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Tattoo craze hits Lesotho

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MASERU-FROM being associated with evil, tattoos are turning into a big hit in Lesotho.
And in a country that is still largely conservative, getting one’s body inked often results in clashes with some family members for many young adults hooked to the tattoo craze.
But for people such as Tšepiso Tsikoane, the troubles – and pain – are worth it and there is no stopping them.
“The pain is bitter sweet,” says the 34-year-old. “It hurts but it is the most appealing pain.”

Raised in a Catholic family, inking her body meant becoming the black sheep of the family and for many years she endured repeated rebuke.
With many of her family being priests or prominent members of the church, Tsikoane was not spared the religious perspective of tattoos.
“Family meetings have been called to put me into line. They thought it was just a phase (that would pass) but even at 34 I have not passed that phase.”
In the past, the taboo surrounding tattoos drove many to hide in the shadows even though linyao (facial scratched tattoos) are an example of traditional or tribal tattoos that have existed for centuries.

The global history of tattoos is so vast and many cultures have embodied body tattooing to signify culture and beliefs.
Locally, apart from the cultural linyao, tattooing has largely been frowned upon.
However, body art is a trend that is increasingly being embraced as normal by some Basotho and even the corporate world such that tattoo parlours are mushrooming like never before.
For Tsikoane, the dance with body art started in 2003 when she was still a student at the National University of Lesotho. After travelling to Bloemfontein to get her first tattoo, Tsikoane chickened out and returned home with a belly ring instead.

But later she became braver and the result: more than a dozen tattoos to date.
On her upper left arm is a rabbit with a death card (Ace card) inspired by Alice in Wonderland, an animation of a girl who disappears down a rabbit hole to a place full of bizarre adventure.
It was not just a tattoo for Tsikoane. It was part of a search for answers and inspired by part of the movie where Alice asks the white rabbit how long ‘forever’ takes and the rabbit responds: “Sometimes just one second”.

Says Tsikoane: “I always wondered when the pain will ever end, what it meant when someone said you are mine forever and when it ends, why it ends.”
“The death card signifies the state I was in. I felt trapped by death and nothing looked positive,” she says.
It is one of the 15 tattoos that Tsikoane has had to demonstrate her emotional state. Just below the death card tattoo is one of a boiling kettle.
“I wanted to release (some) steam,” she says.

For Tsikoane, almost every tattoo she has signifies a stage and state of mind at the time it was inked.
Tattooing has become a form of therapy for her. Pain, love, hurt, depression and happiness: they are all engraved on her body.
She has been publicly ridiculed and shamed for having so many tattoos and piercings on her body.
“I have had people call me to prayer sessions so that they can cast out the demons. One actually suggested that I pray every morning to release the demons but I know that nothing in the tattoos I have was done demonically,” she says.

When she started work as a civil servant, fellow employees passed bizarre looks and talked about her behind her back but that did not stop her from getting more tattoos done.
“’Mathato Mosisili congratulated HR at the time for embracing change and I was forever grateful for the opportunity,” says Tsikoane.
“I admire how Basotho are becoming liberal to the culture of body art, this is a good step in accepting differences in people,” Tsikoane says.
The increasing acceptance of body art in Lesotho has opened more business opportunities for artists.

Paila Matasane, popularly known as Phoenix, is a professional tattoo artist who has been in the business for seven years.
His interest in tattooing was birthed in Pretoria when, as a 16-year-old he befriended someone who worked at a tattoo parlour.
At 17 years old, Matasane got his first tattoo and now he helps others get theirs too in Lesotho.
“I worked with different reputable artists in South Africa and one day when I visited home, I realised there was a big market for tattooing,” says Matasane.

He partnered with Kobila Mafo, who was the owner of Xklusivz, an apparel business.
“I had my parlour on one corner to embody tattooing into the business,” Matasane says.
He studied graphic design and fine arts to tune up a skill he had nurtured since growing up.
He says the stereotype around body art is slowly dying.

“I believe everything can be associated with demons. You have a black cat, you are a witch, you have certain piercings it is evil so all of those are standards placed by people who are stereotypical,” he says.
He tells his clients not to worry about the stereotypes.
“It is just a piece of art on your body,” he says.
“There is no reason to stress over it. If it was done in a happy place then that’s all good and mighty, embrace the journey you go through,” says Matasane.
His clientele comprises of professionals.

“It is not only the young lads but older folks as well.”
“You would think it is only in fashion for youngsters but the opposite is true,” says Matasane.
He adds: “The market is there and everyone with good talent and love for art can make a living from it. The thing about art is everyone has a unique technique and not one artist can master all techniques so we need the variety we can get in the business.”

Another man making a living from inking tattoos, Bohlokoa Matlosa, still regards himself as an amateur because it has just been two years since he started out.
He perfects his trade by extensively researching on the tattooing business.
“You need to know the type of skin you are dealing with, the kind of machine you are holding and how deep you need to go into the skin to have what you want,” Matlosa says.
“All this requires an artist who reads and researches because this is the work that when its done it cannot be reversed,” he says.
He has crafted 100 tattoos on customers so far. On his own body, he has done five tattoos since 2018.

Rose Moremoholo

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Mahao, PS in big fight

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PRIME Minister Sam Matekane this week summoned the Basotho Action Party (BAP) executive committee in a bid to defuse simmering tensions within the party.
This comes amid fears that Professor Nqosa Mahao’s fallout with his principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Tankiso Phapano, could threaten the unity in the BAP and the government’s stability.

thepost can reveal that Mahao has hinted that he would resign if Matekane doesn’t fire or reassign Phapano.

But there are strong indications that Mahao doesn’t enjoy the backing of his executive committee and MPs in his fight with Phapano.

Inside sources this week told thepost that some members of the BAP’s executive committee and MPs are openly siding with Phapano and have been secretly lobbying Matekane to reshuffle Mahao from the Ministry of Energy to Sports.

A source said Mahao is aware of these manoeuvres, including a clandestine meeting in Maputsoe, and has said he would rather resign than be the subject of a humiliating reshuffle instigated by people he leads.

The source of the bad blood between Mahao and Phapano is not clear but it is understood that they have disagreed over tenders and the ministry’s direction.

The source said Matekane was first briefed of the running battles at the ministry some three weeks ago just as matters were coming to a head.

It is the second briefing which revealed a complete breakdown in the relationship that triggered Matekane’s meeting with the BAP’s executive committee and MPs on Monday.

Three people who were in that meeting said Matekane told the BAP officials to deal with the crisis before it affected the ministry and threatened the coalition government’s stability.

The BAP’s executive committee, including MPs and Mahao, then had a marathon meeting to discuss ways to make peace between Mahao and Phapano.

A source who was in that meeting said “it was clear to Mahao that the majority of the committee and the MPs were on Phapano’s side”.

“Mahao quickly realised that he did not have the backing of the majority and took a conciliatory approach. It was clear that the committee would rather have him resign than get Phapano removed from the ministry,” the source said.

“In the past Mahao had flatly refused to reconcile with Phapano because of seniority. But this time he appeared to be open to a meeting to discuss reconciliation.”

Both Mahao and Phapano told thepost last night that their relationship was still cordial. ‘“We are still in good books with Phapano until further notice,” Mahao said.

“However, we cannot predict the future.”

Mahao denied ever discussing Phapano’s dismissal or transfer with Matekane.

Phapano also insisted that he was working well with Mahao.

“We are still on good terms,” Phapano said, adding that the allegation that they were fighting was “baseless”.

The fallout between Mahao and Phapano has been quick and spectacular.

The two had been almost inseparable months before Mahao agreed to join the coalition government.

Phapano would use his car to drive Mahao around. They would attend party meetings together. Some party insiders saw Phapano as Mahao’s right-hand man and adviser.

Mahao allegedly strongly pushed for Phapano to be appointed as his principal secretary when he became energy minister.

But sources said Mahao started having second thoughts days after recommending Phapano and tried to get his appointment reversed but it was too late.

A source says within weeks Mahao was telling cabinet colleagues that Phapano had captured the ministry and he was unable to function as the minister.

“He started pushing to oust Phapano within days because they were already clashing. It’s been war from the first days,” said the source.

Staff Reporter

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How chicken import ban hit vendors

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MALESHOANE Pakela used to work at small backyard chicken farms where she was paid with chicken heads, necks, legs, and offals that she would roast and sell to factory workers at the Thetsane Industrial Area.

Her job was to clean and pack chicken.
The profit wasn’t much but just enough for the 37-year-old widow to feed and keep her four children in school.

“It also covered her monthly rental of M150 for a room in Ha-Tsolo Sekoting.

Her life was however shattered last October when the government imposed a ban on chicken imports from South Africa following an outbreak of bird flu.
Without day-old chicks the farms quickly shut down, cutting Pakela’s supply of heads, necks, legs, and offals.
Within a few days, her family was starving.

Pakela had been struggling even for months before the ban. The closure of the factories and retrenchments of thousands of workers has severely hit her sales. She was behind on her rent and could barely feed her children.

The partial lifting of the chicken ban has not helped Pakela because her former employers still cannot import day-old chicks or live birds.
Pakela and a family were kicked out of their rented room in November when their arrears were about M1 000.
She has found another room nearby.

A ‘Good Samaritan’ has allowed her to use a room for free until she can afford the rent. But Pakela says she still feels obliged to pay something because she understands that things are hard for everyone.

“Here the rent is still M150 but the landlord accepts every amount that I give her,” Pakela says.
There are days when her children go to bed hungry.

“I have told them (children) that if I have nothing they should accept (the status).”

She now survives on handouts from neighbours and other well-wishers. Pakela’s poverty is apparent.

Barefoot and holding her small child in a seshoeshoe dress, Pakela says her two children usually go to school without eating.
The other child has dropped out of school because she doesn’t have shoes.

’Mako Lepolesa, 44, who has been running a chesanyama (meat grill) at the Maseru West Industrial Estate since 2018. The father of three says his clients are mainly taxi drivers and factory workers.

Chicken was her main product until last October when the ban was imposed. It wasn’t long before his business started wobbling.

“I thought it would be just a short-lived problem (chicken import ban) but it passed on this year,” he says, adding that it might take months for his business to recover.
Moshe Ramashamole, 42, who also owns a chesanyama in the Maseru West Industrial Estate, tried to remain in business by sourcing chicken from local farmers.

It was a stopgap measure that however lasted a few weeks because the farmers also ran out of stock. He resorted to bad chicken but they were double the price of a full chicken before the ban.
Yet Ramashamole thought he could make it work by increasing the price of his plate from M35 to M55. The customers however resisted the new price and Ramashamole had to take the losses.

The poultry ban did not affect street vendors like Pakela alone.
Former Minister of Communications, Khotso Letsatsi, is one of those poultry farmers struggling following the chicken ban.

He ventured into poultry in January last year. It was an audacious venture that included a M100 000 investment in a shelter and other equipment.
He started with a batch of 300 chicks and had reached 1 000 by the time the ban was imposed.

“The business was lucrative,” Letsatsi says.

“I had to employ two people permanently to assist me on a full-time basis,” he says.

When it was time to slaughter the chickens, Letsatsi says he had to employ seven casual labourers.
Since the ban was imposed he had released all his workers.

“I do not know where they are now. Maybe they are starving,” he says of the workers he released.

Letsatsi doesn’t know how he will revive his business.
The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), Lekhooe Makhate, says the ban has been devastating to farmers and businesses.

“Some big businesses are going to declare less tax to the government because there was no business,” Makhate says.

He says Lesotho spends M2.1 billion on the importation of chicken and its products from South Africa every year.
But that amount usually soars to M4 billion depending on the market forces of demand and supply.

Makhate says the M2.1 billion goes to South Africa where the chicken and its products are imported.

At the height of the scarcity of chickens in the country, Makhate says people were supposed to make initiatives to travel to villages to search for chickens.

“There is not enough production of chickens in the country,” he says.
“Economically speaking we rely on South Africa. We have to be self-reliant.”

Majara Molupe

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Letseng fends off threat to sue

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LETŠENG Diamond says it is under no obligation to advertise jobs for Basotho to provide certain services “where it has the capacity to undertake the same services”.
Letšeng Diamond boss, Motooane Thinyane, was responding to a threat to sue by a little-known political party called Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES).

Matekane’s company, the Matekane Mining Investment Company (MMIC), had been providing blasting, haulage and drilling services at Letšeng mine since 2005.
The deal with the MMIC was terminated in December last year with the mining company saying it was improper because Matekane had now become a politician.

Letšeng Diamonds announced that it had reached an agreement with the MMIC to acquire its mining equipment at the mine and offered employment to its current employees in line with operational requirements.

“This will enable Letšeng to continue with its mining activities,” the company said in its statement.

This infuriated opposition parties that argued that the mine should have called interested Basotho companies to bid for the contract, saying it is provided for in the Minerals Act of 2005.

The leader of Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Molefi Ntšonyana, wrote the mine last week threatening to sue for allegedly failing to follow section 11 of the Act.
Ntšonyana argued that the Act “does not grant the Letšeng Diamond 100 percent to mine with its good own equipment” but it should engage Basotho companies like it did with the MMIC.

Ntšonyana said Letšeng Diamond and the MMIC made the agreement to acquire the MMIC equipment so that the mine could continue with its mining activities “without any advertisement to seek qualified Basotho to provide such services”.

Ntšonyana said the agreement unilaterally denied Basotho a chance to tender for such services and ignored the fact that the government of Lesotho on behalf of Basotho own 30 percent in the Letšeng Diamond.

“It is advisable to reconsider your decision,” Ntšonyana said, adding that they would also write to the mining board requesting the resolution they made regarding this matter of insourcing mining activities.

He said the company should adhere to section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and within 14 working days the matter should be reconsidered, “failing which we will have no choice but to drag the company to the courts of law”.

In his response, Thinyane said Ntšonyana must “revisit the section in question in full for its correct interpretation”.

“Letšeng Diamond is under no obligation to advertise to seek qualified Basotho to provide services where it is willing and has the capacity to undertake the same services,” Thinyane said.

He said the decision relating to the agreement referred to has been through the necessary governance structures and is therefore procedural.
Thinyane said Letšeng is a corporate citizen that is fully compliant with the laws of Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

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