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Taking the bull by the horns

The world through the eyes of Selibe Mochoboroane

Mohloai Mpesi

The late United States of America 40th President Ronald Reagan once said “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”  

Selibe Mochoboroane has been the one turning everything he touched into gold. From his boyhood he has been outshining and mastering the art of leadership.  

At the age of 24 Mochoboroane was already at the helm of the Sekhonyana High School in Mokhotlong, the school he found dilapidated and uninhabitable and turned into a recognised empire.    

It was without doubt that the man has an uninterruptable vision for the country since at the age of 35, he was allotted to deputise the Ministry of Local Development in 2012. In 2014 he was appointed to marshal the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology where he masterminded the much anticipated digital migration which one way or another hit snag. He showed his worth at the Ministry of Energy and Metrological services where he electrified rural communities.

A fortnight ago he was elected to represent Lesotho as the chairman of Africa Group 1 constituency until 2022. He currently Minister of Development Planning where he discovered 20 unfinished government projects that have cost the government millions of Maloti.  

His achievements speak volumes and prove that he was not only honed by the hardships of life but was also trained and readied to endure the difficult situations which turned him into a leader at a very tender age.    

The second born to the late Michael Manyarela Mochoboroane and Maitumeleng Mochoboroane was born on July 27, 1977 at Taung Ha Thulo in Mohale’s Hoek district.

Three years after his birth, his parents migrated to Thabana-Morena at Malumeng village in the Mafeteng district, where he grew up.

His growth was not a tasteful one. He grew up like most Basotho boys herding his father’s livestock. He had to go through the harsh weather conditions; he had to endure the scorching sun, heavy rains and tormenting lightning, all while changing shifts with his younger brother.

“I learnt leadership out in veld while herding cattle. We took turns going to school and minding the animals.

“I lived that kind of life since standard two until standard six. Sometimes I had to go out to the veld at night so that the cattle must not take the whole day under my brother’s watch the following day,” Mochoboroane said.

“I used to look after the cattle during the burning sun, colds, rains, windy storms without shelter in the middle of nowhere. That trains you to have patience and to endure difficult situation.

“If you cannot be able to endure hard situations, you cannot lead.

I learned to be brave; you cannot be a leader if you are not brave enough to make tough decisions. I used go to the grazing land at night and come across different scary things, I had to be brave to stand for difficult times.

“One thing I learned is time management because a herd boy has to know when to take the cattle out to graze, when they have to drink water and when they have to go home. Training the animals to follow you is the first art of leadership it’s a skill and it shows that in leadership one leads from the front,” he explained.

The 43-year-old attended Malumeng Primary School from 1985 and finished in 1993. He then went to Roulin High School.

“When I got to high school I became a class monitor, and it was at that time when the school performed very well after a long time; the 1996 form Cs performed very well. I was making sure that my classmates speak English, and they were always dressing smart.

“In 1997 I became a head prefect,” he continued

After completing High School he went to the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (EIMS) where he read for a Certificate in Business Studies.

Taking his baby steps in the leadership role, he did not only turn the Sekonyela High School into a conducive and habitable dwelling in 2000 when he took his position as a Principal, he also opened its doors to herd boys. 

He recruited Marathon athletes like Mosilo Matjeane who won the inaugural Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma Marathon in Kwa-Zulu Natala in 2015 and Temo Rampuku.  

“I worked as a teacher and Principal at Sekonyela high school for six years. I was only 24 years old when I took over the reins.

“At that time Mohlabi Tsekoa was Minister of Education and Training. Our results were very beautiful and he was impressed with those results. It was for the first time in my life that I received a letter from the Minister Tsekoa, applauding the magnificent performance of Sekhonyana on the Firm C level.

“It happened that in 2006 during the ceremony of school opening, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili was a Prime Minister at that time. Tsekoa was now at Foreign Affairs Minister and Tlohang Sekhamane was Government Principal Secretary.

“I made a speech on behalf of the school, Mosisili was impressed that he even said called me and told me to go back to school and better my craft in his words he said “I see a lot of potential in you, go to school my boy.”

Without thinking twice he grabbed the opportunity and enrolled with the National University of Lesotho where he read for a Bachelor in Education.

Despite the marvellous and outstanding work that he had already done, it was not enough; something inside kept prodding him and nudging him to want more. The unquenchable thirst for service overpowered his mortality.

After attaining his Bachelor Degree, he remembered his home Thabana-Morena, how his village had suffered to see him educated in order to rescue them out of poverty.

Teaching career became meaningless to him while the words of the former Tanzanian President Julius ‘Mwalimu’ Nyerere kept resounding his head and heart, “I will use my education to liberate the Tanzanians.”

He carried the words in his heart and back to the village. His mission was now to liberate his people of Thabana-Morena. Then he ventured into politics.

“I said to myself, I am going to use my education to liberate the people of Thabana-Morena and ensure that they get the services. I am no longer going to teach again. I am going home,” he said.

“I had to set-up Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) structures to become part of the structures. My work was to deal with a build-up of the party in the constituency. I started as a spokesperson of the constituency.

“I had started my politics when I was at the university when I was a leader of LCD youths at NUL,” he explained.

“LCD recognised my strengths and abilities then and appointed me to be a Secretary General.

“I bagged 106 votes at the primary elections of 2012 which were leading to the general elections, the runner-up Monono Rantsane scored 60, while Malerato Ntšinyi got 16. These are the people who were angry when a Member of Parliament at that time said I should be his successor.

“After the primary elections, two months down the line LCD split and Democratic Congress (DC) was formed. 

“In 2012 I won the Thabana-Morena constituency,” he recalls.

“I grew up with the notion that roads and electricity are services only for the bright city-life urban dwellers, I also grew knowing that it could only be installed near tarred roads and that people like us should never even dare think of going anywhere near it,” he narrated.

“It was a one hour and thirty minutes’ walk to town, but it is now 20 minutes. When I was elected as Member of Parliament, I made many roads and ensured that there was electricity. A lot has been done since 2012 until now,” he said.

E motšo moratuoa as he is affectionately known to his political followers was fingered by his then leader Mothejoa Metsing, who complained that he was building himself and was growing more than his party. That called for his reallocation to the ‘lower’ Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing.

“After the 2015 elections I became the Minister of Energy and Meteorology.

There was a squabble that sparked between me and my leader of that time; saying that I am building myself and growing faster than the party, and that is when I had to be reshuffled from the Ministry of Energy to the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing where I only took three months and was dismissed.

Even so, Mochoboroane enjoyed serving, “I don’t mind where I have been appointed to. I enjoyed serving as a deputy minister of local government, Communications, energy, small business and I am enjoying serving as the Minister of Development Planning right now,” he said.

He felt that LCD was losing its touch and was no longer operating within its principles of serving the nation, hence he left form his own party, the Movement for Economic Change (MEC).

“In the congress movement I was taught that congress has no political racism. It’s a philosophy of congress movement. The party members are supposed to serve the nation, to change the lives of people.

“So I was sure that what I was doing was within the principles of the political party, unfortunately my colleagues didn’t see it that way. They said I was building myself. Yes! When you work hard, you are also building a good image!” he said.

That’s when he jumped ship to form the MEC. Within three months in existence the party had boomed to a point that it won 5% of the national vote and bagged six parliamentary seats.

“Because we only got three months of campaign, I take that as a big work.

In local government polls, we managed to have a total of 45 warders in the community councils under our name.

“I worked as Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman since 2017 until May 2020 when I was appointed to be a Minister of Development Planning.

I had to make research every day before chairing PAC sittings. In 2017/2018 academic year I took a decision to go back to school, but I failed to apply on that year. I was encouraged by my mentor Dr Mamoeketsi Ntho.

In 2018-19 I filled the forms and was accepted at NUL for Masters in Development Studies and passed with distinctions in 2020,” he said.

Since the beginning of his political journey Mochoboroane knew that there would be challenges. Threats and plots were initiated to kill him, especially during his three years tenure as a chairperson of PAC chairman where he with his team unravelled hoards of national fiscal looting by civil servants officials.

“I received such threats when I was a chairman of PAC but they never materialised. It is a part of other challenges that I already anticipated when I decided to enter into politics,” he said.

“When you are a politician, the day that you get into the politics’ sphere, you have already signed your death warrant because it is not always that you will be in good terms with your opponents.

“As early as when I stood for elections, there were such attempts and plots. Some people were even hired from South Africa to kill me, but they never materialised,” he said.

“There are a number of politicians who have been slayed. It’s a risk being a politician; you can be threatened with death and subsequently get killed,” he continued.

Despite conspiracies to murder him, he did not quit.

“The love of my country kept me moving,” he said.

“You will not see that in the statements or speeches that I make but through the actions, that is why I deliver in whatever responsibility I am given,” he said.

His role model is the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, a man who inherited a country that was torn apart and restored peace in his tenure since 2000.  

“His yes is a yes and his no is a no. He wants people to do exactly what he tells them to do, nothing besides it, which is something we lack. If we plan to produce vegetables, it should be clear and be done. We fail as leaders because we only talk without action plan. We need leadership that acts not only talks,” he said.

Despite the devastating economy of Lesotho, MOchoboroane still has hope that all is not lost. According to him, the challenge of Lesotho is self-indulgence from its leaders.  

“There are challenges of course and the one that we all have in Lesotho are that the cake is small and everyone wants to have a piece thereof.

“The struggle for power is in every party. The fight over the limited resources is in every political party. Some are fighting for power while some for limited resources,” he said.

“A living example is when many youths lined up for Home Affairs job application. Some people go out of parties because they have been sanctioned work. Meaning the big problem is the limited resources,” he said.

He believes that the leaders of this generation are supposed to focus on the economy since the generation of Ntsu Mokhehle and Leabua Jonathane which fought for independence of the country is no more.

His vision is to see the country liberated from poverty and starvation, and its citizens to own a full control of their economy. The very same desire he had to liberate his Thabana-Morena people still burns to salvage the country close to his heart.     

“The second generation of Mosisili and Thomas Thabane was fighting for democracy. This generation where I am also included is supposed to fight for economic emancipation of our country. We have to be an economically dependent country,” he said.

“If we can be able to produce, then we will be able to reduce the rate of unemployment and my vision is to see Lesotho not relying on South Africa.

We have potential and we have proven that by wool and mohair. We have soil.

There are many countries that do not have the land we still have but they are producing and surviving.

“We need to capitalise on the natural resources that we have. We have water and we are not using that beneficially,” he said.

“When you try to merge our plans with our budget, they don’t correspond. When we say Agriculture is our priority, even the budget is supposed to give that reflection so that we produce food.

“We need to engage into research, climate change showed us that we have to change our style of planting and shift to that which will suit to the right timing of planting,” he said.

“We have to also engage into different types of cropping. We can produce fruits vegetables and fish because we have dams and plenty of water. If we can master Agriculture then we can be able to create jobs. We will be able to degrease rate of imports. We have water and there is no need to import water.

“The problem with this country is lack of follow up, when you said you want to do something, you should follow it up until it happens. When you are a leader, you plan, implement and monitor your implementations; you evaluate your performance on the implementation.

“Our style of leadership is that we plan and thereafter it doesn’t matter who implements those plans.

“Educated youths are hesitant to venture into politics and that’s a very big mistake. Education can help to neutralise how a politician thinks. If we have a breed of uneducated people in the politics, there will be no clear plans without education.

“I encourage the youth, educated or not to partake in politics and learn a lot at school because I realised that many successful countries have invested in education then use the best and knowledgeable people who love their country so that they deliver services.

“I believe in using our own resources to develop our country, the hand-outs have a long term burden, and overly depending on them at the expense of our own resources is murderous. Our problem is that we are managing our own resources poorly. Starting with the mines that we have, instead of using the diamonds that we have to benefit us we manage them poorly. The taxes that we pay are wasted on corruption instead of using them where they can benefit the nation.

“Seeking alms from other countries does not have to be a priority; we are economically depending on hand-outs that we receive from World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank. We are depending on South Africa; we are not economically independent because we are not producing enough! And it’s a hurting truth”.

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