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Makoae’s milk and money project

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MASERU – THE inability of Lesotho to utilise its abundant resources for productivity has left the economy stagnant. The dairy industry is a classic example.
Studies by the National University of Lesotho (NUL) researchers, Tšepiso Rantšo and Moipone Makhobotloane, reveal that the supply of milk to the local dairy industry is not sustainable due to the small number of farmers participating in dairy farming.

This has affected the dairy industry’s capacity to produce a variety of dairy products for the domestic market. As a result, the local market is flooded with milk products imported from South Africa.

Nonetheless, despite the challenges faced by the local economy, Ntšiuoa Makoae is one of the Basotho entrepreneurs who have fought against all odds to revive the dairy industry.
Makoae is the founder of Boreleli Yoghurt Company.

The company produces several flavours of yoghurts, cocktail drinks which contain milk, drinking yoghurts and pasteurised milk.
The 34-year-old from Quthing is a graduate teacher from the National University of Lesotho.

However, a six months entrepreneurship course which was offered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) dramatically changed the course of her profession.

Makoae says in 2015 she was introduced to an entrepreneurship course which was organised by UNESCO.
She explains that part of the training involved being requested to determine Lesotho’s resources which were being underutilised. She says since she grew up in the mountainous side of Lesotho, the production of milk and its usage played in her mind.

“Farmers who have dairy animals produce more milk, however, they end up feeding the milk to other animals since they consider it abundant,” Makoae says.

During that time, she says she knew there were a number of products which could be produced from milk.
However, the bigger question was how it would be processed.

She says she then used her skills to research and mixed it up with a little bit of kitchen work.

“That was when I started producing yoghurt and cocktail drinks,” she said.

Makoae explains that after venturing into the dairy business, she realised that most dairy products were imported. She says she found out that Lesotho accounts for a smaller percentage in the market.

Makoae mentions that in her endeavor her mission was to at least capture 40 percent of the market share.
Despite the market realisation and some assistance from several people on how to produce standard milk products, Makoae says the journey was not a walk in the park.

However, she says the business managed to exceed M1 million of sales in a year from around M200 000 annually. She explains that she managed to increase her production capacity from 15 litres to 170 litres per day. She says the profits managed to exceed 60 percent compared to when the business was starting.

Makoae explains that she started the business alone. However, she has now been able to hire four permanent workers and two temporary workers.
She explains that she also has a temporary biotech expert, animal scientist, as well as an incubator who performs the bookkeeping work.

She says she has also increased the number of her milk suppliers from one farmer to around six farmers.

Although accessing the market in Lesotho has been mentioned as one of the hiccups to business growth, she says she has managed to penetrate several markets. She mentions that she is now supplying three guest houses, five supermarkets and 16 shops.

Makoae was also fortunate to acquire a M400 000 grant from the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project 2 (SADP2) to expand her business.
She says the condition for the funding requires each entrepreneur to contribute M150 000 on what SADP has granted. She explains that this is going to assist her to increase her capacity from 170 to 600 litres per day.

She says the grant is going to enable her to spread her products into all the districts of Lesotho. She says she will then be in a position to create over 10 permanent jobs and hire a permanent biotech expert.

Makoae says several institutions, such as the Lioness of Africa, have recognised her achievements. The organisation recently invited her as a guest speaker at a function.

“My journey is now a motivation to more people,” she says.

She says she has since added new products into her business, including drinking yoghurt and sour milk.

Makoae says meeting international standards in Lesotho has been a challenge since “we do not have (a body that regulates such standards) in the country”. She explains that this hinders her business from penetrating into more markets outside the country.

Milk is a sensitive product and “we do not have the right machinery to test it” in the country.
However, the Lesotho National Dairy Board (LNDB) has promised to do the testing for local dairy producers.

She says the other challenge is getting raw materials such as packaging bottles which are imported from South Africa.
Makoae urges upcoming entrepreneurs to focus on their goals.

She explains that the secret to her success is drawing her goals and working hard to achieve them in her business.
She mentions that the journey of successful entrepreneurs is measured through her failures and the ability to rise again from the dust.

She says it has not been easy to get to where she is now.
It has not been a straight path and at times she had to stop producing milk as she battled to keep the business afloat.

However, she says the passion to succeed kept driving her forward.
She encourages entrepreneurs to build networks and learn from others so that they can do better.

Lesotho’s production of milk was reported at a level of 173 333 tonnes by Knoema report 2020.

Refiloe Mpobole

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Lawyer in trouble

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A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’

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THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back

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THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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