MASERU – An inspired, artistic young man’s dreams were shattered early this week after he was ordered by the Maseru City Council (MCC) to abandon a personal project to erect a small park along the Mpilo Boulevard in Maseru. Katleho ’Muso, a 25-year-old certified accounting technician from Qoatsaneng has been selling customised earrings and key holders together with basic items such as airtime, snacks, sodas and energy drinks along the busy road at an intersection near the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (IEMS).
It is that spot that he was inspired to landscape and decorate while selling his items. He was motivated to embark on business after realising that there were many potential customers during rush hour in the morning, at lunch and in the evening. ’Muso said he would get bored in between as he was not busy, therefore he kept himself busy by decorating the place and gardening it. His other reason, he adds, was to promote environmental awareness to the Basotho nation.
As an artist, ’Muso has also been teaching children how to play musical instruments in the same park as it gives them the freedom to experience nature while playing. He has been working on this project for over a year now and wrote several proposals to the MCC to be given approval to continue with this project and turn it into a park. However, his proposal was shot down, and he was eventually ordered to stop activities there. “So far, I have submitted three proposals to the MCC – one an oral request and two written as required by the municipal council. “I was asked to write all the plans I had in mind for this area at the IEMS’ corner, and informed to wait while they review it.
“Weeks went by without receiving their input but I did not lose hope as I went to their offices yet again to make a follow-up and I was told to write another proposal because the other one was taken to the higher department. “It was really costly as I had to redo the same thing and make other copies,” said ‘Muso. He indicated that while waiting for the MCC’s response, he continued to develop the place and then received flower seedlings to plant from the council which, unfortunately, died with time, and he was advised by the same council to plant kikuyu grass that was hard to find but was planted with the help of some IEMS’ students.
Two tourists who were impressed by the cleanliness of the place offered plants that grew well and are now found there at the corner. He said many institutions and individuals helped him in many ways to improve the place and some were waiting on the council’s approval in order to invest in his dream. He waited on MCC but there was no response from them but he kept improving the place, took pictures whenever he did something new, uploaded them on social media and send them to the council.
On August 16 ’Muso received a call to visit the council’s offices as they had a verdict for his proposal and to his surprise he was told to vacate the area as soon as possible as he had to pay first for him to be there and upload pictures to the media. Public Eye spoke to the MCC public relations officer, ’Makatleho Mosala, who said the MCC office was aware of ’Muso’s project at the IEMS’ corner, hence they even offered him flower seedlings to plant in the area.
Mosala, however, told this paper that ’Muso had to evacuate the place because he did not have a permit to sell his products there since MCC had not allocated him that site for him to sell. She said some hawkers have been instructed to get permits and need to be allocated spaces to sell their products, adding that the council delayed to inform ’Muso about this. It was going to be inconvenient for the council to allow him to use the place as many Basotho have allocated themselves sites without informing the council, she said.
“As much as we failed to inform him about the precautions he needed to follow, the office has been preparing to meet him in order to reach an agreement on how to work together as new developments are also planned for the Mpilo Boulevard,” said Mosala.
In a separate interview ’Muso’s sister, Pabolo, told the Public Eye that her brother has been devastated since he came back from MCC, and remains cooped in his room ever since he came back from the council. She is even worried that he might go through depression. “Katleho is an introvert and loves hard. He had been in love with this project since September last year and was excited to actually commence it; I was not surprised as he takes after our father who founded Lesotho’s first art school and has been artistic since he was four.
“Ever since he came back, he was devastated and coops in his room a lot. What hurts most is that the MCC office has been encouraging him with flower seedlings to plant and giving him pointers on how he should write a proposal,” said Pabolo. ’Muso is removed from his business and park while statistics show that the unemployment rate is at 25.3 percent for the country’s population of about 2.2 million.