Maphathe: a life well lived

Maphathe: a life well lived
Maphathe: a life well lived

Africa-Press – Lesotho. PROMINENT businessman Benjamin Radiopelo Maphathe ( pictured) woke up with a mild flu and cough on Tuesday last week. The family called a doctor to come and attend to him.

The cough persisted and suspecting Covid-19, family members took him to a private hospital in Maseru. Beds were full so they rushed to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

Again, beds with oxygen support systems were full. And he was not allowed to be admitted to the hospital with his portable oxygen. Finally, a private clinic in Maputsoe took him in.

Doctors confirmed he had contracted Covid-19. It was a relief for the family, which prayed for the best. “His oxygen level was improving when we admitted him at the clinic.

We were hopeful. He said he was feeling better. There was a great difference,” his brother, Ntsie Maphathe said. But it was too late. On Sunday morning, his son went to the clinic to see him.

There was no one there. Maphathe, 73, had died earlier that day. He is one of the latest victims of Covid-19, which has made a devastating resurgence driven mainly by the delta variant that ravaged India where it was first discovered.

Nacosec said out of the 143 tests conducted this week, six came out positive. There were three deaths as well as 25 recoveries. For many people, getting a bed at a hospital is like a miracle as health facilities choke with Covid-19 patients.

For Maphathe’s family, the many workers who relied on him and others who enjoyed his warm presence, they have been robbed of a dependable figure. The son of a former minister who carved his own niche in the world of business, Maphathe will be buried this Saturday morning in the Hospital Area in Mafeteng.

He is survived by his wife and three children. The second son of the late Dr Kenneth Thulo Maphathe, a government minister during the Leabua Jonathan administration in the 1970s, Maphathe was a well-known businessman from Mafeteng district.

He was firm and would not move an inch from his set goals, said his brother Ntsie. Bound to a wheelchair for almost 33 years, Maphathe left an indelible ink in the business world where he ran a series of ventures in the district.

He was involved in a car accident in 1988 when he was just 40 years old, leaving him crippled and bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But that did not frustrate his plans of reaching for the pinnacle in the business world.

He was the first person to establish a dry cleaning store, Likhoele Dry Cleaners, in the district with the support of the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO).

“BEDCO asked him to repay the money over 20 years but he repaid it within three years,” Ntsie said, adding that his brother had a knack for sniffing out lucrative ventures.

Within those three years he also bought a car, something which most people did not think would happen in just a short period of time. Ntsie said business was his brother’s forte, although their parents wanted him to be a lawyer.

Surprisingly, after he was admitted at the then University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS), now the National University of Lesotho (NUL), he dropped out.

Ntsie said Maphathe told his parents that he wanted to be a businessman and that law was not his thing. Maphathe expanded his business in the district by opening a butchery which drew in many customers.

A typical “old money” man, he was quick with advice. He was flipping through television news channels in his living room when thepost paid him a visit late last year.

“Look now I am getting old and the problem I have noticed with you young people is that you want fast money-generating projects.

“You do not have the patience for business,” he said.

“When you ask young people to start a business with you, they say this old man wants us to help him escape poverty.

With his multiple businesses in the district, Maphathe was able to play his part in transforming the economy of Mafeteng town by creating jobs for the people. But it was not all smooth-sailing for Maphathe.

For years, he was locked in a legal battle with businessman Ashraf Abubaker over the estate of his late father, especially the business complex called Patsa Centre situated at the town centre.

In one of the various court cases, it was found that all the leases he was claiming had been issued in his father’s name. The first is dated August, 19, 1983 and the others are both dated September 11, 1990.

In a will and codicils the testator had bequeathed all these properties to various legatees to the exclusion of Maphathe. Maphathe argued that he acquired the sites from one Mr Scot in 1983 and had simply used his father, then a government minister, to obtain the leases for him.

He ran the businesses with his father and for that purpose they registered a company called Mafeteng Block Hand Brick (Pty) Ltd, which would operate from the sites.

In 1988, he was involved in a car accident which incapacitated him, so his father took the lead in organising the affairs of the sites by obtaining the leases.

During the 1990s his father, according to him, obtained the leases in his own name and then entered into an agreement of sublease with a company called Kupes (Lesotho) (Pty) Ltd in respect of two plots for a period of 25 years and for the development and construction of a shopping complex.

Maphathe would be the caretaker of the complex. However, the court found that the claim that all the leases were registered in 1990 was inaccurate because lease No.0647 had been signed in 1983.

The court also wondered why his father, to whom he entrusted registering the properties, presumably because of his influence as government minister, had to wait almost seven years to register the other two properties.

Maphathe had also told the court that after his father’s death he would become the caretaker of the business complex as per their agreement that he would take over after his father’s death.

He said the agreements were in writing and deposited into a bank for safekeeping. His case rested on this agreement. However, the court found that he failed to produce the written agreement, and instead had claimed that his stepmother had secretly removed the documents from the bank.

He also failed to call the bank to testify that such a document existed. Instead, he called his brother Sam Maphathe, who said he was not present when the agreement was reached but only got to know about such agreements later.

Sam was not even sure which documents his father took to the bank. Sam’s evidence left Maphathe alone with his unsupported word, faced with Abubaker’s claim to the properties.

Their legal battle has been pending in the courts for ages now. Maphathe once told this publication that he would not let his father’s fortunes just slip through the fingers.

Many times, the discussions with Maphathe would take place at his office just behind the Patsa Centre where he spent most of his time. He was passionate about business.

He spoke business. He walked it. A few months before his death, Maphathe was gravely worried by the flooding of Chinese entrepreneurs in his home district. He argued that the Chinese were squeezing locals out of business.

He used to say locals competing with the Chinese were fighting a losing battle, citing the Chinese financial muscle that gave them the ability to buy stock in bulk and cheaper than locals.

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