MASERU – At the tender age of 36, she is already a seasoned politician, leader and young Mosotho woman who is a youth activist and was elected as the first female youth president of Basotho National Party.
She is a regional secretary general of phenomenal African women, a member of International Youth Democratic Union. Among other hats she has been appointed in the SADC Youth Committee as Chairperson.
WHAT PROPELS YOU?
The burning desire to impact people’s lives positively propels her to engage in developmental politics.
WHEN AND WHERE IT ALL STARTED
“I grew up in a family that was fiercely pro- BNP. As a result, I was literally bathed and baptized in BNP politics. I fell in love with the party from a very young age.
In 1993 I vividly remember riding at the back of my uncle’s red van with a BNP flag playing some political songs “Thibela macongo…, Rea le uena likhethong……Hela le boi likhukhuni…..” I just loved and enjoyed every moment and that actually gave me peace that surpassed my understanding.
“I would shout our slogan “Tlholoooo! (Victory)”, showing the victory sign. A staunch BNP supporter I went to school with my political regalia in 1998 when the schools re-opened after winter holidays.
At that time I was only 13. I, together with some of my school mates used to deliberate on general elections results and thus singing songs like “…Bua ‘nete ke mang ea jeleng tjotjo…..! Mpimpi Manyokole ha u fihla sea-le-moeeng o buaa ka Sekhonyana Mpimpi!”
“I was just convinced that elections were rigged and my mom was cheated. One day my principal Sr Alix-Maria Lekhooa and disciplinary committee called us to order reminding us of our sole mandate as students. However, I was the only one who was expected to come with my parents as I was regarded as a ring leader and thus named “ER Sekhonyana”.
I followed political developments and national current affairs at a very tender age.
“When I was still in high school, my mother left to work in the United States, leaving me to take on ‘parental’ duties, looking after my two young brothers who were both under the age of five. I should admit, that was a tough task, but that period prepared me for the trials that lie ahead in my political career. My upbringing helped me develop a thick skin. I can stand against any challenges. I can put up with all the stones thrown at me.
“I have been through a lot since childhood. I have had to be strong and courageous. I also want to admit that I am only human and sometimes can take only so much.
There are times when I can’t put up with certain situations, especially persecution; I find solace in my faith. My Christian faith gives me the strength and courage to continue when the going gets tough.
I always say, I know all things are working together for good, for I love the Lord and have been called for a purpose. The joy of the Lord has been my strength.
More often, I defy the status quo of mediocrity, and believe that there is no limit to what I can accomplish.
THE START OF YOUR POLITICAL JOURNEY
“I first stood for National general elections in 2015, so prior to that we had primary elections as a party as we were six candidates. I was competing against five men, where I became a winner by God’s grace.
“However, I was terribly mocked by my own people stating that I was still young, I did not own a house, car and even worse I was a woman. I had to soldier on, working tirelessly with the foot soldiers to convince voters to vote for my noble party.
Therefore, I managed to double the votes of my predecessor Dr Majara Molapo in an All Basotho Convention dominated constituency.
Let me acknowledge that I was inspired by Margaret Thatcher, the ‘Iron lady’, who ran for parliamentary seat in a Labour party dominated constituency in two consecutive elections while she was only in her mid twenties.
Although she was unsuccessful she increased the votes as compared to her previous conservative candidates. She was never daunted, she was strong and courageous. As a result, she was a shaper, shaker and maker of history in her life time when she became the first female Prime Minister.
The odds were still against her to lead. I have realized that many a time those who emerge on top are extraordinarily strong and capable women. She is such an inspiration!
Actually, politics is not for the faint hearted, one has to develop a thick skin in this career. At times, I had to strongly disagree with some certain things, which were not in alignment with the founding principles of my party. As a result, I was side lined on some opportunities and thus called by horrible names like “rebel”.
I knew even in the midst of my tribulations, I would never sell my soul to the devil, for my survival was from God, the hope of glory the author and the finisher of my faith.
I had silent cries that no one knows about, but have to go through them alone. The frustration of fiercely wanting to make change but not being afforded adequate support badly hurt me and it really makes me very emotional.
BESIDES POLITICS WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am an entrepreneur in the farming sector. I know that I have to work hard, be dedicated, focused and have patience, which are some values needed in leadership.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SHOW FOR LEADERSHIP?
I am a good negotiator. The exposure that I have gained from different international forums gave me the ability to network and negotiate, which are rare skills most leaders don’t have. I also have political tolerance, a thing that’s lacking in most politicians. I am a servant leader.
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF WOMEN vs MEN IN POLITICS?
In politics men are judged by a more lenient standard than us, so I always have to work twice as much so as to be recognized.
During the campaigns, it is morally acceptable for a man to go in different clubs or bars to campaign in the evening, but because of our culture, I get criticized and intimidated if I do the same thing for our people are still beholden to the archaic thinking that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
When I stood for the BNP youth league elections, there was a lot of pressure from different angles that I should deputize a certain male candidate, and funny enough, when we held meetings, the same gentleman was always coming to me for ideas. He had nothing that I didn’t have in terms of ideas.
I therefore asked myself, does this mean I should be led and be submissive just because he is a man and is wearing a trouser? This was just not it!
There were times during political disturbances where I would find myself boldly confronting soldiers brandishing AK47 rifles. I would be in front and this comrade would be cowering under a table. This is what led me to decide to stand for the leadership position.
I have not been given the spirit of fear, but of love and of sound mind. I won the elections.
YOUR FAVORITE LEADERS
Mahatma Gandhi is one of my favorite leaders. He was a very simple man whose entire life was a life of service, dedication and sacrifice for his people. He advocated for unity.
I have some developmental projects that I have started with the youth in my area. I am optimistic that in some years to come we will be able to create more jobs for our youth with the little that I am earning.
I also advocate for unity, this is why I invited other candidates for lunch during the previous leadership election campaigns. I also pulled out of the BNP leadership race at the eleventh hour after fierce campaigning for my own reasons, the main one being that I want a united and strong BNP, so that when my time comes to lead, I will find a conducive environment to operate smoothly.
Sometimes one has to be a scapegoat for the welfare of our party and that will also resuscitate the spirit of selflessness which prevailed during Morena Leabua Jonathan and Mr Mothepu’s era.
The unity of the party is sacrosanct. I need one BNP, a stronger BNP and a united BNP for a better Lesotho. Above everything, Chief Jonathan is my favorite leader, a true patriot, a man of integrity and visionary leader of all times.
STRIKING THE BALANCE
I have always known that I have to strike a balance in everything I do, be it school, family and my personal commitments. In the same manner I always have time for my two siblings especially in the evening and on Sundays.
Should we happen to go for some campaigns (door to door) we normally do that together, as well as going to the fields.
Most of my friends are males, so I hang out with them and deliberate on pertinent issues which always revolve around politics.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?
My father is my role model, he was free of bias, he could not compromise his principles but he was generally a very good man who had the ability to work with different people. This has helped me to be consistent even when it is not fashionable.
Above all, I have learnt to accommodate and deal with various characters. As he was a football coach, at times LDF FC lost some matches that taught me that I may not always win even in politics. When the team was not performing well he was insulted by some supporters but he was not shaken.
I therefore, learnt that I should stay focused and push against all odds. Negative comments propelled me to acquire more knowledge in order to be a better person.
Knowing BNP is bigger than everyone, that I should be loyal to the party not an individual within the party comforted me. I have always known that leaders come and go but the party remains, so even when I was persecuted I knew it was a matter of time. I may not have enough resources but I have TIME.