Name: ‘Mammuso Lebakeng
Does your spouse/partner live with you? My husband passed away some years ago.
What is your monthly salary? It fluctuates. In a good week, I make 500 maloti ($50), meaning I can make 2,000 maloti ($200) profit per month. But after the burning of our exhibition centre, our income has dwindled drastically. I sometimes make a mere 100 maloti ($10) per week, especially during rainy or cold weather. In addition, I get a monthly pension of 300 maloti ($30) from the government.
What is your household’s total income - including your partner’s salary, and any additional same sources? In a good month, it’s 3,150 maloti ($300) including my daughter-in-law’s monthly salary of between 850 maloti ($85) and 1,500 maloti ($150). She works at one of the Chinese-owned garment factories.
How many people are living in your household - what is their relationship to you? It’s me, my daughter-in-law and her two children.
How many are dependent on you/your partner's income - what is their relationship to you? My children, and at times I send a small amount of money back home to my mother.
How much do you spend each month on food? It’s a minimum of 600 maloti ($60) per month.
What is your main staple - how much does it cost each month? We spend about 230 maloti on maize meal. from 260 maloti ($26)
How much do you spend on rent? I have my own house, and I don’t pay rent.
How much on transport? 480 maloti ($48) per month
How much do you spend on educating your [grand]children each month? We spend 400 maloti ($40), but it’s only for transport because they attend a government school free of charge. They also get free lunch.
After you have paid all your bills each month, how much is left?There’s not always anything left, but we now have an association where we pool our monies together, and we will share at the end of the year.
Have you or any member of the household been forced to skip meals or reduce portion sizes in the last three months? No!
Have you been forced to borrow money (or food) in the last three months to cover basic household needs? That happens quite often.
“We relied so much on foreign tourists for our business to survive, but I have learned that they are not a reliable market. Bit by bit, local people are buying our products even though the money is not as good as when tourism was still good in the country. I sometimes sell nothing, and on a good day I can make between 80 maloti (US$8) and 400 maloti ($40).
“I am happy that the Maseru City Council has not driven us off the streets. We are trying to make a living here. Governments have come and gone, and we have always been selling on the streets, harsh as they are. The winter is coming, but we are not fazed; we have been doing this over decades. We cannot make our plight anybody’s burden. If the government cannot build a shelter for us, we understand, and I think it’s not because they don’t want to; the fact is there is no money.
“Though I cannot say my financial situation is ideal, I am still coping. I have paid all my debts, but I am sometimes forced to borrow money to support my business. One important thing that I have learned since starting this business five decades ago is that as long as you are in business, you will be forced to borrow some money at some point - debt is inevitable.
“Everybody in my area was optimistic about this year, but our crops are not so good. We were promised subsidized tractors and other farming implements, but they came very late and in some cases other farming inputs like subsidized fertilizer never came at all. As a result, everything went horribly wrong. Even if we harvest, it will be poor - not what we expected. We live in a close-knit community and we share whatever food we have with our neighbours.”
*Exchange rate as of 26 June, with 1 maloti trading at US$0.10