while he believes in the wisdom of consultation, he prefers to take swift decisions to get things done.

“I seek advice from subject specialists, assess the quality of the advice and tests it. I believe in the motto: trust but verify. This means I do research where I am not satisfied.”
Yet even while he is consulting, Sefika says he does not “value decisions that are delayed too much because the value is often lost in the paralysis”.
With many young Basotho entering business, they have often complained they receive very little structural support from the government.

Their small businesses, battling to establish themselves, are often nudged out of the way by larger corporations. This reality has given rise to the call for a deliberate programme to empower locals in business through affirmative action.
But Sefika says he only supports affirmative action for Basotho businesses “only to the extent that it would help build local capacity and create a vibrant economy that would deliver jobs to the people”.

“In the IT industry when big projects are awarded to the total exclusion of locals, we would miss an opportunity for job creation and wealth creation for Basotho. They must be allowed to participate in the economy of their country.”

He however adds that any Basotho companies awarded contracts on the basis of affirmative action “must deliver quality and respect project conditions for timely delivery”.
Sefika admits that the crop of graduates from IT schools in Lesotho “are not industry ready” adding there is need to align the curriculum from such institutions to the needs of industry.
“We need closer collaboration between universities and industry to deliver students that are market ready. Universities must change and adapt to close that gap in a win-win situation.”
For Sefika, the IT field was not his first love. Medicine was.
Like every young Mosotho boy growing up in the early 1970’s, Sefika dream was to be a medical doctor.

“My intention was to be a medical practitioner but I realised that Biology was not suited for me because it required too much memorising and reading,” he says.
“I preferred problem-solving and decided to swing completely to Mathematics with a little bit of computer programming.”

Between 1985 and 1989, Sefika studied Mathematics at the NUL. But a year after he graduated from the NUL, he went to the University of Illinois in the United States where he studied Computer Science. He was admitted into the PhD programme at the university based on his strong passes at undergraduate level.
He says he went into IT which he saw “as a good, fashionable field which also had huge commercial prospects”.

He also obtained a Masters degree in Computer Science with the same university in the US.
Sefika completed his PhD in 1996.

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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