10 October 2022 at 08:00:00
Revolution for Prosperity is a new political party established by wealthy Lesotho businessman and founder of Verve Cannabis company, Sam Motekane. It looks set for a surprise win in the Mountain Kingdom, but has triggered anxieties that Motekane is just using politics to expand his business empire.
Sam Motekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party looks set to win an outright majority in Lesotho’s elections, surprising many political observers. The founder of Verve Cannabis told SABC he would put his business interests aside to run the country, but as the Daily Maverick reports on 10 October 2022, there are those who are concerned that he is using political office to build his empire further.
Many observers share the sentiments of the electorate and believe that Matekane’s RFP, with its high proportion of quality technocrat MPs, will bring a badly needed breath of fresh air into Lesotho’s stale and fractious politics.
But they also caution that Matekane might also use his position to secure his own business interests. They say he made his millions — some say billions — mainly by winning lucrative government road construction contracts, many allocated by his “old friend” Pakalitha Mosisili when he was prime minister.
“He now controls a lucrative earthmoving contract at Letšeng [Diamond] Mine, worth R60-million annually,” one observer said. “Government owns 30% of the mine. His critics say he will now be prime minister, yet doing business with the very government he leads.”
The observer noted that the Democratic Congress, which would probably have won the election had the RFP not entered the contest, had promised to split the Letšeng Diamond Mine contract among many Basotho.
“Some say that’s the reason why Matekane decided to go into politics — to protect it,” he added.
Matekane had earlier told the SABC that he would hand over his business interests to others to avoid a conflict of interests.
“We are grateful for the win, we are grateful for the victory that we see. We can see that Basotho really have hope in us and we are here. We are here to serve Basotho. We can see that Basotho trust us and we are going to deliver.”
She added that the Basotho had been waiting for a leader who had no political record, “a leader who has had his own victory in businesses, who is here to serve… to rescue the situation. Everybody can see how Lesotho is performing, economically and in many other areas.”
RFP supporters also took to the streets to celebrate as though their party’s victory was already official. A large convoy made its way to the Mpilo Hotel to meet Matekane on Sunday, 9 October 2022.
At the entrance to the hotel, Matekane addressed supporters in a sea of purple, green and white T-shirts and caps and insisted he would deliver on his promises of better government.
“Yes, of course I am going to deliver. Why would I not? I have already been delivering. It’s the beginning of a new journey that we have to take for the next five years, it is our commitment.”
A young voter said: “We are ready for a new government. We are sick and tired of these old people who did not work for this country. As young people, we say no.” He added that most young people had lost interest in politics. because the previous government had not worked for young people and the country.
In a recent interview with the SABC, Matekane blamed Lesotho’s problems on the succession of coalition governments which had begun in 2012, none of which lasted five years. That had presented challenges, “because the politicians, they were concentrating more on fighting than looking at the nation”.
He said he and other businesspeople had decided to go into politics to “turn this vehicle round” to prevent Lesotho from becoming “ a failed state”.
The SABC asked him about a potential conflict of interest because of his businesses. Matekane said he was working on a succession plan, identifying people who could take over his business interests so he could concentrate on politics.
The Matekane Group of Companies (Pty) Ltd. ("MGC"). MGC is involved in a multitude of industries besides cannabis, including construction, mining, farming, hospitality, property management, and aviation.
MGC is a shareholder in Verve, one of the first companies in Lesotho to be awarded a cannabis cultivation license. It is in partnership with CannInvest, a South African company controlled by Richard Davies and part-owned by Canadian pharmaceutical company Afria (which paid about C$4 million for its 50% stake in CannInvest in 2018). Verve is understood to have an offtake agreement with Canadian copany Nuuva
At the time Matekane said “our main aim at MGC, together with Government, is to move Lesotho into a category of developed country from a developing country. Lesotho was the first country to issue cannabis licenses in Africa and this partnership with CannInvest will ensure that we will also be the first to market our purified extracts globally; thus, enabling our people to work towards a financially sustainable country for all."
Matekane also owns the recently launched pharmaceutical company, Organica Global Brands at the on-going Dubai World Expo last year.
He said the company is using indigenous medicinal plants to produce a range of health products in association with Verve.
Matekane, who was in August 2021 named Forbes Best of Africa entrepreneur of the year, said the company would use organic plants such as cannabis and Artemisia (locally known as Lengana) among others to produce high quality health and wellness products. The products would be sold both locally and internationally.
Organica’s first product is Covicare, which is designed to treat Covid-19 symptoms.
“Our mission is to shine a light on the opportunity that lies in Lesotho in the hope of boosting and accelerating our economy. It is our hope that we can play our part in showing the world that there are good stories worth talking about coming out of Lesotho and that we believe there can be many more.
“Made with Artemesia or Lengana, and other indigenous plants, the COVICARE range will safeguard and help us deal with the harsh effects of respiratory illness and infection and create job opportunities for Basotho.”
“Organica will revolutionise how we look at our health and wellness by providing everyday products that we all use that are in harmony with the gift of life.
“Organica will give you nature in a bottle. Be it medicines, health supplements, skin and hair care products, Organica has the capacity to meet the needs of the people and we are hopeful that we can meet the needs of the world.”
“Years ago, when I started Verve Dynamics Incorporated in Bela Bela, I had a dream that we could begin to enhance the wellness of our people by capitalising on the gift of life in the form of the soil and the plant life it yields.
“It was this dream, married with science and a love for the gift of life that I decided to start a business that will directly and indirectly improve the lives of Basotho, Africans and the world at large. A business that is rooted in the soil, that believes in sustainability of the planet we live in,” Matekane said.