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Pushing synthetic agri-products



Lesotho is sometimes described as one huge supermarket for goods produced in neighbouring South Africa and elsewhere.
But Motlatsi Shale, a food processing expert, is keen on changing that.

Shale says he is trying to break the status quo by harnessing the local food processing market whose potential has hardly been utilised.
His interest in food processing started after he attended a seminar meant to equip youths with skills to fight the scourge of unemployment in 2015.

From the seminar, he began the journey into the food processing sector.

“The youth shouldn’t despair when they are not absorbed by the labour market. Instead they should see it as an opportunity to work on their personal development in business. In our days it was automatic to secure a job upon graduating from a tertiary institution but currently, the opposite holds,” Shale says.

Despite being mocked by many who see it as a waste of time, education remains important, says Shale.

According to the businessman, young people should use their degree programmes or other tertiary education programmes as an opportunity to gain skills to be used in entrepreneurship instead of being preoccupied with the idea that they would find a job once they graduate.

Securing a job, for him, should be seen as a bonus and not a basis for undertaking a study in a certain area.

For centuries, Basotho society have been deeply rooted in the belief that the kitchen is a woman’s place while men work in the fields to produce for the kitchen.

Shale realised that this gender stereotype isn’t ideal for the growth of society and men and women can make a collective contribution in the production and consumption of food items.

He made it an endeavour to research and engage in training to beef up his skills and meet the demands of the industry.

In the process, he encountered an employee from the office of the then Prime Minister, Topollo Lephatšoe, who was working under a poverty reduction project.

Lephatšoe had spearheaded many projects that were meant to promote production, which included cutting and processing of sandstone, ‘motoho’ processing and packaging and making petrolium jelly from aloe.

Shale says Lephatsoe inspired him to focus more on production and processing of different items.

When one talks about food processing, people tend to think of a tasty meal on the plate to intrigue their taste buds, However there is more to it other than the final treat.

The synthetic products that Shale makes and also train people on include sweets, chocolates, soups, sauces, spices, mayonnaise, cheese, pasteurised sour milk and biltong.

“We preserve the food that always go to waste but can be used over a long period of time. Some foods and vegetables are seasonal so it’s a clever idea to preserve them during the season when they are found in abundance and not have to pay every time you would need them, thus saving money,” he says.

He says they preserve food using chemicals or natural methods such as dehydrating by sun drying.

The chemical preservatives are safe to consume as they don’t contain poisonous substances that might render the food inappropriate to consume, Shale says.

He says it is more cost effective to produce using locally sourced raw materials instead of buying them from the shelves.

“It’s very economical to produce things from scratch instead of just buying as there are many costs attached to the value of the goods such as transportation and insurance.

“The advantage of producing locally is that we are able to create employment domestically and the profits would be ploughed back, thereby ensuring that money circulates within the country.”

Local produce can also be exported to other countries which can enhance the economy through foreign earnings, he says.

“The raw materials we use for most of our products are readily available in our environment. Like for sauces and spices, we use chillies and peppers that grow well in the country. However, there are ingredients which we have to import such as those used for making cheese.”

Shale expressed dismay that Lesotho continues to rely heavily on imports.

“I am tormented that we are solely the consumers and not producers of most of the products you see around. The level of dependency to meet our daily needs such as food is scary,” he says.

For years, Lesotho’s products have struggled to breach the export market due to lack of a standardising bureau and Shale has lauded the National University of Lesotho (NUL) for providing a facility to determine the quality of products before they are distributed to the market.

“This can be a new dawn for Basotho products that have always faced barriers due to lack of safety and quality assurance,” he says.

A certificate of assurance that the body offers is instrumental in the growth of the business.

While food processing is not new to Basotho, for many who grew up in homesteads who were already engaged in food processing, skills such as labelling and packaging are still lacking, he says.

“What makes our products fall short compared to established products from other countries is labelling and packaging,” says Shale.

He describes his training methods as “hands on” and “more practical than theoretical”.

“Anybody can follow the lessons, even those illiterate can cope as the end result is about production and not theoretical work. So it caters for anybody from different backgrounds,” Shale says.

One of the challenges faced by local producers is the negative mentality by traders and consumers alike, he says.

“As Basotho, we belittle our products and don’t have pride about them since we have been accustomed to the idea that everything we use should come from elsewhere and not locally. That mentality has bred a culture of undermining our production capabilities.”

Calvin Motekase

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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