By: Thandiwe Kubere

Stadium Area Member of Parliament in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development and Stadium Area local council hosted an Exhibition Expo event for small businesses and local innovators to display their products and services as a way to market and attract potential clients. The purpose of the event was to as well share ideas on sustainable businesses to venture into in order to curb the high rate of unemployment. This took place on Saturday at Pitso Ground, Maseru.

Member of Parliament for Stadium Area #32, Hon. Mampho Tjabane declared the main intention of the event was to figure out how Stadium area can contribute towards the economic development of the country and respond to the visible crisis of unemployment, which is most apparent in youth.  The Expo also intended to give a platform for showcasing Basotho- made products, discovering new opportunities, networking and collaborating with more people.

“When we got to parliament we made a pledge to improve the lives of Basotho and this is one way of fulfilling that promise. There has been a number of things the government has already done in our constituency including infrastructure improvement and road maintenance”, she said.

Hon. Tjabane noted that hosting an event of this kind, when the year has just began, was prompted by the previous year’s challenges which resulted in a harsh wake up call. One of the challenges was realizing that some children failed to go to school due to poverty and lack of school funds.

At the event, some of the businesses showcased their homemade jelly sweets made from organic products, one enterprise displayed Basotho-made pencils crafted from recycled newspapers, while others got to introduce their muffins prepared with mabele, pumpkin and koro recipes (which got most marvelling at the good taste), while others displayed their innovative ideas in making couches and wood to make household appliances.

Giving a report of how the ministry of social development contributed in the community, Makhala Ntepelle asserted that within their department in the ministry, they began to collectively aid underprivileged children with student bursaries since December 2022.  This is because education is crucial for any country which seeks to develop.

She said, “When we got to office, we were able to sponsor 37 children with school fees and essentials. Eight of the 37, were sitting for their final examinations and two of them did exceptionally well in their studies. Again, this year we registering 50 adolescents who are getting into high school for bursary funds”.  She further noted that the department did not only arrange school bursaries for the less-privileged but also looked into assisting 40 people with disability get a disability grant.

“That was not all we did. We advocated against gender based violence and made sure that justice was served. It was very alarming to find that children under the age of fifteen, in our constituency were raped. The youngest of those who were molested was four. What was more shocking and heart-breaking was discovering that despite our efforts to make sure justice gets served, there was a molester who walked away scot-free.”, she said.

Representing Basotho Enterprises, Ikhetheleng Makotoko emphasized the cooperation has opened doors to capacitate and support all Basotho projects, preferably the youth who are willing to use their hands and mind to work. “I got an opportunity to go to Ruanda where women representatives from all African countries met to share skills and ideas of how to help develop their countries. And I would like to affirm that I did not come back empty-handed, for I discovered that we make products just as they do, but we lack the creativity of coming up with new things. We do not invent, we copy what has already been made”, she said.

She also enlightened that even those with new and fresh inventions struggle to come forth with them due to fear of getting robbed off them and copied. So they had to strategize on how to protect creative inventions because the aim is for the country to compete with the global market.

“We therefore came up with an establishment called, ‘Talenta ea ngoana Mosotho’, where we gather different Basotho talents regardless of age and gender. We realised that there is high unemployment rate and we decided to collaboratively put together skills, ideas, talent and passion to bring out something unique and beautiful made by Basotho. We also protect intellectual property”, said Makotoko as she declared the intention is to succeed and grow together.

She mentioned they have started with recycling at stadium area. Mokotoko noted that if the expo was hosted every weekend poverty would be highly reduced because people got to find their customers and those who were interested in their products and services. “We are yet to launch this establishment and our doors are open for those who want to join this endeavour. Because there is a vast of different skills, we help modify and help add value to products such that they become enticing and attractive to clients”, she said.

Ponts’o Tumisi, Public Relations Officer of Mokhosi Oa ‘Mangoana (MOM) – an association mothers and guardians concerned of Basotho youth webbed under drugs abuse, professed that those who were present witnessed the exceptional work done by Basotho but all that would be futile if the nation does not take heed of the gruesome monster staining the future of Basotho youth.  She revealed that there are drug dealers roaming in streets under the false pretence of “baits’okuli” translated to small business entrepreneurs.

 “We have discovered that these people pretend to have legit businesses while in actual fact they sell drugs which are very dangerous to our youth, particularly Basotho youth. This is because we have no rehabilitation centers to help them recover once they are exposed to drugs”, she said.

Tumisi enlightened that there is a gap they realized which makes some easily fall into drugs and that includes unemployment and inability to attend school. They therefore give up on themselves and find it better to give themselves to drugs to numb their struggles. “This beautiful work we saw today will be in vain because with the little we have we take our children to school, and they fail to complete their studies due to drugs.”

She therefore encouraged for the country to have rehabilitation centres so that those who are already exposed to drugs are helped to recover and be in a good state. “Let us therefore tend to them with love and care, and give them an opportunity to turn their lives around. We are certain that after they are rehabilitated, Mme Pont’so will warmly welcome them to be part of the establishment so that they get an opportunity to work and progress in life”, she said.