Connect with us


IT all started towards the end of June last year when the two boys woke up to find their father gone. Their mother was weeping in her bedroom.

She told them the army had arrested their father.

“They were shocked,” she says.

Their father, a middle ranking officer, had been arrested on charges of plotting a mutiny against army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

Ten months on their father is still in detention. Through media reports, they have heard their father was tortured and kept under solitary confinement for months. The youngest boy remains traumatised and shaken.

The mother says on several occasions she has walked into the house to find the boy in tears. A few months after the arrest she came home to find her boy crying while clutching his father’s military cap.

They had stumbled onto the cap while looking for some documents.

“He said the cap reminded him of his father and he missed him,” recalls the mother who says she is trying to be strong for her children.

To protect the children from the trauma the mother had hidden their father’s military uniform. But that doesn’t seem to have helped. The home itself is a constant remainder of their father.

There is a lot in the house to remind the boys that their father is alive but cannot be with them because the army continues to detain him.

The mother has since realised the limitations of trying to shield her children from the sad and painful reality that their father is away. For instance, the youngest was reminded of his father’s arrest by a bully at school.

The mother says the bully walked up to him and said “your father was caught. He has been caught”. The boy would later tell his mother the bully was laughing when he said those words.

“Mum what time are you coming home? There is something I really need to tell you,” the boy said on the frantic call to his mother.

“I rushed home to find him crying. My heart sank when he told me what had happened.”

“It’s unbearable”.

The mother had hoped the nightmare would end last Friday when the Court of Appeal was going to rule on the release of her husband and 15 other soldiers.

The mother had kept news of the impending ruling secret.

“I didn’t want to raise their hopes because if we lost they would be devastated,” she says.

And her intuition was right because their case was dismissed.

Their husbands’ misery at the hands of colleagues at the Maseru maximum security prison continues. The battle that had started with applications for orders to the army to bring their husbands to court dead or alive has ended in defeat.

Their Court Martial will resume next Monday and it might be months before it ends. In the meantime their husbands will be in detention. They will continue to see their husbands at the army’s pleasure.


Palpable fear


They now fear for the worst.  Getting the women to talk about their husbands is not easy. They share a common fear that if they talk to the media their husbands will be victimised.

On Wednesday last week they met at the Transformation Resource Centre, an ecumenical lobby group helping them with counselling and legal costs.

The Court of Appeal judgement they thought would order the army to release their husbands was only a day away. They were confident their husbands would be back home by Friday afternoon.

So they insisted on being interviewed after the judgement.

“We are afraid if we talk now something might happen to our husbands,” said one.

“If we talk now that man (Lieutenant General Kamoli) might keep our husbands in prison,” said another.

“Those people (army) are vindictive. They might punish our husbands if we talk to the press,” said another.

By Friday noon the dreams of seeing their husbands come back home had been dashed. That makes them even more apprehensive about giving interviews.

“What use will it be for me to say my feelings and the army tortures my husband in retaliation?” asked one who refused to be interviewed.

“There will be a time to talk. For now I keep my silence for the sake of my husband. Remember the army is now treating us like enemies.”


Dying inside


Mamello (not her real name) whose husband was arrested in July last year says she was hurt and confused by the judgement.

“I thought since the other seven had been released the court would say our husbands too should be put on open house arrest,” she says.

“For a moment my vocabulary deserted me. I did not know the meaning of the word ‘dismissed’, I wanted to cry but I held the tears back.”

She let the tears flow when she got to her car which was parked at the Palace of Justice.

“l was dying inside but did not want my enemies to see me crying. Once in the car I relieved myself. I just cried.” Mamello says her three children have suffered psychologically. Sometimes, she says, they just don’t want to talk to anyone.

Their aunty who relies on Mamello’s husband for food and shelter has stopped going to the prison because she cannot bear the sight of her brother’s son suffering, Mamello says.

“He is our only hope.”

In the past 10 months Mamello has watched her husband, who is already on medication, wasting away. She is allowed to see him on from Monday to Friday, except on holidays.

The week after the crushing judgement and before the court martial resumes is particularly short. Monday was a holiday and so is today.

“What kills me is that we cannot talk in private when I visit him. The soldiers are there listening to us talk.”

A few days after the judgement Mamello had to see a doctor.

“My neck is so stiff. I am in pain and I am stressed,” she says.


Hope has left


There are those who are not looking beyond the court martial. To Maphoka (not her real name) the detention of her husband is an injustice that should stop.

“I don’t even want to hear about the court martial. I just want my husband back home,” Maphoka says.

“I can see that the court martial will not be fair.”

News of her husband’s arrest came in mid-May last year through a call from the army. The caller said her husband would not be coming home for a few days because he had been arrested.

Maphoka would pick the details of her arrest from other people. Since then she only sees husband under supervision from soldiers she says “want to listen to everything we discuss”.

Sometimes the soldiers take notes as we speak, she says. Maphoka says she is not sure if her husband is being honest when he says he is fine.

“I see it in his face that he is dying inside. He cannot say he is in a bad shape but I can see he is suffering”.

These days Maphoka starts her visits to her husband with a brief prayer.

“I try to encourage him with the Word of God.”

Their teenage child is struggling to come to terms with his father’s absence.

“Time and again he asks when his father will come back home. I don’t have answers to that because I am powerless to change anything.”

“I just keep praying that God will help us get through this trouble”.


Tough questions for mum


Makhotso (not her real name) says she could not believe it when the case was dismissed. She had come to the court in high spirits. There was no way the highest court in the land would allow a man to be detained for more than ten months without trial, she thought.

That seven others had been released gave her hope.

“I thought there was ample precedence,” she says.

She was wrong.

“I was more than shocked. The judge only took three minutes to dismiss the case. I was hurt.”

Makhotso says he husband, arrested last June, is deteriorating.

“He is not doing well at all. But being a man he cannot tell me. ”

Her worry is that she is fast running out of answers to her two children who keep asking when their father will come back home.

In the beginning she would tell them he will be home soon. When that did not happen she told them to keep strong because everything will be well.

Recently the two boys asked again.

“I told them he will come back home one day. It might not be soon but he will come back home”.

“We have to keep the faith.”


Maybe time has answers


A violent knock startled Mathabo in May last year. At the door was an armed soldier in civilian clothes. He asked Mathabo where her husband was.

Mathabo said he was not home. The soldier said he knew her husband was in the house and he would beat him when he finds him. When Mathabo went back inside to call her husband the soldier followed her.

In the bedroom the soldier ordered her husband to put on a uniform because they wanted to ask him some questions.

That was his last day of freedom. Hours later he would call to say he had been arrested and they should bring his towel, lotion, toothpaste and tooth brush. He was on his way to the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.

“It was a brief conversation but I could hear he was troubled”.

Days later Mathabo managed to put together M8000 to hire a lawyer to fight for her husband’s release. And for some time it looked like momentum was on her side. The army was ordered to bring her husband to court and it did. Getting the army to release him on open arrest, a form of military bail, proved harder.

As weeks turned into months and court cases came thick and fast Mathabo realised the army had no interest in releasing her husband. Their two kids began to ask for their father. The oldest told her she doesn’t want to visit her father in prison.

“All she wanted was to see her father free,” Mathabo says.

Her husband had been in detention for almost a year, 52 days of which were spent in solitary confinement.  The youngest child is always crying for his father, Mathabo says. It is hard for Mathabo to explain what her husband is going through because he never talks about it.

“He cannot say much because there are always soldiers around. Sometimes we talk in signs but you don’t get much across that way.”

When her children ask when their father will come back home Mathabo says “he will come when the time is right.” When that time will come, she cannot tell.

Yesterday the 16 wives were scheduled to meet their lawyers for a briefing on what the judgement means. But for some of them that will not change much.

“You know it’s very hard for me to talk about this. Please allow me not to speak about this issue,” said one of the wives who refused to be interviewed.


The world watches


The international reaction to the Court of Appeal judgement has been limited.

Last week Amnesty International, a lobby group, said the judgement “to allow ongoing detention of soldiers raises further questions about fair trial”.

“Today’s decision by the Lesotho Court of Appeal to deny bail to 16 soldiers who have been held in maximum security since June last year raises serious questions about the Lesotho’s justice system,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

“Release on bail would help ensure the soldiers can have adequate medical care, as necessary, and prompt and effective access to their legal advisers, something that has not been possible while in detention.”

“Under international standards people charged with criminal offences should not, as a general rule, be held in custody pending trial, unless the state shows that it is necessary and proportionate to deprive them of their liberty. Today, the Court of Appeal dismissed the soldiers’ appeal against their detention without giving a reason,” Amnesty International said.

“Amnesty International has previously expressed serious concern about the treatment of the soldiers and their rights to a fair trial and not to be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.”

Local News

Lesotho’s own brandy



ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.

Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.

Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.

The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.

His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.

As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.

“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.

“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.

Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!

One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!

“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?

He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.

He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.

Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.

He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.

He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.

But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.

However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.

“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.

Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.

“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

Continue Reading

Local News

Ready-to-cook vegetables



ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

Continue Reading

Local News

A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

Continue Reading