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!