Part 2: Moshoeshoe I’s meeting with Chief Mohlomi

The role of initiation in the past was to transform boys and girls into responsible men and women with a strong sense of duty to serve both their family and community. As I understand, Moshoeshoe indeed came out of initiation transformed although not necessarily clear about how he will ‘serve’ his family and community. But this is not at all surprising since wisdom comes with age. His grandfather Peete (who obviously had lived long enough to have gained wisdom) decided to take him to see Chief Mohlomi, a man often referred as a sage and the greatest healer of his time.

When Chief Mohlomi met Moshoshoe (then called Lepoqo or Letlama) he embraced (or hugged) him in a manner only fitting for a great leader. In addition, he gave Moshoeshoe an earring (in those days the ‘great men’ put earrings as a symbol of power… ). This surprised many since Moshoeshoe was but a son of a minor chief. However, coming from Chief Mohlomi this was interpreted as a prophecy that Moshoeshoe will in the future be a leader of note.

In this meeting, Moshoeshoe asked Mohlomi the secret of great leadership. He posed his question in the following manner: “setlhare sa ho haha motse ke se fe?” (non literal translation: what is the medicine for building a formidable ’empire’?) . To this question, the great sage responded by saying there is no such medicine, the only true medicine is the heart. (“Motse ha o hauoe ka setlhare, sethlare ke pelo”). Chief Mohlomi went on to give Moshoeshoe the following commandments centred on using the heart to rule (I will try to explain them a bit but my interpretation might not be that good :():

  1. O ba rate – love them: this is obvious I hope 🙂 ! Love breeds compassion and generosity. Further, love promotes peace—for even fight when governed by love it is not just a mere fight; it is an exercise of seeking understanding. Consider, for example, fights between parents and their children.
  2. O ba tsebe – know them: In knowing the people, the sage was alluding to the importance of appreciating that all individuals are different and necessarily need to be treated as such. As far as Mohlomi was concerned, this appreciation was fundamental in a establishing true justice. For example, fining a rich man six cows might seem like a slap on the wrist while to a poor man that might be a different story all together!
  3. O ba nyalle – marry for them: Ok, let me start by saying those were the days when polygomy was official not unofficially endorsed with a clause: ‘be discreet’! That said, I will try to delicately deconstruct this ‘commandment’. First it is important to remember that at the heart of Chief Mohlomi’s advice to Moshoeshoe was promotion of peace (and love of course). So using this as a premise for peace, by marrying for his people Moshoeshoe would in a sense be uniting them since marriage unites families. Following this advice, Moshoeshoe married well over a hundred women from different clans and tribes. (By the way, I am well aware that this might come as shock to others but I have been reliably told that the figure is probably a very modest estimate.) So how did he handle having so many wives? Well in the spirit of delicacy I will answer by posing yet another question. If in every society not all men are rich, and to marry a man needs to pay ‘lobola’; how can each man have a wife? Alternatively put, how does one expect a poor man to get married?

    a) Marry for them because as the Chief you are indeed the richest man in the land.
    b) Let them not have wives of their own and deal with the inevitability of them trespassing into other men’s territories, i.e. “ho kena ts’imomg tsa banna ba bang”.
    c) None of the above.

  4. Balimo ba hao u ba hopole kamehla – remember your ancestors always: The idea embodied in this statement is that one has to believe in a greater power than themselves. As a result one has to constantly be grateful for their existance.

The above are the core commandments given to Moshoeshoe by Chief Mohlomi. And, it is safe to say that Moshoeshoe indeed worked hard to make these ‘commandments’ his principles of leadership and his continuous growth. Consequently, he was nothing like the ‘boy’ he was before initiation; a boy that believed a great deal in his own strength (due to strong physique).


40 thoughts on “Part 2: Moshoeshoe I’s meeting with Chief Mohlomi

  1. why do you think Mohlomi welcomed Moshoeshoe as a king when in the article it says that Mohlomi was of a higher calibre than Moshoeshoe?
    what would have caused Mohlomi to give away his seat and remain an advisor?

    • Mohlomi didn’t give away his seat. He was also not an advisor to Moshoeshoe in his reign as a king of the Basotho; Mohlomi provided Moshoeshoe with advice that he was able to use for a lifetime.

      I am really not sure how you engaged with the explicitly expressed idea that Mohlomi’s reception could be “interpreted as a prophecy that Moshoeshoe will in the future be a leader of note”. But I imagine the problem stems from my inability to explicate the fact that Moshoeshoe was taken to Mohlomi sometime after his initiation, but before he ‘lifted off’ cattle from Ramonaheng — an act he performed as an unmarried man, far from the age of 25. Basically, I believe I failed to adequately express that when Moshoeshoe met with Mohlomi (for the first time) he was still a young man yet to proof himself a leader. While Mohlomi was older and well established as a leader with ‘knowledge in occult matters’ – or rather, ability to see visions of the future.

  2. Great to see that there are people who are intrested in sharing about who was Ntate Mohlomi and what he did in his days in the nation of Basotho and also in other nations.I have read the history of our nation with intrest and have found things in the history that needs to be interprited accordingly for the sake of giving people the truth they deserve.People say ntate Mohlomi was a witch doctor, a man who had knowledge in occult matters.But in the history of our nation we do not found such sayings, if we are really intrested to share about the importants of this great leaders in our nation can we to rearch in the history of our nation and interpret what is saying there in a correct way.

    • Thanks for taking time to engage. Mohlomi indeed had knowledge in occult matters but he was no witch doctor! If one were to infer from the advice that he gave Moshoeshoe, Mohlomi was wary of people who couldn’t care much about making a distinction between witch doctors and those possibly gifted in occult matters. As such, he advised Moshoeshoe to not ever go the route of killing those labelled witch doctors.

      To me, I think you are right to insist that we learn and interpret our history correctly so that we don’t misrepresent a great sage and healer like Mohlomi.


    In the history book of our nation, the book title:”Histori ea Basotho, Karolo ea Pele” page 92 in the third paragraph it is said: Ho ka thoe, esale bonyenyaneng ba hae, mor’a Monyane e bile motho ea makatsang, ea lebisang mehopolo ea hae ho tsa ‘Mopi oa batho le ho tsa leholimo. Taba ea pele ea mofuta oo e mo hlahetse ha a le mophatong. A re mameleng see ‘Maliepollo a se boleletseng Moruti Arbousset. A re ho eena: “Monna oa ka o ne a ntse a e-na le kopano le leholimo. Ka mohlomong, e sa le moshanyana, a le mphatong, thaka tsa hae li se li robetse, a bona serulelo sa mophato se butsoe haholo, ‘me a nkeloa holimo-limo ho feta maru; teng a bona bongata bo boholo ba batho bo leng hammoho. Hona teng ha thoe ho eena: ‘E-ea, u buse ka lerato, ‘me ba chaba sa hao u ba talime joalo ka batho le bana beno.”Me a khutla teng a e-na le pelo e bohlale e lokileng.”

    This is one of the greate miracle that ever happen in the life of this wondefull man of God. He was called in a miraculous way by God, who save him from human nature an put him in His nature, the nature of life that produces, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,meekness,and temperance. In life it is only God that provide man with wise heart, a good heart,the heart that is medicenal to mans life. In the book of Ezekiele 11:19-20 The word of God says:And I will give them one heart. and I will put a new spirit within you; and Iwill take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh. In this scripture the Bible tells us of the new haert [the spiritual heart], the sound heart that is the life of flesh. In the beginning man was with sound heart, the heart of the life of the flesh in the garden of Eden, and when the devil deceive man and let him and her to eat the fruit of the three of knowledge of good and evile, they lost the spiritual heart, and have the heart of stone, the heart that is ivil driven. For a man to be what God intended to be in life,, he or she needs to gave himself to God, so that God can give him or her a new living heart, the spritual heart that perceive the things of the Spirit that God has for us.In Galatians 5:22 We read: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.Meekness, temperance, against such there is no law. This are the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit that can only be perceived by the person with the new heart that is medicenal. Rom 8: 5-7 We read: For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh [ see Galatians 5:19021]; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnal minded is death; but to be spiritual minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enemity agaisnt Go: for it ie not subjected to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Reading the history of our nation where writters speak about ntate Mohlomi and ntate Moshoeshoe you will find that they do talk about them producing the fruit of the Spirit in their leadership skills, and this is what amazed them as to how were this two leaders able to do what cannot be done in world life by other man. Ntate Mohlomi had an experience of receiving the new heart, that why when he was asked by ntate Moshoeshoe: Ntate moriana o kae? He siad: “Motse hao o na moriana, moriana ke pelo” The new heart, the heart that is from above is the heart that is medicenal. In the book of Proverbs 14:30 We read: A sound heart is the life of the flesh.

    Proverbs 4:20-23 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the misdst of thine [new] heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy ]new] heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

    Ntate Mohlomi and ntate Moshoeshoe were both man of peace, they were man of God choosen by Him to lead our nation into the right way of godly life. This two wonderfull leadres were leaders tha were leading the nation by God’s wisdom not by the wisdom of this world, the wisdom that is anti-life. In our history book, the book “History ea Basotho, Karolo ea Pele” page 99 fourth paragraph we read: A shoa joalo monna eo ea makatsang, ea neng a tumile har’a lichaba ka polelo tsa hae tsa khotso, ka maikutlo a lerato le ka bohlale boo a bo neiloeng e seng ke balimo, empa ke Molimo o ratang ho itsenola ho mang le mang ea o utloang. Hobane MOLIMO, ka mohau o moholo oa oona, o etela lichaba tse lutseng lefifing, ‘me o li batlela molemo ka ho hlaisa har’a tsona batho ba kang Mohlomi kapa Moshoeshoe, bao o ba neang matla a ho bonesa batho, leha e le a ho loantsa tsa lefifi. I really agree hundrend percent with the writer here. Why? because God’s wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle,easy to be intreated, full of mercy, with good fruits, and without partialit and without hypocrisy. In the leadership of this two wonderfull Basotho man we see the wisdom that has the characteristis that I am talking about. James 3:17 We read: But the wisdom that is from abouve is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. In life we have heavenly wisdom and the world wisdom, this two wisdom are two deffrent wisdom with deffrent characters. The saying that ntate Mohlomi was a wicth doctor is without truth. I personaly do not agree with it, basing my argument in what I have said abouve from the word of God, the word that is truth from God. I have read our history with care and did research in many sayings that I found intresting in this history books and in my research I have found the word of God supporting my statement that this two man wereinfect mana of God.

    Ke shapuoe ke nako ngoaneso, ntsoarele ke tla tsoella ho bea mabaka aka ao ka oona ke se dumellaneng le seo ke hlolang ke se utloa ho tsoa libuing tse ngata.

    Ueno Cosmos Motseleng

    • I dont know why but lately I hv had strange interest in knwing who moshoeshoe, today was watching the religious program on TV lesotho and they were tokin about the time when our king sent 4 the missionaries, they said he sent a 100 cattle so they cd come, these cattle were taken taken forcefully on their way, but moshoeshoe had the courage to send another 100 cattle so tht this missionaries cd come. This is very interesting 2 me, at tht time wealth was measured by cattle, so this great king of ours did all this for the sake of peace. This guy was great. Some months back I read a book about ppls encounters with angels and the changes tht happened in their lives, one of the stories I read was similar to the one u quoted from tht book,but it happened in latin america, in Guyana. I dont know wat God is working in me but I think something great is about 2 happen in lesotho. I hv realised tht in primary skools and high skools the story of moshoeshoe is not taught the way it shd be, moshoeshoe jst appears as 1 inteligent guy who finaly becomes a king, and I think thts satans work, satan doesnt want ppl 2 knw tht Moshoeshoe had tht encounter with God, tht from tht moment his life was changed nd he became a different man. I also like the way u link ths story of our king with the bible, its really wonderful.

      I wd really like to have acces 2 the book Histori ea basotho, where can I get it? And I wd like 2 mit u sir/madam 2 tok face 2 face about this things of moshoeshoe.

    • Kgotso weso ke ratile phehiso ya hao haholo. Ke batla oke o hlahise kutlwisiso ya hao ka thapelo ya setso.
      Molimo o motjha rapela oa kgale…haholo moo ereng ( Ya diatla li maroba li robakakiloe ke hore shoela.
      Ke ya leboha

  4. Thje have been great thinkers not only in Ancient Greece as the foundation of Western philosophy but also in Africa. Mohlomi was a philosophic sage. Like Socrates, Mohlomi did not know how to write and read, but exhibited a critical reflection torwards life and reality. For those who know Sage Philosophy by Odera Oruka, would you categorically classify him under folk wisdom or philosophic wisdom? Was he a folk sage or a philosophic sage?

  5. Pingback: When Zakes Mda Came To Lesotho | ntsoana

  6. Thank you very much the narrative is very educational! I have jst a Question, where can I get the information about Lepoqo @ his vry young age before he was sent to Mohlomi? I’d be glad!!

    • Well, even though I am yet to watch “the Mountain King” a film on Moshoeshoe I, I think that might be a good start. Ntate Ramakhula, the man behind this project has done a lot of research on Moshoeshoe I.

      The Mountain King is available on dvd–try local book shops in Maseru, especially those located in malls.

  7. I just have one thing to ask Mr Mathe, who is suppose to lead Lesho at this moment between Letsie and Mohlomi.

    • Ms not Mr!

      And to answer your question … I think leadership should not be tied too strongly to blood. If there is any lesson to glean from our history is that leadership can well be in the hands of anyone provided the person uses values of fairness as compass to leading. “Moshoeshoe o tsoa lapeng la bo-rametsana e seng la marena”. That is, Moshoeshoe when one traces his lineage he is from a family of minor “chiefs” not of royalty in the sense of using words like kings. It is based on this that I pin my argument but I stand to be corrected!

    • I agree; hence why I didn’t use such terminology–even though arguably in a nuanced way I allude to the fact that he lived in era where he understood that it was difficult to tell apart ngaka-chitja from ngakana-ka-hetla.

    • E khoptjoa e le maoto mane :-)!

      To answer your question, my understanding is that Mokoena is the first son of Mohlomi. The other three sons after Mokoena are: Letele, Mothoaetsi and Mojakisane.

    • There are a number of books published from Morija. Please go to any of the local bookshops to explore. I haven’t read very widely to recommend a specific book.

  8. This information really make sense, can you also say something about marriage of bafokeng lady to bakoena. (mme maMohato is a Bafokeng child).

    • From the time of Moshoeshoe I, all kings but the current king have married a Mofokeng. This is not a coincidence. It is all about using marriage as a social contract to revitalise the legitimacy of Bakuena as monarchs. You must also remember “selepe sa bohoeng se ratha se iname”. That is, from Bafokeng perspective in fact having mokhoenyana kueneng means they remain with power; for they can always use the idiom I have just quoted to have an audience with the king.

      I hope my response is satisfactory and has sufficient nuance—because nuance is very important in this matters.

  9. more research is needed about the origin of Basotho. How are all Sotho speaking people related? Bapedi. Batswana and Basotho? We need more students at Masters and doctoral level to do more research based on scientific methods. We as black people cannot always rely on oral history for our own ego. We need historical affirmations based on actual research.

  10. I have been really interested in Basotho and Mohlomi’s history… I once read a book named: Mohlomi mora Monyane.
    Interesting book if I may say

  11. Ms Mathe

    I always come back to your website and read your articles over and over again. The pride I have in reading about my Basotho heroes is just out of this world. I connect to them even deeper than the characters I used to read about in the bible. I’m from the lineage of Nkopane, the brother of the great Mohlomi. Thank you for all of this information. These historic records really do heal our souls…assuring us that our people were people of strategy, vision and progress. Not the mess we find ourselves in today because of the white enemy and political instabilities. Be blessed ausi.

  12. One detects a chronological sequence in the genesis of Shona, Chichewa ( Nyanja), Venda,Tswana, Zulu, Shangaan, ( Tsonga, and Ronga), Sepedi, Chilodzi.( Serotse) Xhosa, Sesotho, Sekholokwe. By attempting the daunting task of learning all those languages one developes a sense of a ‘family tree’ of these Bantu tribes.

  13. Ntate, with respect the previous question as to who is supposed to lead Lesotho at this moment between Letsie and Mohlomi was not fully answered. If Moshoeshe was coming from “bo-rametsana e seng la marena” what does this say about the Kingdom? While i respect what our Great King Moshoeshoe did for the Basotho Nation that does not mean we must not question certain things that makes who we are as a nation especially things that are not clearly defined or are not generally a norm even to other nations in Africa. Ha ose morena o busa jwang?

    If and If Ntate Moholo Mohlomi was from the house ya Marena why is He not being recognised and celebrated by the Basotho Nation both in Lesotho and in South Africa?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *