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Keep working hard and doing good

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… 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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Suspension was malicious, says Nko

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MASERU – A gunshot wound and an attempted murder charge have not stopped Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko from starting a new fight.

The suspended Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) boss is rolling up his sleeves for what promises to be an epic legal battle to be reinstated.

In an application filed in the High Court this week, Dr Nko argues that the LTDC’s decision to suspend him had a “glaring element of bad faith and malice”.

He says the suspension was procedurally flawed because there was no complainant to instigate it and he was not granted a hearing.

Dr Nko was suspended after he was involved in a shooting incident with guests at an event at a Hillsview guest house on December 27.

He is alleged to have rushed home to take his gun after an argument with some of the guests. Dr Nko and a guest sustained gunshot wounds in the scuffle that ensued.

Reports say the guests were trying to wrestle the gun from Dr Nko when the shots were fired.

The LTDC’s board suspended him two days later, alleging that he had failed to attend an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the incident.

The suspension letter was written by Nonkululeko Zaly who was the chairperson of the LTDC board by virtue of being the principal secretary in the Ministry of Trade.

Zaly, who has since been fired following corruption investigations, also approached the court to force the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences to return the assets confiscated during a raid at her house.

Dr Nko, in his court papers, accuses Zaly of usurping the board’s powers to suspend him. He says there was never a board resolution to suspend him.

The extraordinary meeting, he alleges, was a “prearranged dishonest scheme between certain members of the board and social media personnel which were part of the ruse deliberately designed to compromise” his interests.

Dr Nko says the board called him to the 29 December meeting when he was on sick leave and then suspended him without hearing his reasons for failing to attend.

He complains that Zaly wrote his suspension letter on the basis of mere allegations even though she had remained principal secretary and chairperson of the board when the corruption investigations against her were in full swing.

He queries why he was being suspended when Zaly was allowed to hold on to her job.

Zaly appears to have been belligerent when Dr Nko’s lawyers contacted her to query the suspension.

She told the lawyers, in a letter, that their queries were based on misinformation. She also dismissed the lawyer’s request for a record of the board meeting that decided to suspend Dr Nko.

“We are therefore not going to honour any of your demands and if your client is not satisfied, he is free to approach any appropriate forums to pursue these baseless issues,” Zaly said in her letter.

The lawyers say that response shows that Zaly was hell-bent on suspending their client.

Dr Nko wants the High Court to order the LTDC board to reverse the suspension, stop his imminent disciplinary proceedings and release the records of its December 29 meeting.

He also says the board is already conducting investigations on the incident to use as evidence against him in the disciplinary hearing.

Staff Reporter

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thepost columnist wins award

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Maseru – Two scholars associated with the National University of Lesotho have been awarded the 2022 Thomas Pringle prize for the best literary article published the previous year.

Chris Dunton, who is a columnist for thepost, and Lerato Masiea have won the prize, which is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa, for their article “Between rocks and hard places: the controversial career of A.S. Mopeli-Paulus,” which was published by thepost.

Dunton was previously Professor and Dean of Humanities at the NUL and for some years cwrote a column for this newspaper titled “Left Side Story.” Masiea is a lecturer in the NUL’s Department of English and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of the Free State.

Their prize-winning article was published in the journal English in Africa (vol.48 no.3, 2021, pp47-64). In it the authors explore the writings and life of the South African Mosotho author Mopeli-Paulus.

As their title indicates, their subject was a controversial figure, who degenerated from being an opponent of the apartheid regime (he was, notably, one of the leaders of the Witzieshoek Cattle Rebellion, for which role he was incarcerated in the Pretoria Central Prison) to being a high-ranking accomplice in the Bantustan system.

He was a prolific writer in both English and Sesotho (at one point he referred to the compulsive desire to write as a kind of madness!), his best-known works being the poetry-collection Ho tsamaea ke he bona (from time to time a set-text in Lesotho schools), the novel Blanket Boy’s Moon and the autobiography The World and the Cattle.

Dunton and Masiea’s article covers all his writing, published and unpublished (his papers are freely accessible at the William Cullen Library, Wits University) and is especially concerned with the question of cross-border identity.

Mopeli-Paulus was born in Monontsa, South Africa, in the lost territories—much in the news recently—and remained a South African citizen all his life. The dust-jacket for his first novel, Blanket

Boy’s Moon — which was an international best-seller — carries his name with the tag “Chieftain of Basutoland”, but this was a mistake.

Nonetheless, Mopeli-Paulus identified very strongly with Lesotho and has much to say — some of it fanciful, even spurious — on concepts of Sotho identity.

Dunton and Masiea explore this issue in detail, as it remains a topic of crucial importance even today.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane to boot out PS

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MASERU – THE Sam Matekane government is getting ready to get rid of Principal Secretaries appointed by the previous administration.

First to be axed is Nonkululeko Zaly who Matekane fired as a PS for the Ministry of Trade on January 11.

Zaly, who is challenging the decision, suffered a blow yesterday when the High Court refused to hear her case on an urgent basis.

Her case will now have to join the long queue of hundreds of others pending in the High Court.

Lefu Manyokole has been replaced as the PS of the local government ministry.

The axe is also likely to fall on government secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, and Foreign Affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko.

The four have been the subject of a graft investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

Their homes and offices have been raided and properties seized as the anti-corruption unit investigates allegations that they received millions in bribes from contractors. The four are likely to be the first to be shown the door.

Indications are however that Matekane could be readying to purge the government of principal secretaries inherited from the previous government. Matekane hints at that impending clean up in his dismissal letter to Zaly.

“You will agree with me that as a Principal Secretary, yours was a political appointment,” Matekane said in the letter that Zaly claimed not to have received in her court papers.

“It follows therefore that the working relationship between yourself and the person appointing you, the Prime Minister in this case, is mainly based on utmost trust and confidence.”

“The trust and confidence components become even more important under the obtaining circumstances where the new government, of which I am the head, has just been installed.”

Matekane told Zaly that his government came with new ideas and policies at the top of which is to fight corruption.

He said he was aware that the DCEO had seized certain documents in Zaly’s possession “evidencing a commission of crime and that you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your possession of those documents”.

“This has eroded all the trust and confidence I had in you as the Principal Secretary and there is no way I can continue with you at the helm of any government ministry,” Matekane said.

Highly placed sources in the government have told thepost that Zaly’s exit is just the beginning of a shake-up that will continue for the next three months as Matekane seeks to bring in new people he trusts and share his vision with.

Meanwhile, Moahloli Mphaka, the government’s special adviser in the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission this week told the High Court that there is a plan to fire him and two other senior officials.

Mphaka made the allegations in an urgent application to force the commission to pay his salary and that of Thabang Thite, and Bahlakoana Manyanye who are also part of the lawsuit. Thite and Manyanye are assistant advisers in the commission.

Mphaka told the court in an affidavit that on December 22 last year, the Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko told them that his superiors had instructed him to terminate their contracts.

The reason, Mphaka said, is the fact that they are the All Basotho Convention (ABC) members hired by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. He said the government’s delay to pay their December salary was meant to frustrate them into resigning.

Nkheli Liphoto

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