Taking my head off to Moshoeshoe I

It is that time of the year when we take our heads off to the founder of the Basotho nation, Moshoeshoe I. He was a man with multiple lifetimes of wisdom! As I have suggested in previous blogs, despite believing in the principle of love, Moshoeshoe knew and understood that there were times when it was absolutely imperative to crush thy enemy totally and times when total surrender was the best course of action. The key lied simply in timing.

Today, I shall share with you a short story that involves his senior wife, ‘Mamohato. ‘Mamohato after being converted to Christianity decided to divorce Moshoeshoe I. He, of course, didn’t refuse. He called his people and told them that ‘Mamohato was no longer his wife but remained the mother of the heir apparent. Came the planting season and the people ploughed the fields of all the king’s wives except that of ‘Mamohato. ‘Mamohato was, as the story goes, extremely upset by this. She went to the king to lay her complaint. The king called his people to ask why they skipped her field. The people answered by asking whether or not she was still married to the king.

Allow me to digress a bit before giving the king’s response so that you may perhaps appreciate how pregnant this question was. Lesotho, as is still the case, is a hierarchical society. Around Moshoeshoe’s time it had two main tiers: “bafo”, commoners in the majority and “marena”, the kings or the general blue blooded individuals in the minority. In many ways this hierarchy was very comparable to some European class structures of that time. Below is an image for the comparison. What I haven’t captured is that the clergy, though highly debated, were at the apex in both structures, influencing (mis)appropriately the ruling class (i.e. the aristocracy).


European vs. Basotho Class Structures in the Past


Based on these structures, the primary duty of all people in the lower class(es) was to serve the aristocracy. A person through marriage could be pulled to a higher class. It really was that simple. Now here was a dilemma. ‘Mamohato who had sought for a divorce wanted the privileges that came with being a king’s wife. Moshoeshoe as the ultimate king of the land had the powers to order his people to plough her field. Taking into account the response of his people, Moshoeshoe recognised that to give such an order would be foolish. So he didn’t! Instead he went to help ‘Mamohato to plough her field and some of his loyal followers joined in.

To me, this act, however small it may be, says so much about how wise Moshoeshoe was. He understood that lest he wanted a coup, deciding otherwise would be a mistake. It may sound like I am being dramatic by talking about a coup but we are talking about a man who understood that taking anything for granted can be costly. He understood that opportunities of any kind may present themselves in the mundane. This is how he destroyed some of his enemies and this is how he built a formidable nation.

As we celebrate and honour this great leader of the soil, may we remember that the mundane is important. May we also keep our focus in the future but without forgetting to be in the present – for, who knows, we might just be presented with unbelievable opportunities. In this particular story of ‘Mamohato, Moshoeshoe was presented with the opportunity to cement his greatness by demonstrating humility (a king working the fields … imagine that!) Many might have not have seen this opportunity and might have easily fell into the trap set for them, but Moshoeshoe didn’t! He managed to take the long view on things and in the process, to re-create himself into a true king out to serve his people without regard of societal norms on what jobs may or may not be suitable for the king.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why I am taking my head off to Moshoeshoe I. He was one of a kind! May we all aspire to learn a thing or two from him. Happy Moshoeshoe’s day to all!


Passionate Letter

I am busy “perusing” my data after an incident that led to the damage of my laptop. I found this letter written in response to an article published in Sunday Times newspaper on the 9th June 2002 (though sent, it was never published). The article was titled: “When going it alone is a self-defeating farce” . The article was written by Mondli Makhanya.

Reasonably Provoked

After reading Mr. Mondli Makhanya’s article (9th June ), I felt compelled to write this letter as a young PROUD Mosotho child.

Firstly, to point out to Mr. Makhanya that it is not the “glorious battle of Thaba-Bosiu” that makes Basotho to be proud. To us, Thaba-Bosiu symbolizes the noble beginnings of a great nation built on the foundations of peace. Ironic as this may sound, the truth is Moshoeshoe I, the founder of Basotho believed more in maintaining peace not battles. Therefore, to use the word ‘battle’ in describing Basotho’s pride is completely absurd.

Secondly, to enquire how “Lesotho’s state of permanent instability” will supposedly change when it is part of South Africa –especially when the implication is that the South African government since 1998 has invested its valuable resources “to ensure Lesotho evolves into a country with predictable political and economic systems”?

Clearly as a young individual I do not have the answer to the above question but nevertheless I would still like to pursue this question even further. The South African government has hosted talks in Sun City in the past months in an effort to bring peace among the people of Congo and as a result it may be argued that a lot of resources were used in the process. The question then is: can anyone suggest that the country should exist in a different form and be part of another country simply because another country had tried to intervene? If so, why are countries such as India and Pakistan, Afghanistan and Israel still fighting?

In closing, I would like to say that as much as Lesotho’s stability may be questionable there is indeed HOPE. The very same old hope that has helped South Africa to be where it is today. A new South Africa that affords the likes of Mr. Makhanya to write like a complete NINCOMPOOP!

Happy Moshoeshoe’s Day!

Given that Moshoeshoe’s day commemorates death, it may sound a little strange when I say: happy Moshoeshoes’ day! The truth however is that for Moshoeshoe I, death was like a gift. As I have suggested before (in this post), Moshoeshoe I understood that it is in death that he will be able to finally meet and thank his Creator and his ancestors (Molimo le balimo ba hae, as Basotho would put it ;-)) for guiding him in his journey. A journey in which he became the great leader that he yearned to be as a young man! For this reason, death was truly a gift to him, for his dreams did come true and all he needed was to express his gratitude.

I suppose when one fails to view life as a gift, it may be a bit difficult to see why death itself is a gift. Today as we celebrate Moshoeshoe’s day, it is therefore my wish that all will be inspired to live a life in which in death one will find joy and celebrate the transition to the next life. So, happy Moshoeshoe’s day! And lets remember that one day we too shall die — memento mori, memento mori!

Tsedu on how current leadership can benefit from Moshoeshoe I leadership

Today Google is providing me with answers relating to what Mathatha Tsedu said. I am not sure if I should just compile quotable quotes of what he said – even though I am yet to read the full speech.

Anyway from the news articles, Tsedu says the attributes that have been left by King Moshoeshoe as legacy of leadership include understanding that leadership:

is about concern for others and for self. It is about compassion in leadership and in society, it is about caring beyond [our] own concerns. It is about being involved and engaged.

By involved and engaged, he meant beyond mouthing socialist slogans. As he put it:

The poorest of the poor and our affection for them extends only to public meetings where we mouth socialist slogans. But in reality we want nothing to do with them and they have to fend for themselves.

In order to heed Tsedu’s advice, leadership and the general public as a whole needs to show true involvement and engagement in order to move away from poverty and live prosperous lives. As he says:

we as citizens have to say this is not the country we want to live in. For as long as we don’t say that, corruption will continue.

I certainly agree with him! We as citizens need to flex our democratic muscles. We also need to show compassion for each other and engage with some of the problems facing our own brothers and sisters. I therefore pledge to do my best to help make this world a better place. (At the moment, however, all I can do is help one person at a time…but I guess that is a good start 😉 .)

Second King Moshoeshoe I Memorial Lecture

Yesterday was the second King Moshoeshoe I memorial lecture. It was hosted by the University of the Free State. The topic of the lecture was:

When globalisation ties the fate of the Maluti to that of the ice caps on the Alps, what does Morena Moshoeshoe teach us about leadership today

The lecture was delivered by Mathatha Tsedu. I have tried to Google the contents of the lecture but it is not yet available:/ However, I bet a lot was said on what the world could learn from Moshoeshoe I. He was afterall one of the greatest diplomats to walk on planet Earth. This is no exageration on my part 😉 .

Not only was he a diplomat, he strongly believed that true leadership came from the heart and was rooted in love. I have no doubt therefore that Morena Moshoeshoe will tell us that today’s leadership needs to use the heart more. Because it is the heart that can ultimately lead us to a path of social capitalism – a path that has been well articulated by Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus when he was delivering the seventh Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture some few week ago.

There are other paths to follow, but in my mind, capitalism is here to stay. I have made peace with this fact and now I simply advocate for social capitalism. Capitalism that is not centred on just profit-making but on the welfare of others… May be I am too much of a romantic to think love can solve the problems of the world but I am unabashed in this believe!

Peace, Moshoeshoe’s sister:"Khotso, khaitseli ea Moshoeshoe"

Today I was sent the Morija’s art festival programme by one of my lovely aunts, PK. In perusing it, I learnt that this year’s theme is “Khotso, khaitseli ea Moshoeshoe”. To those who followed my last few blogs, you would probably appreciate how exciting I think the theme is! Not exciting because it has Moshoeshoe in it but because one cannot over estimate the value of peace and therefore the importance to strive for peaceful existence. Now for a full appreciation of the theme, I have taken the liberty of cut-and-pasting it below (there was no copyright attached to it so I assumed it is share alike, with fully attribution to Morija Arts & Cultural Festival) :

” “Khotso, khaitseli ea Moshoeshoe”, which at one time was aptly rendered by Dr. Mosebi Damane as “Peace, the Mother of Nations”. Peace is not the preservation of the status quo, or a quietness borne of fear or apathy. Peace is not a mere lack of conflict. It is rather a dynamic process of give and take, of respectful listening and sharing of opinions, of constructively engaging with one another and seeking viable solutions to the challenges that face us as families, communities, churches, organisations and as a nation.

Peace nourishes and encourages our creativity and dynamism as a people, it protects and secures the hard work and assets that we have built up, and it is always willing to learn and help others in the process.”

Note: This year the festival runs from 1st – 5th October and whilst I won’t be able to attend I urge all to attend. It is absolutely worth it :- .)

Encore: 3 additional facts about Moshoeshoe I

When I started the series I wasn’t aware that there were five Fridays in August! But because I believe a promise made is a promise to be kept, I decided there should be a part 5. Problem is, I don’t know how to make it fit with my initial structure. (Yes, there was structure: from sunrise to sunset!)

After much thought, I decided my encore should entail me furnishing you with 3 interesting facts about Moshoeshoe.

  1. He protested to his father’s estrangement by living his father’s land and building his own kraal which he named Qhobosheane (translated: Fortress). His father due to Moshoeshoe’s (then called Lepoqo) growing popularity felt threatned by him (and perhaps with good reason for the young Moshoeshoe as previously stated was something else! But at that point of his life, he was a changed man and unfortunately his father couldn’t recognise that change in him. ) I shan’t really delibarate on the irony in the naming of his kraal, that in itself is an exercise that perhaps deserves a proper psychological analysis (centred on ‘father issues’).
  2. Much as he downplayed his victory in a battle with Cathcart, he gave Sir George Cathcart a beating he could never forget. It is after the beating that he decided to send him a letter in which he declared himself a British subject. A letter that perhaps helped Cathcart to save face and withdraw with his integrity intact; for he had claimed that he was going to teach the insolent Moshoeshoe a lesson he could never forget but instead fate decided he was the one in need of the lesson 😈 !
  3. Closer to his sunset, Moshoeshoe was both a divorcee and a married man. He was divorced by his senior wife, ‘Mamohato on religious grounds. She said polygamy was against God. This is interesting to me because divorce in those days was unheard of.

Part 4: Reasons to be in awe of Moshoeshoe I

I have read very little literature about Moshoeshoe (a fact I regret and intend to remedy soon 😉 ). However, from the oral stories I have heard, these are some of the reasons I am in absolute awe of the founder of the Basotho nation:

  • He recognised that it takes just one person to have faith in an individual for that individual to transform into a respectable being. For him, that one person was his grandfather Peete, who seemed to have kept faith in Moshoeshoe despite his ‘delinquency’ that amounted at best of time to ‘terrorism’. When Peete was eaten by the cannibals, to everyone’s surprise, he refused a proposal to have them killed. He said by killing them, they also become killers. So instead he requested that the cannibals be brought to him to perform a cleansing ceremony on them so that his beloved grandfather could rest in perfect peace. In addition to the ceremony, he gave them land to farm for they said they ate men out of poverty.
  • He understood that his role was to serve his people. In negotiating the British protection, he is quoted as saying: “nkukeng le nta tsa kobo ea ka empa le ntlohelle sechaba sa ka hore ke se buse”. (Translation: ‘take me for all that I am together with lice of my blanket but interfere not with my people for I shall remain their leader’). To me this total submission, is indeed what allowed us (the commoners) to continue with raids or whatever unneighbourly shenanigans we got ourselves into without being aware of the repercussions. Moshoeshoe took all the venom for us and as it stands, we still have a land of our own even though we lost much of it 🙁 .
  • He took to heart what it means to rule with the heart and made sure that any foreigner in his land will be treated with dignity.
  • He believed that the only noble cause to fight for is peace. Indeed this is what earned him the diplomat title! He used to say: “o tla nketsang ha e hahe motse. Motse ho hauoa oa morapeli.” (What-will-you-do-to-me is not an attitude for building a home or a nation. The building is based on principles of prayer and/or negotiation).
  • When he died, he died a contented man for he lived to be the great leader that he thought he was destined to be. But most importantly because he believed that in aswering the call of destiny, he put love first! (This is a very neutral interpretation on my part. There are some who believe that this was Moshoeshoe’s pronouncement of Christianity. But there are others who disagree with this. To me this is neither here or there, for me what is important is the significance in celebrating Moshoeshoe’s day on the day he died, 11th March )

I could go on and on; however, the important thing is that Moshoeshoe was not perfect, but he made an effort to leave by principles that were anchored in love. And to me, that is sufficient! It doesn’t really matter to me that he refused to be converted into Christianity, for religion alone is not what defines a person. A person is defined by his/her values and principles. To me, religion is what helps the person to hold on to those values and principles especially in those difficult times when hating seems more like an option!