Keep working hard and doing good

Keep working hard and doing good

… a woman’s story of grief, tribulations, forgiveness and triumph

LIMPHO Maema would have been a medical doctor if the cruel hand of fate had not intervened.

She had just started her BSc studies for getting into the medical programme at the University of Free State when her father, an activist turned politician, was fatally shot during the political riots that rocked Lesotho in 1998.

If his untimely death crushed her world then what followed almost buried her.

Unable to afford her tuition, Maema dropped out of university and came back home where her tribulations would continue for several years.

An uncle took everything her father owned, including insurance pay-out, a house and sites. The injustice of her uncle inheriting everything her father owned was clear but the law was not on her side.

Maema’s three-year court battle to pry the inheritance from her father’s brother ended in defeat because the law said a girl child could not inherit her father’s estate. She was the only child.

“It was yet another blow for me,” Maema says.

Although the law was clear that her uncle was supposed to use part of the estate to maintain the lifestyle she had enjoyed while her father was alive, Maema found herself abandoned and destitute. The uncle could not pay her tuition or give her a decent life as the heir to an estate to which she was a dependant.

“I was raised by my father. I was dear to him and him to me. His passing changed everything. It was a key turning point in my life.”

Desperate, Maema went to live with her mother and maternal grandmother in Leribe.

“Those were dark days but they shaped me,” she says.

This was an only child whose father was a man of means had given everything but was now living in dire circumstances.

Yet Maema had the will and courage to accept her new situation. Maema’s saving grace was that her father had also exposed her to both sides of the world: a time of fat cows and a time of lean cows.

During holidays her father would let her visit her mother who she says came from “a very humble background”. That exposure helped Maema with the adjustment to the new situation when she moved in with her mother in Leribe.

“It was tough but I could adjust to the new reality, with no shame,” she adds. I was loved and supported in countless ways to deal with the trauma and to regain control of my life.

She would spend about a year there before returning to Maseru to work at a photo lab. Maema says those three dark years helped her grow spiritually and “find myself”. The process restored and reinvigorated me at exponential levels, it was liberating. She gave up the fight, forgave her uncle and moved on.

“It was a moment of reckoning when I realised that this battle and resentment was consuming me. I just had to let it go and focus on myself.”

Once she started healing Maema realised that while she had lost her father’s estate, she had inherited his lessons and values.

“He taught me to stand on my own and respect the people around me.”

Because her father was good to other people, Maema got support from friends, total strangers and other relatives who wanted her to succeed.

“I had lost material things but I had inherited his humility and humanity.”

The legal battles inspired her to study law at the National University of Lesotho.

It would also define her career path that saw her volunteer and work at women’s rights organisations.

She wanted to understand the problems women face, not only in Lesotho but in Africa as well.

“Women and girls are treated as third-class citizens and I wanted to change that at the policy level. I have never looked back since then and I have remained committed.”

A governance specialist, she worked for several non-governmental organisations.

Her interaction with the Sekhametsi Investment Consortium started when she was engaged to provide corporate secretarial services. She says before that she had just admired the company from a distance.

“I had always wanted to be associated with Sekhametsi because it is a beacon. It has changed the perception about Basotho starting businesses and working together.”

“Here was a group of Basotho who had collaborated to build something amazing and they were still going strong together. That was an inspiring story.”

This explains why Maema could not pass on an opportunity to buy Sekhametsi shares three years ago.

When Sekhametsi started she was earning M880 at the photo lab and could not afford to buy some shares.

What she knew was to save her money in a bank. With hindsight, experience and exposure Maema says although saving is a noble idea people must strive to grow their money instead of just parking it in a bank.

The trick, she warns, is to find the right investment and the credible people to work with.

Sekhametsi fits the bill in all aspects.

Maema is now a director at the company, a position she treasures for several reasons.

The first is that as a corporate secretary she had come to understand  Sekhametsi’s vision, values and the work ethic of the board in managing the affairs of the company on behalf of the shareholders.

“I like working with astute and professional people. I like excellence and Sekhametsi has it.”

She recalls her grandmother telling her that work is like prayer in that “you must do it well for God to reward you”.

Second, this was her opportunity to contribute to the company with her experience in corporate governance. Third, this was an opportunity to learn about business as an aspiring entrepreneur.

“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship because I get valuable experience while serving a company I love, among people with integrity.”

The fourth reason is that he wanted to be a part of a company helping to transform lives through investment and social intervention. Here she talks about Sekhametsi’s investment in telecommunications, property, financial services and manufacturing. This is in addition to the several corporate social investments Sekhametsi has made in communities.

“The company is touching lives through employment, targeted investments and social interventions.”

Maema says her time on the board and forays into business has taught her that nothing you learn goes to waste.

Before going to university, Maema enrolled for a Diploma in Business Management and Marketing. This was something she stumbled upon but it has come in handy.

“Everything happens for a reason. Everything eventually works together for good.”

Maema’s children did not see their grandfather who died before they were born but she is determined to impart the valuable lessons she learned from him.

“He used to tell me that no one owes you anything in this life. Whatever opportunities come to you are just privileges but you have to understand that you are your own greatest asset. You should never look up to people to do things for you.”

“People need to understand that a life of quick fixes, overnight success and instant gratification doesn’t last. Power and money pass but the values last forever. You must put in the work, that is what we must teach our children if we want to build a better generation.”

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