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The lioness of Africa



MASERU – GROWING up in Mafeteng, a small dusty town 80km south of Maseru, Alicia Motšoane found business exciting.

And so after school, she would buy second hand clothes from South Africa and sell on the market in her home town.

When she realised that clothes would not sell fast enough for her to make a healthy profit, Motšoane switched to selling home-made food on the streets.

She always looked for business opportunities. It was as if business was written in her DNA.

More than three decades after she first ventured into business, Motšoane is today among the leading women businesswomen in Lesotho.

Motšoane was one of the 10 women who were handed ‘the Lionesses of Africa” awards by Standard Lesotho Bank for their outstanding contribution in business last week.

The bank described Motšoane as one of the lionesses of Africa in business.

From a mere hawker selling second-hand clothes, Motšoane is now running a thriving business empire that encompasses furniture shops and a morgue.

Motšoane is running a chain of successful furniture shops, Prestige Furniture, represented in all three regions of Lesotho.

She is also running Sentebale Funeral Gap, a rapidly growing funeral parlour.

Motšoane says she founded her businesses on a platform of hard work.

She says she did not inherit any wealth from her parents who were mere peasant farmers in Kotata in Likhoele, a rural area in Mafeteng district.

Neither did her parents bequeath to her any property which she could sell to raise capital.

Her father was a goats’ breeder who depended on the sale of mohair to make ends meet while her mother was a school teacher.

She says their situation was sometimes so desperate that she was left with no choice but to venture into business to break the cycle of poverty.

Motšoane says her childhood came along with a whole lot of inspiration and a great deal of perception.

She matriculated from ’Masentle High School and then pursued Home Economics at the Lesotho College of Agriculture but unfortunately things did not work out well for her.

At the end and she had to enrol with another college, the Institute of Extra Mural Studies where she studied Adult Education.

She says she did not depend on a stipend from the National Manpower Development Secretariat during her college days, as do many students.

Her second hand clothes business kept the wolf off the door.

To get inspiration, Motšoane turned to books.

“I am the kind of a person who enjoys reading and learning a lot of things outside of my lifestyle,” she says.

“Just like any other person, I worked together with the lawyers and worked for a couple of years with Metropolitan Lesotho to gain some experience.”

“I have always been involved in business from the day I was able to establish communication skills. Ever since then I developed the love of selling clothes, food and anything from my teenage years.”

She says she “grew up in a loving and caring family which has always guided me all the way”.

“I do not define myself as a successful woman, even though some think I have made it in life.”

“I have not yet achieved much in my life but I am working hard to fulfil my dream of building a lot of property and bring more physical developments in communities,” she says.

Motsoane’s parents were both not wealthy but she says she picked important lessons from them.

She married a husband who was equally enthusiastic about business and they worked together founded Prestige Furniture and Sentebale Funeral Gap.

“For everyone who is in business, the biggest challenge is how to get capital to start. A lot of times, the banks refuse to loan the start-ups,” she says.

She says she has built her life on confidence, experiments and exploration.

“It is not just about the ability to solve problems. It is about the capacity to reach up,” she says.

She says she begins and ends each day with her mission statement, which is to live fully and have an impact in society.

But what are the biggest obstacles for women in business?

“We tend to stand in our own way. We create stories that hobble ourselves. We do not recognize the true value in our own inner coach and for that we need reframing,” she says.

“Many of us suffer from fear of failure. That is not clever.”

She says businessmen and women should be in a position to differentiate the money which belongs to the business and the money which goes into their pocket.

“Apart from so many challenges which I came across, I cannot forget the day when Prestige Furniture at Sefika Complex was burnt to ashes with about M5 million worth of furniture.”


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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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