Aged only 23, Karabelo Maloi has lived through five coup d’etats, two dissolutions of parliament and multiple assassination attempts on the lives of successive political leaders.
“We are a country at a crossroads. I cannot remember a time when my daily life in Lesotho was not lived under a dark cloud of impending civil war,” said Maloi.
A dark cloud is hanging over the tiny Mountain Kingdom following the assassination of the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motsomotso, earlier this month.
Two senior army officers allegedly liable for the murder were slain by guards at the barracks in the capital Maseru.
In recent years, such politically motivated extrajudicial killings have been commonplace.
In June, Lipolelo Thabane, the estranged wife of Prime Minister Tom Thabane, was shot and killed just hours before his inauguration.
“This is the kind of lawlessness we have become accustomed to in this country,” Maloi said.
Lesotho, independent from Britain in 1966, finds itself on the agenda of the Southern African Development Community again with the announcement of the deployment of a regional force to support the Thabane government to end the anarchy.
Amid such commotion, the future of the country, not to mention the youth who make up more than 60% of the estimated population of 2,2 million, is seemingly ruined.
However, beneath the turbulence, winds of change are blowing. Some youths are taking it upon themselves to inculcate peace and hope among the country’s future leaders.
Maloi, inspired by patriotism, has emerged a leading light in that mission. The global community is also taking note.
“It is very simple, I love my country,” he said.
“The truth about my country and a large part of the rest of Africa is my generation has inherited a mess. The economy is in shambles, crime is on the rise and unemployment and poverty are at a high,” he said.
Maloi believes the youth have a crucial role to play in reversing the country’s fortunes.
“My fellow young people and I must build the Lesotho we want, from the ground up. I intend on being among the young leaders of this process.”
Born and brought up in a village which felt the instability in Maseru, Maloi is the founder and the president of the Qholotsa Youth Organisation, a youth-led non-governmental organisation committed to tackling some of Lesotho’s social ills.
The mission is driven by positive youth action, consisting of three projects in the areas of health, poverty and education.
The Mother Hen Project, an initiative whereby the organisation extends interest-free loans in the form of free-range chickens to some of the most under-resourced orphanages and children’s homes in the country, addresses the poverty agenda.
A cancer charity drive that will culminate in a challenge course in November addresses the health agenda while the High School Mentorship Series focuses on education.
Crime, school violence and drug abuse as well as the devastating impact of HIV/Aids are some of the predicaments Qholotsa is tackling.
Social cohesion and youth empowerment are central to the objectives.
“Our projects harness creativity and social innovation as positive alternatives to the toxic ideologies of violence and crime. This is the very essence of nation-building,” said Maloi.
It is the turmoil he grew up surrounded by that he wishes to eliminate, with the hope this would eventually transform Lesotho into a peaceful country.
The mountainous enclave is affectionately known as the Kingdom in the Sky for its breath-taking landscape but alas, is almost always making headlines for the wrong reasons.
“Being brought up in one of the poorest countries in the world had a lot of challenges and hardships.
“The reality was one of communities that were ravaged by poverty and a health system decimated by HIV/Aids. This reality manifested itself in the small village of Sekamaneng, where I grew up. School gangs, drugs and alcohol were the ills that we contended with,” he said.
Such is his passion that a huge portion of funds required to run the projects come from his own pocket.
“I have burned through the little savings that I had, and I have even sold my laptop and other belongings just to keep everything running.”
Besides an unyielding love for his country, he credits his mother and student life at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, for nurturing his advocacy.
“My mother is perhaps the person who shaped me the most,” Maloi said.
His mother supplemented her and her husband’s meagre government salaries by selling leather handbags and jackets.
“This afforded me and my two siblings the opportunity to attend good schools. ”
The holder of a BCom investment management degree also remains indebted to his former university.
He remembered how rector Professor Jonathan Jansen spoke about “cultivating educated young leaders, beyond well trained scholars”.
“For the first time in my life, I was in the same space as young people who were excited about learning, and even more excited about changing our world. In the end, I obtained my degree with a distinction but the most important benefit this institution afforded me was a liberated mind.”
Maloi has received some global recognition for contributions to fostering social cohesion and transformation.
Recently, he was selected for the Hansen Summer Institute 2017, a leadership and social entrepreneurship camp held at the University of San Diego in California, US.
The three-week programme featured 25 young leaders from 21 different countries torn by social strife.
He is preparing for the prestigious One Young World Summit as the premier global forum for young leaders.
Dubbed the Junior Davos, it is set for Colombia in the first week of October.
Maloi is attending courtesy of his being selected for the EU One Young World Peace Ambassador Scholarship programme.
“I don’t win many awards, but when I do it’s always appreciated,” he said. – CAJ News