A thought on chronicling Lesotho’s woes…

With everything that has been happening recently in the beautiful Kingdom in the Sky—motions of no confidence, abrupt closure of parliament, heads of trusted individuals rolling, and innuendoes about the military leadership–I have been rather worried.

And why wouldn’t I, with our uncomfortable history of instability? Personally, I hear there is much ado … I pray it better be about nothing, and if it is about something, it better be about the welfare of Basotho and not about protecting interests of individuals. I also pray that should anything happen, Basotho will have the wisdom to stand together in unity like Teyateyaneng (TY) folks when the city went up in flames: theirs was a remarkable story at so many levels that include the fact that this is where ‘Black Jesus’ hailed from.

Black Jesus was a real living human being–political, complex and controversial. He is worth at least a chapter in a book that chronicles the instabilities in Lesotho post military rule.

As a citizen of this era, if I were tasked with writing such a book, I would start deliberately with BBC’s transcript of an interview with ntate Qhobela, Minister of Foreign Affairs, when His Majesty plunged Lesotho into the first of the many crises that awaited her post the military rule.

Ntate Qhobela was asked a question along the lines: “So, Honourable Minister, what can you tell us about what’s happening in Lesotho?”

“The young boy woke up one fine morning and walked to the wireless station to topple a democratically elected government”, was pretty much his response.

Shell-shocked, the reporter asked, “Honourable Minister, are you really referring to His Majesty as a young boy?”

Ntate Qhobela sounding ever so defiant responded as follows: “I say … this young boy walked to the wireless station to topple a democratically elected government”!

The reporter attempted again to get ntate Qhobela to withdraw his words, but failed and moved on with the interview.

Sadly, I can’t recall what came next, in part, because that bit didn’t make the cut in creating a ‘sound bite’ that was to be repeated over and over again–when giving a report on the latest happenings in the small Kingdom, surrounded by its single neighbour, South Africa, which had but just had its first elections.

The ‘sound bite’ without doubt served its purpose. It stirred very interesting debates around the question: what really … really was ntate Qhobela saying?

This is a question that opened my eyes to the intercourse that exists between language and politics–both with a capital and small ‘p’.

His Majesty at that time was unmarried. Culturally speaking he was a young boy, if at all he was not born into the royal family. I put emphasis on ‘if’, for in my opinion, it is the ignoring of the conditional that proved problematic.

But to a level of causing anyone to be shell-shocked and left totally exasperated…? This, I am uncertain of. I know there is infantilising language, but there is also context.

In ntate Qhobela’s response, there was an embedded ‘we are from a different generation’ message. He made it perfectly clear he was part of thee generation: the last standing generation taught by teachers who learnt Latin extensively. Or if you like, the purist generation that cannot bring itself to utter words like radio and fridge. But most importantly, a generation that defines the concept of respect differently.

So, while indeed it might not have been proper to call His Majesty a young boy, I would argue the reference was made at a level of merely getting us to engage with a question of what it means to be born a royal in a country founded by a minor chief, who was far from the apex of aristocracy. Basically, how do we make sense of the privilege that is so profoundly linked to democracy?

In all probability, at that point of the book, I would leave the question unanswered. Instead, I would ease myself to the 1998 moment, where Basotho went to their father, the King, Rabasotho, for refuge. In narrating this moment, I would attempt to make visible yet again the intercourse between language and politics. I would explore at some length what caused a respected leader, Thabo Mbeki, to assert that the truth was being prostituted with gay abandon. What was the truth? And why the need to use words laced with sexuality?

Anchored in the idea of the truth, I would fast forward to this current moment of uncertainty in search for the truth. And here, I mean any other truth except that there are no permanent enemies in politics!

I am not sure how that book would end; all I know is that the truth as a central theme might prove to be stranger than fiction. I suppose because at the moment I feel, there is the truth, and the truth behind the truth. And the only way to disambiguate is to read between the lines or wait patiently for the real truth–for apparently in the end there is but one truth, hence the saying “nnete e mokoka”! Hmmm…but really?!

In congress…we trust(ed)?!

“Hopes were high that elections in Lesotho on the 27 March 1993 would restore democratic rule and establish the political stability that eluded the country since its independence”, wrote Leslie Gumbi, a researcher in the Institute for Defence Policy, in a 1995 article titled: “Instability in Lesotho: A Search for Alternatives”.

Today, 21 years later, Lesotho remains (d)eluded! What then will it take for us to attain political stability? In the last few weeks alone, there have been serious talks about removing the Prime Minister and reconfiguring the government in a number of ways that may see the leader of opposition possibly being at the helm of government.

I cannot really say whether this is for the best or not. All I know is that— for a population of just around two million— we need to seriously rethink our politics. Otherwise, how else can we improve the quality of lives of Basotho?

One thing we need to think about is the number of political parties we (should) have. Pre-1993 elections were contested by not more than five political parties, which included Basotho Congress Party (BCP), which won the 1993 elections. This party has since split into more than five political parties, each a “Congress” of sort –except perhaps Hareeng Basotho Party, which in fact was the only splinter party of the BCP in the 1993 elections.

Just looking at this one party, which was supposedly meant to liberate Basotho, what really is at the heart of its fragmentation? Is it really all to do with nation-building? Why the failure to congregate together—ho hata mmoho— to build a peaceful and prosperous future we are all longing for?

I would imagine this is one of the reasons the word “congress” features ever so strongly in the names of the splinter parties. If so, can we sincerely trust in the spirit of congress? Here I don’t mean in political party terms, I mean trust that in congress we can attain stability: re ka ba le tumelo e phethahetseng hore lets’oele le beta phoho… hoba ruri mphe-mphe ea lapisa!

This is my humble thoughts for today. May we ponder about this day in history and (re)commit ourselves to a better tomorrow.

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!


Another passionate write from the past

Another skeleton from the past! I have no idea why I wrote this but I suspect it was shortly after I had read our ICT policy. I don’t recall liking it that much. ICT wasn’t well defined within the document itself and I remember taking issue with the fact that the version I had read was written by an outsider…. I mean where are Basotho consultants?

A thought towards an innovative ICT Vision for Lesotho

Basotho during the reign of Moshoeshoe I and a few years that followed were a self-sufficient nation. Today, many Basotho live in severe poverty and under the threat of a new deadly disease, HIV/AIDS.

There is no doubt a need to restore Lesotho to its original state of self-sufficiency and wealth. The question however is: “can this be realistically achieved?” The answer itself is not that simple. However, if we were to look back into our history with the sole purpose of seeking valuable examples from our forefathers, then we could find an answer that would guide us back to prosperity.

For example, history informs us that this nation was not strong only militarily, but that it was such an industrious nation that though horses were a relatively a novel bred to them, in no time they had bred the type of horse that was suited for their territories. Their breed was so tough and sure-footed that the British when shopping for horses preferred the Basotho ponies to the Boer horses. (An excerpt from the inpiration page)

From the above example, it could be argued that just as Basotho did adapt the horse technology to their needs, they can embrace ICTs and adapt them to their specific needs and thereby create a niche market for ICTs. In so doing, Basotho would be able to address some of their needs and challenges that include the eradication of poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, through innovative use of ICTs and the political will of its leaders, Basotho can be helped to actually participate in “doing development for themselves”. This means using ICTs for the general empowerment of Basotho either as tool or an enabling environment for development.

A Personal Musing on Basotho Clans

Although Lesotho is a one tribe nation, Basotho are divided into several clans. Each clan has an animal totem that not only guides it but in many respects defines the qualities/characters of members of that clan. Understanding these clans allows not only to celebrate the diversity of the nation and its individuals but provides a basis of respecting people for who they are and how they can contribute in the community.

In my previous posting, I made a reference to the Batlokoa clan, so I will start my discussion with them and then will proceed to discuss a few others.


Batlokoa venerate the wild cat. As I was once told, Batlokoa unlike any other clan reflect so much the animal they venerate. If they are geared for an attack there is no stopping them! They would for example not hesitate to knock down a wall if at all they feel using the door might delay them.

They are also very cheeky (or at least that is what I have been told). It is said Sekonyela, the chief of Batlokoa was destroyed by Moshoeshoe precisely because of this. On many occassions he used to ask Moshoeshoe who he is exactly. He would phrase his question along the lines of: ‘I am Sekonyela son of Mokotjo, who are you? The Bamokoteli in the Bakoena clan are minors, your own father is a twin and at that the youngest! Why should I really bow down to you?’

For the record, although some thought Sekonyela was contemptuous he had a valid point; but this shall be explained shortly under the Bafokeng. The point is Batlokoa are fearless, ruthless and once they have decided you are not worthy of their respect embrace yourself for a good fight for that is as certain as death is to a person.


I am a Motaung (see my about page) so expect a slight bias! The Bataung or rather the lions and lionesses are very gracefully by the mere fact of knowing that they are the true kings and queens of the jungle. As far as history is concerned, no great war that Moshoeshoe fought was without the Bataung in the lead. Although I cannot think of a book that can be used as a reference, I assure all that on many occasions Moshoeshoe had to wait for the Bataung men under chief Moletsane before attacking. This is because Bataung are not just good wariors they are excellent military strategists as well.

As a side note, in this year’ Grahamstown Arts Festival one of the best known Mosotho composer, J.P. Mohapeloa was honoured and guess what clan he is from? Well that can’t be a difficult guess so I shan’t answer! But I shall say he is also the man attributed with the follwing words of praise to Lesotho:

‘Sotho la rona, la Moshoeshoe
Le bopiloe ke eena
Ka merabe ea lichaba
Lesotho le letle’.


Ke antse tsoeleng la phokeng (I was breastfeed by a Mofokeng). Again, excuse the bias if any! Bafokeng are the intellectuals. Like the rabbit, the animal they venerate, Bafokeng are clever and can outsmart you anytime. Bafokeng are also known as fun-loving. This perhaps explains why they gave power to Moshoeshoe with ease. I say they gave their power away because according to the hierarchy of the clans they are at the top and protocol was if any high ranking chief came to your land the reigning chief steps down for that chief. However, Makara chief of the Bafokeng when he went into Moshoeshoe’s land he simply said ‘I understand you dream of being a great chief and I have brought you my people’. (I am being simplistic about it but I thought I should spare you all the details.)

This protocol was the one that Sekonyela wanted Moshoeshoe to observe. However, because Bafokeng in some sense relinguished their power to Moshoeshoe, the interpretation was that Moshoeshoe was a proxy for them. As such, he was holding power for a clan that ranked higher than the Batlokoa.

As a side note, Moshoeshoe was a nephew to the Bafokeng. His maternal uncle Makakane (not sure about his name so I stand to be corrected) played a pivotal role in the transfer of powers. I haven’t really found text to support this but understanding the role of malome (maternal uncle) in Basotho traditions, I have no doubt that the uncle played a pivotal role :D. Another side note, Moshoeshoe ensured that his most senior wives came from the Bafokeng clan so I believe this helped to legitimise his powers. This is based on my believe that behind every great man is a smart woman. ‘Mosali o ts’oara thipa ka bohaleng’.


Bakuena venerate the crocodile. They are generally regarded to make best business men and politicians. Anybody understanding the link between these two professions indeed should understand the character of Bakuena. To those who might need a hint, let me put it this way, not all deals should be taken as personal, the deals are simply made with the greater good in mind! Moshoeshoe the founder of the Basotho nation was a Mokuena. When I do get around to writing all I know about him please just bear this in mind.


Basia venerate the cat. They are proud, confident and although tame, they are not easily subdued. If you have ever heard of the expression: “you don’t own a cat; a cat owns you!” then you can possibly understand why Basia are not subdued. Another thing about Basia is that they can be self centered. I suppose the tendency to put SELF first might also have to do with the fact that they own and are not owned.


The animal totem for the Bats’oeneng is the monkey. One word comes to mind when it comes to the description of the Bats’oeneng and this is “masene” – ingenious. Sometimes their ingenious is as defined by the expression: “monkey see, monkey do” ! This being the case, one has to remember that looks can be deceiving. Furthermore, that the ability to act doesn’t mean the “action” has been thought through!


Makholokoe are amiable and good-natured people. They venerate the domestic fowl (aka chicken). If you like, you may interpret their cautious behaviour as chicken-like but this doesn’t mean they can’t defend themselves: for they can! They simply may not be able to do so with the finesse of good warriors.

Other Clans

As suggested before, there are many other clans with their own defining qualities, for example, we have Matebele who are good fighters and medicine men. We also have clans such as: Bahlakoana, Batloung, Baphuthi, Barolong, Bakubung, etc

Basotho Clans Wiki
Occasionally, I aim to please: so I have finally decided to create a wiki of sort that includes a limited listing of praise songs of Basotho clans. If you can't see the wiki, you can also click here to access it.

To all who inspired the creation of this wiki, thank you so much for taking time to interact. I realise at some point I lost the courtesy to even acknowledge your comment postings. I apologise and hope at the very least you find your answers in the wiki, which is and will continue to be work in progress.