Maletsunyane Braai Festival is the biggest braai festival in Lesotho. It is an annual event that takes place on the last weekend of November, against the backdrop of the breath-taking Maletsunyane Falls in Semonkong which is about 115km from the capital City, Maseru.
The fall has been certified by the Guinness World Records as the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil in the world. Maletsunyane Falls has been listed by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the 50 most beautiful places to visit in Africa. Now the home of Lesotho’s Biggest Event.
Maletsunyane Waterfall, one of the highest single dropping waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere with about 192m found in Semonkong. The water plummets into a spectacular gorge creating clouds of spray visible from afar.
My first experience of Maletsunyane Braai Festival was in 2017, as a camper; it was nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before. Resting on such a big body of water was overwhelming and soothing at the same time.
In 2018 they hosted yet another Festival which left attendees dusty, it is said that the field had no grass at the time and being the highest Braai Festival they were bound to experience strongest of winds. But that did not stop attendees from having fun and busking in all of that perfect imperfections.
When COVID hit the world, they too temporarily closed down. I believe this was a chance for the team to go back on the drawing board to fix a few things that may have went wrong the previous years i.e. ablution systems and the dust that took place.
The Maletsunyane Braai Festival team took it upon themselves to plant grass all those years when events were prohibited, they built flushing toilets and installed hot water showers.
Fast forward to 2022, a few friends and I attended the festival; the scenery while driving up the mountains was absolutely beautiful, the green fields, we drove past the very first village I camped at in 2016, Thabana Li ‘Mele (Which means A Mountain with breasts) The two rivers; Makhalaneng and Likoiling spring up at Koung at a place called Matśela-habeli (double crossing). They then come together to form Makhalaneng which runs down southwards to meet Makhaleng River (This is the River you cross at Ha Ramabanta).
It truly was amazing to witness first time campers enjoy themselves in the way that they did, not even the rain storm could slow them down.
The Music Festival
There’s no doubt that Maletsunyane Braai Festival ripped us off in this department. I’d like to believe that as the organisers they’ve attended more than enough Festivals for them to know how music festivals are curated. Their biggest mistake was moving from what the event was initially about BRAAI to commercializing it and incorporating a music stage.
The money we paid for the music fest was not worth the value of what they gave us. We arrived on Friday to no performances, no DJs, no Music for the most part of the afternoon and early evening, we had to rely on cars.
On Saturday morning, we woke up to no music still, throughout the day until late at night when one of the DJs we were looking forward to see (Da Starr) got on the decks. A few more DJs and a performance by Ntate Stunna graced the stage and only after those acts, the festival team proceeded to switch off the lights after performances, in that dark space; attendees had to find their way back to the camp site using their phones as flash lights.
On the day of departure, everyone who isn’t from Lesotho was preparing for the long hours on the road and the traffic jam at the border gate. The festival organisers saw it fit to have one of the big acts perform while the rest of us had exited the camp site. Had the performance been in the morning, then it would have been tolerable because we would have then saw Malome Vector’s performance.
Everyone knows that if a festival sells a music festival pass, this means the fest commences on the first day of the festival until the very last day. But at the Maletsunyane Braai Festival, the music and performance department started to operate only from Saturday night.
When walking through the campsite, you could hear attendees lamenting on how things are actually done here because this isn’t the nature of festivals they knew or appreciated especially because they bought two tickets (One for performances and one for camping) but it seemed we had to curate our own music fest within the campsite that was allocated to us. Which wasn’t a problem for those of us who are able to camp without music playing in the background.
Stick to the braai & camping theme, IT WORKS effortlessly.
It’s 2022 and they still insist on not putting all their energy into that, those non flushable toilets posed an extreme health hazard because the team refuses to offload them as frequently as they need to. One of those toilets fell and no one from Maletsunyane Braai Festival team cared enough to look into that, even after I sent them a WhatsApp text giving them a heads up.
I don’t have much complaints about the flushable toilets and showers, those were clean, neat and in good condition; I definitely appreciated that. I also understand that they only use that site once a year when they are hosting the festival, it wouldn’t make sense to have a 100 showers and loos for just 3 days. However, a decent number of them should be added seeing that the festival keeps growing in numbers.
Employ more young people to assist with scanning tickets upon arrival. Also, brief the staff on how things should go, no one told us where the camp site was; there was no signage that guided us to where we needed to be.
None of your employees had answers to any questions we had, something as simple as “Where can we buy water and wood?” The answer we received was “We’re not sure if we have those for sale” until we actually found them on sale.
There was no uniform for those who work at the festival so that we know who to approach. I saw more Vodacom employees than I did those of the Maletsunyane Braai Festival. The women who made sure that the toilets are clean and that we have warm water in the showers the entire festival, thank them for me. We appreciate them, kakhulu futhi.
What broke my heart was learning that the Maletsunyane Braai Festival team did not care enough to allocate accommodation for these women or transport for them to go home when they knock off 10pm (according to the women I spoke to). One of them said they would only be addressed that day (on the last day of the Festival) as to why they weren’t given any accommodation.
Instead, they had to sleep outside behind the showers by the fire because that was their only source of warmth . I thought that was just inhumane and a sight their customers should not see. I sat and spoke to those women for a good 30 minutes, this makes me wonder if their sponsors know that Maletsunyane Braai Festival employees slept outside an open field in that cold and after that rains storm. This isn’t to demotivate the organisers in any way because that festival is legendary and important to us who value what they do.
Any organisation that manages to pull in people from SADAC definitely has my support and we’ve seen in the number of people who actually were present. This to shine light where you may have not seen, I’ve seen how hard it is to host a Festival but I also know that some things can’t be taught because Ubuntu esizalwa nabo. Treat your employees with dignity.
There were men walking around with huge guns, we were not criminals nor were we at a concentration camp… We can’t randomly bump into dudes with such big ammunition at any given corner. Haibo!!!!!
The guys who were responsible for checking tickets between the stage and the camp site, those dudes should wear UNIFORMS!!!, Yes it was cold kodwa ingubo bafwethu, we can’t even tell who works there and who doesn’t. Please!!!!
The Braai Stands
After the rain storm, people made their way to the stage, I followed late at night only to almost trip by a braai stand that didn’t work throughout the Festival. I counted close to 10 people who fell because they were tripped by those braai stands . That’s dangerous!!!!
Siyabonga kakhulu for a beautiful weekend. We will see you again in 2023, we look forward to building and growing with you.
Rea leboha’chaba sa thesele for that hospitality.
Khotso. Pula. Nala!!!