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A lifetime of struggle

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MASERU – ON the eve of the 2015 general elections, Lesojane Leuta was suspended from the Basotho National Party (BNP) where he was serving as the secretary general.

To say he was hurt would be an understatement; he saw the suspension as a huge personal blow. A year later, Leuta was eventually expelled on the eve of the party’s annual general conference.

Leuta says a small clique which had coalesced around party leader, Thesele ’Maseribane, connived to boot him out.
This was after he expressed serious concerns over the manner in which party funds were being handled.
But instead of dealing with the questions he was raising, the “hawks” aligned to ’Maseribane ganged up on him and booted him out.
He was devastated.

Leuta says that small cabal has now successfully seized control of the party and is running it like its own fief.
He says the group that pushed him out in 2015 had also attempted to nudge him out of the presidential election race on spurious grounds that he had defected and formed his own party.
The internal party elections are set for June 11-13.

A defiant Leuta told thepost this week that the allegations that he had formed his own party were as nonsensical as they were incomprehensible.
He says he will not allow these dirty shenanigans to sidetrack him.
What happened to Leuta is nothing new in the BNP. So far, four candidates have all confirmed that the election race has been messy and that it has been marked by bitter acrimony.
There has been a lot of mudslinging too.

Leuta says what Basotho have seen over the last two months is politics of the gutter, as rivals exchanged barbs over radio stations.
All this, Leuta says, is foreign and runs counter to the spirit and ethos of the party.

He speaks of himself as a “disciplined cadre” of the BNP, a party which he says he joined in 1965 as a 13-year-old boy when some of his current political adversaries were yet to be born.
The insults run counter to my Christian upbringing and ethos as a Mosotho, he says. In fact, he says listening to some of the insults has been a jarring experience for him.

What he would have preferred to see is a “rational debate” on issues that would allow BNP supporters to pick the best candidate for the party’s top job.
Unfortunately, he says the “noise” coming from the campaign trail will not allow party supporters to make that intelligent choice. Instead, whoever controls the “mob” and makes the most noise will come up trumps, a situation Leuta says would be tragic for the BNP.
He insists that the insults have inflicted serious damage on the BNP brand.

While he remains confident over his electoral chances, it is clear that the bitter election race is taking its toll on Leuta, a soft-spoken man who picks his words carefully as if not to offend anyone.
It would be no surprise that in the dirty, cut-throat politics of the BNP, Leuta might look hopelessly out of place.
“I want rational debate of issues not just hurling of abuse at other people,” he says.
“That’s not how I was raised in the party.”

While Leuta does not openly refer to Machesetsa Mofomobe, one of the leading contestants in the race to succeed ’Maseribane, it is telling that he refers to him merely as “that young man”.
“The young man is very ill-disciplined,” he says.
It is clear during the interview that he views the current deputy leader with absolute contempt.

He says hawks within the party tried all tricks to ensure he did not stand in the elections.
“Now they are trying all sorts of tricks to make sure I do not win the elections.”

He says after he was expelled, he went to court seeking protection.
“I asked the court to please protect me from people who wanted to push me out of a party I joined when they were not even born.”
That matter was later settled out of court and his membership was eventually restored.
But even after those tumultuous events in 2015, the hawks in the party have still not given up – they still want to throw banana skins on his path to the presidency.

Despite trying to throw mud at him, Leuta says his political rivals “still can’t find anything against me” that can stick.
“I excelled in the office of secretary general and increased the numbers (of voters for the party) from 23 000 in 2012 to 31 000 in 2015. After they fired me, they went down to 23 000 again.”
Leuta says there has been rampant corruption and maladministration in the BNP for years.

The result has been massive disillusionment with the BNP and its leadership with the party faithful staying away altogether from national politics.
He says he wants to restore dignity in the party.
“There is an outcry that the party is not being managed properly so the first thing will be to bring back the confidence of members of the party,” he says.
He alleged that some of the people now at the helm of the party have been beneficiaries of the grand looting and corruption in the BNP.

“The first task would be to rebuild the party into what it should be,” he says.
Leuta’s trump card appears to be his long association with the BNP.
“I have been in the BNP long enough to appreciate some of the things not appreciated by some of the contenders.”
He says in 1984 the late party leader, Chief Leabua Jonathan, cautioned against the same tendencies that he sees today.
“I am telling them that if they don’t change their behavior, they will never taste power again.”

The BNP was ousted from power in a bloodless coup in January 1986. With access to state resources blocked, the party has struggled to make an impact on the electoral map. It last won a constituency in 2015. The last time it had won a constituency was in 1993.
Since 2012, the BNP has relied on the benevolence of its coalition partners to stay in government.

With its voice in government muffled, the party is now a shadow of its former self. Critics say the BNP is way past its sell-by date and it will take herculean efforts if the party is to seize power again.
Leuta however insists that with the right people at the helm, the damage can be reversed and the BNP can be a powerful force once again.

The first task though would be to oust people who have ruined the party during the elections next month.
Leuta says there are people in the party “who don’t care about its welfare” such as its growth and how it is perceived by outsiders.
These people are damaging the party’s brand by resorting to insults.

“Who would vote for such a party when it is led by such individuals?”
He says he wants to instill discipline in the BNP.
Leuta admits that the odds are heavily tilted against him and that the electoral playing field is not level.
His main bone of contention is that one of the leading contenders for the presidency, Mofomobe, has remained active as deputy leader of the party even when he has announced his intention to run in the elections.

That gives him an unfair advantage over the rest of us, Leuta says.
“There are clear signs that the electoral contest might not be fair. The deputy leader, who is also a contender, seems to be running the show,” he says.
“Most of the members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) appear to be loyal to him and are doing his bidding. I am not sure if they will bend the other way.”

Leuta alleges that Mofomobe was using young “party thugs” to intimidate political opponents.
“The electoral playing field is not level and one can only hope that the delegates at the conference will behave rationally.”
Yet even when the field is skewed, Leuta remains confident that come June 13, he will be the new BNP leader.
“If common sense prevails and there is no chicanery, I am confident that I will win.”

That is a big “if”.
Leuta is banking on the long years he has spent in the BNP trenches, fighting silent battles to win the hearts and souls of Basotho.
“Those who know me, know that I can deliver,” he says.
He points to his time as the BNP secretary general where he says he helped set up an efficient and corruption-free office in the party.

As a former banker, all he wants to see is accountability in the BNP. He wants to rekindle the values of honesty and servant-leadership in the party.
“I have been fighting corruption all my life,” he says.
Leuta spent 12 years at the Central Bank of Lesotho working in the currency management division and a further 18 years in bank supervision and exchange control.

“I learnt a lot of things there that can be useful to the party.”
He grew up at a time when the BNP was the darling of the masses. The party was locked in mortal combat with the Basotho Congress Party led by Ntsu Mokhehle.

He says the BNP was staunchly anti-Communist and hated the BCP which it saw as an agent of the Communist regime in China.
Even at that young age, he was conditioned to hate “the Communist evil”.
“We were told that the Communists were going to forcefully marry all the nuns and that the churches were going to be converted into dance halls,” he says.

He says they were told by the French-Canadian Catholic priests that the BCP would force the nuns to marry and produce soldiers who would fight to entrench Communism around the world.
The anti-God doctrine of the Communist China went against everything that he had been taught as a young Catholic boy.
And from that moment on, Leuta saw it as his “divine duty” to oppose the BCP and all that it stood for.

“Mao’s cultural revolution did a lot to crystalise our anti-Communist philosophy.”
The young Leuta, who grew up surrounded by white priests and nuns in Matsieng, about 40km south of the capital Maseru, would religiously attend church services every Sunday.
“There were no excuses,” he says.

And while most of his age-mates were going to initiation schools, his grandmother summoned him one day and “told him to go to school”.
“They were going to the mountains and after the mountains, they would go to work in the mines in South Africa.”
He rejects the narrative that the BNP was a ruthless party that committed atrocities arguing that both sides were equally to blame for what happened after the 1970 disputed elections.

“The BNP was not alone in this brutality. I know of horrendous things that were done by the BCP against BNP members. It was not one-sided traffic.”
Leuta says he is grateful for the values of honesty and hard work that he picked as a young Catholic boy in Matsieng, values he thinks can now be of service to the BNP as he tries to clean up the party’s soiled past.
He believes the BNP can still win a properly run election provided the party elects the right candidate to lead it.
He believes he can offer such leadership.

Staff Reporter

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31 rescued from human traffickers

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MASERU – THE government says it has rescued 31 Basotho who had fallen into the hands of human traffickers, a significant development for a country desperate to boost its global rankings in combating human trafficking.
Due to its proximity to continental economic giant, South Africa, coupled with desperation of its citizens to seek better fortunes abroad amid economic problems, Lesotho has for years been in the throes of human trafficking.

But the country seems to be making steady progress, even though much still has to be dome to eradicate the practice which has seen many Basotho being trafficked for sex in the neighbouring country.
Minister of Home Affairs Motlalentoa Letsosa appeared on television this week announcing the rescue of the 31 Basotho.

He said as a sign that the country is moving in the right direction, Lesotho has moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in global human trafficking rankings, according to the United States’ Department of State.
When it was a Tier 3 country, Lesotho’s government was considered as one of those that “do not fully comply with the minimum standards”.
Now placed in Tier 2, Lesotho’s government is considered as “making significant efforts” to comply with global standards.

Letsosa said Lesotho has achieved the latest rescue, as well as the progress in its ranking, thanks to the diligent work of civil servants at the border gate.
He said the public servants are able to identify people who are being trafficked through signs that such people exhibit.
These include unusual movements and signs that they are being threatened.

Letsosa said the government has realised that there are some pimps in Lesotho who dupe Basotho girls into crossing into South Africa for sexual exploitation.
“They give these girls a small amount of money,” he said, adding that this is now a growing business.
Letsosa said Parliament also reinforced the anti-trafficking in-person law that is under the Home Affairs Ministry.
This amendment, he said, gave magistrates powers to deal with trafficking cases.

It also allows the magistrates courts to hear such cases since Lesotho only has one High Court, he said.
This law provides for a mandatory custodial sentence for those convicted of human trafficking.
Letsosa said although public servants are contributing to the fight, the government still needed to weed out some rogue ones who are helping facilitate the trade.

Police investigations into such characters are already underway, the minister said.
To eradicate human trafficking, the government has formed an inter-agency taskforce that brings together the police, the intelligence and non-governmental organizations.
Letsosa said that, the United States, a major partner, is supportive of the Home Affairs efforts.

Lesotho is one of several African countries that are part of the US Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) that seeks to give local businesses greater access to US markets. That relationship is safe as the country makes strides in combating human trafficking, said Letsosa.
Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Tumelo Raboletsi, said the Americans urged Basotho officials to maintain the vigilance and tighten investigations to ensure rogue public servants are chucked out.

Raboletsi said the Americans also told Lesotho to work with non-governmental organisations to combat the scourge of human trafficking.
He also rubbished claims that Mathibeli Mokhothu was involved in the trafficking as there is no case against him at the courts.

Nkheli Liphoto

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The story of the Queen

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MASERU – THE greatest asset Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso has is not her title or social status but the tender compassion she shows to the vulnerable ones.
Even as a young Christian child, Queen ’Masenate would extend mercy to the poor and vulnerable in society.
That was way before she had even met King Letsie III.

When the opportunity presented itself, she would spread her palms and support the weak.
Her Christian-trained conscience guided her as a young girl to open her heart and her ears of tender compassion so that she heard the cries of those who needed help.

When she was a student at Machabeng International College in the mid-1990s she was already engaged in community service with the Angela School for the Disabled and the Centre for the Blind.
It seems community service is her calling as she is now continuing with the good deeds as the Queen, a trait she displayed when she was barely in her teens.

She is involved in a variety of charitable projects, including being the patron of the Lesotho Red Cross Society, the SOS Children’s Village, and the Machabeng International College where she studied before becoming Queen.

In addition to her work with the charity for People with Disabilities, Queen ‘Masenate is generally interested in working with projects seeking to improve the voices of disabled people in Lesotho.
After the passing on of Queen Mother ’Mamohato Bereng Seeiso, her mother-in-law, in 2003 she took over as the patron of Hlokomela Bana Foundation (Take Care of Children), an association dedicated to looking after mainly orphaned and abandoned children.

The Queen has challenged members of the Hlokomela Bana Foundation to apply more concerted efforts towards transforming the lives of vulnerable and orphaned children.
She said this during an event held in Maseru where she indicated that by so doing, they will be attracting more companies and people of goodwill to donate to the foundation, thus making it easier for them to fulfill their mandate of helping the needy.

At the event, proceeds collected during her birthday celebration on June 29 were presented to the foundation.
Companies such as Avani Hotel-Lesotho and the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) gave away cheques for M10 000 each, while Botho University gave away cheque for M3 500.
The Queen added that there are numerous organisations in the country giving back to the needy communities, expressing her heartfelt gratitude that the foundation was selected as a beneficiary.

Speaking on behalf of Hlokomela Bana Foundation, ’Mabataung Mokhathali, said the purpose of the foundation is to support Her Majesty’s efforts in helping needy children.

Mokhathali said that it does not belong to a certain group of people but belongs to all who aspire to achieve goals and objectives of Her Majesty in growing children.
She called upon more Basotho women to join them.

According to her, Hlokomela Bana does not work with only certain types of children in the country, but all those who are vulnerable and orphaned.
The Queen has a strong interest in enabling the work undertaken with HIV/AIDS patients and has been involved in several awareness programmes in Lesotho.

Since becoming Queen, she has become the patron of several charities and has worked to promote the work of projects related to HIV/AIDS.
Queen ’Masenate has also undertaken visits to a variety of AIDS projects around the country, including orphanages.
Queen ‘Masenate, 45, is the queen consort of Lesotho as the wife of King Letsie III.

She was the first commoner in modern history to marry into the Royal Family of Lesotho.
Queen ‘Masenate was born Anna Karabo Motšoeneng in Mapoteng in the Berea District, the eldest daughter of five children of Thekiso Motšoeneng and his wife ‘Makarabo.

She was christened Anna when she was baptized as a Catholic.
In 1990 Queen ‘Masenate enrolled at Machabeng International College in Maseru and studied there until 1996, completing an International General Certificate for Secondary Education and an International Baccalaureate Diploma.

In 1997 she attended the National University of Lesotho (NUL) where she studied for a Bachelor of Science degree.
Her studies were interrupted by her relationship with King Letsie III.
In October 1999, two years into her studies at the National University of Lesotho, she became engaged to King Letsie III.
They were married on February 18, 2000 in Maseru.
King Letsie III was at the time the only unmarried king in Africa.

The ceremony was conducted in the Setsoto Stadium by the late Archbishop Bernard Mohlalisi, with 40 000 people who included dignitaries such as the late Nelson Mandela, Festus Mogae, Bakili Muluzi and Prince Charles of the British Royal Family being present.

Queen ‘Masenate credited the Royal Family for making her welcome, in particular the influence of Queen ‘Mamohato, the Queen Mother.
Queen ‘Masenate and her mother-in-law grew closer together and the Queen found it difficult when the Queen Mother died in 2003, but praised her husband for supporting her at the time.

In an interview with one local newspaper in 2014, she said: “I like the fact that he listens when I advise him on various issues that are personal. For instance, I want him to be well-dressed for various functions. And, as the woman of the house, I also recommend a lot of things, food, music, movies and more educative television channels for all of us.”

The Queen said His Majesty is a very reserved, respectful, patient, wise and humble person and he is all that in a very sweet way.
These are the qualities he has sustained over the years, she said.
Queen ‘Masenate and King Letsie have three children – Princess Senate who was born on 7 October 2001, Princess ‘Maseeiso born on 20 November 2004 and Prince Lerotholi born on 18 April 2007.

Staff Reporter

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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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