DESPITE never setting foot at a tertiary institution nor receiving any formal training beyond secondary education, three Khubetsoana-based mechanics have produced the first ever locally-made car.
Moshoeshoe I, as the car is called, is the fruit of the labour of Namane Lesaoana (30), Matooane Matooane (24), and Tankiso Mahone (24) who put their mechanical and design skills to use in a project that has taken over a year and counting.
The trio operates from the Lesaoana family’s homestead, which also doubles as a mechanic workshop. According to Mr Lesaoana, it all started on 14 February 2015 when they started to sketch the design of the vehicle.
“While our peers were celebrating Valentine’s Day, we were busy conceptualising our dream,” he told the Lesotho Times while meticulously applying some finishing touches to the vehicle.
“We were determined to make something different from what has already being made and to place Lesotho on the map. This model is one of its kind, and just as car manufacturers always make prototypes, ours is not any different.”
A coat of black and orange paint adorns the mean-looking vehicle which made its first appearance on the streets of Khubetsoana last week leaving onlookers in awe. To add to its appeal, Moshoeshoe I’s grill was designed to mimic the traditional Basotho hat Mokorotlo.
It has a 3 litre petrol engine and also comes with such basics as a steering wheel, accelerator, brakes and clutch. However, it is evident by the rudimentary nature of some of the vehicle’s parts that it is still a work in progress.
“We have a number of components that are still to be installed such as lights and windows as well as finishing touches to the interior including seat covers and other furnishings.
“We intend to finish the car off once we have gathered enough funds,” said Mr Lesaoana.
He said the car’s design was spawned by a need to generate income.
“Initially, we designed this car with the intention of using it for selling popcorn. As you can see, the back was designed to mount two popcorn makers which would be mounted on the roof.
“The spaces on the sides would enable easier delivery of the popcorns to customers. Our intention was to make a vehicle that would help us establish a business,” Mr Lesaoana said.
“Apart from selling popcorn, our dream is to create a fleet which could be hired for various purposes. We have the passion and know-how to make cars, so all we need are the resources and we will continue to improve.”
Mr Matooane chipped in saying they were unable to finish making the vehicle due to lack of sponsors.
“We approached a few investors with our concept hoping to get sponsorship for the project, but none of them bought into the idea,” he said.
“Their lack of support has not deterred us from pursuing our passion. We would have taken a much shorter time to finish if we had received support, but it was a struggle to get this far.”
Plans were afoot, Mr Matooane said, to register the vehicle although he pensively conceded that it would be a “long process”.
“We are already initiating the registration process and have since learnt that Moshoeshoe I would have to undergo rigorous inspection,” he said.
“Given how such matters are handled in Lesotho, it would not come as a surprise if we were told that the vehicle qualifies to be licenced as a cart. However, we are determined to get the recognition from the authorities that it is a car.”
Mr Lesaoana’s father Lesaoana Lesaoana, who is also a mechanic, lauded the trio for their perseverance.
“It took determination for these boys to get to where they are today. A project such as this requires persistence, otherwise they would have abandoned it midstream,” he said.
“They have sacrificed so much to get to this point. Before unveiling the vehicle last week, they hid it away from prying eyes.
“They did not want to be distracted by people who always offer their opinions and discourage them.”
Mr Lesaoana senior added that the unveiling of Moshoeshoe I had made a profound impression in the community.
“To the little boys growing up in the neighbourhood, they are heroes. To some of their peers, they are geniuses while others secretly envy their skills,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Public Works and Transport Information Officer, Madrass Mojai, told the Lesotho Times Moshoeshoe I would need to undergo rigorous tests before being deemed roadworthy.
“The owners would be required to take the car for a fitness test so they can be issued with a roadworthy certificate if the test is a success. A vehicle which does not possess such certification cannot be allowed on the road,” he said.
“Since we do not manufacture cars here in Lesotho, the department of transport is usually responsible for certifying vehicles in accordance with the Road Traffic Act of 1981.
“Such agencies as Interpol and the Lesotho Revenue Authority are also engaged in the process to ensure that a vehicle is not stolen and has complied with tax regulations.”